“Where are you from?”

“The US. America.”

Confused look.

“But you don’t look American.”

That has been the mantra of my time in Indonesia, in a country with a very strong, and very wrong, image of the US. US television is incredibly popular, as are American chains that even we’ve mostly ditched, like Kenny Rogers Roasters and A&W. I even saw a Fatburger here…

But the image is stronger than the reality – and I, as an American with the same skin color as our President, isn’t bule, the Indonesian word for white which also means westerner. I don’t get the same stares in public, nor do I get the same level of attention. I am, instead, orang asis. Non-Indonesian.

It means that I can hop on a public bus, and not attract too much undue attention, especially in the evening when darkness obscures my non-Asian features. It means, unlike my white friends, I get asked about my religion (they are assumed to be all Christian) over and over.

My experience here will be different, I can already tell, just as it has everywhere. Images are often stronger than reality.

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