Day 338 - Francesco

Day 338 - Francesco (2nd person I approached)
December 04, 2014 _ The first person I approached was standing on a street corner selling the ‘Hope in the Shadows’ calendars. The calendars are a product of a photo competition. Single-use film cameras are distributed to people in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood of Vancouver. They're asked to take photographs of the things that are important to them. The calendar’s images come from a selection of the images captured. The calendars are then sold by low-income and under-employed persons who get to keep half of the proceeds from their individual sales revenue. I asked him if he would consider chatting with me. He said my project was of interest to him, but that he was there to make money. He was actively engaging with passersby.

“Maybe you’ll catch me sometime when I’m not working,” he said. ”I have some great stories for you.” (*Fact Check - see link below.)


Francesco was standing alone outside a transit station. He appeared to be waiting for someone. I explained to him what I am doing. He listened to what I said, and then told me, in a very thick Italian accent, that his English was not so good. I said I thought his English was fine, and that if he was willing, I'd like to see if we could chat. He flashed a warm smile, and agreed to give it a try.


“I am from Italy. In Sardinia, I was born,” he said. Sardinia is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, and is an autonomous region of Italy.

“I have one older brother, who is thirty-five years older.” I remarked that thirty-five years was a big gap in age.

“No, I’m sorry he’s twenty-five years older. No, I mean twenty-five years old. He is six years older than me,” he said. We both laughed at what had just happened.

“Yes he is twenty-five.”


Francesco just finished high-school this summer.

“When I was fifteen years, my cousin invited to bring me to Vancouver. Since that time, I have wanted to be here in Canada. I went to a private school to learn to speak English. Not for my parents did I go, it was for me. After my day at school, I would go to English school. I didn't be able to practise English much with people in Sardinia. But I know in my future I wanted to come to Vancouver,” he said. His accent will open many doors for him.


“Sardinia is okay. But I wanted to travel and see some places else. There are difficult times in Italy right now. No jobs, bad economy. Here the people are nicer, it’s beautiful and I’m excited to be here. I don’t mind the cold. In Sardinia is warm like summer all year, so for me the cold is nice. I get to wear extra clothes,” he said, with a big smile. I told him that many people in Vancouver would like to be in Sardinia.

“It is a nice place to visit, sure. But, it is difficult to live there just now. No, here is good.”


Francesco went to an arts based high-school.

“I have always liked to poet and draw. Paint, and draw,” he said, correcting himself. He uses all mediums; oil, water colours, chalk, charcoal. He tells me he’s fond of doing portraits of people.

“Sometimes of myself, yes, it is all the same. Faces of people.”


“I arrived here last Sunday. I will spend forty-two days here visiting. This is my first time in America,” he said. We had the conversation. I reminded him he is in Canada, and that we are not America. I gently suggested that some people may possibly get upset if others say we are ‘America.’

“Thank you,” he said.

“Canada. It is my first time in Canada.” I asked how his parents felt about him travelling for the first time.

“Oh, they are good to have me travel. My mother misses me, of course,” he said with a slight tone of disregard.


Back home in Sardinia, he has started to work for his older brother.

“He makes the tattoos. I am working to set things up for him to work, and clean for him. I’m not sure if I want to do this, be a tattoo artist,” he said. I asked if he had any tattoo’s himself.

“Yes, I have five, I think. I have one that says ‘living the dream’ across here,” he says pointing to his upper chest.

“Yes it is in English. My mother is not to happy, but my brother make it for me, so it is good. I also have the wings on my shoulders. A flower that, how you say, connects from my side to my back. A diamond on my side. A tree. And here, uhm, I have,” he says, reaching down and pointing to his inner left ankle.

“I have an animal but I don’t remember how to say the name in English.”


We both had on too many layers of clothing to reveal our tattoos to compare. Francesco reached into his pocket, and pulled out a cell phone.

“I have to see the time. Oh. I must to go,” he said.

“I will be late to meet my friend.” I quickly took a photograph, and showed it to Francesco. “Yes this is okay,” he said.

“Thank you for talking with me, and for my poor English I am sorry.” His strong accent didn’t matter. At all. His hesitation in selecting the correct words didn’t matter. The difference in our ages didn’t matter. I am almost thirty-five years older. It was two people making conversation. That’s all that mattered. #notastranger

*Fact Check - Hope in the Shadows -