*I was going through some things this evening on my computer and came across this short essay. I honestly have no idea what it was for and was written in 2005, but thought it was kind of funny and wanted to share it. Enjoy!
It is always intriguing to see the varied reactions I get from people when I tell them that I know Chinese. Many people discount my Chinese ability based upon my appearance as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman. Of all the times in my life that I have had to use perseverance and determination to accomplish my goals, I would have to say that learning Mandarin Chinese was in the top.
Working as an intelligence analyst initially piqued my interest in China, and with it the determination to learn the language, although getting to a place to learn was a rocky road for me. I initially began looking into becoming a linguist while remaining in the Air National Guard. For over two years I was told that it was impossible, and that I would have to go active in order to learn a language with the military. However this desire to learn it tormented me. I even considered going becoming Active Duty in order to accomplish this goal. I had a break with a phone call from my father while he was deployed in Afghanistan telling me of a guard unit that he was working with that had guard linguists that were assisting him. I immediately called the unit recruiter that he referred me to. It took almost a month before anyone would return my phone calls, but my perseverance finally won them over and I got to talk with the head of recruiting about my ambition to learn Chinese. Initially they tried to sway my interest into other areas; however I eventually made it clear to them that it was Chinese or nothing. Before I knew it I was swearing into a predominantly linguist detachment. I was overjoyed that I could finally start learning Chinese, until I got the bad news that my school date had been given to another member that had sworn in after me. I ended up stuck in Salt Lake, eight hours from home, no longer having a full-time job and feeling as far away as ever from Chinese language school. A stroke of luck landed me a full time job at the unit while I awaited a new school date that was promised to be only a month away. One month ended up turning into seven months before I was finally holding orders in my hand to go to Chinese school. I thought that after all of this work I would finally be able to push through and learn Chinese, but little did I know that was much easier said than done.
Arriving at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey was filled with beauty and wonder, and checking into housing was just the beginning of many difficulties I was to face. I had checked into a hotel and was getting ready to check out the housing. Unfortunately I found myself in a house surrounded by condemned houses and a shower I was afraid would never get me clean, not to mention the holes in the roof and the forest of weeds that was to be my backyard. My heart was feeling heavy with the prospect of having to spend my time in a house that I didn’t feel safe to be living alone in, when I was given the opportunity to refuse my housing and find something on my own. Within two days I thought things were looking up as I found a beautiful apartment overlooking a lake within a five minute drive to school. Focus was finally shifted to the actual learning of Chinese where I was pulled away from yet again by kinks when I was to go without pay for the next two months. This resulted in me crashing on a classmate’s couch the next month until I moved into a cheaper and somehow bigger apartment only a block from the ocean. Finally I felt that I could just focus on Chinese and the colossal task that was a language lacking alphabets, grammar changes and instructors from China with little grasp of the English language. Chinese class was very hard but incredibly rewarding and before I knew it, luck threw a car accident at me, totally my car and sparing my life. I spent the next month walking to class up a crazy hill in my blues but I never gave up.
My perseverance and determination eventually rewarded me a year and a half later with the skills of an Airborne Mandarin Chinese Cryptologic Linguist. I am so thankful for this accomplishment and know that I earned it just in the learning of the language itself. Looking back on it, I know that not giving up and keeping my head up when times got tough helped me accomplish this long awaited goal.