When a Stranger Ruins Your Day


Australia Diary collects reader stories reflecting Australia’s unique character. Want to share your story, photo, poem or video? Email nytaustralia@nytimes.com.


By Isabella Kwai

It would have been the perfect Saturday, the kind where you could almost taste the onset of summer. After a day of roaming markets and lying out by the water, a friend and I walked slowly to catch our trains home.

As we crossed the intersection at Town Hall station, a man with sunglasses came from the other direction.

We smiled at him in that polite way you do to strangers. As he passed, he leaned over and hissed something at us.

“What we do about this Asian scum?”

The words were like a cold punch to the stomach. Our smiles vanished.

He was gone in an instant. The moment passed. I opened my mouth to say something back — but what?

My friend and I looked at each other as we walked on. What could we say?

We walked on, toward a train station that we had passed thousands, maybe millions, of times before.

We walked on, thinking about the country our parents had chosen for us, the sunny land that we had yearned to call home.

My friends and I wondered how, more than 20 years after we set our feet in the lucky country — some of us brought here, some of us born here — it could still feel like an alien place.

There have been, and would be, other disquieting moments, less violent moments. On a holiday in Coffs Harbour, a man would tell us tales of his travels in Thailand — but none of us were Thai. In a McDonald’s, another would lean over as we spooned our sundaes, asking us, “Excuse me, but where are you from?”

“Sydney, Australia,” we said firmly, knowing exactly what he’d meant.

Because it was the truth. What else could we say?

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Source : Nytimes