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WorldNomads Scholarship

Sharing Stories - A Glimpse into Another's Life

HONG KONG | Friday, 19 April 2013 | Views [120] | Scholarship Entry

I had barely lumbered through the sterile glass entry of Heavenly Gardens when a petite Indonesian woman grabbed my luggage and told me her name was Adinda. She wore pink polyester pajamas, her youthful disposition unvexed by the fact that she had just spent the past hour waiting for me in a frigid apartment lobby. I attempted several groveling apologies for my tardiness—all of which scapegoated my unusable cell phone and limited Cantonese—but Adinda dismissed each one with a cheerful wave.

“You visit family here in Hong Kong?” she asked, whisking us into an elevator.

I told her I had an aunt in Kowloon, but would not get to see her until Sunday, when most domestic help get the day off. Adinda hummed, surprised, and asked me where my family was from. “Oh, Philippines?” she gasped when I told her. “I thought you from here!”

“Well, I thought you were Karen,” I winked, referring to the woman who had so kindly offered to host me last-minute. Adinda chuckled.

“My ma’am nice lady,” she said, trailing off into a whisper as the elevator slowed. “She sleep. We must be quiet, okay?”

The sound of our footsteps was swallowed by white carpet as we crept into Karen’s dark flat, which boasted an affluence of square footage compared to most Hong Kong living quarters. Any opportunity for color was instead replaced by a commitment to stark cleanliness that Adinda worked scrupulously to maintain: she scurried to fetch me a pair of slippers before sweeping me into a cold, spotless computer room with a blue twin bed. A tarp on the floor awaited my luggage, dusty from globe-trotting. Then she disappeared into her room next to the kitchen and emerged to hand me her mobile.

“You borrow,” she commanded, and pulled another smaller phone out of her pocket. "I have this."

She wouldn’t take no for an answer. I paused to thank her, and flipped the phone open to text my aunt. A little girl smiled at me from the screen, and Adinda beamed. Her nine-year-old daughter lived back home in Jakarta with a relative, she explained. Pink was her favorite color. Their daily phone calls bridged the wait between now and a year later, when Adinda’s work contract would be complete.

I promised that I’d have my own phone the next morning. She told me to take my time.

“Call you family,” she smiled. “Tell them you here.”

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

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