Day 252 - Clarence

Day 252 - Clarence (4th person I approached)
September 09, 2014 - The first person I approached told me that he had heard of The Stranger Project and wished he’d had time to chat, but had to pick up his kids from daycare. I then ran into Mike from Day 214; we spoke briefly about how he is doing, and made arrangements to have coffee soon and catch-up. I saw Kathleen, a woman I had approached some months ago. She hasn’t wanted to talk at length, but whenever our paths cross, we stop and have a quick chat. I look forward to hearing her story one of these days. 


Clarence was surrounded by books, notepads, pencils, a calculator and a large coffee when I spotted him. It seemed evident he was either studying or running a small business. I wasn’t sure if he’d be willing to make time to chat, and was pleasantly surprised when he said yes! 


Clarence was born in Hong Kong and at the tender age of six months, his family immigrated to Vancouver.

“My parents had family here in Vancouver, so I imagine that’s how they decided where in Canada we would live,” he told me. Clarence is the third of four children.

“I have three sisters. I think they got it easier than I did, because I was the only boy. I feel like my parents had different expectations with me, than they did for my sisters. Or at least, it seems my sisters could do more, and got away with more than I did. We’re a close family, though. I hold no grudges,” he said. Clarence grew up in Richmond (once a suburb of Vancouver and now a city unto itself).

“When I was young and in elementary school, there wasn't a large Asian population in my school. I experienced racism, name calling and funny looks from the other kids. But as I headed to high-school, those same kids hd become my good friends. There also was a much larger Asian community in Richmond by then as well,” he said. 


After graduating from high-school, Clarence went to SFU (Simon Fraser University).

“I studied Criminology. I really didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do, and wasn't intending to go into criminology. It was just expected that I’d go to university,” he said.

“While I was in school, I got a job working at (a large airline) out at the airport as a baggage handler. I was doing that part-time and going to school. After I got my (Bachelor’s) degree, I went to work full-time at the airport. I was making good money and could fly for cheap. It just seemed like the best thing to do,” he said. Clarence has worked there for almost twenty-five years now.

“I’ve travelled so much and seen many places around the world. I would never have gone to Egypt if it wasn’t for cheaper air-fares. Same with going to Dubai, I probably never would have thought to go there for a vacation if I was paying the full airfare. I’ve gotten a few promotions, and worked my way up. There are people I work with that have been there much longer than I have. When you think about it, if you started at say, twenty years old, you could retire by age forty-seven or so. I’m not far away from getting a pension. I’ve been fortunate. Plus I go shopping in Hong Kong a lot!” he said, smiling.


I asked about all the books and notepads.

“I’m studying to get my Realtor’s license,” he said.

“My brother-in-law is a house builder. My father was in real estate for over forty years, but recently retired. He used to handle all of my brother-in-laws sales. My sister asked me if I’d be interested in getting my license and helping out. I took a leave of absence from work, and for the past five months I’ve been studying. My sister paid for it too! I went to classes for the first while and for the last month or so I’ve been studying everyday. I’m just reviewing everything,” he told me. Clarence sits his real estate examination on Monday.

“I’m feeling confident and comfortable. There’s a bit of added pressure because my sister paid for it, of course I don’t want to let her down. But I’m feeling good about it all. I’m not looking to build a client list or anything. I’ll only be handling my brother-in-law's homes. Something I’ll do on the side,” he said.


Tomorrow Clarence is going to get a wisdom tooth extracted, and on Friday he's starting work on a full sleeve tattoo.

“Yeah, it’s certainly quite the week! I’m glad I took some time off work. I’ve gotten tattoo’s while travelling as well. I got one done in Miami, one in London (England) and I got one at that famous ‘Miami Ink’ place in New York (the Wooster Street Social Club, owned by Ami James). I’ve been planning this new one for some time and it will probably take three or four sessions. But it’s very exciting,” he said.


Clarence is single, and has no children.

“There is a bit of pressure from my parents as the only male, to have children. I’m single right now though," he says and then he laughs.

“I was in a relationship, but it ended, and not so well either. We got engaged, and I guess having kids never came up. When it did, my fiancé told me she did not want to have any kids. I always knew I definitely want to have children. We even talked about adoption, but she didn’t want anything to do with that. I ended the engagement. I had to, we wanted different things. She was so angry, she set fire to my bed,” he said laughing even more.

“I can laugh about it now but it wasn’t funny when it happened," he said.

"Then I saw her months after we split up, and she had had a kid! I guess everyone can change their mind.” #notastranger