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Stranger 97, Day 97 - Meet Alvin

Stranger 97, Day 97 – Meet Alvin, the “Open-Minded”

I walked around Atlanta Tech Village today after work looking for today’s Stranger. I ran into some familiar faces (former Strangers) while perusing the hallways. It was fun to take a moment and talk. One Stranger commented how he didn’t actually read the story I shared of him. He was kind of worried about sounding like he “rambled” on. Well, he finally read it after I ran into him again plus his wife. He laughed and said it did seem like he rambled on. I told him that I didn’t so at all. Instead, his passion about his startup and his family really came through.

He appreciated that, but he added that he was thrilled to be part of my journey. He thought the write-up was great, and he looked visibly happy that about what he shared, and how he shared it (via his Stranger story).

Boosted by this, I went looking for today’s Stranger who I ran into sitting down and about to pull out his computer. I walked up to him, sat down next to him, and asked him to be today’s Stranger. He happily accepted.

Meet Alvin, 30

Who are you?

“My name is Alvin. I’m ethnically from Indian, but I grew up all around the world. I was in the Middle East. In UK-Liverpool. Then, I moved to Philadelphia. Then, I moved to Virginia. New York. And now, I’m in Georgia.”

“I studied Finance, but I’m a web designer and programmer. I run my own company.”

So what brought you to all of those different countries?

“Well, when I was a kid, my parents kept moving. Then after that, it was just work or college or… one of those.”

So now, what brings you to Atlanta?

“My parents told me it was a cool place. Cost. It’s nicer people. Better opportunities, I guess.”

What opportunities are you looking for?

“Pretty much it’s starting to grow up as a startup — or, the startup culture is starting to grow. That, and the fact that it’s much, much cheaper to live here. It’s easier to network.”

How long have you been here?

“About two years now.”

What do you think of it so far?

“It’s nice. People are nice. People are less mean or rude, if you want to put it that way, compared to New York. Yeah!”

“I mean, I love to drive. So, I get to drive. Don’t have to take the metro everyday.”

And depending on what time you drive, you can actually drive.

“Yes! Yes. I try to avoid the rush hours, so…”

Through all of your different moves and stuff, are there certain lessons you’ve taken from all of those places, and bring them with you to where you are today?

“Kind of, yeah. One of the first things I learned is there is a huge diversity in the world. There’s different sorts of people. The same exact point of view would be viewed differently by different kinds of people. There is no right or wrong. The world is not black and white. There’s going to be gray, and there’s going to be all shades of gray –”

Not just 50?

He laughs briefly, “No, not just 50, yeah.”

“There’s going to be all shades of gray in it. Yeah, that was one of the most important lessons I learned. You can’t just take one issue and say, ‘Okay, that is the right thing to do. That’s the wrong thing to do’. There is a whole other side to it. I mean, it really comes down to how people view things. People from different cultures view the same exact thing differently.”

So, thinking about how people might view you. I think it’s always an interesting thing to think about what is a common mis-perception people have about you.

He thinks about this one for a moment. “For me, I would probably say people might look at me and say I’m not open-minded, or I wouldn’t view their opinion as they would like me to, or I wouldn’t understand their point-of-view. At least, I try my best, to strive to actually see their point-of-view from their angle, and not just from how the world or as society views it.”

“I would probably say I have to tell people that I’m actually more open-minded than I appear to be.”

You seem like it.

He laughs, and asks, “I do?”

“Because a lot of times when people look at me, they are like, ‘Okay, you’re of a certain mindset, or of certain views’. I’m like, ‘No, not really. I mean, you could try talking to me. I can understand your point-of-view. You don’t have to, like, guess I’m going to be against you or for you’, or so on and so forth.”

Is there a key to that? I feel like what you’re harping on is that you’re open, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have opinions.

“Oh, yeah. I mean, I might have an opinion. But I like to see all points of view before I may have formed that opinion rather than just seeing one point-of-view.”

“If you give me a stance on anything, on any issue in the world, yeah, there is one point-of-view. And I’ll try to find an opposite point-of-view, and try to form a judgement based on the two rather than just basing it on one. You know what I mean?”

Any other interesting facts about you that you think a lot of people don’t know this about you?

“Well, I used to be a good computer hacker back when I was a kid.”

Yeah?

“Yeah!” He wasn’t sure if I would share this, but there’s no governments to name anyways. Haha

“I broke into a couple of government websites when I was — I guess I was 12 or 13. It wasn’t like top-secret government. Was just the transportation or one of those.”

“So when I got to college, I love computers. I love programming. I love to do all these things. One thing I hate is to mix hobby with money. Then, that’s not a hobby anymore. That just becomes work. Which is why I decided to take on Finance, and decided to do Finance. I guess the whole past of me being good with computers, I don’t think anyone knows about it. Everyone thinks of me as the Finance major who just happened to get into IT and computers.”

You grew up breaking the law! Haha

“Kind of, yeah, yeah. The funny thing, when I graduated, I graduated during the financial crisis. For me to find where they were expecting five years experience for an entry-level experience. Even though I had internships with three years of experience, and they were expecting five years. It was kind of hard. So, I decided, ‘You know what? I’ll do what I do the best, or whatever I was good at’. So I took up computers, and it started earning me a ton more money than I would have ever earned if I worked as a financial analyst. So, I decided to stick with it.”

So, before I forget, I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (that’s you), if you could ask anyone anything, what would you ask them? So before you have that opportunity, I want to you what Christian asked the other day. Chrisian wanted to ask you, “Why did you choose to be today’s Stranger? And what does that say about you? What was your impression to being asked to being today’s Stranger?” (Thanks to Christian, Stranger 95)

“I don’t know. It was kind of a surprise. Kind of felt… yeah, I should do it! I should today’s Stranger.”

“Just felt, kind of, cool, or you know, kind of like, ‘Okay — what do you call — okay, you are  the Chosen One’ kind of a thing.'”

You are the Chosen One.

He laughs. “Thanks!”

In a lot of ways, this fits into you being open. Couple other questions, real quick… what are your thoughts now pretty much done this?

“It’s exciting! It’s interesting. I would have never thought of this idea before. It sounds like a pretty cool project.”

Alright, so what is a question you’d like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Okay, if they get to choose between living in a perfect world where everyone is happy, and everyone is right, but there’s no fun in it… and choosing to live in this world where there’s sadness and misery, but there’s also fun. But there’s also happiness, but it’s not all of it. Which one would they choose?”

After the handshake.

I like how Alvin’s story was all about being open. I was curious if he would’ve touched on that “open piece” and perspective while he shared his experiences of living in so many places. Fortunately, he did. His acceptance to be today’s Stranger in a very “cold” approach (we’ve never seen each other before) fits into that openness he shared.

And to that, I’m happy I remembered to ask Christian’s question from a couple days ago since I forgot yesterday. Again, it was good to hear how being open to opportunities and perspective is woven throughout his life.

Meet Alvin. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 88, Day 88 - Meet Kelley

Stranger 88, Day 88 – Meet Kelley, the “Photographic Nomad”

I ventured outside my normal today, but only because I actually had a meeting with a prospect. The meeting was at a coworking space in Buckhead near my office. I was excited to walk around the space, and find today’s Stranger.

As I wrapped up my meeting and was walking towards the exit, I spun my head around (because my head’s on a swivel like Beetle Juice). I noticed a woman working diligently on her computer in a conference room. The door was open, so “what the hey!” as they say. (Note: I say it, too.)

The woman looked up and, for a moment, gave me that “uh oh, what do you want” look, but that quickly dissipated and turned to a big smile. That smile would remain a constant throughout our meet with the occasional curled lip as she thought about my questions to get to know her.

Meet Kelley, 32

Who are you?

“I am a photographer!…? From Atlanta…? And… I don’t know. That’s it!” She says she’s a photographer and she’s from Atlanta with an intonation that starts out excited before curling back up into sounding like a question.

“… and I’m just here!”

Where’s “here”?

“Here is… well, I guess it’s in Atlanta, but don’t necessarily want to be here for the rest of my life. I’ve been here 10 years. So, what I really want to do is one day be able to just travel the world, and just always be traveling… kind of like a gypsy. We’ll say a nomad.” She laughs.

Why do you want to be a nomad?

“Well, I’ve never really liked boundaries or boxes like that.” Uh oh. I just realized I closed the door to the conference room we were in. I just closed the box…

“… just being in one place. I used to move a lot. I didn’t realize until later that it’s actually what I prefer — changing my scenery and changing where I’m going, just so that you don’t get bored. And I’m a photographer. I would get bored very quickly staying in the same place, and always seeing the same things.”

Actually, yesterday, the Stranger (her name is Emily, Stranger 87) is getting into photography, too. Her father is always an accomplished photographer. So, let me ask you a question that I asked her. What do you like to take photographs of?

“I like to take photographs of people that are not paying attention. So just real life.”

Candids.

“Yes. But really, real real-life. Like people just doing random things. Doesn’t even have to be something specific. That’s just how I see. When I walk around, I just see that. I’m a natural observer, so I like taking photos of just life happening.”

Thinking about one of those pictures that you took that really resonated with you — very powerful to you. Can you describe that picture?

Kelley thinks about this for a moment. “There’s probably a few. I do a lot of hands… sometimes. Hands or feet. For some reason, those photos seem to tell a better story than the person’s actual face. I don’t know why. I think it might be just because of our point-of-views usually like our hands or just other things. So every time somebody’s just doing something with their hands, for whatever reason, they stick out to me.” She pauses for a moment, and asks herself out loud, “I wonder why? Something about hands…”

“I feel like they just tell a better story than the person’s actual face.”

What is the story your hands tell you?

“I think they tell me how I’m feeling of where I am. Usually, not hands on phones. I don’t really take those photos. But, just like if I’m taking a picture of a bride, and she’s getting ready. Her hands tell a lot about how she’s actually feeling. She might be doing something like this or fidgeting.” Kelley holds up her hands with fingers interlaced. “She doesn’t realize it because she’s making sure her face looks nice. But I can tell how she actually feels through her hands. I don’t know. Something about that speaks more than the person’s face.”

“Your face can lie, but your hands will be like… they’re doing something.”

So very much body language is very important to you.

“Yeah, because the way I shoot is more so I try to invoke a feeling or bring through feeling more so than surface value, if that makes sense.”

“So pose portraits, those don’t bring forth the true feeling as much as just a candid.” She strikes a pose to illustrate her point. “So those are my favorite.”

I’m looking at my hands now which are stretched out in front of me resting on the table. Fingers are interlaced. I ask her what does this say.

She laughs. “You’re in deep thought. You’re thinking of the next question.” Makes sense. We laugh together.

So you’re a nomad….

“Try to be…”

You’re a wannabe nomad. You love to stare at people’s hands and feet. (We laugh again.) I guess, what brought you to where you are today? Not just here in Atlanta or photography, but what brought you to where you are? Was there a life-defining moment that put you on this path?

“I think that I put a lot of stuff out in the universe that I want, and I don’t always know exactly what it is. But I do trust that I’ll get there — whatever it is, and I’ll figure it out. So actually when I’m looking back, I actually ask for all the different steps that led me to here. It’s really weird, but… photography, I’ve just been doing that since I was little. And then, I’ve just always wanted to be my own boss. Never put those two together — they’re very far points. And one day, we just bought a camera to take pictures of some t-shirts, and somehow that rolled out into a business where people pay me to take photos of their lives. I don’t know how.”

“But yeah. When I look back, I realize every step, or everything there was a reason, a purpose for everything. I don’t look at anything as a mistake or failure. They’re just like lessons, or shaping you to the next place. That’s really what I do.”

“I don’t even now where I’m going. I don’t even know what’s the final stop!”

Thinking about the pictures and the feelings, I’m curious what does taking pictures or photographs mean to you?

“Well, I used to move around a lot. And I always had one of those little Kodak cameras because I knew when I was moving. I was in a different school every year because my parents were divorced. So I just started taking pictures to remember things… to remember my memories. I was, obviously, the only person that carried around a camera — WEIRDO!” she exclaims. Haha

“I would take pictures of people, and just people I wanted to remember. I would have books and books of the actual…” she resets. “When you go to CVS to print out photos. I just think that was just a way for me to remember my life because I knew it was always going to be changing. That’s why I never put 2 and 2 together that it was a business. I was just trying to preserve my own memories.”

Makes sense! I think right now, like you said, and I think what you said was interesting — to take pictures of people at events and their special moments. It means a lot to them the pictures. Was curious what those pictures meant to you.

“Yeah, just me trying to take pictures for myself. That turned into people wanting me to take pictures of them. I was like, ‘Sure! That’s fine.'”

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? (Thanks to Emily, Stranger 88)

“If I wasn’t afraid, I would contact Vogue magazine, and ask them to look at my work.”

But I would never do that,” she very, very quietly whispers.

“You would never do that?” I whisper back to her.

“I mean, I am. One day, I will be on the cover. But I don’t want them…” She explains, ‘I have to be in a better place first. So basically, I don’t think I’m good enough, yet.”

What are some of the steps to get there?

“I am working on getting clients that have awesome locations, or want to do things that would be considered, I guess, cool for Vogue — so, I would be able to show them. Or, that they would actually be interested in.”

“Like, I have a wedding in Iceland. So I thought that, like, take pictures and then maybe I’ll feel like contacting somebody.” She laughs. “I guess.”

So now, it’s your turn. What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“A question that I would ask the next Stranger is… are you doing everything you can to be happy?”

“I like to know if people are actually happy in their lives. Or just to get them to think about it.”

After the handshake.

Kelley was fantastic. She had great energy, and I enjoyed getting to know how much she appreciated the details that are more often than not, go unnoticed. Oftentimes, we notice the details of the bigger things like maybe it’s the smile of a person’s face or the light wrinkles of experience on someone’s face. Kelley appreciated the more nondescript part of the person — his/ her hands (and feet).

After our little Stranger introduction, we talked a little bit longer. She had a huge smile, and like other Strangers, she was glowing. She shared how she was just… happy, and that she felt great to talk to someone on a deeper level. We spoke for about 15 minutes, and I could tell that brief moment made her morning and that energy would carry through for the rest of the day.

Meet Kelley. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 87, Day 87 - Meet Emily

Stranger 87, Day 87 – Meet Emily, the “Beginning of an Adventure”

I met today’s Stranger partially in the stairwell in my office as I was heading downstairs carrying a bunch of stuff. Except, I didn’t really say much given I was on the move with a bunch of props for a startup showcase on the first floor. As I was done setting up my company’s little booth, I was back upstairs looking for a Stranger to talk to. I had actually asked a police officer to be it earlier on in the day. The police officer agreed, but then, she kind of (definitely) disappeared. Not sure why, but didn’t see her again. Sadness.

I then met a gentleman at ATV who I’ve been wanting to get to know. I was torn if he should be the Stranger of the Day given he actually heard about this from others in the building. Alas, he would not be it.

So as I walked around on my floor, I went back to the kitchen to which I ran into the woman who I had met in the stairwell so briefly. I asked her if she had a moment to talk, and shared with her this journey. She happily accepted to be today’s Stranger.

Meet Emily, 23

Emily just had a birthday, so let’s wish her a happy birthday. (HAPPY BIRTHDAY!)

Who are you?

“Trying to figure that out still.”

“Hmm, who am I? I guess on a surface level like when you meet a Stranger, you’re like, ‘oh, this is what I do. Blah, blah, blah.’ Work in Atlanta Tech Village for a company called Engage Media. We do pharmaceutical marketing. So I do that. But… I like making people laugh, and drinking wine, and traveling.” She laughs lightly.

“I like photography. Yeah. Always looking for some kind of adventure. So, I guess that’s who I am.”

What’s an adventure you’ve got going on right now, or you’re thinking about going on?

“So, my girlfriend lives in Chicago. Trying to figure out — we’ve been doing long-distance since the end of July. I’m considering possibly moving there. That’s kind of a big one that’s very present in my life right now because it’s a huge life change. But it’s one that I feel like a lot of things in the universe are leading me in that direction. So I think the time is coming up, but I don’t know. There’s a lot of things to figure out logistically, but it’s one that’s very present right now.”

Where were you born and raised?

“Nashville, TN. I’ve been in Atlanta since 2012. I came here to go to school at Oglethorpe.”

How’d you meet your girlfriend?

“We were sorority sisters,” she starts to smile. “So a little controversial, I guess!”

“Yeah, we’ve been best friends since freshman year. Then, our senior year… I don’t know… Kind of grew into something more than that. The rest has been history.”

I have a buddy who is in Chicago right now for work. I just saw pictures with the crazy snow…

“Yeah, I know. She sent me this picture yesterday with our other best friend — was in town because she works for Kraft-Hines. Their headquarters is there. So she’s there for work a decent amount. They built a snowman yesterday. Sent me a picture. That’s crazy.”

So when it comes to the photography, what do you like to take photographs of?

“I got into it because my dad’s a street photographer. My dad is super talented.” She mentions how she’ll share with me her dad’s website.

“It’s something he kind of stumbled into. It’s kind of how I initially got into it. He gave me one of his old cameras. I liked it a little bit growing up.” She pauses and points out, “This is kind of taking the long way around to your question.”

“I liked it a little bit growing up, especially when I traveled. So now… I don’t know. I’m trying to find my voice in photography right now. Most of it is just about my travels. But I like taking pictures of people. I’m really into architectural pictures right now. I like street art pictures. So it’s kind of it. I’m just now kind of started taking it a little more seriously recently.”

“… yeah,” she laughs.

Do you have a picture that you’ve taken that you really love? Perhaps of people. Can you recall one of those pictures? What was so great about it? Describe one of your favorite pictures.

“One of them that I’m really loving right now is actually a picture of this church I found in Chicago. My girlfriend, she lives in Lincoln Park.”

“It was one day that we’re just like basically walking everywhere just to kind of check out the city. It was the second or third time that I’d been there. We just found this church. I took a picture of the front door, and it ended up having this really cool… really vibrant color that I didn’t really see when I was first there. But I like how it turned out.”

“There’s actually another picture that’s my screen saver. Made me think about it when I got a text.” She was referring to her phone getting a text just now.

“There was one when I was traveling for work in New York. We go there pretty often.” She mentions how one of her biggest clients is in the City. “We had stayed out really late the night before. We passed out in my boss’s friend’s house who lived in Brooklyn. Had to take a cab ride back 6 in the morning. I’m like waking up to make it from Brooklyn to Manhattan to be able to pack and shower and catch our flight. I had this picture on my phone of this sunrise coming over Manhattan that I’m just in love with because one, the colors are just really pretty, but also because it was just a really ridiculous night!” She laughs recalling the night and morning.

We also talked briefly about the Chicago boat tour. Very, very cool tour… on a boat… of the great buildings around Chicago. She hopes to do it in the spring or summer next year — not in the winter now.

What are some of your other passions?

“I really love the outdoors. I went to a camp in the mountains of North Carolina growing up. And then later, while I was in college, I was a counselor there. So being in the mountains, in particular, is one of those…” she thinks. “Whenever I’m off-center or off-aligned from myself, that’s where I go as a retreat. Just being outdoors, in general, but in particular, there. Love that. Really into yoga. Trying to find more time to do that now.”

“Those are kind of some of my passions. I work a lot, too, though. So having hobbies is tough!” she laughs.

So balance is a critical thing, right?

“Trying to find balance, yeah.”

When you think about finding that balance because you work a lot, you love photography, you’re thinking about maybe Chicago… how else do you find your balance in the day-to-day? Is it through yoga?

“Yeah, that’s one of those things that I’m more consciously trying to bring into my life. Trying to carve out at least once a week actually going to the studio to do yoga. Or, do a meditation class there. So I’d say probably that right now.”

“I’ve also been trying to be really conscious about writing it out. Sometimes, I think I’m too busy to do that. I literally, about a month ago, wrote out on a legal notepad, ‘what do you want?’ and just wrote. I’m still trying to figure that out, but I’m trying to be more conscious about how I’m evaluating how I am right now. 23. Yeah, I’m really young. But it’s also kind of a weird age, too — trying to figure out what you want, where you’ve been. Nobody takes you seriously. It’s kind of a weird place to be.”

“It’s also an exciting, optimistic time in life.”

When you think about this long-distance thing, what do you think has been key to being successful at it so far?

Emily thinks. “I think just having an open line of communication. That seems to be really basic, but I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that it’s really hard. It’s not easy.”

“… especially, she’s studying at Second City to be a comedian.” Whoa! That place is great! “So that was really hard initially. Scheduling online, but making that a priority. This is when we’re going to talk or whatever.”

“We also like little things like we make sure to text throughout the day. Send articles to each other. We’re both really politically-minded people. ‘Here’s an article. Read this. Whatever. Here’s this Tina Fey thing.’ Little things go a long way, I guess.”

What motivates you? What gets you out of bed everyday? (Thanks to Jumin, Stranger 86)

“Growth. I’m one of those people who can’t stand staying still. It can be my Achilles heel in a lot of ways. I’m always trying to push to the next thing. Sometimes, my downfall is I do that too quickly. I put a lot of pressure on myself to really try reaching the next thing quickly. So I think probably growth. Whether that’s at work, or spiritually, or, you know, if my relationships/ friendships… I think growth is probably it.”

“At least, that’s the way that’s naturally coming to me now.”

What is a question you’d like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“So this is me kind of being cheesy, but I love Sheryl Sandberg. One of my mantras that I’ll look at it at moments when I’m stuck — which I hate. This mantra comes to me and it’s from her book Lean In — what would you do if you weren’t afraid? So that’s my — it’s hers, but it’s something that’s very present in my life.”

After the handshake.

I thought it was super cool (yes, “super cool”) that Emily’s girlfriend is studying to be a comedian at Chicago’s famous Second City. I’ve been there a couple times, and had a great time both visits. After our talk, we also realized we went to the same yoga studio, but just different locations. (Small world!)

She also shared how she appreciated strong, funny women similar to Sheryl Sandberg and Tina Fey. Kind of made sense then that Emily’s girlfriend also represented the qualities Emily was inspired by and is naturally drawn to. I thought that was cool.

Throughout our talk, Emily was so well measured. She spoke well. Perhaps because she made the comment that because she’s young that people don’t take her seriously. However, I got a different sense from her. Yeah, she’s young, but the sense that I got was that she was very much bright, mature, and thoughtful.

So meet Emily. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 83, Day 83 - Meet Virginia

Stranger 83, Day 83 – Meet Virginia, the “Happy-Go-Lucky”

I met today’s Stranger while waiting in the lobby of Atlanta Tech Village. She was walking around the building for a moment before stopping in at the Octane coffee shop. That’s when I walked up to her while she was checking out. She gave me the curious look of what I wanted after I told her I wanted to ask her a random question. However, she was totally game for meeting, and so here goes…

Meet Virginia, 29

Who are you?

She gives me a funny face. “Hmm, I don’t know how to answer that.”

Though, she tries anyways, “I’m somebody that’s pretty happy-go-lucky. I have a lot of passions about a lot of different things.”

She continues, “I’m a nurse, so I have a lot of consideration for people in a lot of different ways. But even when I’m not working, I guess, I still consider people in different ways.”

You have a lot of passions for a lot of different things. So what are a few of those passions?

“Well, I guess, what I mean is I have a lot of passion for what I do at work — like caring about people and taking care of them.”

“But, I guess, anything I do like biking, kick-boxing, or boxing. When I start to do it, I really think about my goals. Like I start to have goals about what I’m trying to do. That’s what I mean.”

What’s a goal you’ve got right now?

“Actually, just started taking Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This will be a long, long term goal. Eventually, I want to be a black belt. But I just started so that’s going to take a while.”

“And then with biking, I actually, one of my other long-term goals is to do a Century, which is a competition to do a 100-mile race. So I’m going to do that.” She thinks some more.

“And then as far as my career, eventually, I’m going to go back to school. I want to do some travel nursing. So, I can see different things before I go back to school.”

Where do you want to travel?

“I guess for travel nursing, I would have to live in a certain area. I was thinking about definitely over in the west coast. I had some thoughts about Hawaii. That’d be fun. Maybe New York City. Maybe also in Puerto Rico or Bahamas. Like down in that area. But, I like to travel, so out of the country is always fun.”

You mentioned you like to care for people. What are the reasons you’re doing this and nursing? Where did you get this drive and motivations to care for others?

“It started with my family. I originally wanted to be an eye surgeon.” The moment she said that I felt my stomach turn thinking about surgery on an eyeball. Yowza!

“… because my grandmother was going blind. I learned very quickly after watching one surgery that I did not want to be an eye surgeon,” she laughs.

“Then, I started to think back on what I actually liked to do and what mattered to me most. I went through a lot of paths before I picked nursing. I picked nursing because I wanted to be able to do something if something happened to someone I cared about. It’s not too specialized, but it’s specialized enough where I would know how to save some lives for people that I cared about outside of the hospital setting.” That’s cool!

One of the very first things you mentioned to me about you was describing yourself as “happy-go-lucky”. How does that fit into everything?

“I’m not really sure. That’s just kind of how I’ve always been. I guess I get the feedback from people and people tell me, ‘oh, you smile a lot. You laugh a lot.’ Like I get that growing up. That’s my feedback, so that’s how I feel like I am.”

Virginia adds, “I like to take things seriously, but not to the point where it makes you miserable. I think, sometimes, you have to look on the positive side. I know it sounds kind of cheesy to say. It’s hard to do, but sometimes you just have to think positively. I like to exude that.”

Thinking about how you’re a nurse, and how you like to exude positivity. From what I’ve heard from my nurse friends, there are difficult times as a nurse. So I’m curious how you are able to keep your positivity in otherwise difficult situations (that aren’t).

“Umm, yes, I would say it’s very difficult sometimes with certain people in the hospital while taking care of people. I always try to keep in mind that if it’s the patient that’s acting out, I always try to keep in mind that they’re stressed out in this situation. They’re not necessarily doing it towards me. So, I had to learn very quickly not to take things personally. I have to think about their situation. If it’s family members, it’s pretty much the same thing. Like, even if they’re not going through what the patient’s going through, they’re still stressed out for their loved one in that way.”

“I try to keep that in mind. I keep a smile. I like to kill them with kindness. How about that?”

But not actually kill them!

“Yes!” she laughs hysterically. Poor choice of words, but I get it. 😉

What makes you the most happy? (Thanks to Sunshine, Stranger 82)

“I would say…” she thinks about this. “Being around, and just having my friends and family and also my cat… makes me really happy. So we could be happy just being around my friends and family because they’ve got me through a lot through my many years of being on this earth.”

Anything they’ve done specifically that you use as a nurse?

“I think what I learned from them is just to listen. Because I guess, in our day and age, we spend a lot of time talking about things. So, I’ve learned from them how to listen to them because they listen to me when I’m venting about something.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Maybe what motivates them to do what they do to try to make the world a better place.”

After the handshake.

We had fun taking her picture in different ways, and then, speaking for a few minutes about this journey. I mentioned to her that one of the inspirations of 100 Strangers, 100 Days was the frequency to which we see the same people all the time, but because we do not have to “work” with these people intentionally, we don’t connect often. I shared with her how we tend to do the courteous thing to wave hello or say hi, but nothing else. The rude thing would be to not do anything. Meanwhile, the awkward thing would be to say hi and go beyond the hello. Why is that? She points out that she felt that exact same way when I first approached her. Then, she caught herself and asked herself mentally why she felt this was awkward. So she very much understood the motivations behind this journey.

She also comments how she talks to Strangers all the time, but she does so because she “has to” as part of her job. However, there are many others she sees frequently who she knows nothing about. She thinks about this, and I can see it working in her mind. I can see her thinking about taking a leap to meet some of these Strangers with familiar faces she sees often.

It was only Virginia’s second time at this Octane coffee shop, she also tells me. Well, hopefully, maybe, we’ll see other again in the (near) future.

Meet Virginia. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 76, Day 76 - Meet Kira

Stranger 76, Day 76 – Meet Kira, the “Cultivator”

I met today’s Stranger at the marketing agency my company hired to help with messaging. I wasn’t sure if I should or would ask one of the agency’s great staff members. However, during our working session of piecing the site together, I really enjoyed their personalities. (Oh, there were two women.) I proposed the Strangers journey to both asking if either of them would be interested. One woman volunteered positively while the other pointed to the one who volunteered. Awesome!

Meet Kira, 44

Who are you?

She laughs at first. “I am an Executive Vice President at a national digital marketing and public relations firm. I’m a mom of a tween and a teen. And… an art lover.”

What about art to do you love?

“Specifically, theater and books.”

Have you been in theater?

“I grew up in the theater — from fourth grade through college. Was on stage mostly, but a little bit backstage. In my college years, decided that while I really wanted to be an actress, I didn’t want to eat cockroaches off my bare apartment floor and being poor in New York City. So, I chose a creative career like journalism — which is what I actually had my degree in and PR and marketing so I could keep some of that creativity in my life without necessarily doing theater for a living.”

What about theater did you love? And how have you found that in what you do today?

She sighs for a moment. “Well, I haven’t. I can’t say I have found what I loved about theater in what I do today, generally speaking at my job. One of the things I loved about theater was the people, and their openness and their creativity and the variety of different, quirky, weird people that the theater attracts. I will say the company I have chosen to work at now for 13 years is similar in that. You know, we have a built a real family here at the company I work at. It is a variety of different people from a variety of different cultures and backgrounds and religions and things, but there’s a mutual respect much like you get in the theater among us. I guess I do have that aspect of it.”

And you mention you have a teen and a tween. You know when you talk about creativity, you have to talk about the confidence you instill and people have that safe space. How do you instill that confidence with your children?

“Backing up a little bit, both of my children are adopted from birth. My husband, we’ve been married for 20 years, we were going into parenting maybe a little bit different than a ‘birth parent’ would. We really had no expectations about who are children were and what their personalities were going to be like based on he and I like. Like a lot of parents have assumptions and preconceptions of what their kids are going to be like just because they have their genes. We didn’t have that. It’s been really interesting instilling our values and passions into our kids, but really watching them explore what they like, too.”

“My tween, my 11-year-old son, needs no help having confidence whatsoever. He is your more stereotypical, confident boy, you know? My daughter has always been confident herself. I don’t know. I’d like to take credit for that, but I don’t know if I can. She’s a redhead.” She laughs. “… and is fiery, but very kind and very sweet. She’s quirky. She’s different. She gets mad at you if you step on a spider. She’s very artsy and creative herself — things I can’t do like drawing and writing stories. Her favorite thing to do is draw and write horror. So, she’s got a dichotomy of a personality that her favorite thing is horror and… gore. Yet, don’t touch that spider — he’s a living thing! She’s great. So she’s always had a certain level of confidence, and I worried about it. She’s in 9th grade now — just started high school. You know girls particularly, it could be a hard time. She’s sailed right through it! She got through middle school way better than I did.”

“So yeah.”

What are some of the other things that you do to ensure that culture inspires that confidence and creativity?

“We take them to places. We take them to shows, plays, ballets, operas, and we travel. I think one of the biggest things my husband and I do and knew we were going to do before we even started a family was travel with our children. We live in a bubble of a little suburban neighborhood. It’s a bubble. It’s not real-life. Raising two mixed race kids in this bubble of life. So we save our money, and we do everything we can to get them out of there as often as we can, at least, once a year if not twice. Take them places whether it’s here in the U.S. like New York City, or overseas. We went to Iceland last summer. Make them eat new things. Talk to new people. Learn different cultures.”

“I think it helps their confidence, too. They learn how to deal with things that aren’t day-to-day routine.”

So you take a lot of pride in being a part and someone who shapes this company as well as being a mother. What do you love about yourself? What are you really proud of about yourself?

“That’s a tough one,” she admits. “We’re always so critical of ourselves.”

“I think, and my family would roll their eyes when I say this, I do like about myself is that I’m real easy to make laugh. I’m an easy, easy audience. They would roll their eyes at that because I laugh very loudly.” She laughs at this. Though, I didn’t think loudly. 🙂

“… so very public — constantly an embarrassment for them. Hey, you can have a mom who’s always grumpy. You can have a wife who cries all the time. So I think, yeah, I like that about myself. I have a loud laugh, and it comes out very easily. I’m an easy audience!” She laughs again. She’s got such a great energy about her.

I think part of that is you’re happy a lot.

“I am. I really don’t dwell. Part of that may be how I was raised. I was raised in a very blue collar family. My father was the first one to graduate from college in his family. People around me worked hard, really, really hard. They didn’t worry if the house next door had a car up on blocks, or if I didn’t like the color of the house down the street. Now, we live in places where people worry about things like that. ‘I don’t like that political sign in your yard. Let’s create a rule in the neighborhood that nobody can –‘ those things don’t bother me. Because, you know, something bad’s going to happen in my life. Something really bad. Happens to everybody. I got to be able to handle that. If I can’t handle my neighbor having a junk car next door, I’m not going to be able to handle the real stuff. That kind of stuck. I think that’s just how I just stay. I don’t care about those.”

“I have a very nice home. I don’t care about it. My husband this week — I’m traveling. I don’t live in Atlanta. He took the opportunity to completely demolish our master bathroom, and redo it. This week, he’s been texting me, ‘do you like this tile? Or this tile? What about this?’ I don’t care. Pick the tile. Do the bathroom. I just don’t. I’m not that kind of person. I could’ve lived with that old nasty bathroom the rest of my life!” She laughs.

We’re kind of an interesting place, right, because we’re working on my company’s website. We’re talking about “oh, should we put this here or here” — referencing how we were formatting and styling the website.

“Well, that matters more to me. You know, when I do work for you and I do work for clients, that matters more to me than…” she breathes in and continues, “… my fancy shower and my master bath and whether or not I have one, you know? That, I take more pride in that, than I do my home. It’s a nice home, don’t get me wrong. It’s a nice home because my husband lives in it.” She laughs some more about this.

“You know, it’s not about the cleaning. I would live in a house a third of the size we have with my two kids.”

She’s laughing thinking I pretty much bit off more than I expected. Nope! I enjoy this stuff!

What do you see yourself doing next? (Thanks to Sam, Stranger 75)

“Like in my next phase in life?” I tell her that she can take it where she wants.

“Being 44. It has been time for my husband and I to really think about, ‘what does retirement look like to us?’ We’re more on that end of it than we were 20 years ago.”

“I see myself in my next phase living in a small cottage… an unassuming cottage on the water with a dock and boat. We have a boat now, but we don’t have a dock… and traveling. 4-6 months out of the year. I want that home base. Small, homey cottage. Small home on the water. Preferably in the low country of South Carolina. But I don’t want to live there 12 months out of the year. I want to go and experience and learn in places I’ve never been before.”

“And I want to do that not in fancy hotels. I want to do that with the people. Airbnb! Exactly.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“If you could… if you could go back in time, not forward, but back in time, any time period in history, what would it be and why?”

“You get interesting answers when you ask that question.”

She asked me what’s my answer to her question. I told her the 70s or 80s when the computer industry and other technology was starting out. I wanted to be in the garages of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. I wanted to be there in the inception of it all.

I asked her what her answer was.

“I think I would… I read a lot of non-fiction. A lot of history. And while so much of it is interesting, and I love to read about it. The way of life… I’m too spoiled now to go back when they’re throwing their chamber pots out of windows. I don’t think I would want to go there. My answer was always to go back to the late 50s to 1970 — just the years that my parents were in high school and college. In that period of time in America, we had modern conveniences so it won’t be too uncomfortable. It was just such a time of change. My parents were in college in the middle of the Vietnam War in the 1960s. All that music that was coming out. All the strife. They were in college in Ohio during the Kent State massacre. I would like to see that. I would like to see what they were like and what their life was like then because to me, as a child in the 70s, it’s kind of a romanticized era — both negatively and positively. Would be interesting.”

“But I wouldn’t be too uncomfortable!” Kira laughs again.

After our handshake.

I had a really great time getting to know Kira. It’s one thing to work with her and her team, but it’s something so great to really get to know her. When she talked about how herself laughing, I actually appreciated this throughout our working session. Both she and her colleague just had great energy about them. And yes, she did laugh quite a few times as some of my jokes. Now, I realize she was probably laughing really easily, and maybe my jokes weren’t all that funny. Darn. Or, maybe they were. Yay.

In any case, I really enjoyed Kira’s energy and her happiness. To find out, too, how she loved art and how she and her husband strived to introduce their kids to new experience was nice. Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers talks about this very opportunity kids have to excel in school and life — the extracurriculars some children have between school years. By hearing how Kira and her husband nurture and expose their kids to these new opportunities, I can only imagine their growth (in so many ways beyond just academic and personal) was that much greater than those in their age groups.

Additionally, I totally understand where Kira was talking about when she reasoned with me that the work she does for my team and I (and other clients) meant more than her home and other things. She’s selfless, a. B, she cares less about the material things in her life that are… about her or for her. Instead, she takes so much more ownership and pride in her work products. These are things that are of so much more value than physical goods like a nice bathroom. Though, she enjoys having the nice amenities, she’s really more interested in what she provides to others and how those elements reflect her image.

Meet Kira. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 55, Day 55 - Meet Natalie

Stranger 55, Day 55 – Meet Natalie, the “Science Tour Guide”

Another day, another casual walk-up to a Stranger at the coffee shop in my office building. It’s a funny thing to just see the back of someone’s head and commit to asking that person to talk to you. I have no idea who he or she is. I just… have a Stranger to talk to, and we’ll see if this person is actually new when I approach from the front. (Never approach from the back!)

So meet the woman who I spotted today as she was on her tablet…

Meet Natalie, 23

Who are you?

“Who am I? Well, I’m a graduate student from the University of South Florida in Tampa. I’m actually visiting my brother this weekend, so that’s why I’m here. And I teach. I’m a teacher. I teach first year composition. And I am a lover of music. I love going to music festivals and live concerts and things like that. Oh! Kanye West!” Natalie points up to the ceiling where a Kanye West song is coming from.

“I love Kanye West, too!” she laughs.

“So those are the main things I identify with — graduate student and teacher — right now.”

Thinking about what you like, what are your passions?

“Singing… teaching… traveling… I applied to go to China.” She points out that she noticed I was Asian. Yup! Haha

“I’m half-Asian, so right now, I’m applying to go China to teach English over there to try to connect with my roots and get into… just to be a better international communicator. One thing that you have to do for this scholarship was connect it to an actual project, outside project in China. It was interesting. I saw you’re an entrepreneur.” She’s recalling the 100 Strangers, 100 Days homepage she saw before we began.

“… because I just recently became exposed to that world. I’d also love to be an entrepreneur. I did these pitch competitions for this software I was working with over the summer. Anyways, the point is, being a business woman is really positive. One thing I found in China was they have an entrepreneurial collaborative center there. It’d be awesome to work with Asian students there. Connect them with resources in America as well. Just create more cross-cultural connections. Now, more important than ever.”

What is it you want to build?

“Okay, so one of my business ideas is to open up an after-school program, or a private education program that teaches young children about science. Because what I’ve recognize is that a lot of my friends, or I’ve even went through a bunch of STEM courses before I landed on English (right now, I do technical writing — explaining very technical, scientific information into words everyone can understand). I noticed that‘s the gap. You can know all of the science, and all the things you want, but if you can’t communicate it to a wider audience, then what is that? Or communicate it in such a way that people will believe you and also accept it. Right now, in my studies, we’re identifying a lot of places where — let’s say there’s farmers out in Kansas. They don’t want to listen to scientists. So it’s a two-way street. Both of us need to figure out how to communicate with each other. I think science is one of the most important things, so that’s why I focus there.”

“The reason I focus on kids then,” she laughs. “Not to be pessimistic, I don’t think that educating higher levels… people’s beliefs are so ingrained at that age. It’s hard to change their minds, so I’d rather just target the kids and get them thinking about it while they’re young, and get them used to science so they’re not scared of it when they grow up.”

Thinking about communication. What’s the key to writing something so that farmers (who aren’t interested in listening to you in the first place — which is key to communicating everyday) are receptive?

“Well, you just said the key. You said, ‘everyday’. So that’s where you need to target them — in their everyday lived experiences. That requires going there and accepting they have a different lifestyle than you, and learning their way of life so you can target those specific things. Translate whatever policies you need to create into something that is valuable to their community. That way, they are receptive of it.”

“For example, even in Florida where I’m from, a lot of the government seat in Tallahassee, does not listen to what’s happening in Miami. The streets are flooding with seawater because the seas are rising. But they’re not going listening because there’s disconnect. If only they can come here and see what’s going on. I think that would be key.”

Being identifiable and empathetic?

“Yes, certainly! Being empathetic.”

You mentioned music, and you’re singing. Your necklace also has notes on it…

She corrects me because the notes is actually the symbol for Scorpio. She recently celebrated her birthday.

When it comes to singing, are you trying to pursue that? I mentioned YouTube and the like.

“No, they’re really dedicated. YouTubers, really dedicated. And they have the equipment for it. I just kind of do it for fun, and on my own. Relaxation.”

“I’ve just recently been trying to get more accustomed to singing in front of people. I do a lot of karaoke…” She laughs, but she enjoys it. “I love being that performer.”

She shares with me how her brother moved her to be a stand-up comedian. Her profession as a teacher, like her brother, puts her in front of audiences.

“Singing is a little embarrassing. It’s like your own voice. Some people aren’t going to like it. That’s true. It’s going to happen. Just gotta get used to it.” We talk about the vulnerability part.

Have you had any other kind of Life-Defining Moments that pushed you into this space? Wanting to help kids, teach them…?

“Yes!”

“That’s all articulated in my scholarship essay to go to China. That was like the hardest thing to do — just writing that essay over the summer. I’ve never done so much self-reflection because I’ve never wanted to do something so much. It required me to be truthful with myself, and actually stop and think about my goals. At my age, it’s such a critical moment for you to do that, and see what the hell you’ve been doing in school the whole time, and what are you going to do for the rest of your life! It’s completely terrifying, right? But once you find that passion, that really helped me… just make the decisions I needed to to get to where I wanted to go. That’s the formula. Just do the things!”

“What was stopping me was working for that software technology.” She described how the job environment was not right for her. She described the two years of working there, but it was her first time having to stand up… really for herself. The position was terrible for her, and sounded like it was a really great for her.

“Changing my life, changing my income and the things I did everyday really showed me that, ‘okay, yes, become a teacher now’. I teach instead. Alright, now you’re committed to that! That is one thing that certainly led me on the path that I’m on now… teaching, that is.”

“Also, just my overall interest in science is why I chose that specific place. I just love science! I started out as a biology major, but I didn’t want to be in a lab forever. So I found technical writing instead. It still allowed me to write about science and learn about science and tell it to other people — which is what I do. My friends say I act like a tour guide. I do that on purpose. I just like explaining things to people.”

You probably enjoy it so much you want them to understand it and be a part of that.

“Exactly. Yeah. That’s number one. And number two, personally, is (if you want something very personal for your blog)… so I mentioned I’m half-Chinese, and half-white. The reason that I want to go to China is because my mom, who is Chinese, was adopted. She is completely Americanized. It was strange… my whole life, I grew up in South Florida. Pretty country. Pretty white. And everyone would call me the token Asian. They made fun of me a lot — I’m sure you’ve heard that. Derogatory terms for Asian people, right? So I always saw myself as Asian. That’s my thing. That’s my identity. But then, when I got to college, there was so much more diverse people there. I wanted to reach out and find out more about my roots, so I joined this Asian organization — a group of women. But then, they discriminated against me for being white! I never ever looked at myself as being white. So they would make fun of me equally as the white people did.” She shared some of the things they would say just based on her actions describing as “that’s so white”.

“So I think both parties are just being malicious. I discovered that, first of all, I don’t know what the heck my identity is. I still need to figure that out. Number two, I don’t want anyone to feel like I did to feel like they don’t have a place. In helping them be better communicators, I think, would lead to more tolerance probably.”

What’s holding you back? (Thanks to Samantha, Stranger 54)

“It’s honestly probably a combination of myself in thinking that I have to prove something to other people.”

“I don’t know why I think that. That’s how I feel about China, for example. I told everyone I was going, and now, I’m thinking, ‘I don’t want to go!'” she laughs. “But I now I feel like I have to because I told everyone already, right? Now they’ll think of me in some way. I know their thoughts don’t really matter. Just what I think. But what’s holding me back then is the fact that, I guess… I feel like I have to live up to other people’s standards and care what they think.”

“… down down. But, I think if push comes to shove, I could probably overcome that, and just be happy wherever I end up.”

“That’s a good question,” she laughs again.

What’s a question you’d like to ask anyone?

“I like your question about ‘what in your life brought you to where you are today?’ That’s a question I want to ask someone. So the question would be like, ‘what is your earliest memory? And why do you hold that as your earliest memory, and remembering it now and articulating it, what does that mean for you today?'”

“I think our earliest memories do shape the way that we think about things. The way we’ve led our lives without us even realizing it. For example, in doing that huge self-reflection for the essay, why do I like science so much? I thought back to seemingly meaningless times with my father when I would watch Nova together on PBS and watch science shows. I wonder if my interest in science comes from that bond.”

After the handshake.

I definitely identified and connected with Natalie here about a recent experience of having some stereotype cast on me. This happens often, but one recent event… I had on my black pair of Tom’s shoes. If you don’t know Tom’s shoes, they’re like slippers-esque. As I sat in the dentist chair the other day, one of the assistants immediately asked me if I knew karate. Oh boy… I knew what was happening here. I asked her why. She responded by pointing at my shoes. I responded by telling her they’re just Tom’s. Her response, “I just knew”.

First, yes, I do know karate. (Damn it.) However, these are Tom’s shoes. I know several people who have Tom’s… black pairs like mine! I get asked probably half the time I wear these shoes if I knew karate, where did I get these karate shoes, or just compliments on my martial arts shoes. Normally, I don’t pay much attention to these stereotypes. However, perhaps because of this year’s Presidential campaign, these little stereotype-comments are standing out more and more. And this was just a simple version. I won’t even get into otherwise embarrassing, emasculating situations like on a bus in college by some football players. Nope. Won’t get into it. It’s not fun, so I’m happy Natalie shared her experience. It’s now letting me share mine.

Other than all that, I enjoyed getting to know Natalie. I enjoyed hearing how she really loved science. Whenever she mentioned science, she smiled and her face lit up. I’m now thinking if science really is that interesting to her or if that special memory of watching science shows with her father is just that powerful. In either case, it doesn’t matter. It’s just fantastic to hear how she’s bringing together her love for science, communication, and teaching kids. How great is that?

So for Natalie, I don’t think you (we, anyone) needs have something to identify ourselves as. I think you’re just great being you — not Chinese, not white, not even a woman. Instead, you’re you. Those who don’t appreciate you for you don’t deserve to be in your life.

Thanks for letting me get to know you, and share our “Asian/ Chinese connection”. Haha. But perhaps even greater, thanks for connecting as just… people.

Meet Natalie. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 54, Day 54 - Meet Samantha

Stranger 54, Day 54 – Meet Samantha, the “Traveling Spirit Animal”

Another “conclusion” to the work day had me walking around my office and then to the coffee shop on the first floor to find a Stranger. I still find it strange that I feel shy to walk up to people despite doing this for so long. Nevertheless, I walked straight up to a woman sitting at a table reading her phone. I approached her, and shared with her 100 Strangers, 100 Days to which she was very interested in. When I mentioned some of the “rules” or what being a Stranger would entail, I got the initial sense that she may not be comfortable, especially around the picture, but she accepted anyways. Little did I know that perhaps her initial apprehension would give way as part of her journey…

Meet Samantha, 26

Who are you?

“I’m a traveler. I’ve been traveling the U.S. for the last — what month is it? November? — four months! I’ve been kind of all over — up the east coast, out west, and now, exploring Georgia and the Carolinas. I’ve been here for two hours, and it’s already been a really interesting two hours…” she busts out laughing. “… in Atlanta. My first time in Atlanta.”

What’s making it interesting?

“Well, this is a positive interesting. But I was mildly groped at a gas station earlier. This big, buff guy had to run to my rescue and chase the guy off. And I was here, and I was asked for money again, and cussed out, and all of that… and now you! So, you’re the positive one!” She laughs again.

Other than the big guy who rescued her. “Yeah, and him!”

I told her that was a sad representation of the city I love. Terrible. C’mon, Atlanta!

How long are you here?

“I haven’t quite decided, yet. Maybe 24 hours. Maybe 36. Maybe 48.”

So many questions, but first, why?

“Why?” she thinks.

“I graduated from college a couple years ago, and did the whole ‘work 70 hours-a-week thing’, and I realized I wasn’t happy with myself. I felt like I was trying too hard to be an adult, and it didn’t feel authentic. So I pretty much changed my whole life, and sold all my stuff, and saved a bunch of money over the past year, and kind of traveling indefinitely to figure out where I want to call home. So that’s what brings me to the Carolinas and Atlanta — kind of the last stop on the trip.”

I shake my head again. Great showing so far, Atlanta. Haha. She laughs, too.

She tells me how she’s staying a friend of hers who lives down the street from Atlanta Tech Village. She “Googled coffee shop near me to hang out until he gets off work. I don’t like to do the whole Dunkin’ Donut or Starbucks thing, I actually like to go to a local place. I feel like you get more of a vibe of the area you’re at. That’s why I’m here, and not at Dunkin down the street.”

100 Strangers, 100 Days is all about meeting Strangers and finding out what motivates them. I’m imagining you’ve met a few Strangers (“YES!” she says). So what’s been a revelation you’ve had or learned from meeting Strangers?

“Really, just how rich your life becomes when you open yourself up to people and experiences. In my natural life, I’m pretty Type A, and like to have everything organized and in a box. I really challenged myself the last few months to not be like that. So I kind of go into areas and situations with no plan, and it’s been amazing. It’s been way better than anything I could’ve organized.”

She adds, “I love what you’re doing. I think it’s amazing!” Thanks! Flattery makes me happy. Haha, no, not needed.

I tell her about how this project has had a great effect on readers and the Strangers themselves. Everyone’s story seems to trigger some inspiration in another. For Samantha, her story may trigger someone else to travel or take a solo trip around the country or the world.

She shared, “I was told I was someone’s spirit animal. So that was pretty cool… a pretty cool compliment. Even though so many people think they have to do this to live authentically, I think it’s really about loving where you are in the moment, wherever that finds you. A lot of people think traveling is super glamorous, and that I’m doing cool shit everyday…” She laughs.

Then, she admits, “There’s a lot of moments that aren’t glamorous. A lot of motel rooms. I’m almost getting too good at being by myself. So I think living authentically is important in however that means for you in your own life versus what someone else is doing.”

What’s been another lesson you’ve learned in your travels?

“Opening yourself up to people is probably the biggest one. But then also, kind of trusting yourself, and what’s best for you, and just knowing you can handle whatever comes your way. I’ve learned I can change a tire by myself!” She laughs.

“I learned that today, that guy that groped me, I would’ve been able to handle that by myself. Was it great that someone came to my rescue? Yes. But did I have that situation under control? Absolutely. So just back to learning how to be confident and secure in yourself and your own abilities is important, too.”

When you think about your confidence in your own abilities, and how you left the safety of… everything, what gave you the strength? Or what gave you that violent push to do it? What part of that gave you the strength in that moment to believe in yourself?

“I don’t know if I did when I started out, to be honest. It’s just been something that’s been in my heart for so long that I knew I wanted to do. It just got to the point where I knew it was more important to do it than the idea of safety… well, not necessarily ‘safety’ but ‘security’. I was really scared the first day. But now, four months in, cake!”

Is there a way you’re hoping this trip will shape your life? Is there another goal you have in mind?

“It’s hard because I’m still in it. It’s kind of hard to see what I’ll get out of it 10 years from now, or down the road.”

“It’s always easier to look at that stuff after, and right now, I’m still in it.”

You talk about being in the present. Have you taken yourself out to take a look at your experience thus far? How have you taken a step back to realize everything that’s happening while you’re in it?

“I think that’s what is driving me to this area. For so long, people are always like, ‘oh my God, west coast! You should move there.’ I’d never been to the west coast. So, I went out there, and I realized that my family and friends are one of my biggest motivators, and they’re all on the east coast. So much about what I love about the west coast — the mountains, the hiking, the wildness of it — I can have here in the mountains, but still have my family and my friends. I can find a job anywhere. I’m in Finance, so that’s kind of universal. It’s not location-specific.”

If you could go back and remember a time that someone told you no, would you treat it any differently? (Thanks to Tyler, Stranger 53)

“If people… I don’t really listen to it. I’m very ‘ask for forgiveness, not for permission’, and again, what’s the worst someone’s going to tell you? No? Okay, move onto the next thing. If someone says no, it’s not a door you’re supposed to walk through. I don’t feel like no is a big deal. So I wouldn’t ever change it, I guess.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“What is holding you back?”

After the handshake.

As we concluded our little meet, Samantha stopped me wanting to ask me a few questions. I answered her question about what’s holding me back. I told her how there were two ways I could answer that question. Both, she realized, were about searching/ finding a partner. I’ll leave it to you to decode the content in between.

It was fantastic to meet Samantha today as she was on her journey. Also, I find it great to be the positive part of her otherwise less-than-stellar two hours in Atlanta. She’s one of those individuals you’d find in a coffee shop that you wouldn’t realize has scrapped security for adventure ad to seek something greater. As she said, she’s met several Strangers along the way. I’m now curious if our interaction will shape anymore Strangers she encounters on her travels.

Meet Samantha. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 51, Day 51 - Meet Even

Stranger 51, Day 51 – Meet Even, the “Sincere”

I was excited today because today’s Stranger would push me into the second half of this journey — 51! It’s been a pretty long journey so far, and I’m just barely over halfway. Some days, it seems so fast; while others, I feel like I’ve been on this journey for a long, long time.

I was back at Starbucks working today — not a surprise, but I did get out a bit to have lunch with a colleague and get some yoga in. First, I was turned down at Starbucks in the morning due to the picture. As I walked around later in the afternoon, I asked a Stranger sitting at a table doing work. She was game to be today’s Stranger. However, I learned she was 17, and her parents weren’t nearby. I didn’t want to take the chance. So onwards!

I did finally meet today’s Stranger at my yoga studio. Upon telling her about this project (and asking her to be the Stranger today), she excitedly accepted while diving straight into how she connects with others. So let me start from there…

Meet Even, 34 (pronounced āvən)

Before we start, Even shares how she and her husband try to sit at the bar as much as possible to engage with others. She recognizes that we, as a community, are so focused on what’s in front of us — largely our phones. Then, she recalls a trip she recently took.

“I remember one experience I had in Amsterdam, and I was with my cousin and one of my girlfriends. We were chatting locals. We were actually in Utrecht, not Amsterdam. We were at a bar, and just hanging out. These guys were like, ‘what’s the point of saying, ‘hi, how are you?’, if you’re always going to say, ‘good.’ What’s the point? You’re so insincere.'”

“Well, that’s kind of like how we greet one another, and it could spur on another conversation. For the most part, we’re like, ‘good, alright, bye!’ It’s just so insincere. If you’re not going to sit there and start a conversation, why would you even say anything to begin with?”

“That has always stuck out in my head — why do we do that? Why isn’t there anymore depth to it?”

She goes on to share how she likes more substantive (substantial) questions — “just so much more intimate”.

Who are you?

“Who am I?” She starts laughing. “You’re deep, dude!” Haha, I guess! I like more substantive questions, too.

“That’s a really hard question…”

“I am a passionate, cheerful, loving, and loyal person… who loves everyone,” she laughs some more.

Why do you love everyone?

“Why do I love everyone? Because we’re all the same. No one is better than anyone else. I think we all have our own vices that we hide behind, and we all put up a representative instead of just being ourselves. I think that that if people can get past that, then they’ll realize that we’re all the same. We might believe in different things, or think different things, but we’re all the same — when it comes down to our bones.”

Is that why you say hello to a lot of people, especially in your travels?

“Yes, I do. Because not only do I like to say hello because we’re all the same, but because I learn a lot from those people. I learn different perspectives in life, different ways of thinking, different habits and activities. I like to learn about different cultures, and what people want to do and how they think. What is their perspective might be on a similar subject of mine. Because it kind of expands my own mind, and helps me see things differently.”

So what are your passions?

“Well, number one is helping others. I like to give back to the community. I like to give my time. I think sometimes I get distracted, though, and giving too much to others instead of taking care of myself. That’s one of those struggles I’m trying to work on. But for the most part, I like to give back, and help people in whatever way, shape, or form that is.”

Thinking about how people work, or “tick and tock”, how do you work?

“That’s a very complex question,” Even laughs.

“How I work… I like to look inside and find the root of a problem or a cause — why am I being positive about that, or why am I being negative about that? And try to be active and introspective with myself. I definitely have a hard time accepting help from others. I can be very independent, strong, kind of like… ‘okay, I got this’ kind of thing. I guess I think by being surrounded by people in positive situations, but at the same time, I do like to retreat and have quiet time and rooted. I guess that’s when I go introspective. Because sometimes, the chaos can be too much. I guess that’s how I tick!”

I notice Even’s got a tattoo of “Be Still” on her wrist. Thinking about being introspective about everything, what’s the inspiration behind your tattoo?

“The inspiration behind that was… about 5 years ago. I really had a hard time with control and letting go. Just letting things be. Accepting the way things are. I really got into the church and Christianity. There was a Bible verse with, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ Psalm 46:10. It really just spoke out to me. So there’s something else — control this, and I can just trust in that and be okay with it. It was more about acceptance, and try not to control things or situations or people or the way people think or whatever. Just be. Just really hard to do. It’s really hard to be still which is why I love yoga because it helps you practice that.”

I mention that’s why certain yoga classes are hard for me — being still. She agreed, “Pigeon is really hard because I cannot sit still in that pose.”

How do you feel you’re able to fulfill your soul? (Thanks to Danielle, Stranger 50)

“That was a really deep one. I like it, though.”

“I would say knowing your character strengths and living them. Doing things that can help you with those, so like, for me, one of character strengths is appreciation of beauty. So with that, I need to make sure I’m out seeing things that I think are beautiful — go to the mountain. I think travel is beautiful — make sure I travel. Because if you don’t do those things, you won’t be fulfilled.”

“Or like me, I like to help people. So guess what? That’s why I volunteer.” Even goes on to tell me that if she doesn’t, then she won’t feel fulfilled.

So in summary, know your character strengths, and be deliberate in the actions to meet those strengths.

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Why do you think people discriminate in private, and why do you think when you’re riding on MARTA, nobody has that anger and frustration out in public? They’re not yelling at each other, calling each other names? Why do they do it in private? If that’s really how they feel, why don’t they just tell somebody. Let’s not hide behind it.”

“Everyone can get along in public, but then we all have to hate each other on the computer? What’s the point?”

After the handshake.

Even and I talked a bit before my class started about this whole project. Specifically, she was curious about how this project came about — can read About 100 Strangers, 100 Days. She was fascinated most because, I think, she really enjoys connecting with others. She talked about how she liked meeting others to also expand her perspective which has been a perk I’ve realized through this journey. In fact, part of me wants to ask what everyone does, and their top 3 challenges they face — they’d be quick customer discovery sessions to seed a startup idea! I digress…

Even also shared how much she, too, has diverse friend groups. Her challenge is bringing them together. She shared how she connects better in more intimate settings — with 1-2 others rather than larger groups. I think all of this gives her a chance to really get to the substantive aspect of people rather than the surface-level questions and interactions.

I think there’s a lot to talk to Even about, and I’m fascinated by people in much of the same way. Looking forward to connecting with her in the future more at the studio and just around.

Also, note that Even chose her picture to be of the very yoga pose she struggles most with — pigeon. Cool stuff.

Meet Even. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 49, Day 49 - Meet Sara

Stranger 49, Day 49 – Meet Sara, the “Team Player”

I used to visit one of my good friends’ office at Atlanta Tech Village. Getting to his office requiring stepping through an intermediate office of another startup. So I would pass through this startup’s office saying the courteous hello, and just kept walking. Don’t know their names or anything. I must’ve seemed like a jerk.

Today, I got to meet one of the startup’s employees. Though funnily, I met her at my usual Starbucks as she was getting her car services nearby. And also coincidentally, my buddy was at the Starbucks, so he helped fashion the intro.

Meet Sara, 27

Who are you?

Her head cocks back as she gasps like she just saw a ghost.

“Who am I? Gosh… okay… I… $h!t! I don’t even know how to answer that.”

“Alright, well, Sara without an ‘h’. I’m 27. Atlanta-native. I joined the startup community in February of this year, and basically, took the biggest risk of my life. Left corporate America where everything was solid, and a good salary and benefits, and I said, ‘screw it! I’m not into it at all’, and join this startup company that had no money to its name, and said, ‘let’s do it!'”

“… and now, eight months later, I have a whole new network of friends, and on my way to Denver in two months to launch the business out there.”

“I have kind of just found myself in the past eight months, honestly. Just went into the startup community working at Tech Village meeting people that inspire me everyday.” She mentions how it’s “normal” to not say hey, and just “observe from afar”.

“I’ve adjusted to the lifestyle to saying hey to everybody. Talking to people. Getting to know people. There’s no reason not to be nice to people. No reason not to say hey to people. I learned that from learning with startups and working at Tech Village, and being involved with what’s a whole new community in a city I’ve lived in all my life. So yeah. That’s kind of me in a nutshell.”

Except, she continues. 🙂

“I’m also a massive advocate of team sports,” she laughs. “Kind of transitions into my lifestyle of working and building teams for our startup. Live, eat, and breathe sports in general. I grew up playing soccer. Massive football fan — RISE UP!… the Falcons. I do all of these soccer leagues on the side because I still love the game. Walk around swollen ankles left and right. So yeah. I take everything I’ve learned from sports. It’s one of those things I grew up knowing I can’t do anything without my teammates. Can’t accomplish anything that I want to do without them, without the help of someone else. That’s kind of how I put in all of the work into my team that I build out for work now. It’s what I live by. That’s kind of me in a nutshell.”

Sara laughs again. “Silly!”

You mentioned you weren’t really inspired from corporate America. What was the uninspiring thing that really… ‘I gotta go!’?

“Things that I wanted to create, things that I thought I could be good at, and things that I wanted to try and potentially fail at, and be better at it again, that opportunity wasn’t really praised a lot. It wasn’t something where the idea of failure being an option. In corporate America, something that’s so developed already. Processes already developed. It wasn’t something that you didn’t feel all of the support behind it. So it made me timid to try things new.”

What made you jump onboard with Sifted?

“Jess and Kimberly — our cofounders. The product… our product — chef-made lunches. It’s a cool concept. We always joke that it’s some ridiculous concept to bring lunches into corporate offices. We didn’t know what we were doing going into Atlanta, to be honest in the beginning. We just thought this was something cool. These are our people. This is what we want to do. But those two women changed the game for me. I can see it when they talked about it. Can see it in their eyes. Hear it in their voice. The way we connected as three people sitting in a coffee shop together. I was like, ‘these are my people. They’re going to let me make mistakes. They’re going to let me fail. And they’re going to teach me how to be great.’ So those two women are what brought me onto the team.”

So what’s something that you have failed at that you’re like, ‘at least I tried,’ and what was the learning from that?

“I’ve been tasked with hiring out one of the hardest positions of our company, and maintaining that position which is our host team.”

“So basically, when we go into an office space, and we sign a client. We have something like a perk that we offer. It’s professional, creative, on-site host to foster the client relationship and give a true experience behind lunch. Not just, ‘here’s lunch. Eat. Go on with your day.’ There’s an experience behind it. That’s what our host provide — the culture of Sifted. We kind of bring that into the office space.”

“We have to hire out part-time hosts. I can only really offer them up to 15 hours a week, and it’s in the dead-center of the day for lunch which is the most difficult time to give up just two hours in your day. And to transport food in your car, and to do heavy-lifting… it’s a very difficult job to hire for, and only minimal hours I can offer them. And so at the rate Atlanta’s growing, at the rate I believe Austin’s going to grow, Denver’s going to grow… in any city we tackle in 2017, I’ve gotta find a way to foster these employees. And you know, I had to hire one, and now we have 12, and I’m looking to get to 25. It’s all about finding the right candidate — quality over quantity. Hands down. It’s all about getting them invested in the culture of the company, and getting them invested in that they’re going to make a difference regardless of how small they may imagine the host part-time role of this fast-growing startup is.”

“Every single thing they do everyday is making a difference. They have a huge role in the development of the company. And so, it’s a lot of knowing that they have to understand… they have to know and have confidence in me that I’ve got their back every single time, and I’m going to help them grow in whatever they want to grow in. And that they fit the mold, and they feel they can find themselves in this team.”

“It’s much more than just being able to give them a high monetary value on the team. It’s much more than giving them as many hours as possible. It’s more like how they can personally relate to the company. I’ve hired some not-good fits for the team. I have lost people on the team. I’ve failed at that plenty of times trying to figure it out. Over time, I finally think I’ve got a grip on it. Now, we’re just hiring out really bad ass hosts. They’re really cool.”

What’s one of those characteristics that you have to have?

“So when I’m interviewing someone for the host position, I’m always, forever going to ask what’s their dream job. A lot of these hosts that we’re hiring are either straight out of college, or they’re young professionals willing to make a change, a career change. And they’re willing to give up everything they have, and just start somewhere. These people have huge dreams. College students come to us with the world at their fingertips. Young professionals who are looking for a full-blown career shift, and willing to go from salary to part-time… feels like they have the world at their fingertips. So there’s something driving them behind the scenes.”

“I always ask them what’s their biggest passion? What do they want to do most? How do they think that they can get something out of it through us. At that point, they tell me their full-blown life stories. You can hear it in their voice, even on a phone interview, and than saying, ‘this is everything that I absolutely love in life.’ If you can hear that passion in their voice just talking about whatever they want to do whether it’s food-related, startup-related, whatever-related, that’s the one key right there. If I can hear it in their voice on a call, I’ll bring them in to shadow, and see if they fit the team.”

We talk a little about a few books I read that would be great for her including: Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, Clayton M. Christensen’s How Will You Measure Your Success, and Michael Useem’s The Leadership Moment.

What is your Dream? And what’s the biggest obstacle in that way?

“So my biggest Dream… something that’s been piling in my head. I don’t talk about it too much. I want to find a way to start a philanthropy aspect within Sifted. Long term, I’ve always wanted to do something campaign fundraising-wise. I never knew what it was. It was a very broad concept in my head. I remember when I was 18 freshman year, my teacher asked me what do I want to do in life.”

“”The only thing that I could ever come up with was to help people. They’re like, ‘oh, you want to be a doctor.’ I was not really digging the medical, you know? That’s always been the concept. So when I came on at Sifted, we were asking clients, we’re asking businesses to take back lunch, essentially. We’re asking them pause during the day, and enjoy time with coworkers and eat lunch with coworkers.”

“So I have this big, huge, long-term dream of being able to give back lunch. To children, to kids… where some way, shape, or fashion that every client we serve in the day — we’re on big-scale mode — we can account for how many meals we’re serving someone else who can’t afford to have a meal at home. Or a meal at school at lunch. At Sifted, a portion of our profits are going to based on how many clients we’re serving, how many lunches we’re feeding in a day… account for some meal that a kid eating in a third-world country, or just somewhere else in general.”

“That’s my biggest one. My biggest obstacle, about that, is honing that in and figuring it out. That’s super long-term. I have a lot more learning to do. I have a lot more development professionally to do that. But that’s kind of this big, huge dream, so now I just need to find the pathway to get up there.”

“Short-term, launching Denver!” she laughs. “Getting out to Denver!”

“That’s a big one for me. I’m an Atlanta-native. I’m leaving. The idea of leaving family. My brother’s out there so I’ll have some family network, but leaving the city limits that I grew up in — what I know very well like the back of my hand — tackling something new with a company that’s a startup, and new to that network, that’s, right now, the biggest challenge I have.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go? What’s the first thing you would do? (Thanks to Meg, Stranger 48)

“Oh… that’s a great question.” She thinks. “If I think anywhere in the world right now…”

“… I would probably… I’d head out… my sister and I — I’m on vacation mode right now, thinking of vacation here — I want to go out to Thailand, to be honest. Be on the beach, and I really want to do an elephant conservation. Learn all about that. My sister’s really into that. She follows them, donates to them. So she’s always wanted to go. I want to travel with her, and support her with it. We’ve always talked about that being the big dream is to go out there and explore the wildlife conservations and stuff. Yeah, that’s kind of, sort of in my head always. Sounds silly, but yeah, definitely!”

What is a question you’d like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“There was something you could’ve changed yesterday, what would it have been?”

After the handshake.

Sara brought the energy today! She was super friendly, and laughed quite a bit. While she was sharing the story behind her joining the startup, I could feel how much she enjoyed working there.  I sense that her enthusiasm and general passion for the business (and indeed having a hand in its growth) was very similar to how she felt meeting the cofounders that convinced her to join.

Now, I’m eager to meet the cofounders so I can get a direct sense of their passion. Though my friend no longer has an office at the Village, I’ll make the trip to meet more from Sara’s team just because.

Great to finally meet Sara, and I’m excited for her very-near future. Plus, she’s kinda impressive (and/ or crazy) to be playing on an ankle that is the size of a softball.

Meet Sara. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 47, Day 47 - Meet Robbin

Stranger 47, Day 47 – Meet Robbin, the “Discoverer”

Was still in Boston when I decided to meet my Stranger for the day, and I did so waiting in line for the best lobster rolls in the city – Neptune Oyster Bar in the Northend. This was based off the recommendation from a local Bostonian who I had a meeting with this morning, and he was right!

I got to the spot 15 minutes early, and there was already a line to get in (hadn’t opened yet). I happened to meet the man in front of me who was in town from Shanghai. Perfect! I could now get some more international Strangers involved! So here we go…

Meet Robbin, 34

What are you doing here in Boston?

“Traveling… traveling for fun.”

Robbin’s in Boston for a couple nights before leaving for NYC.

Who are you?

“Who am I?” he asks me. He wonders what do I mean.

“I’m Robbin.” I go on to tell him that the purpose of this question is to see how he wants to share who he is with me. At this time, his friend who has lived in Boston for the last year comes up.

What are your passions?

“Passions…” Robbin thinks.

“Discover. Visit the universities, schools, hospitals because I work in the medical industry. Meet more people who are intelligent, smart, have vision…”

What fascinates you about the medical field?

“Because most of my family to my grandma and my mom… they were doctors. So I’ve been familiar with medicine since I was young. I used to spend a lot of time in the hospital when I was in the general school. That’s why I’m interested.”

“Secondly, the Chinese medical history is not that well. Few changes. So I’m working multinational exchange. Making exchanges of the education programs. I think it’s helpful, and good for the industry.”

What are the schools you’re visiting here?

“M.I.T. and Harvard.” At least, those were the ones here. Robbin’s also visiting university hospitals in southern California like University of Southern California. I suggest he visit Emory University in Atlanta, and stop by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

How many times have you been to the U.S.?

“Four trips. Four long trips.” He’s going to be here in the States for 10 days.

“I just came from Canada. I started driving from Chicago, and went to Canada – Toronto and Ottawa and Montreal. Then, here. Today, I’ll go to New York.” He also describes going to visit Niagara Falls.

What are your favorite cities?

“My favorite cities are on the East side. Boston! I think Washington, D.C. as well, but not New York.” He laughs. He’s got enough “busy” in Shanghai, and doesn’t need another one in NYC even though he’s going today.

“Actually, West side is pretty good for traveling and flights.” Robbin is referring to California, specifically. “The people there… their kindness. They’re not in a hurry. So, it’s much better than the East.”

He admits, “It’s a different way. In the age of minds, I think maybe the East is better… for business, for education programs.”

What do you think is something we should learn in America from China?

“Something to learn?” he confirms with me.

“It’s difficult. We’re coming from a different socialism. Different culture and background… education background. So, if you want to say, ‘what’s the things you want to learn from China?’, maybe practice.”

“How to practice in a quick way, a fast way. But this is kind of tricky because everything comes true by outfits in China. So, they can move wherever they want to go. But here, is different. If you need to change, you need some power, some substantial power to change.” Robbin is sharing with me how powerful the government in China is. When they want to get things done, things get done very quickly without much bureaucracy.

So, are you going to get the lobster roll here?

“I think so. My last lunch in Boston, so why not?”

What can you do to make the world a better place? (Thanks to Jason, Stranger 46)

“What can I do to make the world a better place?”

“You know, medical… oh, it’s about making the world better!” He laughs.

“But it’s not that general to say medical because there’s a lot of tricky things in medical. If this is rising to give more drugs to patients, maybe I don’t think so. If it’s the best side of GMO is linking to cancer, yes, I agree. But you still need to do more research. So, one of my goals to make the world better.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Why they agree to accept your interview?”

“I think it’s something they have inspiration. This is kind of in the spirit of the city. People living here, but they can gather other cultures, personalities together. Maybe this is kind of the point of this city.”

After the handshake.

Admittedly, there was a little bit of stumbling through the language barrier. If I only studied back in China school better then maybe I could have spoken to Robbin in Chinese. I hope I did him justice by transcribing what he said as well as he meant to (or at least in the spirit of).

Robbin was a great Stranger. He was very happy to meet me, as was his friend. In fact, after our meet, Neptune opened up, and we were shuffling in. He then turned to me asked if I wanted to eat with him and his friend to which I happily accepted. We had our amazing lobster rolls + massive platter of oysters, shrimp, clams, lobster + some corn pancake and crab spread and caviar. It was quite the weekday lunch.

I enjoyed getting to know him and his friend better. What a great experience to just meet someone not from this country. Not only was he open to speaking with me, but he and his friend happily accepted me into their party for lunch. How often does that happen?? This will go down as one of my favorite traveling experiences, let alone Stranger experiences.

It’s kind of sad to think that I may never see Robbin and his friend Viona again (hope I spelled her name right!). That’s what happens. People come and go, but you realize the beauty of people everywhere. I enjoyed so much getting to know them… Strangers in a different city… from a different country. And yet, we happily ate together, shared some laughs, and went about our ways like good friends.

Meet Robin. No longer a Stranger.