A Stranger A Day Week – Stranger #7 (A Special Encounter)

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I started this project called A Stranger A Day to overcome my shyness and talk to people. The challenge: talk to a stranger a day and try to convince them to let me take a picture and share a story. Since most tattoos have a story behind them, this will be my conversation starter and a common thread that links them all. Every week I will be sharing one of my favourite findings here on Vancouver Is Awesome.

Join me in this Stranger a Day adventure and let me know what you think!

Strangers # 49 and #50! (A special encounter)

Location: Pekoe on Laurel and Broadway – (Originally posted last Monday)

Today it was a special day. A couple of weeks ago someone left a comment here on Vancouver Is Awesome saying that there was a Vancouverite living in London who had taken on the challenge to have tea with a few strangers. Well, a hundred of them, to be precise. Just out of curiosity I decided to contact him to tell him how great I thought his project was, and to share the Stranger a Day project with him. I was happy to see someone else taking a challenge/journey of this sort, and really curious to know why and their experiences on it. To my surprise he replied almost instantly. It had happened that due to a rather sad family situation he was going to be spending some days in Vancouver. Then I read this line: “…I figure I might as well make some positive of the visit and try to squeeze in a cup of tea if I can. You up for it?” Of course I said yes!

We exchanged a few emails and planned out the meeting. It was going to be today, Monday, at 2pm at Pekoe. None of us had been there before and the idea of a tea house sounded more than appropriate. I showed up a bit early. I didn’t even know how he looked like. Looking back, I had never had such mixture of nervousness and excitement before.

At 2pm sharp he showed up, we introduced ourselves. He had such a warm and calm presence. I asked him where he wanted to sit. —Wherever, as long as we have room for three. There is another stranger with me and she has tattoos too! —After that, a girl showed up. When he went to get his tea I introduced myself. When I asked her what her relationship to him was, she calmly said: “I am cup #8”. I smiled. I was cup #9. This hadn’t even started yet and it was already otherworldly. We had a long conversation, it was amazing to hear his stories and motivations: “When I moved to London I asked myself what was the most English thing that as a foreigner I could do, then I thought to myself… well have tea with the Queen! So that’s where the idea initially came from. Then I realized that it really didn’t have to be the queen, it could be just anyone! Plus I bet you the queen is pretty normal as well…”. It was just an amazing chat in between the three of us, by far too great to reduce in a blog post.

We touched on social networking and all of these ways of “connecting” that exist nowadays. I think we both agreed that there was still something very special and human in that random face-to-face interaction. I found it curious that we both found out that besides facebook (and in my case Twitter), our online presence wasn’t as extroverted as people would think. We didn’t have profiles elsewhere and meeting people out of the net was almost terrifying. I have never done it myself, and it is still a bit shocking. Maybe I am just a wimp.

When our stranger in common had to leave, I asked her if she wanted to be part of my project as well. She agreed and showed me her tattoo (above).

“Crows have a very important role in my life. Every time I have had to make an important decision, or at any important moment in my life, there has been a crow around, for some reason. Even if I am buying a car, if a crow passes by, I know that is the one. That’s why I decided to have crows tattooed on my ribcage, they are flying and playing around in the wind. You can also see the leaves, which have different colours, symbolizing the different seasons, the passage of time and the cyclical flow of life.”

That was a cool story from her. Immediately after, Greg decided to show me his piece too. He took his shirt off and rolled his sleeve:

“Stay Gold. This tattoo is basically me as a kid. And I got it to remind myself to be who I am, Stay Gold. You know, sometimes when we grow up, we try to be someone else for all these different people and we forget of who we really are. So that’s what this is about.”

I was intrigued by the stories we shared. I feel honoured to have had this encounter. I think it symbolizes by far one of the most amazing things that I’ve taken from this project. Of course there is so much more that went on and I am sure he could explain it a lot better in a more eloquent manner, but I think this all can be summed up in a couple of lines he wrote to me in one of his emails, and that had stuck to me since then:

The way I figure it – life gives you opportunity after opportunity to connect with other people – yet somehow we have created a society that seems to feel like being open with others isn’t as acceptable as it once was. I hope that someone, people like us, people who aren’t afraid to challenge those ideas – I hope we can change that…

I feel really grateful for this. It was awesome. :)

Thank you strangers! And Greg, I hope you have a safe trip back to your London home. Thank you!

Check out his project here: onehundredcups, and for the daily strangers click here:  astrangeraday.com