Day 153 - Junior (1st person I approached)
June 02, 2014 - I was out for walk and didn’t have a destination in mind. I just knew that I was going to find a stranger to chat with. I ended up downtown at English Bay, where the crowds of people were enjoying the glorious sunshine and heat of the day. Someone had brought a parrot to the beach and there were a few people taking pictures of it. I spotted Junior sitting by himself, no headphones, no shirt and seemingly just soaking up the sunshine. He readily agreed to chat with with me.
Junior was born in Fortaleza in northeastern Brazil. He is the youngest of three children, with two older sisters.
“I grew up in a very close family home. My parents and the three of us kids were close. It wasn’t like a typical Latin family that spends all our time with aunts and uncles and cousins. The five of us spent our time together as a family. We got along well and I think that the closeness is how I am with my own family today. Because of how we were raised,” said Junior. His parents also put a lot of thought into their education.
“There are public schools in Brazil that get funding from the government, but its not the best system. You could never be sure if the classes would take place, there weren’t always supplies. We went to private schools. It’s different than private schools here in Canada. It’s not ‘posh’ or elitist, it’s more about a way of assuring that children get a good education,” he said.
“When I think about my time in school, I really enjoyed it. The core group of friends that I have in my life today, are people that have been friends of mine since school. Some of my best friends I’ve known for years, and from school.”
When Junior was 17 he participated in an exchange program and spent time in the United States in Fort Wayne, Idaho.
“Again I think it was part of my fathers plan to want us to have a better life. To show us other opportunities and to get a taste of what is out there to experience. I definitely matured during that trip,” he said. After finishing high school, Junior went to University.
“I was interested in Architecture, and my father had the idea that I should go towards civil engineering. I had to write some entrance exams and the first set was for the architecture. I did pretty well and then decided that I didn’t need to work too hard for the next set of exams. My friends were all studying and I was out having a good time. That was a mistake. I messed up big time and went from 9th place overall to 29th. Civil Engineering it was. I spent five and a half years studying and graduated with a Bachelors degree,” Junior said. He went into engineering after graduating, but soon realized that it wasn’t what he wanted to do. Junior has had an interest in music for some time, playing keyboards and and mixing music. He built a home studio where he made and produced music.
When he was 20, and in a serious relationship, Junior became a father.
“That was really a moment for me. I realized that being a father was something that I was really into. I wanted to be a father. It felt like it was meant to be!” he said. When his son was about six months old, the relationship ended. Junior and his son’s mother remained friends. They also remained committed to raising their son with his best interests at the forefront. Soon Junior was a full-time single father. They mutually agreed that Junior would be the prime caregiver. His son’s mother continued to be very involved in their son’s life.
At this point in our conversation we were joined by Junior’s wife and daughter. He asked me to explain to his wife what it was I was doing. I started to tell her and as soon as I said 'The Stranger Project 2014,' her eyes widened and she smiled, telling me
“I’m following your project on Facebook!” Deborah is also from Fortaleza, Brazil. It’s a small world after all! We chatted for bit and then Deborah and their 10 year old daughter went for a walk. Junior and I continued chatting. I asked how he met his wife.
“We were at the beach (in Fortaleza, Brazil). I noticed her and she noticed me and we kept noticing each other and then I went over and started talking with her. W’ve been together ever since. 16 years now,” he said. We had quite the conversation about flirting, and the ease with which it happens in other countries and cultures, but evidently not so much here in Canada. We agreed that people tend to shy away from flirting and seem to be more reserved. We also agreed we both like to flirt.
“it’s like a dance, it’s a form of communication. It doesn’t have to have any ulterior motive. It’s fun and friendly.”
About seven years ago, Junior and Deborah decided to move to Vancouver.
“Deborah wanted to go for her Doctorate in Political Science. The choices were Melbourne (Australia), Washington DC (USA) or here in Vancouver. Melbourne would have been good, but it was just to far from our families in Brazil. We had both spent time in the US while in our teens and for us, that’s not where we wanted to raise our family. So we came to Vancouver. Deborah is finishing her Doctorate at UBC (University of British Columbia),” said Junior. They will have been in Vancouver for six years next month.
“We have our permanent residency and will be applying for citizenship next. But who knows what may happen if my wife gets a job offer elsewhere. We’ll just have to wait and see. We all certainly enjoy living here.” Junior got a job when they arrived working in construction.
“It seems I’ve come full circle. I got a job as a labourer in construction. It paid the bills and I have a family to support. But I went on to learn from some amazing people and I’m now carpenter. I work for a great company, they’re very good to me and things have turned out very well,” he said.
“I called my father to tell him I had picked up some work in construction. He told me that when he came to visit, he wanted to see all the houses I had built,” he told me. Junior is still invoked with his passion for music.
“I have a home studio and I’m still making music. I’m currently working on a soundtrack for a film that two students have made. I’m excited about how it’s going,” said Junior.
Four years ago, the mother of Junior’s son passed away.
“It was a very difficult time for everyone. She was an incredible mother and an amazing woman. I think that the distance of living here in Canada and his age, he was 14 at the time, might have slightly softened some of the pain, but it was still really hard for him,” Junior said.
“Then my father passed away. I couldn’t even pick up my hammer without crying and thinking of him. The influence that he had on me and his guidance. I know he’s with me, and now, I think about him when I’m working and hope that he’s proud of what I’m doing.”
Through these tough years, Junior is grateful for his family.
“Just like when I was kid and we five were a core family. My kids and my wife are that core family, and we couldn’t have gotten through all of this without each other. I have with my own family what I had growing up.” #notastranger