101 Days, 101 Strangers, 101 Stories: Day 23

Tonight I went over to a friend’s place for a pool party/gathering/cook-off.

There, I met some interesting new friends. I was immediately intrigued by Ata and his cool moustache and Turkish accent. He is my stranger of the day.

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Ata making banana flambe

Ata grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. He enjoyed his time there but feels lucky to be living in Vancouver now, away from the politics and occasional unrest of his home city.

He’s studying integrated engineering at UBC but is drawn toward business and entrepreneurship.

Ata played a key role in starting the Turkish Khan Academy — the first fully translated and widely used version of the original site. This has enabled valuable access to education for many Turkish-speaking folks who wouldn’t be able to access it otherwise.

While he was in Turkey, he delivered a TEDx talk on innovation and education. He’s also incredibly musically inclined, adept at instruments ranging from bass guitar to trumpet to flamenco guitar techniques.

“Being on stage is such a great feeling”, he said, reminiscing upon the times he would perform music for groups as large as 1200. The airport security guards wouldn’t let him bring his guitars overseas without paying a hefty fee, so he hasn’t been making music much at all lately.

Right now, he works in marketing and business for luxury cars and fancy Turkish beverages. In his free time, he loves to cook.

His life advice? “Don’t wait. If there’s something you want to do, do it now. Life is too short to put it off.” It’s something we’ve heard before but there was a certain intense, close-to-home-ness in his voice that made it sound completely novel and absolutely imperative.

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