101 Days, 101 Strangers, 101 Stories: Day 24

Today on my way back to my place, I was in the elevator of my building with one other person and my bicycle. He complemented my bike and as I was getting off, I decided to ask him if he’d be free to chat and be my stranger of the day. It was a pretty awkward encounter because the elevator kept closing on him as I was explaining my project, and my bike kept falling over.

Regardless, he said sure. We had tea, cookies, and a good chat.

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His name is Johnston. When I asked him where he was from he made me guess. I don’t like it when people make me guess because I feel like on some level I’ll have to make assumptions and that perhaps in doing so, I may offend them somehow. Anyways, his accent sounded similar to those of the people I met while I was visiting my grandparents in Kenya. So I guessed there, and I was right. Thank goodness.

More specifically, he’s from Mombasa. He grew up on the coast. He misses it, especially because his family still lives there and he hasn’t seen them since he moved here for university. But he enjoys living away from home. He loves all of the new experiences that it brings, and all of the “different and weird” people he has encountered. It’s a great opportunity for growth and learning.

Funny story: I poured him some tea into my infamous monkey mug. He said it was a nice and we got to talking about monkeys. He said he had seen some monkeys on the UBC campus and I gave him what was probably the most perplexed look I’ve ever given. “Really?” I asked. “Well…”, he said. It turns out that he was living on the sixth floor last year near a tree. He thought there was a monkey in the tree because that’s what he was used to seeing back home. But he soon realized it was really just a raccoon.

He’s studying at the Sauder school of business and hopes to one day work in finance or investment banking. He’s drawn to business because it’s not something about which many people are knowledgeable back home where he’s from. His family was never very business-minded and he wanted to expose himself to something new and exciting.

When he was in high school, he started a school club working toward environmental sustainability. He got involved in writing a blog for the cause and found it to be a really valuable experience. Naturally, we got to talking about environmental issues and he said something I thought to be pretty insightful. He said that if you really dedicate yourself to something, you can achieve it.  It’s good to have ambitious goals, he explained. But he stressed the importance of being realistic, too.

In his free time, he loves to play soccer. He got really excited when he talked about it. He’s overcoming an injury right now which makes it hard for him to play as much as he’d like to. But he so simply and contently said “it’s just an injury. It could be worse.”


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