Day 48 - Frans

48 Frans.jpeg

Day 48 - Frans (2nd person I approached)

February 17, 2014 - As I sit down to write today’s story, I  feel like it may turnout to be the longest one yet, and I hope you’ll bear with me! It’s another one that had a ‘first’ for me as I go along on this truly amazing journey. The first person I approached, wouldn’t even make eye contact with me and said simply “I’m not interested.” The end. I saw Frans standing on the sidewalk, not waiting for a bus, headphones on and looking at his ‘phone. I broke a few of my self-imposed rules for this project. Rule break #01- I walked past Frans and wasn’t going to ask him to talk to me, and then I went back. Rule break #02 - I approached him while he had headphones on and was looking at his ‘phone. NOTE - There’s a certain liberty in breaking self imposed rules! 

At first Frans said he was willing to talk with me, but wasn’t sure about the picture taking part. I almost left it at that, but I decided to show him the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages I have bookmarked on my ‘phone. He was interested in what I was doing, and turned it around on me when he started asking me questions! Then he said, "Let’s go inside here, I want to buy you coffee and talk. I’m interested in what you’re doing.” Despite my protestations, he insisted on buying me coffee. We sat and talked for over an hour. Here are the ‘Coles Notes’ of our amazing conversation!

Frans was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Chinese parents. His grandfather had saved enough money by the age of 17 to flee China, and paid for passage on a boat; “destination unknown.” The spelling of his name is Dutch. Frans has one older brother, and when Frans was about 12 years old, his family started to explore potential countries to move to. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, and with his heritage being Chinese, racism was prevalent in the brother’s childhood. “We attended private schools and would have to be escorted to the car to take us home. People called us names and on occasion, I got into street fights, in order to protect myself. It wasn’t a peer issue, it was people trying to rob me and steal money, even though I didn’t have any.” The family spent the next few years taking vacations in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and America, in a quest to find a home suitable to live in, without the threats and pressure of racism. “We had an Uncle who lived in (the suburb of) Coquitlam, and we came to visit with him and see what we thought of Vancouver.” Upon returning to Jakarta, Frans' father started to make preparations to move to Canada. “At that time, my father was able to make arrangements with the Canadian Government. There was a policy where families looking for visas ‘loaned’ the Canadian Government money, and signed agreements about the duration of stay and visa approval, in order for the family to call Canada home.”

Frans was dating a girl in Grade 10 back in Jakarta before moving to Canada, and tells me “I knew we were eventually moving to Canada, but I didn't tell her that, because I wanted to date her. I met her family and we dated for some time. When we did move to Canada, her and I stayed in touch. Two years after I had arrived in Vancouver, her father asked her where she wanted to go to study. Mel, his girlfriend from Jakarta, his high-school sweetheart, told her father she wanted to study in Vancouver. Mel has lived in Vancouver ever since, and the childhood sweethearts married some 12 years later. “I wanted to pay for our wedding myself. A lot of my friends got married sooner in life, but their families paid for the wedding. I wanted to be able to say I did it for us, so I worked hard and we got married when I could pay for it myself. It was an amazing day, and was rather special on many levels. I was a member of the Vancouver Mini Cooper S Car Club, and we had a procession of thirty Mini’s drive through Vancouver and it was photographed and documented by Real Weddings Magazine. It was an a amazing day!” Frans and his wife have three daughters. “It wasn’t a case of trying to have a boy either, the third child was a complete surprise!” Frans’ tells me.

Frans graduated from British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), studying Computer Sciences and Business, and owns his own company. He has been a life-long Apple fan and user, and works as a consultant and Administrator for companies that contract his company, to set up and administer their Apple networks. He also told me an incredible story of being in Cupertino - the ‘mothership’ of Apple, attending some training there, when as he was getting into his rental car at the end of the day, he looked up, and there was Steve Jobs. “I was so excited, I went over to him and introduced myself, and told him how much I admired him and about being a lifelong Apple user. I asked for an autograph and at first he said he wasn't comfortable with that, but eventually he signed my training manual! After talking with Steve Jobs for a little while, he asked me what I was going to do that evening. I told him I planned to go grab a bite to eat. I was so shocked when he then suggested we grab a coffee together, and Steve Jobs and I went to a little coffee shop nearby, and talked over coffee for about 25 minutes. I’ve framed that manual, and while friends have suggested I could put it on eBay and sell it, I will never part with it!” 

When I asked Frans how his family decided Vancouver was going to be their home, he told me an incredible story. "The family were in Coquitlam, where my Uncle lived, and to be honest, my brother and I thought Vancouver was rather boring and we wanted to try Singapore next. It was 1991. There was a blizzard, and so much snow that it was almost impossible to drive anywhere in Coquitlam. Our sedan got stuck in the snow, and we had no way of getting the vehicle out or even moving. The wheels are just spinning around. A huge truck pulled up behind us, and based on previous experiences as a Chinese family, we feared we were about to be robbed. These two large guys got out of their truck and came towards our vehicle. They had shovels with them, and they said hello, and then without asking, started to shovel the snow out from under our vehicle. We couldn’t believe this was happening. They worked at clearing the snow that was blocking us, then put down rock salt in front of our tires, and waited until we could get enough traction to get moving again. We knew then, that Vancouver was exactly where we wanted to be.” #notastranger