I vividly remember sitting in the middle seat, between my mum and my older sister, in a big Qantas plane. I remember feeling so happy that there were screens on the back of the seats and even individual earphones to plug into the armrests.
At that age, I didn’t understand why people complained about aeroplanes. Then again, my feet couldn’t even touch the floor when I sat on aeroplane seats.
Thinking back to that day now, the one thing I remember the most was feeling confused as to why mum looked so nervous and worried the whole time.Thirteen years later, I finally understand.
To me, we were going on a plane. To my mum, we were moving to a new country away from friends and family. To a place where the language was foreign, where uncertainty would be her only friend and where she would question whether her decision to move there was right for the next eight years of her life. I know this because I heard her cry most nights out of pure loneliness.
My parents made the decision for us all to move to New Zealand as they longed for a place where their daughters would be safe and have opportunities our homeland couldn’t offer us.
It was a bold and sacrificial move on my parents’ behalf, one that I thank them for every day.
I have grown up to love and cherish this country of mine, a place where home will forever be. Where the ocean is always slightly cold no matter what the time of the year, where the bushes are thick, lush and green, and the air is fresh, crisp and occasionally smells like cow dung during road trips.
Unfortunately, some people don’t see it the same way.
To them, I am "not a Kiwi". In their eyes I "don’t belong here" and they want me to "go back to my country". These are words I very strongly remember hearing at the age of 15, as a man in his 50s shouted at me in disgust.
It wasn’t the only occasion when I’ve encountered bullying and hate simply due to being different, but I will forever remember that day because that was the moment I started to question my identity.
Where do I belong? My birth country sees me as a foreigner and the country I call home doesn't always accept me either. My yellow-toned skin and almond-shaped eyes don't fit their expectations of a New Zealander.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel different places and encounter many different cultures - this has allowed me to appreciate and embrace them all.
Despite the harsh and scary encounters my family and I have experienced as immigrants, we have also encountered love, support and encouragement from many true Kiwis - immigrants or not.
Thankfully, I’ve understood that being a Kiwi isn’t about where you were born or how you look, but more about the ability to treat others with love, kindness, compassion.
It’s about embracing everyone’s uniqueness and celebrating each other. The day I encountered that man’s rage and anger towards me, I chose to be a Kiwi that will stand up for what is right, even if I’m standing alone.
The good thing is, I know I won’t be standing up alone because us Kiwis are good like that.