Day 16 - Trevor (1st person I approached)
January 16, 2015 - It was such a nice sunny afternoon, I went for a twenty minute walk to get to a 2:00pm meeting I had. I’ve developed a habit of checking the temperature to see how I should dress. I feel so grown-up and sensible doing that. Weird. However, I failed to plan for how long I’d be sitting in a meeting and then heading outdoors to find today’s story. I was rather under-dressed for 5:00pm, a setting sun and a minimum of twenty minutes walking to get home.
Fortunately, it didn't take long before I saw Trevor sitting on a bench, looking at his phone. He looked like he was just passing time, and I found out that’s exactly what he was doing. It was a bonus to have the first person I approached agree to chat with me. But we spent probably twenty minutes, maybe a bit more, sitting outside on this bench.
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Trevor’s family moved to Campbell River, on Vancouver Island when he was just one year old.
“My father was a teacher, so we moved for his work. When I was five, we moved to a five acre farm on Quadra Island,” he said. Quadra Island is among a group of small islands located along the Inside Passage. The seaway between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, Canada.
“I have one sister, she’s three years older than I am. We were close as kids, and still are. We lived on a farm so I had to milk the cows at 5am, before school,” he said. Trevor’s father was originally from Manitoba, and had learned to speak French. He only spoke French with Trevor, so that he would be bilingual.
Trevor commuted from Quadra Island to Campbell River every day, to and from school.
“After milking the cows, I was off to catch the 7am ferry to get to school for music class,” he told me. The small school he attended in Campbell River had seven students in his class, across three grades.
“It was impossible to hide or slack off in class. I learned to use the ferry ride as way to unwind, and that’s actually stayed with me to this day,” he said, of commuting.
“I was aware that we lived in an unusual situation, and definitely appreciate it more now looking back. But I knew it was different and a unique situation.”
His father was a teacher, and on occasion taught Trevor’s class.
“The only real concern I had about him being my teacher, was what people might have thought of me. Let's say I missed getting any homework in class. If I was to ask my father about it at home, and come in the next day with it completed, I would wonder what the other kids would have thought. I didn’t want the it to appear as if there was any favouritism, or difference in treatment at all,” he said.
Trevor was twelve, when his father arranged to go on a teacher exchange. The family headed to Réunion Island, located in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Madagascar.
“It’s a department of France, even though it’s overseas. The language is French, with a unique combination of languages mixed in. It's a sort of Creole, or Réunion French as it’s called."
Historically, Madagascar was an eclectic central trading port.
"There are mosques, next to temples, and catholic churches, all in a row," he told me.
“One of the first community events I saw on Réunion was a ritualistic sacrifice of a goat. I remember seeing it carried through the streets, leaving a trail of blood behind it. It was definitely a culture shock!”
It was a true exchange; Trevor and his family stayed in the home of a local teacher, and his father taught at her school. Likewise, she stayed in Trevor’s family home, and taught at his father’s school. They stayed there for one year, before returning home to Quadra Island.
At the age of fourteen, Trevor was kicked out of rehearsals for his school musical.
“I was told, and not just the once, that I should find something else to pursue. That I would never make it as a singer,” he said, without a trace of bitterness in his voice. It served to make him more determined and for the next three years, Trevor studied opera. He also worked part-time in a restaurant as a server while in school.
“After graduating from high-school, I spent a summer working to save some money. Then I moved to Venezuela, by myself,” he told me. The local Rotary Club coordinated the trip, and Trevor stayed with two different host families.
“I needed to work on my voice and rolling r’s, and I was able to do that in Venezuela. I went to school and repeated Grade twelve while I was there. That was a great way to absorb the culture and immerse myself in the community,” he said. While in Venezuela, Trevor was cast in an operatic production of 'The Messiah.’
“I only got the role because I spoke English," he said, modestly.
“It was something to go from getting kicked out of my high-school’s musical to singing an opera in front of an audience of thousands of people, in Venezuela.” After that, Trevor felt that opera was no longer what he wanted to pursue. He spent a year there, then returned home to Canada.
“The week before I left for Venezuela, my family had sold the farm and moved to New Westminster. At least I was able to say goodbye to the farm. But coming home from being away for a year, and after speaking only Spanish while I was there, it took while to get back into speaking English. It’s like my muscle memory was lacking. My family thought I was being really quiet. I was, and was adjusting to the culture shock of being home,” said Trevor.
A week after returning to the west coast, he started studying at SFU (Simon Fraser University).
“I went to university to study, don’t laugh, Public Administration. It was so not what I wanted to be doing. In my second year, I changed to History and Latin American Studies,” he said.
“I had taken the public administration because I thought I wanted to work with refugees that were here in Canada. I realized that for the most part, they had it fairly good here in Canada, and that overseas was where I could do the most to help. So that's why I took Latin American Studies,” he told me. During the four years of getting his Bachelor’s degree, Trevor spent two summers travelling.
“My parents were in Guinea (west coast of Africa) one year and I went there for a couple of months. They were in Zambia (Central Africa) during my summer break another year, and I spent time there as well,” he said.
“I went to Spain for six months after finishing university. I came back to Canada, and much to everyone’s surprise, I decided I wanted to become a teacher, of all things!” he said, laughing.
“I went back to school for a year, to get my teaching certificate.” Trevor is now a Spanish teacher at a high-school in New Westminster.
“It’s kind of ironic, because I moved away from New West to live on my own in East Vancouver. Now I’m back teaching in New West,” he said, shaking his head, smiling.
I took a couple of pictures, and as I was saying thank you to Trevor, he mentioned that he plays in a band. It had come up earlier in our conversation, but I got sidetracked in the incredible details of his journey. It’s a Latin Folk group called ‘Trigo y Maiz Band’ which translates to ‘Wheat and Corn.’
By this time, I was shivering from the cold, and Trevor said he too was cold. He was heading off to meet a friend that he’s known since Grade eight. I wanted to be sure I would be able to share a link to his band with his story. I had reached memory overload, and wasn’t sure my non-spanish retention would work. Trevor offered to find my website, and email me the info, which was a great help.
We were both shivering cold, but I walked away from our chat feeling fortunate for the warmth with which Trevor shared his story. #notastranger