Kind Stranger

My buddy always teased me whenever we met in Singapore about my (lack of) slang. He said, "You have moved to Australia for a number of years already, where is your Aussie slang?" I responded by giving him surprise calls from Perth once or twice in my worst attempt to sound like someone I wasn't and pretended to be his boss calling him. Needless to say it didn't work but we had a few laughs.

Tucky had a point. After all, my 3 year old daughter is beginning to sound more Aussie than I would ever be. It is simple, really. To date, I don't have a single Aussie friend. (more about that next time). My ex supervisor was a true blue Aussie. Talking to him and other colleagues trained my ears to gradually understand what the heck they were ranting about in our daily work. The only Aussie in my current company is my boss. I don't even talk to him much at all, unless there are problems at work that I cannot solve. Most of the time, he is out of office anyway. The rest of the team are made up of bloody Asians just like me. It wouldn't help me much if I want to pick an Aussie accent up. That is a big if, because knowing myself too well, I wouldn't.

And I continue to observe which local Aussie bloke choose to be an asshole with me just because I don't sound like them. To date, at least for the courier drivers or warehouse receivers I have interacted with, many of them showed me a level of friendliness even my own countrymen hardly do from where I came from. It is not to say Aussie blokes are angels. That must sound like a joke itself. Well, I have been told off a couple of times by strangers but politely and rightfully so for doing something wrong. Such as, using my phone while refueling. (the bloke said," I don't wan to die, mate.") Do not expect me to call these incidents of racism where I was the one in the wrong.

On the other side of the balance, I received a lot more kindness from strangers. From the elderly man who walked up to us after we alighted from a bus to ask us if we needed help because we "looked lost," to strangers furnishing us with their unwanted furniture, as well as baby accessories, for free. Then there is Anita.

Though Anita and I had several email exchanges over the years, we have never met before. I forgot how she even came to know about this blog (if she told me at all), but she continued to give me good advice as well as encouragement despite my late and non replies (I don't mean it, sorry!) Last weekend, Anita made me an offer I couldn't refuse, bags of Mandarin Oranges harvested from her own yard.

After eating a bagful..there is still

Don't get me wrong. it wasn't the free fruits offered to me convinced me to make a trip to Anita's house. I am cheap but not as gian peng as you think. What Anita wrote in her email made me feel that I will be a real asshole if I rejected her kind offer. Firstly she told me to ignore the email if I don't like it and she won't feel offended. Secondly she sensed that I am shy anti-social and told me I could just pick up the bags at her door. I offered to pass her some food, whatever I was cooking that day and she told me if an exchange was the only way to make me take her fruits, then she would take it.

So I decided to make a trip to Anita's place on a cold Saturday evening.

What I did not clarify was that passing Anita some of my own cooking wasn't part of a gift exchange program. I wanted to do it because I received so much sincere concern and kindness over the years that I just wanted to make something with my own hands to show my appreciation. In the end, the Bannister Road orientation we did for friends here early in the day left me with inadequate time to cook. So I made 2 simple desserts that my grandmother used to make for me, Sweet Potato in Ginger Soup and Black Glutinous Rice. It was the simplest versions of those ever. I did not even put pandan leaves. Hopefully my "auntie" friend will still like it.

That was the first time I visited the suburb named Alfred Cove. Over the emails, I often had the impression that Anita has always been fixing up her house, such as a broken roof, shed or parts of the garden. Her repair works seem endless. Without even checking what kind of a suburb Alfred Cove is, the impression of Anita formed in my mind was a busy housewife fixing up a broken house after the last storm took her roof away. But when I reached Alfred Cove, damn! Anita's "broken house" could possibly buy 5 of mine.

So I walked gingerly along her large front yard, where 3 cars where parked and found the bags left for me at her veranda. I placed my desserts down and took her bags. I felt like a thief as I made my way out.

Later, I found a letter in one of the bags, this was what it said

Dear Nix,

This is a small (and inexpensive) gift for your Jen. It protects mothers and children, especially unborn children and mothers in childbirth.

You may not approve of such things so I will not be offended if you do not want it.

It is a well intentioned on my part and comes from my Irish Catholic upbringing and cornish, Welsh and Irish ancestry. Probably thousands of years of belief in such things.

It is a holy medal which represents Saint Gerard Majella & has been blessed by a priest. You can wear, carry in a handbag or such, or just keep it near your bed.

You don't need to believe in it yourself for it to benefit you as it contains the prayers of those who do, but it will not corrupt or interfere with your own beliefs.

If you think it  (as) old auntie superstition you will be right but it is my way of wishing the best for Jen and the new baby.


Anita told me that she liked both soups. I hope she wasn't trying to be polite because I would like to send more varieties her way in future.


  1. LOL

    i feel u mate, i feel u. I am also anti-social and dun do very well accepting gifts...I get "blackmail" when i accept gifts from friends...stories for another day perhaps =(

    I wish jen well.

  2. Hi Nix. Thanks for the great posts. I wish Jen well.

  3. Hi Nix,

    Your experience reminds me of an elderly Aussie artist at our block. He opened his door and upon seeing my wife struggling with her suitcase while I parked my car. He exclaimed, "you are so little," and proceed without hesitation to carry her suitcase to 3rd level.

    That was 12 years back. Simple act of kindness was never forgotten.