On a Saturday morning, I planned to volunteer in a center for disabled children. Yet, it turned out to be an interesting experience interacting with locals which was totally out of my imagination.

I arrived the entrance of the volunteer center but I saw nobody around. Not knowing what to do, I walked around to look for the people I knew while waiting impatiently. I could not contact anyone as I had neither local phone number to call Nar mobile data to use the internet. I was nervous at first but I needed to call the person in charge of the voluntary work. After walking around for a while, I took a deep breath and asked a family sitting on the roadside to lend me the phone. I was frightened that they might not want to help me but soon the lady spoke fluent English and helped me to call the person. Then, I knew that the activity was cancelled and I was disappointed. After the phone call, the lady invited me to sit down and we talked for a while. Soon, she invited me to go to have tea together with her family in a tea house nearby. I could not believe that we chatted for almost 3 hours while having tea.

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We talked about a lot of things about Hong Kong and Azerbaijan. They said that I was the first Asian friend they had ever met. I was so glad to meet them too because meeting wonderful people to talk with especially locals was the most exciting and meaningful thing to me in every journey. We talked about families, education, religion, etc. I felt surprising when the lady said that I look like 15 but I was actually 20. It was still a good news to me that I looked younger than my real age. We counted numbers from 1-10 and learnt basic words and greetings in both Cantonese (spoken language in Hong Kong) and Azerbaijani language. They were also curious in what I was doing here so I explained I was working for a tourism project called “Fireflies” by writing blogs. One of them knew Jacky Chan and it seemed that stars of martial arts in the past are popular around the world. How about now? What is the impression of Hong Kong from foreigners’ eyes? Besides saying that Hong Kong is beautiful, the lady said that she saw on the TV about plant on rooftop. I was a little surprised when I heard that. Then, I explained that it’s because land is limited and there’re a lot of mountains so the buildings are so high. They were surprised when I said that I used to live in a building of 40 floors. We also discussed about the differences between Hong Kong and China. I tried to explain that they have different languages, education system, law, currency, passports, etc. They asked if people in Hong Kong eat dog meat. I said definitely no. As far as I know, in some parts in China, some people still eat dog meat and even have the festival of it every year although it has been prohibited gradually in recent years.

Soon after the conversation, the lady said that she was going to have her birthday next week and even invited me to her birthday party even though we just met each other half an hour before. I was so excited and thankful for their welcoming invitation. I went to her birthday party and it was such an amazing and sweet experience!

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Actually, today was examination of entering university. The volunteer center is exactly opposite to a university so there were a lot of people outside the entrance waiting for their family members or friends to finish the exam. The family I met today was also one of them who waited for their relatives to finish the exam. It was so crowded with people, cars and taxis on the road near the university especially before and after the examinations. The university entrance exam of every university is so different from the centralized university entrance exam (HKDSE) for all universities in Hong Kong. An arts student I met outside the university showed the examination papers and told me that he took exams of Azerbaijani, Mathematics, Azerbaijani history, Geography and English for three hours and results would be released three days later. Most of the universities have the exam on that Saturday morning, which means that high school students can only choose one university. On the contrast to the stressful and tense atmosphere of competition, I saw the love and warmth from lots of people waiting outside the entrance with flowers, balloons and cardboards despite extremely hot weather. It is so sweet and supportive to wait for the beloved ones until they finish a big challenge in their lives and I really appreciate the strong bonding of families and friends here.

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The family I met randomly on that Saturday morning was very kind and friendly. I was even invited to a birthday party by newly-met friend and we chatted for a whole morning just because of borrowing a phone to call at the beginning. How amazing it was! Cox sagol:)

Written by Maggie Mak, Hong Kong

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