“I am the youngest of five children. My two brothers and two sisters are all in Indonesia. One of them is married and the others are still in school. I have never gone to school in Indonesia. That time that my mum left them in Indonesia, I was still a baby. It’s weird, because I have never met my family in Indonesia. I don’t feel anything about them being there. I don’t even miss my own brother because I have never met him since I was little.”
Maria, 15, parents from Solor
‘I don’t feel anything about them being there.’
‘My aunt still sends money back to Indonesia.’
“I was born in Tana Toraja, in Indonesia. I lived there until I was in my second class of elementary school. Then I followed my aunt to Sabah. My mother had passed away when I was 4 months old. I don’t remember her. I don’t have a picture of her. My sister used to have a picture but it was torn. She had a heart problem.
My aunt took care of me when I was a baby. She was my father’s cousin. Two of my brothers and one of my sisters live here in Sabah, and the other three sisters are in Indonesia with my father. He has never married again.
I can remember just a little bit of the journey to Sabah. We came on a ship. It took two or three nights, from Makassar to Nunukan.
My aunt was married, but her husband was lazy to go to work. My aunt was the only one working. My uncle liked to gamble too. Now they are divorced. My aunt still sends money back to Indonesia. She sends money to her other adopted children, and to her father. I don’t know if she wants to go back.”
Lisu, 16, Torajan
‘My father had a disease.’
“My father had a disease. He had sniffed a lot of cement dust when he was doing construction work.
The morning before he died, there was a narcotics team who came to ambush our neighbour’s house, who was a drug dealer. My late father was looking at them. They didn’t come up to our house because they had searched our house before and they didn’t find anything. They messed up our stuff at home and my mother asked them to tidy up all our stuff.
In the evening, my father took a bath with a lot of water. He asked us all to gather around that night. We were a little confused. My brother who was working was not home yet and he had always come home around midnight. We didn’t tell him anything yet.
My father was sleeping the whole time, then suddenly when my sister was looking at him, she passed out…. When she woke up she cried and we all cried. When he died, his feet seemed longer, his nose looked sharper and his body was calm. When we were closing his eyes, my brother finally reached home. He didn’t get to see our father before he died. he was so angry at us for not telling him, and was also angry at himself.”
Sonny, 13, Suluk
“I have never met my grandparents. I have seen pictures of my grandmother but none of my grandfather. We will only see his grave if we go back there.
I have not been to Indonesia but that is my parents’ homeland, so I will just have to go there whether I like it or not.”
‘We will only see his grave if we go back…’
‘I could not be apart from my grandparents.’
“My parents came to Sabah when I was 8 months old. Life was hard in Java, most of the jobs were not suitable for my parents. They came to Sabah and worked in a restaurant. I stayed in Java with my grandparents. I was brought to Sabah when I was 2 years old, for a month, but I did not stay long. I could not be apart from my grandparents. I cried a lot. So I went back to Java.
My mother came to visit me in Java every two years. I never wanted to come to Sabah. But in the end, I was forced to come here, because I was naughty. I didn’t have my parents to guide me in Java. I got into fights, I always came home late, and played football on the streets at night.
I was not happy when I came here. I ran from my house and everyone had to look for me. I had a lot of friends in Java.
My grandfather died in 2012. He was old. If I’m not mistaken, he was around 80 years old. I miss my grandmother, but she is too scared to go on a plane. I speak to her on the phone.
I want to go back to Indonesia to continue my schooling. My parents agree. They are planning to open a shop there. They don’t want to stay here anymore.”
Din, 14, Javanese