Process Post #1: Stranger Encounter on the Expo Line

This semester, I am enrolled at all three SFU campuses—Burnaby, Surrey and Vancouver. During the first week of class, I had to transit to SFU Surrey. I had to transfer at Lougheed Station and Columbia Station to get to Surrey Central Station. It was a Thursday and on Thursdays I have class at SFU for a total of three hours. I hopped on the train and got off at Lougheed Station. I was luckily enough to find a single seat all by myself. As the train went on, I noticed a lady in front of me gazing over her shoulder, she was an elderly Asian lady. I had headphones on, but I had a hunch that she was probably going to ask me for something as she kept glancing over. Shortly after, she caught my attention with her head gestures and pointed to her phone. It was a text all in Chinese but there were English words that read “King George” and “Surrey Central.” I asked her if she was going to Surrey Central or King George but she could not answer me as she did not know English well, she then scrolled down and the other English words were “Bay 9” “321.” I inferred that she was going to Surrey Central station to take the bus. I told her that I will show you, I am going the same way. She nodded and said thank you with a smile. We transferred at Columbia station towards Surrey Central and on the next train, there was only one seat available, surprisingly she looked at me and offered for me to sit. I was so surprised and touched because even though she was older than me, she was so grateful that I was showing her directions that she would rather stand and let me sit. I politely declined and told her that she can sit. We arrived at Surrey Central and I showed her the bus stop at Bay 9. From there, I could see her gratitude when she bowed and repeatedly thanked me.

Reflecting on this, I believe that despite the language barrier, the lady and I were able to use hand gestures and basic English to communicate. The fact that she offered me a seat on the SkyTrain showed that this lady was no longer a stranger to me and she was someone I could trust since we both established that bond together after first meeting at Lougheed Station. I was more than happy to help her and if I saw her again on the SkyTrain, I would not hesitate to go up to her and wave to see if she remembered me. In comparison to my online interactions, unfortunately I am only proficient in speaking English which limits me from being able to connect with those who cannot speak English. The moral of this stranger encounter is that verbal communication alone, does not limit you from being able to interact with strangers. It felt great to be able to help this lady get to her destination safely and to see how grateful she was judging by her reaction. Although we did not speak to each other much, we kept looking at each other for almost twenty minutes on the train as if we already knew each other. That is exactly when I knew, we were in fact, no longer strangers.

Featured photo: J. Hayward (2020). Related Images. CTV News. Retrieved from:

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