I sit in front of the mirror in my university dormitory, stretching my lips and sticking out my teeth. “Tenn-goh. Ben-tay. Seen-koh. Awn-yos.”
There is giggling behind me, and nervous whispers. Then a voice shoots out in Mandarin, “ 你 疯 了 吗 ？ ” – Are you crazy?
I turn around quickly to reassure my anxious dorm-mates. I’m not crazy, I’m just learning Spanish. Our university doesn’t have any real Spanish speakers, so I have to practice with my reflection in the mirror.
“还是疯了吧！” “Then you really must be crazy,” they tell me. “How can you spend your time on studying yet another language?”
They know that I already speak Mandarin, Uyghur, English, French and Japanese. I’m learning Spanish because it sounds so incredibly romantic. I guess they’re right. I really am crazy for languages!
Ever since I was little, learning has been easy for me. I won so many competitions and prizes when I was at school that I became a minor celebrity in my hometown. My dad reminds me even now that my achievements are a big deal for our town. My success is their honor.
I will finish my Masters in education next year, and my dream is to work as a translator in an international business. It would be incredible to get to work with real native speakers of Spanish and other languages. But it’s not so simple. Recently, many different people have been telling me the plans they have for my life.
A city leader told me to study to be a civil servant in my home province. My school friends from back home want me to be a community leader. My parents want me to move back home and start a family. I’m already twenty-five, so they think it’s time I got married.
So far, it’s always been easy for me to choose the next step. But now, whatever I do, I will disappoint people.
How do I know who to listen to? How can I choose my future? These are the questions that make me really feel crazy.
China’s Silk road regions as they negotiate their dreams,and the dreams others have for them.