It’s not easy to run a business or develop a community anywhere but Rukiya McNair is doing both in her host culture in Bali, Indonesia. Learn more about this adventurous mother as she shares the successes of raising kids, the challenges of being an entrepreneur, the need for community abroad.
Share your background. Has travel always been a part of your story or is this a relatively new development for you?
I’m from a suburb by the name of Oakdale approximately 15 minutes outside of the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Growing up, my father worked for USAir, now US Airways, so I had the unique opportunity to travel with my family more frequently than your average American.
What led you to Indonesia?
This is my second time living in Indonesia, actually. I taught English as a second language in Jakarta from 2007 to 2008 . Indonesia initially intrigued me because of its culture, such as the language and food. I moved to Bali from 2013-2015 and will be heading back to live in Jakarta in a few weeks.
How has the experience been for you and your family?
This experience has been great, in my opinion. My children are learning at very young ages that they are global citizens; for instance, in Bali they learned how important it is to treat the earth with love and respect,not to litter, and the importance of being kind to others regardless of their background. They learned the universal language of meditation and yoga. Aside from the continental U.S. my children have lived in Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Indonesia and Bahrain.
What have you learned as a parent raising children abroad?
Some of the successes of raising children abroad are having the ability to expose them to different people and cultures. My children are more willing to try to new things than many children their ages and I think that is partly because they have been exposed to travel and have been immersed in different cultures. There are also challenges of course, such as my children being away from family in the United States, but we do a lot of video chatting, which makes it easier than it would have been in the past.
Describe Culture Cloz and the experience of operating a business in a foreign country.
Culture Cloz first opened its doors in 2013 in the East Liberty area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is a global business with a focus on style, and handmade and fair trade goods. It is a place where you will find high quality, bright, fun, sophisticated and culturally expressive clothing, shoes, accessories, natural hair care products and more. The store is now based in Bali, Indonesia.
Operating a business in Bali has its ups and downs just like it would anywhere else.
The biggest obstacle in Indonesia in particular is working with visa agents and immigration in regards to obtaining the correct (business or work) visa. The truth is, you cannot trust everyone. Visa agents are not always honest and business owners have the potential to lose a lot of money if they are not careful and wise in choosing the correct agent. Also, laws are constantly changing in Indonesia in regards to visa requirements so that can definitely add stress to any situation.
You’re the founder of Brothas and Sistas Living in Indonesia. What prompted the creation of the group?
The group was created because I saw a need for a safe space in regards to Black people who are living in and frequently visiting Indonesia. There are Brothas & Sistas groups for a number of countries, and I thought that Indonesia definitely had the number to start such a group… so, why not? The cost to start a FB group is free and when it comes to being Black and living abroad I always tend to gravitate towards the phrase, “If you build it, they will come.”
So I built a group for Black people of African descent who live in, plan on living in, used to live in Indonesia. In the group we:
- Have conversations about topics concerning Black people in Indonesia
- Share photos, laughable moments and frustrations
- Participate in annual (or more depending on member locations) meetups to just relax and have fun get to know each other
- Network with each other in order to create or find income revenue opportunities
- Find travel buddies
Another goal of the 192-member group is to eventually make a trip to Papua, Indonesia to build networks with our Papuan brothers and sisters.
What have you learned the most about yourself, living as an expat?
As an expat I have learned the importance of patience in all situations, from waiting on visa approval to waiting in line at the grocery store. Patience is key when globetrotting. I have also experienced firsthand that anti-blackness is an issue that I will face around most of the globe. For instance, in Indonesia skin lightening is popular. Walking into stores and mini-marts you will find that most soaps and even deodorants have skin lightening chemicals added to them. There are commercials all day on television advertising skin lightening creams and soaps as well.
There is most definitely a difference between anti-blackness and ignorance though. One is a choice and the other is lack of exposure. So, I do try to keep an open-mind in most situations and sometimes it will end up as a learning experience for everyone involved.
What’s one must have experiences while in Indonesia?
I would have to say one must have experience in Ubud is visiting the Tegallalang rice terraces. Outside of Ubud, I would say to definitely check out the Agung Show at the Bali Safari and Marine Park!