February 24, 2015 - Yusra (3rd person I approached)
I’ve never really had the same relationship with sleep that most people do. It’s also another factor of living with depression; the sleep cycle can be fragile. I'm one of those people that enjoys getting up early, whether I need to or not. I love the silence of 6am.
Sunday night (technically Monday morning) I went to bed late - like 3am, and I woke up at 7am, and that was me for the night. Consequently, last night, by 11pm, I was exhausted and falling asleep on the couch. I didn’t write - I intentionally decided that if my body wanted to go to sleep early, I would do just that. And I slept until 7:30 this morning too. So today’s story originated yesterday, I just didn’t get around to writing it.
Yusra was sitting on a bench near Science World, when I first saw her. She had a few bags with her, and it looked like she was packing up her belongings and getting ready to leave. I’ve intentionally never spoken with anyone who ‘appears’ under the age of eighteen or so. I don’t want to make any parents angry, nor do I want to come across as inappropriate. Looking ahead, should I see someone with an adult, or parental figure, then maybe I’ll ask them both to chat. So far, it’s not happened. I wasn’t sure at first if I should ask Yusra to chat, based on how young she looks. But I took a chance, and she agreed to chat with me. I later found out she is nineteen.
“I am from Saudi Arabia,” she told me.
“I was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and grew up there.” She is the ‘smallest’ of seven children.
“Oh yes, I was a little bit spoiled. Having older brothers and sisters, I had lots of attention. It depends on the customs of the family if the boys are raised differently than the girls. In my family, no. We were all raised the same. I was closer to my sisters than my brothers,” she told me. There are four girls and three boys in the family. Yusra’s father is a civil engineer and her mother is a professor teaching clinical biology.
“All of my family have gone to university. Not because my parents made them to do it, because they wanted to,” said Yusra.
“In school I was an ‘A’ student. I went to a private school for my elementary schooling. Then I switched to a public school. My cousin was going to this school, and she wanted me to go there also, so that is why I changed to a public school. I continued to be an ‘A’ student," she said with quiet modesty.
“I went to University after high-school. I want to study Architecture. It is what I knew I wanted to do since before I went to university. This class, it was so very difficult. I had to work hard for this, to study for architecture,” she said.
Yusra had come to Vancouver in 2010 with a brother and sister.
“They were coming here to go to school, and I came her to visit with them. That was my first time here,” she said.
“After my first semester in Architecture, it was so much work. But I still got ‘A’s’ in my classes. I only went for one semester then I came back to here in Vancouver,” she said. I asked how long she has been in Vancouver for.
“Just three days now,” she smiled.
"My sister has gone back to Jeddah, she has finished university now. But my brother is here, so I am staying with him.” Yusra is going to school while she's in Vancouver.
“I am studying English. I’ll be doing that for six months. Then I will go back to Jeddah and university to finish my architecture. That will be in five years that I finish,” she said, with a big smile.
I asked Yusra how her parents felt about her wanting to come to Vancouver after one semester in university.
“They were alright. They are sad a little bit. They are all alone now. Everyone has left the house, it is just them. But they are happy to me for learning English,” she said. I complimented her on her current English skills and noted that she would only be improving her English, not learning it from the beginning. She laughed.
“It depends on the teacher,” she said. She has been learning English in school since kindergarten.
“I don’t know exactly what I want to do in Architecture. I haven’t had the exposure to it that I will get through learning,” Yusra told me.
"I will like to design residential buildings. Houses." She said she thinks Vancouver is a beautiful city, with some very nice buildings. I sensed she might have been too shy to voice her full opinion. I told her we have a lot of glass, but there are some nice buildings here. I explained ‘Vancouverism’ to her. The concept of an urban building with a low, mixed-use base, and a large narrow tower built over it. This style originated here in Vancouver. It's now known in the architectural world as ‘Vancouverism.’ Yusra looked around and was able to identify a couple of buildings based on this school of design.
I took her photograph and showed her the picture. She made a note of The Stranger Project Facebook page and thanked me for asking her to chat. I remembered not to offer my hand to shake. She gathered her bags and we said goodbye, Yusra adding
“Good luck with your project. Have a nice day.” #notastranger