How did growing up in a Catholic-Muslim family lead to the discovery of sexual freedom for a young Indonesian woman?
In Episode 8, Dewi tells the story of how she discovered her bisexuality despite a strict family and societal setting, and the freedoms she found upon leaving Indonesia.
Beyond Asian is now a proud member of Bear Radio, Berlin’s English podcasting network. You can check us out on BearRadio.org, where you can find an incredible set of programming from other English podcasts based in Europe.
Dewi, Sen Zhan, Julian
What would happen if my parents would find out that I was enjoying this forbidden touch? Am I broken? Am I supposed to be fixed in some way and I didn't know how to deal with it like I didn't know what to deal with.
Sen Zhan 00:22
The third culture is what emerges at the intersection between your culture of origin and the other cultures that have shaped you. This show is a place for us to explore how our futures are actually led by what happened to us in the past, and how we know who we are and where we belong. When our points of reference keep changing. These are more than conversations about Asian identity, their portraits of whole people, what keeps them up at night, what their hearts longed for, and the impact they hope to have on their communities. I'm your host, Sam Jan, a third culture kid born in China, raised in Canada and currently based in Berlin. This series is a first step towards making peace with my own struggles as a third culture Asian. And it's my hope that anyone who has ever felt confused about who they are and where they belong will hear themselves reflected in our stories. Out of growing up in a Catholic Muslim family leads to the discovery of sexual freedom for a young Indonesian woman. In episode eight, Davey tells a story of how she discovered her bisexuality despite a strict family and societal setting. And the freedom she found upon leaving Indonesia
as a bisexual who is also married to men like I easily pass a straight at the same time also, I was I felt very, very afraid of having to go back to Indonesia because of my sexuality. And I feel like I'm kind of like, I've gone back to the closet.
Sen Zhan 01:46
Dear listeners, before we start the show, here are some announcements. First of all, I want to apologize for completely missing my own deadline for releasing this episode. It's been a naughty couple of weeks and here are some of the things that have helped me up and intensive German which took up way more time than I had anticipated, but from which I emerged much more confident using the DOJ Baha. Applying for a Google PR x grant that Fingers crossed, if we won would allow us to keep focusing exclusively on bringing these stories to you. a heat wave which is still in full swing and making my brain melt out of my ears. And last but not least, self quarantine, following a big co 19 scare. This is actually a pretty great story involving a pastry, a bus ride to Poland, and not being able to taste things that I'll tell you all one day, don't worry, I'm feeling fine and just taking precautions. And now for our announcements. Beyond Asian is now a proud member of bear radio Berlin's English podcasting network. You can check us out on bear radio.org, where you can find an incredible set of programming from other English podcasts based in Europe. More on this a little later. For now. Let's get the show started. Daily. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you for joining me today. Thank you so much for inviting me. Very excited to talk to you. Devi and I met a few years years ago when we were working together, and I've heard her story before and bits and pieces, but I wanted to explore it more deeply in the context of a third cultural conversation, as well as what it means to her to be Indonesian and Asian. David was born and raised in Indonesia. She moved to the Netherlands when she was 18 for university where she met her husband, and they now live in Morocco. Davies had this crazy story and I needed to know more about it. To start with, she went to an all girls Catholic school, one of the best and most competitive and this itself is not so unusual. What makes us a complex story is the fact that Davey's mother is Catholic while her father is Muslim. Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation in the world, home to 200 and 30 million Muslims making up 87% of the population, while Catholics make up only 3%. I wanted to understand what Davey's experience was growing up with parents from different faiths what it was like for her to go to Catholic school and a nation that was overwhelmingly Muslim as well as our perspectives on herself and the world have changed after having lived in three culturally and linguistically distinct countries. I asked her.
So I grew up in an interfaith household. So my father's Muslim and my mother is Catholic. Me and my brothers. We grew up as Catholics because my mother like she's she's very devout Catholic and she actually before she got married my father, she wanted my father to convert to Catholicism. In fact, he had promised that he would do that, but he never did. Growing up in this kind of household. I remember my mother secretly baptizing my brothers. My mother, of course, she was very disappointed that she's still disappointed that my father never converted to Catholicism. One thing that I remember that I still remember very clearly is that, you know, my mom, my brothers and I like we used to like pretend that When whenever we were about to go to church, we had to lie to our father. Basically saying that one hour, we're just going to I don't want to like, go eat at a restaurant somewhere or like go shopping. And there's a lot of like sneak sneaking around. And for example, my mom and I, we would walk to church and then my brothers would just like take the bicycle or to the scooters or something, and then we would meet at a church and take different routes so that my father wouldn't find out that we were going to church together. It was it was very bizarre. So on the one hand, like, at home, like we never really practice like any of the typical like Catholic rituals, or, you know, we don't have like across like on the wall, which is great. I love it, because sometimes it could be very, like traumatizing having all these symbols everywhere. When I was first listening to Davey story, I didn't give much thought to the fact that Davey was regularly asked as a child to lie to one of her parents because I myself as a child,
Sen Zhan 06:00
was often asked to bend or omit the truth in order to keep the peace. I didn't even realize how strange it was to be lying to your family because let's face it, those of us who have grown up in strict traditional households have all needed to get very good at lying. I myself used to lie all the time about innocuous things. If I had practice piano the day, no, I had not. If I had scored less than 90% on a test, Asian fail is a real thing. And what time I'd gone to bed far later than you really want to know. And I still do it. I lied about these things because despite what I was learning at Western school, the reality at home was that truth was less valuable than harmony, or at least the semblance of harmony. It was more important how things appear to be and how they really were. So the bizarreness of Davies family all go into church behind their father's back, at first didn't actually seem that bizarre to me. I could easily see my own family orchestrating something like that. It was Only when I passed this episode on for feedback that it was pointed out to me. It was a How does a fish describe water moment? And this got me thinking, how many things my guests have told me that may seem just normal to me, and not even worth pointing out and how much I've internalized some of these things is just how families work. Now for Davey, just living with a Catholic mother and a Muslim father at home was tough enough. But daily life was made even harder because of the draconian policies at school with students spending their days in fear of punishment. Although the Catholic school system was difficult. What made it easier was a relationship Davey found and a friend who became more Was there anything that that stood out to you in this time that you spent at the Catholic school? Like Were there any experiences that were really memorable or that you can say, you know, that was a formative thing that changed me?
Yeah, definitely. I remember when I was 15. I had like, You know, a number of close friends, but there was like one girl who I was very close with. And I don't know what made us very close to one another, but I think we were both sort of broken inside in one way or another. And like, maybe because at the time, I was also struggling with just being in this interface household. And at the time, of course, I considered myself quite like a religious like, you know, quite a devout Catholic. So, at the time, I was struggling a lot with the fact that my father was not very accepting of us being Catholics. Yeah, so I guess that sort of made me feel dependent on you know, the person that I was very close with, and her name was Lydia. So yeah, we were very close. And at certain point, our relationship was just getting, like more and more and more intense. And remember, we started having, like, you know, sleep overs and we would, you know, have like late nights phone calls, like talk for hours and stayed up, stay up all night and listen to music. And we also shared, you know, the same days of music at the time and studied together and you know, have lunch together at school. Yeah, and I guess like, during those late night phone calls, especially, that's, I think, the moment when we started really opening up to one another, emotionally and also, you know, we just yeah, I guess kind of shared this sense of, like, you know, brokenness or something. I don't know, it was very strange in that period. But anyway, at certain point, he was at my place we were having like a sleep over and this particular sleep over was actually with another friend of ours. So it was the three of us. Yeah, we you know, we watch movies and you know, we had snacks and just like, ordered like McDonald's deliveries. After the movies and hamburgers. You know, we Yeah, we started Like, feeling sleepy, right? And it was already like 3am or so. And our third friend, she was already asleep. So it was only me and Lydia, and we were just like lying down and you know, like, under the covers, and yeah, and then I remember at the time, like, I was just trying to fall asleep, I think but I was like having some difficulty breathing or something and I was, you know, kind of having like a chest pain. And I was, you know, I was telling Lydia that I was having a little bit of like, pain in my chest and then she, like she, she touched me, you know, she put her hand on my, you know, on my chest, right. And as she had moved to like my breast, and then after that, she kind of like her hand would slid under my T shirt, and then she would actually like, just, like, hold me on like one one of my breasts, like that one particular touch. I don't know in my head like it just gave me all these like, sensations, but also at the time I, I suddenly realized that Oh shit, like from this point on, like, I'm going to be a different person, everything's going to change after this, you know, it was in my bedroom at my parents house right? So my parents were just like, a few meters away and at the time I was like thinking shit, like, what would happen if first if my friend like our third friend would wake up, or even worse if my parents would find out that I was enjoying this sort of forbidden kind of touch from Lydia. So that happened and I couldn't really stop thinking about it for a while, but also you know, we became closer and closer and and during our next sleep over, I was at her place, and this time it was only the two of us. I had not really developed any kind of like sexual feelings or you know, or curiosity. At the time, like after she touched my breast like I just, you know, started thinking about it, but I didn't necessarily turn me on and or arouse me in a significant way. So I went to her place and you know, we were just again watching movies and you know, just having fun and it was during the day and I suddenly fell asleep like, you know, it just sometimes it happens, right? Like you, you're just like, watching movies and you you know, you fall asleep into like a kind of like a daytime nap. And all of a sudden, I felt like, like Lydia was like, she started kissing me like another time like I was asleep or half half asleep and I couldn't tell if it was really real or not and but I could really feel like you know, I act like I was making out like, and that I was being like, my lips were like being active like it was it was kind of like a strange trippy feeling. Yeah, and then and then we stopped, but I was still asleep. I think a minute later or so. I Woke up. Yeah. And then, you know, we talked about it just a little bit like we looked at each other. And we were like, Yeah, what just happened? And from that point, you know, we didn't really say anything to one another, we just started making out again and then took it further and further and one thing led to another and then started having sex. And I think after that flipped over, we sort of subconsciously, like started like, a relationship, you know, at school, we would like make appointments to go to the bathroom together, and you know, would just, yeah, do our thing in a bathroom. And it was difficult because we couldn't tell anybody and because we couldn't tell anybody. I felt like we became very dependent on one another, and very possessive and easily, you know, jealous of what the other person's doing and
Sen Zhan 13:56
other friends going over to other people's houses.
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And it was quite intense in terms of, of course, you experience all these new sensations, right? Like, you know, it was also accompanied by all these guilty feelings, right? Like, we both knew that we were not supposed to be doing this, like we're, I mean, it's already taboo to have sex outside marriage, like with a guy as like a heterosexual couple or something, like, let alone like wanting to have sex with other women. Yeah. And so so that was that was quite challenging. And I remember, after a few months, after several months, three or four months or so, Lydia started to worry that people would find out about us. So she started like, I don't know, kind of shifting away. Can you say that like sort of she started stepping back and creating this distance between us between us. That was very difficult for To understand because on one hand, I thought that we were having this very intense and beautiful connection, right? Like you had this very rare like physical Yeah, intimacy that you had that I think really gave you some kind of power. I guess, like you're you felt like you became like a new person by experiencing all this intimate relations. But also, it's quite difficult to me, for me to understand until today why she eventually she, you know, she abandoned me. And she just kind of like broke up with me.
Sen Zhan 15:38
Relationships are hard enough already when you're a teenager, not to mention when you can't talk about it, because what you've done is considered taboo. I remember when I was 15, and I had a crush on someone. I couldn't even tell my best friend about it, not to mention getting into an actual relationship. And now imagine you're dating. you're figuring out your sexuality. You're lying to your father about your Religion. Now you're queer on top of it, and then you've been broken up with, I thought about how confusing this must have been for Davey, and he wondered how she handled it.
I mean, you know, I couldn't sleep for like, weeks or and then I started cutting myself again. And I yeah, I was just so very depressing, dark, you know, period. And of course, I didn't know how to deal with it, like I, I didn't know what to deal with. There was a part of me at the time, that also felt that it was my fault for having participated in this forbidden like sinful relationship. And therefore I also felt like, I had to like fix myself that I had to sort of rectify, you know, my sexuality and so so yeah, so that sort of depressive period went on for like, half a year or so. And then, a year later I I started a relationship with a guy who I also had like some not really sexual intercourse, but like sexual relations, you know, with, and I could do it because, as it turns out, I'm a bisexual. So I also like men, and other time, you know, having this new boyfriend kind of helped. It sort of distract me from what I was facing beforehand. And it fulfills that sexual desire or need for intimacy that I had longed for. But at the same time, I remember telling my boyfriend about this experience that I had with Lydia. And he couldn't really accept it. I mean, he, you know, he accepted it, and he, you know, he didn't harass me or he didn't say anything, you know, violent or bad. But at the same time, I remember he, he, you know, he said something like, like, if you wanted to masturbate if you want to touch yourself, like, please don't think about like lesbian sex, like, please don't think about, like, what happened to you with Lydia? Like if you want to think about you with other men. Like, that's fine, that's fine. Like you could do anything you want. But please don't think about, you know, lesbian love or you know, relationship which, but of course, it didn't stop me from fantasizing about women like it could not stop me. I just became better at lying to him right. You know, eventually my relationship with Him ended and but until now I still feel I haven't really dealt with that breakup that I faced 10 years ago with Lydia. People might think that it sounded like such a petty thing that you experienced when you were a teenager. But for some reason, like To me it just still felt like I keep wondering how our lives could have been if the world were different, you know, if if we did not have to sneak around and lie or feel ashamed or guilty about our sexuality and desires and things like that, and I don't know I still feel sad that I never really got to talk about it with Libya, you know, like what the hell happened and Considering how hard family life was, and the added tumultuous feelings from the breakup of Lydia Didi explained that a departure from Indonesia was inevitable. One of
Sen Zhan 19:10
main reasons I wanted to go abroad so badly was because I wanted to get away from my parents. She went to the Netherlands to start University. But upon arriving, she found that the freedom she experienced there also came with its own kind of challenges.
Yeah, but it was also liberating in so many ways. For one thing, I was finally away from my parents, you know, which meant that I had all this freedom, you know, I could, I was like, Yeah, I could finally you know, do whatever I wanted. It was just kind of like this feeling of like, I had been like, sheltered for all my life, but it was this sense of freedom of like speech and expression, I guess, to a certain extent, obviously, because, you know, there are also certain norms in the Netherlands that you have to comply with, but there Just different right but but I guess what I meant with freedom of speech and expression is that in contrast with my previous life in Jakarta, when I went to the Netherlands, I finally felt like people around me were not necessarily pretending to be someone else. not pretending to to keep like peace and harmony all the time. Like there's no sense of trying to appease the other person and just to try to avoid confrontation or conflict.
Sen Zhan 20:30
Let's take a moment to reflect on Indonesia's colonial history, assisted by Wikipedia. Indonesia is an archipelagic country of 17,000 Islands and a strategic position for inter Island and international trade. Starting in the 16th century waves of Europeans the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and British sought to dominate the so called spice islands of Indonesia. But it was the Dutch who ultimately had more influence and for a much longer period of time, the Dutch controlled initiative As trade and therefore its wealth from 1602 until 1949, that's 347 years of influence. These years included a system of indentured labor similar to plantations in the United States, as well as violence from the Dutch police and military maintaining control over the Indonesian archipelago. Only this year in March 2020, did the Dutch King Willem Alexander formally apologize for the violence inflicted by the Dutch upon an amnesia during its colonial presence and during Indonesia's war for independence,
in line with various statements by my government, I would like to express my and repeat regrets and apologies for the excessive violence on the part of the back window here. I do so in the realization that the pain and sorrow of the families affected continues to be felt today.
I mean, if I'm not saying that, in Indonesia, we're still like super mad about Dutch colonialism or something like that, but of course, like so, you know, for me personally, as an Indonesian, having lived in the Netherlands, for example, when I experienced certain kinds of discrimination or certain kinds of exclusion, for example, like from the job market or from any like, welfare, you know, assistance or things like that, I would feel quite indignant, right? Like, I would feel that like, what the fuck man like it's, it's just so unfair. And of course, it's not only it's not only affecting me, it's not only negatively affecting me. And I guess what makes me more angry is that actually, there are more people in the world that are living such more difficult lives. And I know that and I am and
Sen Zhan 22:44
I noticed that JD frequently did something I see a lot of people with trauma do refer to how other people have it worse, implying that the pain and suffering that we've experienced is less or doesn't deserve to be heard. It makes me wonder if minimizing our problems by using the suffering of others as a reference point makes any sense. Will there always be someone out there whose life is harder than yours? Does that make your suffering less valid and there's more? And if pain and suffering is subjective and relative, how can we talk about it in a constructive way that both honors our lived experiences, as well as maintaining perspective on the collective human experience? Let's do a recap. After a tumultuous, and well forbidden relationship with Lydia davia left Indonesia to study in the Netherlands. Her initial foray into the much freer society was liberating, but at the same time, she encountered different kinds of challenges. For one, she was constantly obstructed by Dutch bureaucracy regarding her right to stay and work in the Netherlands. Despite the fact that Davey had studied in the Netherlands and was married to a Dutchman. She continued to be blocked by red tape that prevented her and her husband from being able to settle down. We'll get to this in a bit. For now, my conversation with Dave, he took a different Turn, because we can't talk about the Netherlands without talking about cannabis. So we were talking about, you know, the things that you found surprising that stood out to you in your time in the Netherlands. What else was particularly memorable to you during that time, but whether you know, positive or negative, huh, Oh, well.
One thing that I thought about right away was the possibility of trying out different kinds of drugs, which I think has very much influenced my development as a person. Because as many people know, in the Netherlands, you know, you have cannabis coffee shops, right? Yeah. Where you could buy small amounts of cannabis and this whole industries. It's kind of like a gray area, but it's tolerated. It's very like typical Dutch approach.
Sen Zhan 24:53
For many in the Netherlands, whether you're a tourist or a resident, cannabis culture is one of the biggest attractions Currently, only two countries in the world have legalized the recreational use of cannabis, Uruguay and Canada. Despite falling into a legal gray zone, the cannabis industry in the Netherlands is estimated at nearly 5 billion euros per year. Globally, the cannabis industry is projected to be worth $74 billion by 2027. Many seek out cannabis for its relaxing and mild analgesic effects. Depending on the stream it can also be sought for its creativity enhancing and perspective altering effects. For Davey, it was that and a whole lot more.
But before I came to the Netherlands, I had never thought about it. I had never really been interested in trying out drugs and it was also quite a surprise for me like to dis to discover that opportunity and to actually seize it. So I started you know, trying out cannabis and it turned out wonderful and you know, I could finally relax like I could finally sleep properly and I could finally also go through some of The psychological challenges that I faced and the trauma that I experienced as a child and and also, you know, kind of to help me get over my religious trauma as somebody who yeah was, yeah, who grew up with Catholicism, what was very extreme capitalism, in terms of audit jerks. Yeah, as a consumer is also easier to do it and none of us because, like the law, like does not punish people for consuming it. And it's just yeah, it's just relatively safer because of this environment. Like you just feel safer to try different things and to actually learn that, like, this whole drug prohibition should is just nonsense, right? And on top of that, when a society is not restrictive in the use of these substances, and you don't get punished for it, then there can also be open discourse about it. And then you can build a community around it and ask questions and do your research about it. And so it's not like you know, if you're going to do it under a very strict Like setting and you have to keep it to yourself that if if something happens, you know, or you take the wrong dose or you have a bad experience, that you're left yourself to deal with it. Whereas Yeah, you know, in, in a society where things are more open, you have the chance to learn from your peers, you have the chance to ask questions to several different people and inform yourself before you do something. Yeah. And also to kind of be able to prevent, like the harms that might happen right that might occur when you take drugs and and I think the same logic applies to like, sex right. And I guess that's also why like phenomenon like unwanted pregnancies, like in the Netherlands so much slower than in other countries. And yeah, exactly. I think this sense of community that you get from being able to share information and to exchange ideas and to just ask questions openly and to share opinions, more comfortably is that Yeah, you become more not only well informed, but you become more confident in the choices that you make, right? Yeah, you feel empowered of having the access to all the different kinds of information and all the different kinds of opinions as well that you're allowed to think about and that you're allowed to hear and you're allowed to express at the same time. How did
Sen Zhan 28:17
that change you as a person? You did say that you became more confident in your choices. What else happened as a result of being able to experiment with different substances?
I think after 10 months of living in the Netherlands, of studying and Hague, I felt more comfortable just expressing myself, you know, just voicing my opinions and all that. And I thought it would be a good idea to tell my mother about my atheism, and the fact that I mean having sex and like spending the night at a boyfriend's house and things like that. So I did. So I had a Skype call with my mother and I told her that, you know, okay, I'm having sex with somebody and saying This displays and yeah, and also like, I no longer go to church and
your mother must have had the water for life. I know.
Oh my god yeah, I know it was it was quite like a I just like went like straight straight on and I can imagine that it was quite like, you know, intense like couple of hours for off,
Sen Zhan 29:22
but you also trusted her with that information you trusted that you'd be able to handle it, which is something that I think is very commendable on your side.
Yeah, I mean, I trusted her but she did not handle it. Well, in fact, you know, so I told her about all this and she asked me like, so you just don't believe in God then and like what do you believe in and I just tried to explain it to her to all the you know, scientific facts that I heard heard and had learned about and why I feel that way and after that she just like we ended the call. But since that point, like she had she never really raised that issue. Again. Like she just started pretending that it never happened, that that conversation never took place that you know that she'd never heard everything that I just said. So she just occasionally she would ask me about this new boyfriend that I had that I was living with. And regarding the religion aspect, she just kind of forgot about it. And she, she, she turned a blind blind eye on it. And it was also quite a quite a challenging period for me after I told her all of that because I started reliving some of the trauma that I had experienced before like especially older religious like doctrine and all the negative emotions that I face as a child but never really had the means to address or to express them.
Sen Zhan 30:45
I was impressed with Davey's head on approach to baring it all to her mother. I've had my own share of revealing conversations with my parents, but never anything where I brought up everything controversial that I'm doing. It seemed like Davey really wanted to get as much as she could For chest. At the same time, this was still a Skype conversation. I could see from her mother's perspective that because she wasn't seeing and needing to immediately deal with the new reality that Debbie had presented to her, that it would have been easy to shelve this conversation away and assign it to the deal with this later pile. But this led me to my next question for Davey. What happens now when you go back to Indonesia? Do you still go to church? Do you talk with your mom or your parents or your brothers about religion?
Yeah, so with my first spreader was with my oldest brother, I sometimes would share these things, you know, I would tell him that I am not religious anymore. But with my mother, I just sort of naturally continue pretending that I'm that I remain a Catholic. You know, I wouldn't you know, start off a conversation about churches or Jesus with our horrible horrible Christmas but whenever she you know, whenever we are I'm in Tunisia, and whenever it's time for her to go to church, but she would just sort of automatically assume that I would go with her. And I would go with her because I know that maybe she just doesn't have the capacity, like the emotional capacity to accept or to, you know, to reconsider what she had heard like, years before. And I think maybe she also felt that Oh, no, there we have changed, like, okay, she might have told me that, that you know, that she wasn't religious or she wasn't going to church anymore. But, but she, she might have, like, turned her change her direction. And finally, she was led back to church or to Jesus or whoever.
Sen Zhan 32:41
I guess if you're still going to church, then that's exactly the way that it looks.
Yeah. Yeah, I know. And, and
Sen Zhan 32:47
I could understand Davy wanted to keep the peace when she was visiting Indonesia. I've made the same choice many times myself during brief visits to my family. First of all, you know, you're only there for a little while, and you want to Enjoy your time and for others to enjoy their time with you. Short visits home are often not the best time to remind your family members of just how different you become over the years. But at the same time, for those of us who will continue to live far away from our families, all we have are short visits once every few years. If we don't use these infrequent opportunities in person to show who we really are, when will we be able to be truly who we are, as Davey is about to demonstrate change, like any kind of learning requires repetition and reinforcement.
And I remember about a year ago, I tried to tell her again, you know, I tried to like nowadays if I try to share my opinion that does not really correspond to her belief. I tried to do it gradually, like I will try to just start with baby steps really. And one time she was inviting me to pray rosary with her and I kind of told her that no, I don't really feel like it that and I don't really believe that it's an important part of Live and I don't believe that is for everybody. Like maybe we're different, right? Maybe you're more into praying regularly and I'm more into, I don't know, expressing my face in different ways and helping people or, and trying to change laws but even something as small as couldn't take you know, she couldn't really accept the fact that I, you know, I don't agree with her religious upbringing or her religious teachings as a parent. It's a bit frustrating sometimes and I keep like shaming myself for you know, like, wow, like on one hand, I'm quite an outspoken person among my peers among my colleagues and all my friends and but on the other hand, like when it comes to my family, especially when it comes to my mother, like I've always like, been quite like a coward for some reason.
Sen Zhan 34:51
Well, I mean, family is the is the most difficult relationship to change. Yeah, it might seem like it should. be easy, but it really isn't. The people who are closest to us are the people that we actually have the hardest time being ourselves with. Because there's so there's so much at stake. And there's so many facets that are linked. And there's so much shared history and there's so much shared meaning as much as we don't want there to be shared meaning there there is there has Yeah. So and I think that you are in very, very good company if you find me being with your family difficult. I thought about how much I departed from my Chinese identity and the years that I'd spent living in distinctly non Asian places. I thought about how much perspective I gained from the places I traveled to and the people I've met along the way, and how much I was challenged to grow beyond the worldview I originally espoused when I first left my family home. So naturally, I wanted to ask the lady if she still conceived of herself as being Indonesian. I found it interesting. To answer this question. Davey started to describe the bureaucratic challenges in the Netherlands that we alluded to before.
In the first like, two three years of me living in the Netherlands, I felt like very much as a Westerner or like as a at least like as a world citizen, you know, as this as somebody who is who identify with everybody, regardless of their skin color or the color of their passport, as I like to said, but when I finally graduated, I started having issues with my residency, because as a non European, you know, you could not easily like find an employer or a job where the employer could also like sponsor your legal residency, and it was very difficult to circumvent the regulations really, because there's so much paperwork to be done. And also, it was just like a bureaucratic nightmare. And it was quite a long nightmare as well because I got married like, yeah, with this boyfriend that I was sleeping with and that I told my mother about that. So even even mundo, I was finally married with a Dutch person, you know, we spend quite a lot of money and so many days like filling out forms and trying to get the help of a lawyer and things like that. And, but it was just too difficult and too expensive to try to maintain my residency in the Netherlands. And that was really the moment within those like two years or so like I felt lost, like in terms of, not only in terms of like, my administrative identity, but also administrative identity. I'm in I'm in process. But of course, it's
Sen Zhan 37:43
just Yeah, but I mean, I understand. Yes. A non European living in Europe. Yeah, I totally understand. Yeah,
yeah, exactly. I mean, like what we were having when we had like, was nothing were to like other people who are just like, in this Limbo for years and years and years, right. So we Within those two years of struggling to find a way to prolong the residency, I think I felt lost in terms of like my identity you know, as as a as a world citizen or or as a European or even because, of course, I you know, I follow Dutch news or followed like developments inside Europe and so, like I felt like I was quite part of the society.
Sen Zhan 38:27
It seemed like the challenges Davy had left behind in Indonesia, the unresolved relationship with Lydia, maintaining the pretense of still being Catholic, keeping her sexuality under wraps now combined with the difficulty of having her rights recognized as an Indonesian in the Netherlands caused Davy to develop some feelings of resentment for a country of origin.
The thing is that with Indonesia, I feel like I despise it but also miss it at the same time. You know, I despise the community in which I grew up in but also miss it very much I missed like You know, rituals or the this collective sense of community and just the traditions and, and all these small things that you start taking off when you're just, you know, desperately sitting there in front of a bunch of forums and trying to find a way to like, How the hell am I going to stay here, right. And at the same time, also, I was, I felt very, very afraid of having to go back to Indonesia because of my sexuality. And I think by that time, I had also partly, like, come out as a bisexual, like, in front, you know, among my peers and all that I felt quite comfortable, like identifying and just, yeah, expressing myself, my sexuality and all that. But on the other hand, like I was very, very afraid of having to go back to Tunisia, especially because I think in in the past, like five to seven years or so, like you started seeing more negative attitudes towards life. LGBT community and started seeing all these like banners, saying, you know, like, oh LGBT, you know, go to hell, you're not welcome here and so it's really creepy and
Sen Zhan 40:15
I turned again to Wikipedia to capture the current reality of LGBTQ rights in Indonesia. Indonesian law does not protect the LGBTQ community against discrimination and hate crimes, nor does it recognize same sex marriage. In some parts of the country, homosexuality is illegal under Islamic Sharia law and punishable by flogging. The importance in Indonesia for social harmony leads to duties rather than rights to be emphasized, which means that human rights broadly including LGBTQ rights are very fragile. Despite this, the LGBTQ community in Indonesia has steadily become more visible and politically active. Coming out to family and friends is seldom undertaken by LGBTQ people in Indonesia, as they're afraid of rejection and social backlash. Nevertheless, There are some rare examples of understanding and acceptance by the families of LGBTQ people. I wonder if Davey's family might be one of them. In the meantime, Davey was still blocked by the Dutch government from being able to stay in the Netherlands. And that's when she and her husband decided to make a bold move. They loaded up an old car with all their belongings and drove themselves and their dog from Northwestern Europe to Northern Africa, specifically to the capital of Morocco robot. When I first found out about this epic move that we're making, driving across continents, I didn't understand Davey and her husband's reasoning for moving to Morocco, but it seems I wasn't the only friend who needed an explanation. daily walk me through her process.
After having experienced all that, well, my partner and I, my husband and I, we finally got like, tired and we just gave up like older. It was this procedures of trying to stay in the Netherlands and decided to leave the Netherlands. That's how we finally decided to move to Morocco. And I must say, since I moved to Morocco, I felt more and more in touch with my invasion roots as well. It might be because of, you know, the religion aspect of it like the, you know, the Islamic traditions or the the fact that I'm surrounded by Muslims or like Muslim traditions and all that, and also the fact that it's just much more of a collective. There's more of this sense of community, I think here in Morocco. Yeah. Which is less visible in the Netherlands? I would say. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, one of the things that I noticed when I visited you in Morocco is how friendly people are and I'm a Canadian, right? So I'm used to people being friendly in Canada, but in Morocco, it was a different kind of friendliness, you know, you like people looked at you, you would say Salaam Alaikum, they would say, like Milan back to you. And it was just this wonderful constant exchange of these micro intro
Sen Zhan 43:01
And it just felt like a much more close knit community. As opposed to North when I came back to Berlin, it was like I was only in Morocco for like 10 days. And when I came back to Berlin I was like, oh, man, this is culture shock. This is Oh, I lived in the same building for three years and I don't know my neighbors. Yeah. And in Morocco, you know, you go down like onto the street and you know, before long everyone knows you. Yeah, especially because you're you know, you're very clearly the, the foreigners there.
Yeah, no, definitely. And I guess maybe it's also because I felt like personally betrayed by or by the Dutch system, really, I just felt like, Oh, I you know, I thought I could live here and just build live here and be finally like, free like live relatively free life. But of course, what like what is freedom? Right, and you might have like, the freedom to kiss like women in public. But you know, you also have to pay a lot of bills and very high expenses for Yeah, daily food and transportation and things like that. And so I think it finally occurred to me to live in the Netherlands at the time for me and my husband particularly, was just too filled with like stress and tasks that distract you from the things that really matter, right connection with other people and a sense of community and just this daily dose of micro interactions and things like that. So and also the weather Of course, it's makes a huge difference. And the food and so yeah.
Sen Zhan 44:42
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Guess the reason why living in Morocco makes me identify more with my Indonesian identity is because since I came here, I think I went back to Asia like three times already. So within a period of one and a half years, like I've gone back and back to Indonesia for for some visit and for like, extended like holidays. and things like that. And it's been sort of a good feeling as well to come back and to come to terms with where you come from, and to also learn more about how as a person you've transformed and how, you know, the society in which you were brought up, also as transformed and how things have changed. And also, in my case, to give my family a chance to get to know me a little bit better and for me to get to know them better, and to just bridge this differences, right, rather than try to escape from it all the time.
Sen Zhan 47:32
The relationships that third culture people have with their families is something that really interests me. Specifically, I really wanted to know how do people who have distanced themselves from their families because of being different, begin making inroads again, where do you start and how exactly do you do it?
I don't know. I don't know if I've started properly. I mean, I I told you about this new strategy that I developed to sort of share my opinions or my honest opinions more in a gradual manner right to my parents or into my family. But I think it's going to be a long way. And, and I don't think I've gathered all the courage yet to really invest more time and energy in it. But I think for me personally, one of the important steps in it is also to listen more right to sort of put myself in other people's shoes and to consider what the other person is facing in his or her life and to kind of shift away from this urge to share my opinions and like to listen more in order to understand rather than to respond. Hmm. And I think that has been very beneficial not only in terms of my relationship with my family, but also in terms of how I see the world in general and how I see the behaviors of people and societies. And so I talk to my mom quite regularly, you know, to Skype and what I would do is I would just listen To her sharing her experience, for example, she was having like issues with my oldest brother, or she was having issues with my father. And it's quite nice and fortunate that we've always had this ability to talk to one another, like, as long as it doesn't concern like religion or like, you know, like bisexuality or things like that, then then we would always have this ability to to listen to one another, you know, okay, I would have a call with her and and listen to her stories, but I wouldn't necessarily try to correct her beliefs or conclusions. You know, like, I want to raise questions about like, oh, but don't you think the reason why dad is doing this or that might also have to do with the fact that he's overworked? Or, yeah, but I just, you know, I'm just trying to be more attentive to her position and, you know, to the kinds of experiences that she face on daily basis, because, of course, it's quite challenging for her to live with a man who, who she obviously is still disappointed in right? Because of this promise that he had made decades ago, but he never fulfilled and my father, of course, is a very like tough guy like he is also a very controlling person inside the household. And he works a lot for the sake of all of us, but he's authoritative. And he, he always wants to be respected before other people, you know, and, and my mother, obviously, like she bears the burden of this like quite heavily as well. So I guess that's just one of the examples in which I tried to also understand her position. But of course, like I guess, like a lighter, more fluffy fluffy example is that one time I managed to convince her that cannabis is not so bad. So not everybody strategies. Not sometimes I feel like I'm using my my mother or my family's like my political guinea pigs like my political communications guinea pigs. Which is really fun. I one time I had a conversation with her, just like via chat, Whatsapp chat and, you know, I asked her all these questions like Yeah, but sometimes you would take like sleeping pills and all that right? Like, does that mean you're also dependent on them? And so I would ask like these questions that are quite easy and accessible and at the same time would make her think about oh yeah, maybe it's not so bad. This one plant that everybody's been prohibiting and all that so it has its ups and downs. And whenever I have these small victories, I always celebrate them because it doesn't happen a lot. No, and eventually when she came to the Netherlands, she actually enjoyed smoking it So
Sen Zhan 51:45
wait, so you went from you went from convincing your mum that cannabis wasn't so bad. You're coming to the Netherlands and smoking it with you? Yeah,
Sen Zhan 51:54
So you're basically like the best convincing, like the most convincing person Ever.
Well, that's just one thing. So
Sen Zhan 52:03
that is a that is not just as a small one thing. That's a big thing.
Sen Zhan 52:11
I have to say that this part of a story kind of blew my mind. Not only did you start the conversation about cannabis with her mom, but her mom was open enough to think about it and even try it out for herself with a baby while visiting her in the Netherlands. It still makes me uncomfortable to drink in the presence of my family. The thought of passing one to the left with my parents is a complete non sequitur. So many things would have to be different for that scene to be part of reality. Of course, I had to ask what smoking up with her mom was like for daddy. Well, it was interesting
because she was all like, I couldn't, I couldn't feel anything. I couldn't feel anything. And then she put it down. And then five minutes later, she would actually take the spiffy and she would lie to herself. And she smoked it again. And it's like Whoa, whoa, whoa, easy. But I know for a fact that my mom also occasionally enjoy smoking with her friends, like smoking cigarettes. That doesn't happen a lot. Like she felt quite liberated, like just being with her daughter and you know, this faraway land away from her annoying husband, just enjoying, like, a substance that turned out to be quite safe was safer than many other substances. I think she enjoyed that.
Sen Zhan 53:26
I wonder, you know, just thinking because I try to think about this when I think about my parents, and, you know, we're all young ones, right? And we all when we're young, we want to go out into the world and explore and try things. And I wonder if you know, without the restrictive upbringing that your mum might have had, if she had had the same opportunity as you to go abroad and to expand herself, if she might also have made some of the same choices as you did.
I think so. I think The reason why our relationship is still kind of problematic right now might also have to do with the fact that she might be jealous of the life that I'm living right now. You know, I don't think she regrets like having children and I don't know living such a religious life. And yeah, but at the same time, she's always wanted to, like, for example, improve her English and talk with foreigners and going abroad and studying about other cultures or, you know, she's always had that drive as well that I think I also have in me, but obviously, like she didn't have the means and the opportunity to just, you know, go abroad when she was 16 or something as simple as like birth control. Right? And, and also, she didn't have the financial means to get the same kind of education or opportunities as I've had. And I think that's also partly why she pushed me to first to go to this old girl Catholic High School. Which was considered such a prestigious school and all that. And she pushed me to also, you know, improve my English work with my English and study abroad and all that. But I think, on the other hand, she never really expected that I would rebel in terms of like my faith and my values that I would deviate so much from the norms that she grew up and that she still believe in, you know, yeah, I think there are certain consequences that she views as negative, I have a feeling that she just tries to ignore that. And she just tries to like turn a blind eye on it. I think a lot of ways. She's also envious of what I have of the freedom that I have. And it's interesting.
Sen Zhan 55:43
What Didi described reminded me of another common experience. I've heard from other third culture, people and children of immigrants. This looking back on your culture of origin with judgment. I think this is actually quite a normal process, not limited to third culture, people or immigrants, because it's part of the process of differentiation. This is like when you leave home for the first time, and even for people who moved to another city in the same country to look back on what used to be home with a judgmental eye because now you're becoming different. You're trying to define which parts of yourself are like your family and which parts aren't. which parts of you fit into your culture of origin and which parts of you don't. All of this also belongs to the natural process of maturation and individuation. And ultimately, this is what this show is all about. Understanding how people bring integration to all the parts of themselves together into a unified whole. Davey's lived on three very different continents and in three very different cultures and done all these interesting things. With every step that she's taken in her life, she's taken a step closer to being her authentic self. I wanted to know if there was still something that was unfinished for her.
That's very interesting. Because since we spoke a lot about all my experience in high school, and you know, my relationship with Lydia and all that I've actually been thinking a lot about reaching out to to Lydia, I'm not sure how or when, or what I, you know what I would like to say, but I've been thinking a lot about it. It's just something that I feel like I need to do at some point, you know, in the near future. It's a lot of like, my energy. And I think a lot about, you know, how I would like to improve my relationship with my family and all that. But I feel that there's always been this gap or this this sort of a void in me that, I feel is partly related to what I experience with Lydia. And of course, I'm just, you know, I'm also very much interested in hearing her story, like, you know, what she's experienced all these years and what kind of life lessons or challenges and yeah, I have no idea still like, you know, how would happen or, or if it would happen or if she wants to even like meet me or be in contact with me again or anything. So yeah, I think that's just just been something that I've been thinking a lot and I am not sure when I would go to Tunisia again in the near future, but for sure, in the next year or so, if you could say something directly to Lydia imagine that she was listening and that she understood English. But if you could say something directly to her, what would you say? Ah Oh, I would like to ask like what happened, you know, what, where, where did you go and I hope we could meet you know, someday in the near future and yeah, and I guess I should also thank her for I guess, for having you know, been a very good friend when you know, when we were in high school together and all that. So, I'm very happy that I am sharing this story as well. We'll see, we'll see how things go. And, yeah, it's I think it's a topic that it's a part of my life that's very much close to my heart and, therefore is always quite difficult to get, you know the right words or to actually know what I'm feeling or what I'm thinking, you know. So
Sen Zhan 59:23
what was becoming clear to me was that Lydia was present both in days past as well as in her future, a possible future in any case. And what's been striking is that while I thought I was guiding Davey through a conversation about her third cultural identity, the story we've actually heard revolves more around Lydia and David's journey to discovering her sexuality, at first covertly in Indonesia, then openly in the Netherlands, and now in a kind of middle ground in Morocco, a place that resembles Indonesia and religion and which also doesn't offer legal protection against discrimination for people of the LGBTQ community. In spite of these restrictions, Davey's still finding ways to live fully into who she is.
For me personally, it's, it's been a weird couple of years considering that when I was in the Netherlands, I felt like I could say, like, openly I could be like out like as bisexual, you know, and I could just live freely, like without fear or anything. But since I moved to Morocco, of course, I've been a little bit more careful. And my partner and I, we have quite a special relationship. And so we've had other experiences as well. Sexually speaking, and, yeah, we need to be more careful. And we need to be just more cautious, right, in terms of how we, yeah, build relationships with other people like outside of marriage, I feel like I'm kind of like, I've gone back to the closet, you know, like, and at the same time, and one of my family members, like I've never been out of the closet. So this closet is something that I would just carry around the neck all the time, like, Okay, let's go Back there when, when it's unsafe. But of course, like is interesting because as Yeah, as a bisexual who is also married to men, like I easily pass a straight, but for how long and for me, it's not only about knowing where I'm going in life, but also to hear other people's experiences. And that's why I wanted to talk to Lydia as well. Because I just I would like to talk with people who may be sharing the same issues and the same challenges and figure out like, you know, ways to go forward and ways to just fix this fucking world, right. So
Sen Zhan 1:01:37
yeah, I think this idea of carrying a closet with you is really interesting because we have, of course, the query closet, but we also have a closet for all of our other stuff that we don't want to show to other people readily and especially our family. And for me, you know, whenever I have gone back to visit my family, like what goes in my closet like everything about my personal life, All of the potentially controversial opinions that I have, what I might like to say to some of my family members, but don't all of that stuff goes into, you know, the, the bigger closet at large. And what I felt is that, you know, the the longer that I stay in that closet, the quieter I become. And, you know, it's almost as if I slowly turn myself down until I'm almost imperceptible, yeah, you know, until I'm really like a shell of who I really am. So that what I present on the outside to my family is nothing at all, like, what I actually am and how exhausting that is, you know, inevitably whenever I go back to visit my family, it can only be for a few days at a time, especially if we're staying in the same house. Because it's it's a lot of energy to stay in the closet, queer or otherwise. So I find myself sleeping a lot, not talking a lot because whenever I want to talk, I want to talk about the stuff that I wanted. Just kind of like scrolling myself away and just being like a body you know?
Yeah, like you're starting to lose like your like regular consciousness right? You just Yeah, I definitely like share that sort of feeling as well I guess and and i mean like yeah it's very interesting that you mentioned that the closet could also contain other things and and I'm like, oh shit so must be carrying very big closet. So, but no but yeah, that's I guess quite a struggle for so many people right. And of course also for for the family members around him as well. They must be also having their own like they have their own closets with their they have
Sen Zhan 1:03:38
everyone has their closets. Everyone has their closets. Yeah, and some people's closets are bigger than others. Absolutely. We are not the only ones who are hiding something. Our family members are hiding things not just from us, but from each other and from their parents from themselves as well. Yes. And well, if you leave something in the closet for long enough what happens? Yeah,
you sort of forget or like lose it right? And that really is also a lesson that I'm still very much learning to practice, I guess, to be able to remember that there are all these closets that are other people carry, right. It's interesting to sort of always remind ourselves of other people's positions and circumstances and all that.
Sen Zhan 1:04:22
Yeah. And that what we what we see on the surface, even if you spend a lot of time with someone may not be actually all there is to see.
But that's also what what makes it interesting, right? Because if you could just like put a USB in somebody's ear and then download, like, all the everything that this person entails, then it's not fun anymore.
Sen Zhan 1:04:45
The mystery begun, that's true. Maybe it's about finding the way you know, step by step through that mystery and knowing that there will always be more than you can uncover. Yeah,
and I guess it's also about the journey of experiencing that. Mystery and uncovering the mystery right to actually knowing the story behind it, or the explanation or the little details that make it interesting. And I'm very happy to have shared this whole like set of stories and experiences with you so
Sen Zhan 1:05:17
well, I am very, very happy to have received it. And I would be really curious to hear what happens at your next trip to Indonesia and if you'll be able to get in touch with Lydia and maybe we'll we'll do a touch base again.
Oh my god. Yes, time. Yeah, we'll see about that.
Sen Zhan 1:05:36
So good night in Morocco. How do you say good night in Arabic masala here, myself here? Is that Arabic or is it Derrida?
That Asia? But yeah, muscle hair?
Sen Zhan 1:05:46
Yeah, muscle. Okay. Thanks for listening to beyond Asian stories of a third culture. I hope you enjoyed this episode. We have a preview of our next episode coming up for you. Before we roll it, you can find any resources right Today in the show notes, if you resonated with what you heard on the show today, follow our Facebook page to get updates and what we're working on and our Facebook group to add your voice to the conversation. Got the perfect third culture Asian guests for us, get in touch on our website beyond Asian comm or simply email us at beyond Asian firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be back with another story soon. In the meantime, you can subscribe to our show on Spotify, Apple podcasts, spreaker and nearly all your regular podcast watering holes. We are growing podcasts and therefore need your support and reviews to keep bringing you more stories like this. I'd like to thank Mulan soon our creative strategist and lead designer ciccio Coppola, our 3d designer, Remy for ash poor, our developer and Alexandra Heller, our Director of Marketing for helping to bring this podcast to life. Most importantly, I'd like to thank our growing community of courageous guests who have generously shared their stories with us. Beyond Asians. Stories of a third culture is hosted Produced by me, your Chinese Canadian third culture kid in Berlin. Sen. JOHN, here's what we've got in store for you next time.
I remember the gunshots. I was actually very close by to spare when I was literally two blocks away. My memory is a bit of a blank between the ages of 10 and 20. I don't think I would have done what I did wasn't in the box,
Sen Zhan 1:07:20
you know, the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989. I fractured childhood with memory loss and recovering from the trauma of immigration. In episode nine, Julian, the only Chinese speaking psychiatrist in a large Canadian city weighs in on how the clashing of Western ideals with a Confucian philosophy is at the heart of mental health issues amongst Asian immigrants and their families.
So I didn't want to be a doctor. I wasn't entirely conforming Chinese very poorly, as I said, intergenerational trauma comes in and makes the older generation particularly paranoid stressed. The culture of illusion was awful. It turned Chinese against Chinese people because Chinese families famished from the western point of view, we walk into the world we really are reflections of our parents much more than in a Western culture. They are judgmental of you. And then that's not a fiction. But that's not the only thing. That judgment is balanced by a very, very deep love. And just like once shame is rooted in one's loved ones 10s you can see that parents judgment of you is also rooted in their love of you. You can't have shame without attachment. And if there's attachment then there's a way out