Day 272 - Phil

Day 272 - Phil (6th person I approached)
September 29, 2014 - Today was another media inspired day. I received an email from Francesca, an enthusiastic young woman who is a Broadcast Journalism student. Francesca is in her second year at BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology). She asked to interview and follow me during the process of meeting and chatting with a stranger. We met at the BCIT downtown Vancouver campus this morning, along with her cameraperson Brad, who is also a BCIT student. As it was raining quite heavily, I set about meeting someone in the campus building. Lots of students and seemingly on a Monday morning, most are there for classes and studying, not socializing. Everyone was either cramming for an exam or on a short break in-between classes.


I saw Phil from across a large concourse, putting on his coat. I hurried towards him to ask if he’d be willing to chat. Apparently I had Phil at ‘The Stranger Project.’ He graciously agreed to not only chat, but willingly sit and be filmed while we chatted. Video cameras have a way of putting people off, usually!


Phil was born and raised in Vancouver.

“I’m the second oldest of four kids. I have an older sister, then a younger brother and a younger sister. My parents had each one of us three years apart. Very orderly. I liked being the second child, I think it was the best really. The oldest had already broken the ice, and I wasn’t the baby of the family either. I think it was the right place to be,” said Phil laughing.

“I definitely had some responsibilities as well with being second oldest. Looking after my younger siblings, particularly the youngest, my little sister. I never changed a diaper or anything but I spent time with her.”


All four children went to the same French Immersion schools.

“Our parents were both immigrants from England and they knew Canada was a bilingual country. They figured it would be useful to speak a second language. Which then made it easier to learn a third language. I grew up in a home-stay environment. We always had home-stay students in the house, mostly from Japan. I was able to learn some Japanese while growing up, with their influence,” he said.

“I think we lived in a bit of a bubble. I never considered how we were growing up to be much different than other kids going to an English speaking school. My best subject in school ironically, was English. I’ve always enjoyed it. I had a great teacher who just made it that much more enjoyable. And art. I loved drawing cartoon characters. There were always doodles in the margins of all my notebooks,” he said. 


Phil graduated high-school and went to UBC (University of British Columbia) right after.

“I studied English, it just seemed a given. I also did peer counselling while I was in university. It’s a service made available to all students, where they can go to talk about whatever they might be having an issue with. As peer counsellors, we were available to listen to, and help students find appropriate resources to assist them,” said Phil.

“It was a four year undergrad program. I took five years, having taken a year off to travel in my third year,” he told me. 


Phil went to Australia and New Zealand.

“I had relatives there, and I had a fascination with the Maori culture. I think in part, the interest was driven because it was such a contrast from my own life,” he said. Phil was able to spend time with some Maori families and get a first hand experience of their cultures and way of life.

“It was incredible,” he said.

“But no, I don’t have any traditional Maori tattoos. Yet. It’s on my bucket list,” he said making a checkmark gesture in the air.

“I worked while I was there also. To say I worked in construction would be an overstatement. I was given either a pick or a shovel and that was my work for the day,” said Phil, smiling humbly. He finished his degree at UBC when he returned to Vancouver.


“I did a number of things once I finished university. I was also very interested in theatre and drama. I had a friend who was working at Douglas College (Burnaby, BC). She invited me to put together a course aimed at using theatre and drama as a teaching tool in the classroom. I did that for a couple of summers,” he said. Phil was also working in ESL (English as a Second Language) schools.

“At that time it was difficult to find work as a teacher. Japan was inviting people over on contract to fill teaching positions. I went to Fukuoka, on the northern tip of the lower island. It was like the Vancouver of Japan,” said Phil. His experience as a child growing up with home-stay students had served him in good stead.

“I spent three years in Fukuoka, and met my future wife there. We got married when we came back to Vancouver. On my birthday I had arranged a party at our house. All of my friends showed up and I told everyone we were waiting for one more guest. Then a Justice of the Peace arrived and we surprised our guests by getting married. I definitely won’t ever forget my wedding anniversary!” Phil joked.

“We have one child, our daughter. Looking after my little sister when I was younger had come in handy. It’s helped me to understand my daughter a bit more. She will be two next month,” he said, proudly.


When Phil came back to Vancouver from Japan, he enrolled in the Broadcast Journalism course at BCIT. The very course that Francesca who was filming our chat is taking. They talked about mutual instructors and the program in general. It was exciting (and coincidental, although we were at a BCIT campus) to have a student and an Alumni on either side of the camera, both actively involved in The Stranger Project. 


Phil mentioned a few ‘unique’ jobs he had while in school. They included organizing ghost tours, and working at the Museum of Anthropology. Since graduating from the two year Broadcast Journalism course, Phil has spent a lot of his time working in Language schools.

“I started working here at BCIT just this year. That’s why I’m on campus. I work with international students in a program that BCIT offers to help them adapt to academic life in BC. I’m really enjoying what I’m doing now. There’s a great opportunity to have a positive impact on the student’s experience while learning.” #notastranger