Sri Lanka?

Imagine if I approached a random black person on the street and the first question I asked them was, “are you from Kenya?”


I don’t think my words can properly justify the rage I feel when a foreigner walks up to me and asks me if I’m from Sri Lanka. Because:

1. How is this information going to change your life?
2. How is there no alarm going off in your apparently empty head, warning you that you are about to ask an incredibly ignorant question?

So you can bet your bottom Won that I turned on the spot when I was asked this question for the five hundred and thirty seventh time, so I could shower them with every bit of judgment they deserved.

His hands were tucked away in the pockets of his khaki pants, which were sitting awfully high on his waist. His off-white T-shirt was torn in places and his bald head shone in the sunlight.

“Can I help you?”
“Sri Lanka?”
“What about Sri Lanka?”
“Where from?”
His accent was bizarre. Like a warped Korean version of Borat mixed with something else.
“South Africa”
“South Africa? Wow..look..very different..”


He pointed to himself. “Russia.”
“Okay.” I kept walking. I forgot where I was going, but I kept walking. He followed.
He gestured spooning food into his mouth. “Did you eat today?” He said this in Korean. His Korean was better than his English.
I hadn’t eaten. “I just ate, thanks.”
I nodded, kept my eyes glued to the street and continued walking. I now had a double shadow. My mind raced for a means to get rid of him.

I realised I was near one of my favourite clothing stores, which was predominantly for women. This would ward him off.
I reached the entrance. He mumbled in Korean again. “You’re going in here? I’ll come with you.”
“What? No, please, it’s okay.” I even signalled an X with my hands to make my message as clear as possible. I turned my back to him and walked into the shop. It was the first time I prayed in about seven years, though all in vain, because he walked in after me. I walked outside again. New plan. This time I headed for an underwear store. There is no way this guy would follow me into an underwear store called “Sexy Cookie”.


When I woke up that morning, I knew it was going to be a busy day in town. I even compiled a list of errands in case I forgot something. Sexy Cookie was not on that list.

But there I was, in an underwear store called “Sexy Cookie”, absent-mindedly looking at sexy underwear I didn’t want, while being followed by a Russian who, at that moment, was having a conversation with himself in Korean. Because I certainly wasn’t listening to him. In fact, I had slid my earphones into my ears. No music was playing.

But he still wasn’t giving up. “You finished? Next shop?”
I stared at him for about three seconds. “Excuse me?!”

He left me with no other option.

I ran.

I must have looked like all kinds of crazy when I bolted out the lingerie store, but I have cared more for other things. I looked back. He had his hands on his bald head and looked thoroughly confused.

“Hey!” he called. And to my horror he started after me.

I ran and I ran. I ran until a stitch formed in my side. I stopped to pinch my side. I looked back again. He was gone. I realised I was a minute away from my flat. Which means I had run almost all the way home. I was still convinced he was going to pop out from behind a Matiz. I made sure the coast was clear only about five times before entering my building.

I was home. I should have been relieved, but I was so annoyed. I didn’t even scratch a single errand off my list.

Categories: South Korea | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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