Midway through being in Medan, I had a bit of an uncomfortable experience. It bummed me out a little, and I decided to write a post to let it out of my system.
"So, you may have noticed, that I’m white. And that my fiancé, is not. If you’re especially astute, you’ll have noticed that my fiancé is Indonesian, and that I’m British.
And, for the most part, everyone is pretty cool about that. My fiancé’s brother and mother are, her friends are, and (from what I know) her extended family are too. We’re happy, we’re in love, and (trust me when I say this) the world seems like a better place in general these days.
But, sometimes, just sometimes, some people make me remember that not everyone is cool about it. And that I’m a bit of a stranger in these parts when I come to visit.
It’s a tiny little minority of the people I meet - most of which are incredibly welcoming.
But, it’s still there.
I don’t mind you looking at me - I am about a foot taller than most of you, and white as putih, but guys… There are some boundaries.
My bahasa isn’t as bad as it used to be - dan saya mengerti sedikit lebih setiap hari. So I can tell when you’re about to give a camera to your friend to grab a photo of me and you. And I know enough bahasa to say tidak in more than one way.
I’m just a bloke. I’m not anything special. I’ve just look a bit different to you.
So, for me, just remember that when you see me around. If you want to come up to me and say hello - go for it. I’m always up for practicing a bit more bahasa. And - if you ask me the time, I can almost guarantee you a perfect (and very polite and comprehensive) response.
But if you don’t speak to me, and you inch towards me while passing your friend a camera… Don’t expect me to take it all that well.
After all - if you visit where I’m from one day - you wouldn’t like it if I inched towards you and passed my mates a camera.”
And, after writing it, I decided not to post it. Because, why would I? It was just a thing in an elevator that sparked it off, and I’m big enough to brush it off. But, because I needed to let it out somehow, I sent it to my fiancé.
We kind of thought that would be the end of it.
Not so much.
In reality, the looking continued - and on one day, inappropriate comments in a mall followed. Which, to her credit, my fiancé didn’t snap at.
I did though.
And they were a cowardly bunch. Guess they didn’t like it when someone stopped and pointed at them instead.
Respect is an interesting thing in life. I’ve worked most of my life trying to earn it in people, and for some of the things I do.
But in some areas - I expect it without having to prove anything. I expect people to respect my privacy. I respect yours - whoever you are - and unless you do something horrible, I don’t intend on finding anything out about you, or making inappropriate comments in front of people you care about.
And I expect the same in return from you.
Otherwise, don’t be surprised if one day I turn around and shout “APA?!?” at the top of my voice.
I did it once before - and a busy street went quiet. Please don’t be the person who makes me feel like I have to do it again.
But moreover than any of the above - respect my fiancé’s privacy. She’d respect yours - and you’re just showing yourself up for who you really are if you don’t.
And trust me - that’s a really ugly side if you that none of us want to see.