A stranger in this country

Blog 6

I am a person who transplanted herself in the soil of America. I grew up in Japan. And my family was South Korean. 

I came to the US in the early ’90s when Reaganomics was still working it’s magic, good or bad. My parents’ precious savings lasted fairly long. My school tuition was amazingly affordable even for a foreign student like myself. 

Soon after I arrived in California, I began to experience a falling out with my aunt who initially agreed to host my stay. I couldn’t get along with her, so I moved out of her beautiful five-bedroom, three-car garage, mansion in the mountains to a duplex in a crummy neighborhood. 

I heard gunshots almost every night. My car broke down often. Much to my dismay, I discovered that without regular maintenance and oil changes, a car was nothing but a hunk of metal. I knew so little. My knowledge about American life had been gleaned from “The Cosby Show” and “The Hardy Boys.” But not the part about self-reliance and sobering reality. Still, I enjoyed privacy and autonomy for the first time in my life. 

I enjoyed my school. I started at a local community college. It was revelatory to find out that teachers actually demanded students challenge them in the form of questions. I really enjoyed studying. Not only music, my choice of a major, but every other subject. I made quite a few friends, most of them Asians. 

But when I went home, I was alone. Not only I was physically alone, but I was also spiritually alone. I felt that on this side of the world, I had no one who had any interest in knowing me. I was breathing quietly like a mouse at the margin of this small industrial city. Nobody noticed my breathing. In spite of my stubbornness, academic achievement and rationalization(“I CHOSE to come here after all”), I began to feel stabbing loneliness every night. 

To fast-forward through the subsequent years, I managed to cope with the sense of an inner void and become less lonely. One of the coping methods I discovered was writing songs. One song, “A Stranger In This Country” was born out of such desolate feelings of a newcomer to an unknown culture. Unknown, indeed. I knew the feeling of being alone very well. The first decade here in this country only reinforced my knowledge of how deep my loneliness was. 

I still get a pang of anxiety when I sing this song. Anxiety laced with shame. I felt ashamed of being lonely. 

But I decided not to leave. I needed to work on something. I could give up on America, Japan, or Korea for a number of reasons. But I couldn’t leave ME. So I declared myself, “Don’t you dare be a stranger. Stay even after the deep dawn sets. Be here. Right here. In the midst of loneliness.” 

And guess what? I have been feeling so much happier. 

A Stranger in This Country

© 2008 By Chie Treagus      

Have you ever been so lonely

That you felt pain?

Have you ever cried silently          

When you got off of a subway train?

I have, oh yes, I have 

I saw so many people come and go                            

But I felt I was all alone

I was a  stranger in this country 

I was a  stranger in this country 

I was a stranger to myself           

I was a stranger to you

Please don’t make that wild guess 

I smile when I’m hurt inside

Please don’t just pass me by unless

You make sure I’m not brushed aside  

I have tried, oh yes, I have

I saw so many people on the street                           

But I felt I had disappeared

I came to America hoping to be changed

I came to America not to get estranged

And for some dreams, some love but it turned out

I was a stranger to myself       

I was a stranger to you

Don’t think I’m just complainin’

Wishing that rain would clear

I looked deep in my soul and I found out 

Loneliness became more comfortable      

Than friends at the dinner table

Well, I just can’t rely on you America

I think that I must try with you America  

To be me      

To be happy

To be free

Have you ever been so lonely

That you felt pain?

Have you ever cried silently 

When you got off of a subway train?

If you  see me on the street            

Just say “hello, goodbye”                    

And I’ll say I’m okay even though

I am a  stranger in this country 

I am a  stranger in this country 

I am a stranger to myself           

I am a stranger to you

To hear me play this song with my band, TokiMono, visit SoundCloud. 


Leave a comment