The content of each post is solely written by that contributor and only expresses the contributor's personal views. Each post does not represent the views of all the contributors or Women of Color Living Abroad as an organization. Each contributor is speaking from their own person experiences and/or perspective.

Friday, March 9, 2012

'Till Death Do Us Part

By Rukiya McNair

Terima Kasih. Salamat Pagi.  Apa Kabar?

These are only a few the phrases that were part of my world in 2007. It was me and Jakarta, Indonesia for one year…for better or for worse. I quit my job, left the man I was dating,  voluntarily had my car repossessed, as I couldn’t find a buyer for my pride and joy, sold everything I could…old, new, cherished…it was all posted on Craigslist. I spent my last paycheck on my plane ticket, and headed to my parents’ house for a few weeks until my departure. I didn't know it then, but I officially married the travel game that year. Yes, it goes by many different names-- jet life, wanderlust, nomadic lifestyle, or even just plain ol’ traveling-- all I knew was I was o-u-t. Something was calling me…calling me to fulfill this overwhelming need to experience the beauty of the world first-hand. I left the States with an all or nothing attitude, quitting (i.e. running back home) was not an option for me, I had given up too much.  

For Better
There is so much good in Indonesia; there is even a small amount of good in Jakarta.  I met amazing people from all over world, developed a true love for teaching, ate the most delicious food I have ever tasted (well, except for my mother’s macaroni and cheese…nothing beats that), saw volcanoes, monkeys, experienced Chinese New Year and Ramadan in a Muslim country for the first time. It was beautiful.

 I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the more materialistic and consumer-oriented side of Jakarta as well.  I’m talking about a place where women dress up in heels and skirts just to go to the mall, and wear cocktail dresses and heels to go out at night. I truly loved how women in Jakarta embraced their femininity to the fullest; it was re-assuring for an independent, jean-loving American gal. The nightlife was amazing with everything from ultra-posh nightclubs to Jalan Jaksa, where you have your cheaper bars and a more backpacking and traveling crowd.

For Worse
As with most places when a newcomer arrives, people are interested. They want to know, who is this person? Where do they come from? Or sometimes people simply haven’t seen a Black person in real life until…me. Yes, for an American it’s a strange concept, that someone can go their entire life without seeing a person of African descent, like…in person. In Jakarta, Indonesia my reality was stares, some interested and some disgusted. The color of my skin seemed to be clearly offensive to some, while others seemed to embrace it just as I do. I was thrown out of a bar on Jalan Jaksa as soon as I walked in, yes it’s true, because I am Black. I have had a parent and child look at me, point and say “Orang hitam!” meaning, “Black person!” Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but when anyone points at you from across a room it’s a bit unnerving.

Also, how could I forget the air pollution, trash that could be found piled up just about anywhere on the streets and in parking lots, walking down the street having strangers yell,"Hello mister!" as I passed by, dishonest and untrustworthy taxi drivers, dishonest and untrustworthy police officers...

Indonesia was not the only place I had been nor was it the last stop. As a matter of fact, I’ll more than likely be going back. There is so much to see and experience in Indonesia, I feel like I need to see more, and I will.  On this journey around the world and in life I’m looking forward to experiencing everything that each new country, city and town has to offer. The good, the bad and the ugly.  All of it. There is beauty in every last bit.

‘Till death do us part…the world and I. 


  1. Awesome article!! Totally inspired by it. Thanks!

  2. What an awesome attitude and perspective...I think I'll need to re-read your article regularly as I am still adjusting to my new, temporary home. Thanks for sharing!

  3. What an awesome attitude! I'll have to re-read your article regularly as I adjust to my new, temporary home. Thanks for sharing!

  4. What an awesome attitude! I'll have to re-read your article regularly as I adjust to my new, temporary home. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Wow, I thought that no one would understand my experience living in another country. It seems that you are spot on it after reading your article. Please keep going.

  6. I really enjoyed reading this! :-)