Day 339 - Sam (1st person I approached)
December 05, 2014 - I was heading home around 11pm, after a very enjoyable evening, presenting at PechaKucha New Westminster. Meeting a stranger late at night in the darker months of the year can be more challenging. Not many people are willing to hang out on the sidewalk and talk. I was crossing the street at an intersection and there was Sam, walking in the same direction. When I first started speaking with her, I could see her move away a couple of feet, uncertain of why or what I was talking about. As soon as I gave her the full explanation about my project, she was enthusiastic about chatting. We both laughed when she explained that her first thought was ’Who is this weirdo?”
Sam was born in Dawson Creek, in northeastern British Columbia (BC).
“I have one older brother and one younger half sister,” she said.
“My father is Welsh/English, and my mother is Cree Métis. My grandmother is fluent in Cree Métis, so I grow up hearing the language. But I only speak spotty Cree myself,” she said, laughing.
“My parents divorced when I was young and my brother went to live with my father. I stayed with my mother. My father remarried, and had another daughter. It was strange because I was no longer the youngest child, and I didn’t live with them. So my brother and little sister lived together but not with me. I become this odd, removed middle child.”
“My stepfather moved us around a lot for work. He worked in the oil patch, and my mother was an oil field medic, so she was able to work wherever we went. By the time Sam went to high-school, she had been to roughly fifteen elementary schools.
“Sometimes we moved three times in one year. I became very good at being the new kid. It became easy to make new friends and adjust,” she said.
When Sam was thirteen, she went to live with her father.
“My mother was living in the country and it was rural. My father lived in the city. That’s where I wanted to be. I was a bit of a rebel child I guess, I didn’t want to spend much time with my little sister who was just a toddler at the time. Now we’re older, I’m like ‘oh, my little sister, I love her!’ We get along well,” she said.
In school, Sam told me she was a bit of a nerd.
“I liked English Literature and that sort of thing,” she said. I asked if she played any sports. She gave a spirited laughed.
"No, I was so not into sports. I took gym through a correspondence course, I disliked it that much. They segregated the boys and the girls and I just wasn’t into it. By taking the class online, I was able to take another class in school,” she told me. After graduating from high-school, Sam moved to Vancouver to attend the University of British Columbia (UBC).
“I had never been to Vancouver before. The recruiter did a great job of selling the university when he came to my school. And I thought it was such a beautiful campus. Well, from the pictures I saw at least. My mother and my grandmother drove me down here. I had two black garbage bags. One had my clothes in it, the other was my linens. I moved into a classic dorm room, where my roommate was living just three feet away from me,” she said.
“It was a difficult transition. I didn’t have any of my community around me, and no one spoke Cree Métis either,” she said.
"But I adjusted and made it work."
Sam started studying general arts with an idea to go into Economics.
“That was just so wrong. It wasn’t me at all. I tried Anthropology, and Political Science. Then I looked into First Nations Studies. It felt right, like home. It’s a really small faculty, and so there’s a lot of support and friendship. I was able to also take a course in the Cree language,” said Sam, with a smile beaming from ear to ear.
“I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in First Nations Studies. Since then I’ve kind of taken time off from school. I’ve spent time just hanging out. I have a blog that I write for and I’m doing some barista work” she said.
“Whatever I do, I plan to stay in Vancouver. I’ve been here five years and I love it.” #notastranger