At some point around age 25, I decided that I was going to learn to speak Chinese and go to China before I turned thirty. (I was also going to publish two novels, have a baby, and become a successful and well-paid contract writer by then, but never you mind that. This is about the travel part.)
I finally started learning to speak Mandarin Chinese two years ago, right around my thirtieth birthday. There's nothing like a deadline for focus. If I wasn't going to get to China in time, I might as well start studying.
My tongxuemen had good reasons for wanting to study Chinese. They were working in China, or had family in China. My favourite was the SFPD firefighter who wanted to speak Mandarin Chinese so that he could do more than just rescue Cantonese-speaking San Franciscans from burning buildings. (Our class the week after that revelation included such typical phrases as "do you know your name?" and "can you tell me where you are?")
I just wanted to speak a language that was really different from the ones I'd learned so far. I like Chinese food. A lot. And my education, while detailed on the history of Europe and what the English did and what the French did and who they did it to, left a lot out about Asia. I wanted to know more about China than just food.
I haven't been a terribly good student. My Chinese pronounciation is superb, my vocabulary and grammar: stunted. I've barely studied since I started to work for the Big Tech Company.
But tomorrow at 10:30am, I'm getting on a flight to Japan. And then a week and a half later, I'm getting on a flight to China for a second week. On my employer's dime, because as it happens, all this interest in languages has landed me in a role where working with teams in Japan and China matters. I can't wait.
So here's a first blog post. And I'd better get packing.