Hello, my name is Jeanette Chaires. I’m 21 years old and was born in Riverside, California. I’m a third generation Indo/African American and have lived in southern California my entire life.
My Oma was born in Makassar on the island of Celebes (now Sulawesi). My grandfather on my mother’s side was also born in Indonesia and was also Indo, but as he has not been present in my mother’s life or my life, I know very little about him. My mother is Indo and my father is of mixed African American descent. He and my mother divorced when I was very young, so he is not a large part of my life. My life mainly centers around my mother’s relatives, though I still have contact with my father’s family.
My great grandparents, on my mother’s side, lived in various places in Indonesia. They were forced to leave Indonesia after Indonesia declared their Independence. They moved to the Netherlands in 1956 and settled in Den Haag. The climate in the Netherlands was too cold and they soon immigrated to the United States where the climate would suit them better.
In 1959, my great grandparents and their three children immigrated to Norwalk, California, where they made a good life for themselves. My great grandparents worked very hard and bought a home for their family. They also opened a very popular Indonesian restaurant named Rumah Sate in 1967. They owned and ran it until my great grandfather’s death in 1987. I remember hearing so many wonderful stories about the restaurant and how they had so many friends in the Dutch Indonesian community who would come to visit and socialize with them. The food was always delicious and the atmosphere was warm and inviting. My mother spent many nights at the restaurant in the back kitchen while her mother was working as a waitress in the front and the rest of the family cooked the traditional Indonesian dishes.
As I grew up, I learned that I had such a rich and unique background. I tried to learn the Dutch language and took many courses that enlightened me about my Indonesian heritage. I don’t know too many Indos that are both Indo and African American, but I have run across a few people and I always enjoy getting to know them. I also enjoy socializing with people from the Indo community and I try to do it whenever the opportunity arises. Just yesterday, my mom and I had a great day at the Dutch Festival in Long Beach.
My best friend is my Oma. She doesn’t sit home and knit scarfs or make quilts…not that there is anything wrong with that…but rather she is very trendy and totally enjoys living life to the fullest. Anyway, I moved back into her house, my childhood home, because I want to share as many moments as possible with her. My Oma is my guide, my light, and our relationship is so special that absolutely nothing has come between us. We live here with her new husband, who is also Indo, and we are truly a very happy family.
I am very proud of my Dutch Indonesian heritage and I hope to incorporate more and more of this rich culture into my life. Someday, I hope to have children and I plan to teach them to appreciate all the sacrifice that our ancestors have made to give them this amazing life. Thank you!