Day 314 - Betty

Day 314 - Betty (1st person I approached)
November 10, 2014 - It was one of those unplanned, let’s see what happens kind of days. It involved three separate coffee shops, a little bit of writing along the way, and a lot of coffee. Technically it was four coffee shops. I spotted Betty sitting alone at the fourth one, enjoying a beverage and seemingly just watching the world pass by. She laughed when I first asked her if she would chat with me. In the end, we chatted for a good thirty minutes.


Betty was born in Abbotsford, BC (British Columbia). 

“I have three brothers, two older and one younger. We grew up on a farm that produced eggs, but we also had sheep and cows. We all had chores that helped with the running of the farm. It was all I knew, but I sometimes found myself envying my friends who lived in the city. They didn’t have to go home on a Sunday night and do farm chores,” she said. 

“Looking back, I think it helped me understand better the cycle of life. We had fun on the farm too, playing, running around and games. Although it certainly made things difficult when it came to Halloween. Everything was so spread out,” she said, laughing softly.


“I really liked elementary school. We used to catch the yellow school bus. District 34,” she recalled easily. 

“High school, I didn’t enjoy so much. It was kind of tough. I went to a Mennonite school, and at that time there was a big Christian revival going on, and it just seemed to be happening all around us. We’d go to prayer services every day in school, and there was so much talk of it. There was a lot of evangelical preaching taking place,” she said. 


“I do have a vivid memory from Grade eleven though. It was just one of those days that stays with you. Every time I hear the song ‘Here Comes the Sun’ by the Beatles, I’m reminded of it. The Grade eleven class had to organize the graduation events for the Grade twelve class. It was either after it was all over, or we had finished setting everything up, something like that. A good friend of mine, who was male, had a blue Volkswagen Bug, and we were sitting in it talking, and that song came on the radio. I just remember that it had been a really great day and feeling happy with what we had achieved. I’m transported back to that day, in that VW Bug, whenever I hear the song,” she said with a fondness in her voice, and a big smile. 


Betty graduated and went to Winnipeg to attend the University of Manitoba. 

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I enrolled in a liberal arts program. I studied liberal arts for two years, then I left and went to live in Germany for six months. My parents were originally from Austria, so we spoke German at home. I had taken German in high-school also, and did fairly well. I was an au pair (nanny) for a friend of our family. After that I went to Switzerland and spent six months there. Of course they speak Swiss German in Switzerland, so I had to listen very closely to what was being said. At home, my parents spoke German and used English words as they got more comfortable with the language. In Switzerland they use French words mixed in with Swiss German. It was more difficult than I would have thought,” she told me. 


Betty had been to Europe once before. 

“My older brother was travelling, and my mother and I went to see him in Austria. My mother hadn't been there since fleeing during the second world war. We were there for about five weeks, and my mother couldn’t get over how little it had changed. It was a wonderful trip to share with her,” said Betty.


When she went back to Winnipeg and university, Betty changed her major, thinking that she wanted to go into education. 

“I didn't like the program at all. I remember I went for a practicum, working with Grade one students. I got the class excited and a little revved up. Their teacher did not approve of that at all. It was a little too prim and proper for me. After a year in the education program, I changed again and spent the next two years completing my degree majoring in German. I think I did a minor in English too, if I remember correctly,” she said.


Back in Abbotsford after getting her bachelor’s degree, Betty didn’t know what she was going to do. 

“I went to the manpower office, you know where they had the boards with jobs posted on them. I had no experience working at all. I got a call one day from someone that wanted to interview me, because of my German language skills. I wasn’t working and I had been out picking strawberries and my hands were all stained red from the fruit. You can’t really hide your hands in an interview. I ended up getting the job. It was working for a company that was importing electrical technology from Germany. I handled the paperwork, ordering and the telephone calls to Germany with the suppliers. My boss told me that during the interview he had noticed that my hands were stained. He said that’s why I got the job. He felt I was a hard worker,” she said, with a big smile. When the company moved to Toronto, Betty was offered a position in the new office and moved out east. 

"I didn’t stay with that particular company, but I lived in Toronto for over ten years. I worked for a number of corporations, and the jobs always involved my ability to speak German,” she told me.


Eventually Betty started her own translation company. 

“It was just me, and I was working from home. I did translation of all kinds of documents and contracts for companies,” she said. Betty had a daughter and decided it was time to move back to BC, and nearer to her family. 

“With fax machines and the postal service, I didn’t have to be physically near my clients. The last company that I had worked for was Magna International. They became one of my clients and still are to this day,” she said.


“Ive been self employed for just over twenty years now,” said Betty. 

“The amount of work in the translation business goes up and down. I work with conference and event organizers as well now, providing on-site translators. I have a team of people that I work with. When a client needs translators for an event, I put that together and provide the people, based on the languages needed,” she said. Betty listed off several languages that she can provide translators for. 

“I’ve even been able to travel twice because of having a team of translators. I went to Israel and Beijing, due to the many translators needed for the events. I was there to help keep them all organized. They were such great experiences,” she said.


Her daughter is nineteen now, and still lives at home with Betty. I asked if they have a good relationship. 

“Oh yes, we get along well,” she said. Then there was a little chuckle. 

“When she was about to start Grade eleven, I told her that she was going to have such a good time and to really enjoy that year. It didn’t go so well for her. She didn’t have that ‘Here Comes the Sun’ moment.” #notastranger