Day 238 - Paul

Day 238 - Paul - (1st person I approached)
August 26, 2014 - I’ll be honest, I was drawn to Paul’s crisp white shirt, and the navy blue tie. He was sitting outside a coffee shop by himself, and when I asked him to chat, he said yes, without any hesitation. Then I noticed he was wearing a beautiful pair of navy blue suede desert boots. A stylish business man!


Paul was born in Welland, in southern Ontario.

“I’m the youngest of three. I have two older bothers who are eleven and nine years older than I am. I wouldn’t necessarily say we were close as kids. With the age difference, they were doing there own thing. By the time I was ten, they had moved out of the house. The other side of having such a gap between myself and my brothers, was that I got lots of attention, and didn’t really crave more attention from my brothers. The only thing my brothers ever said about me being younger, was that I got to go on more vacations than they did. When they were younger, my parents didn’t have the time, energy or money to go on trips that often. The years later, things had gotten better for them and we went on vacations,” said Paul.


In school, Paul was interested in art.

“I enjoyed painting, using oils. The artwork became what I was known for in school. I always said it’s easy to be a big fish in a small pond. I thought from an early age that I would like to become a teacher and teach art,” he said. At that time in Ontario, high-school went to Grade thirteen.

“I went to university right after high-school, in St Catherines (Ontario). Initially I went in to study art and become a teacher. In my second year of university, I realized that there were a lot of very talented artists out there and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. So I changed my course load, “ he said.

“I went into Environmental Protection. I was still looking at becoming a teacher and Geography is a teachable subject.” Paul graduated with honours; a Bachelor’s degree majoring in Environmental Protection and a minor in Art History.

“I continued studying art throughout university,” he said. 


During his last year of university, Paul’s father passed away.

“I was still living at home, commuting daily to St Catherines for school. My father had cancer. It was just my mother and I at home then. It was difficult for all of us, “ he said. Paul’s mother had a good friend that was living in the Philippines.

“My mother’s friend invited my mother to go stay with her for a while in the Philippines. I went with her. It really opened my eyes to many things,“ said Paul.

“I extended my trip and stayed longer than I had intended. When I got home to Canada, I knew that I wanted to find a way to get back to Asia.” There were a number of countries that granted persons under the age of twenty-five, a two year working visa.

“I did some research and decided that I wanted to go to Japan. If you had a university degree, you could easily get a job teaching English. I got a job with Berlitz, a company that had it’s own training program. I stayed in Tokyo for six months and then extended my trip for another six months. Then another year. Berlitz was able to continue securing visas for me, and I stayed in Tokyo for five years,” said Paul. 


“I had reached a point where I felt I needed to do something more for myself. If I had stayed in Tokyo, I would only ever have been able to afford to live in a small box. That’s the way it is in Tokyo. I had been to Vancouver once while on vacation during the time I lived in Japan. During that first visit. the weather was just like it is today. Blue skies, sunshine and green grass. I decided that if I ever moved back to Canada, I’d want to live here,” said Paul. When that time did come, and he moved to Vancouver, Paul says he experienced culture shock.

“I would stand in front of the door to a shop and wait for it to open automatically, which of course they don’t all do here. In Japan, you don’t stand in line to pay for things. The sales clerk takes your money and then disappears before coming back with your change. The way in which the customer is taken care of. It all took a little while to get used to things being different. It was surprising because it seemed to be more of a culture shock coming back to Canada, compared with when I first moved to Tokyo,” said Paul. When he moved to Vancouver, Paul also made a career switch.

“I had a friend here in Vancouver that is an interior designer. He offered me some work. I was enjoying what I was doing and after some time, my friend offered to help me through school. I went to BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology) and took the interior design program. That was the only school that I could go to part-time and still continue working,” he said. Paul has been working in interior design ever since.

“I work in a corporate environment now, so it’s not all about creativity. I spend a lot of time behind a desk and planning. It’s not the creative outlet that most people associate with interior design. But I do things on the side that feed my creativity,” said Paul. Last year he redid his own home and is very pleased with the end result. 


We chatted a little bit about traveling.

“My mother is eighty-five now. I try to travel around my birthday and for my fiftieth birthday, I wanted to do something special. There was a large group of us on that trip. Sixteen in total. I went to Rome, Nice and Paris, and took my mother with me. We had a wonderful time. I think it might have tired her out a bit. So we took taxi’s everywhere for the last few days. But that was a very special vacation.” #notastranger