It’s been another milestone month for our friend Colin Easton and The Stranger Project 2014!
“I hit 4,000 followers on Facebook, and was on CBC radio twice in May; I was interviewed by guest host David Lennam for CBC Victoria’s ‘All Points West.’ I was thrilled to be included on an episode of CBC’s “DNTO” with Sook-Yin Lee – the show was all about the perfect stranger,” said Easton.
The Stranger Project 2014 was a featured news story on Global TV News, and Easton was an invited panelist on HuffPost Live New York.
Easton has been going out and meeting a stranger every day this year, and collecting stories about these people he meets through chance encounters. He then writes about the conversations and posts the stories, with a photograph of that person.
“Some of the stories have been really profound. There definitely has been a huge shift in my own perspective, not just with regard to strangers, but how I live my own life as well,” he said. “It’s impossible to not be moved by the intimate details of celebration and survival. It goes beyond ‘polite conversation.’ Strangers are very willing to share their stories. All we have to do is be open to listening,” said Easton.
The Stranger Project 2014
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As we’ve done every month, here are some of the most popular stories from The Stranger Project 2014, for the month of May.
Bashir – Day 121
123 likes, 26 comments
Day 121 – Bashir (1st person I approached)
May 01, 2014 – Bashir comes from Mogadishu, Somalia. It is the nation’s largest city and the capital of Somalia. He is the fourth child of nineteen children by his father, and the third child of four by his mother. It is commonplace in the Somalian culture for a man to have multiple wives. Bashir tells me his father had ten wives over his lifetime and was never married to more than one woman at any one time. “My father worked for the Somalian Government. He ran supply warehouses. He maintained inventory of grains, rice and other supplies, and oversaw distribution. He is elderly now at the age of 91 years old and my brothers and sisters care for him. He is in a wheelchair and needs to be cared for. It is their turn to care for him. It is the cycle of life,” he says. He then asked if I minded if he smoked.
Bashir had an intense education. “In the mornings I would have religious school, followed by government school in the afternoons. My father paid for me to go to private schools in the evening.” When I mention to Bashir that I can hear a trace of an English accent he explains, “The accent can be English, or American. The private schools were both British and American. This was my schooling. Grade A plus education, from elementary school right through to completing high school in Grade 12.”
Mary – Day 135
89 likes, 20 comments
Day 135 – Mary (3rd person I approached)
May 15, 2014 – Mary did that thing, you know when you’re talking to someone and you casually wipe the corners of your mouth. And then the person you’re talking to does it, so you think you’ve got something there that you’ve missed. Then they keep doing, it, so you do as well, trying to be discreet about it. We each did it about four times. We were apparently good all along.
Born in Tunbridge Wells, England, Mary is the youngest of four, with three brothers. “I was a war baby,” she tells me. “I was born near the end of the war. I don’t remember the war, but we had a bunker in our basement. And people would come over to take shelter there. But Tunbridge Wells wasn’t ever a target. It only got bombed a couple of times, and think largely by mistake.” When Mary was just four years old, her father passed away. “My mother did a terrific job. She had the four of us, the oldest being just 11 years old. We may have on occasion had a hole in our shoes, but we ever went hungry. There was always enough to eat. We didn’t want for anything. My mother was tough. If you were sick, she’d say ‘then go to bed.’ She didn’t have time for anyone not willing to stay active. That was just how things were done,” said Mary. In England, for a number of years after the war, children finished school at age 15 to increase the workforce. “I left school and got a job. I worked at a lemonade company, Lyle’s Lemonade, in the office. I used to hand write the invoices and then the man next to me would tally up the totals and enter the information in a ledger. I made two pounds per week and gave my mother half of that. It taught me how to manage my finances. You had to be frugal and take care,” she said.
Indigo – Day 141
133 likes, 9 comments
Day 141 – Indigo (1st person I approached)
May 21, 2014 – Rules are meant to be broken. And every time I do with regard to talking to strangers, it seems to work out. Indigo works at a flower stall. She was working when I asked her if she’d chat with me. Although she wasn’t that busy and was reading a book, she was paying attention to what was going on around her.
Indigo is a Vancouverite, born and raised. “I was born at Burnaby General Hospital, and grew up in East Vancouver. I have one younger sister,” said Indigo. “My father is from Newfoundland and my mother is Japanese. I’ve lived in the same neighbourhood all my life. Although, when I was in kindergarten, my parents decided we’d go on an epic road trip. We drove down to Mexico in a beat-up old car, and traveled all around for about three months. I think they thought we’d move there, but after three months, we came home. I don’t remember the actual road trip much. I’ve seen a lot of videos from that trip though and I think that’s what I remember the most, the videos I’ve seen,” said Indigo.
Jeurek – Day 151
169 likes, 26 comments
Day 151 – Jeurek (1st person I approached)
May 31, 2014 – Jeurek was sitting on the cement curb, in a quiet spot at the back of a parking lot, when I spotted him. He was drinking a beer out of a tall brown glass bottle. The parking lot is used mostly by commuter traffic so on a Saturday afternoon, there weren’t many cars around. It was just Jeurek, a shopping buggy laden with small suitcases attached to the sides. There were plastic bags hanging off the edges and a jacket on the top. It was all neat and tidy. Next to the shopping buggy, were a couple of other plastic shopping bags and a small travel suitcase. On top of the suitcase was a portable radio, with music playing quietly. Jeurek had to spell his name for me a few times. He told this was the ‘informal’ version of his name, the formal name was Jerzy. “It’s like Joe and Joseph, one is short form and one is formal. The formal one would be used on paperwork and such things. People who know me call me Jeurek,” he said. I thought it ironic that the formal name was shorter than the casual name, hence asking him a few times. Jeurek is from Poland, and while his accent is thick and heavy, after a few minutes we were understanding one another with ease. “My middle name is Leonard,” he said smiling at me.
Jeurek was born in Poland in 1947. “My father was Polish and my mother was from Russia. During the second world war, they were sent to Germany to work on farms. When the war was over, land that had formerly been part of Germany was given to Poland. The Government gave parcels of land to those returning from Germany. My parents got such a piece of land,” said Jeurek. “It was in a town called Żochowo, which is similar to the word for ‘yellow’ so people called it Yellow Town. It is in the north of Poland, near the Baltic Sea,” he said. I asked him what memories of his childhood stood out for him the most. “Well, I don’t actually remember this happening, but I remember my mother had a picture of me with two German friends of hers. I had been sitting outside surrounded by geese and one of the geese attacked me. These two friends had to come to my rescue. My mother told this story. I remember the picture, but not the goose attacking me,” said Jeurek, laughing.