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Amani | by jeffcbowen
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Today was the last day of 2015 and I figured I’d met my last stranger of the year earlier in the afternoon while downtown. Wrong. On my way home, while doing a couple of final errands on the Danforth in Toronto’s east end, I saw her leaning against a restaurant window looking at her smart phone. Her beautiful face was hard to miss and I really liked the way her big fur hood framed it.


I introduced myself and explained my project request. I sensed that she was nervous about it (and I couldn’t blame her) but as I showed her my card with sample photos and emphasized the multicultural aspect of my project she warmed to the idea. When I explained I could do it in 2-3 minutes right there on the sidewalk, she agreed. Meet Amani.


I did my usual, which is to demonstrate where I wanted her to stand and then we switched places. I find this little “how to” demo really works well; otherwise my verbal explanation often leads to confusion. As we switched places I gave my standard final instructions which were “You don’t have to do anything special or any fancy poses – just make sure you look into the lens of my camera which always seems to give the best results.” To my surprise, Amani dropped her hood while I was doing a quick check of my camera settings. In the past I would have asked her to put it back up but I have learned to go with the way people choose to present themselves. I then make my request (sunglasses off, for example.) When I had photographed her sans hood, I told her I actually liked the way the hood framed her face which surprised her but she was happy to oblige.


We both liked the photos on my camera display and proceeded to chat. Amani is Eritrean but was born in Saudi Arabia. Eritrea is a country in the Horn of Africa ( She is 27 and came to Canada with a brother and sister for a better life at the age of 17. When I asked if the “better life” had come true she was quick to say it had. She told me that in Saudi Arabia non-Saudis have trouble getting an education or work. On top of that, there are restrictions on what women can and can’t do.


Amani has just one semester to go at university and will have a qualification in Human Resources. We talked a bit about how happy my youngest son is as a Human Resources labor relations specialist and she was happy to hear that her career plan might be a good one. She works part-time as a server to help meet her student expenses.


What is the greatest challenge she has faced in life? “Actually, it was trying to decide on a career direction.” I got the impression that she had done general studies but did not have focus until she “accidentally” discovered human resources. Her message to the world? “Peace. Just world peace. We need that more than anything.”


Amani was a delightful person to meet and chat with and I felt honesty and warmth in our brief conversation. It turned out she had been waiting outside the nail salon next door for a chair to open up so she could get a manicure. Not wanting to keep her from her appointed task on the last day of the year, I thanked her and we exchanged contact information.


Thank you Amani for taking the time to meet and for taking part in The Human Family project on Flickr. I wish you luck in your final semester and may 2016 treat you well.


This is my 131st submission to The Human Family Group on Flickr.


You can view more street portraits and stories by visiting The Human Family.


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Taken on December 31, 2015