Being a 22 year old woman of Dutch-Indonesian (as in Dutch Indo/Indo Dutch/Indo European or Eurasian) heritage in the United States has been a journey of embracing my unique identity. Despite the challenges I face as a result of my ambiguity, I have learned to find beauty, pride, and strength in my uniqueness. At times, I struggle to maintain a connection with my roots as there aren’t many people of Dutch-Indonesian descent around me, but I take comfort in the opportunity to share my cultural experiences with those who are curious.

Back in my years at college, I remember walking up to the Indonesian Student Association booth, filled with excitement and anticipation to connect with others who shared my culture. Upon arrival, however, I was met with blank stares and confusion from the members, most of whom were exchange students. Despite my best efforts to engage with them, I quickly realized that my racial ambiguity made it difficult for them to identify me as someone who shared their heritage. My inability to speak the language also put a barrier between us. I watched as they returned to their familiar faces, leaving me feeling isolated and disconnected from my cultural roots. Being of Dutch-Indonesian heritage to me has been a process of accepting that I am an enigma and don’t have to fit into one box. Although at times, it seems like this world is made up of boxes, and there isn’t one I fit into just right.

My childhood memories are filled with the rich flavors and aromas of traditional Indonesian cuisine, thanks to my grandmother’s cooking. Her dishes like fried wontons, lemper, ayam kecap manis, krupuk, and gado gado have left an imprint on my palate and heart. My grandmother’s humor, cooking skills, and sass taught me to appreciate spice, both in food and in life.

My grandfather’s legacy as a survivor of WWII has also had a profound impact on me. Despite the horrors he witnessed and experienced in war camps, he was known for his humor, kindness, and love for others. When I face challenges, I draw strength from his warrior spirit and the knowledge that his blood flows in my veins.

Recently, I discovered Ancestry, which allowed me to delve deeper into my family’s history and uncover new details about my grandfather’s life, including his Allied POW records, and my family’s birth, death, and immigration documents. My grandfather being an orphan and my grandmother passing away when I was around 11, I thought I’d never find the names of my great-grandparents on my grandfather’s side. However, on his death certificate, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it mentioned his father, “Verbrugge, Christian” and his mother, “Unknown, Siti”. This raised more questions in my head about why he was left by his parents. Despite not knowing the full story behind my grandfather’s parentage, I am inspired to continue searching for answers and discovering more about my heritage as each piece I obtain leaves me yearning for more.

I am grateful for such a rich and unique cultural background that cannot be contained by a single box. I am learning to see my identity as a canvas, ready to be decorated and shared with the world in my own unique way. The love and connection I feel towards my Dutch-Indonesian heritage will always be a prominent feature of that canvas, never to be painted over.