Thursday, January 17, 2008

Happy Thursday

Man, if this what being a freelance journalist means, I could definitely get used to it.

I woke up this morning early enough to prepare for an interview I'd scheduled with the director of the Asia Society's Chinese Language Initiative. Her organization is involved in advocacy, program support, and public policy, and is a major player in the movement to expand Mandarin education in America.

We spoke for almost an hour over Skype, with my recently purchased digital voice recorder getting the whole interview down in mp3. Isn't the modern world fucking amazing? Technology has gotten to the point where an American man living in China can interview a Chinese woman living in America about Chinese-American teacher exchanges, and the 45-minute international call fits in a 5 MB file and a buck-fifty Skype fee. Incredible.

The interview itself was immensely successful; my questions were intelligent enough, and her responses were well-informed and quotable. After the better part of an hour, I think we both left thinking about things a little differently.

I met a friend for lunch (one of two Chinese women I've met in Dalian who've formerly worked as models... possible next article?) and we went to a very cool roast-it-yourself barbeque meat store. Fifty lamb skewers later, we moved on to a noodle joint for a hot bowl of stretch-noodle soup.

The rest of the afternoon I spent in a coffee shop, sipping pomelo tea, playing chess, and chatting philosophy with a very interesting quad-lingual woman I met last week and have become good coffee-shop buddies with.

I did some shopping and had dinner at a Korean joint, and returned home for a scheduled interview with the head of a successful Mandarin program at a high school in North Carolina. Unfortunately, bad weather conditions in Raleigh meant the teacher was unable to be there; we'll try again soon. Instead, I downloaded a report on the feasibility of having 5% of American students studying Chinese by 2015.

In any case, I'm thrilled that this sort of lifestyle could conceivably be considered work. As far as I've encountered to date, the only requirements of a freelance journalist are:

1) be curious
2) like to learn about new things
3) ask interesting questions
4) meet interesting people
5) write good

Yeah, I could be cut out for this.

Of course, however much fun I might be having, no one's given me any money yet...... I better not jump the gun on proclaiming this "Best Job Ever" till it proves to be more an actual job and not just a guy with a computer and a tenement apartment.

In any case, all this hard work chatting and hanging out with models, I'm ready for a vacation. I leave tomorrow on an 18-hour train ride north to Heilongjiang, where the cold I've been bitching about here in Dalian will seem like the frickin' tropics. It is there that I've arranged a ten-day romantic rendezvous with my darling Russian princess, upon whom I will bestow novelty gifts from America and (if I'm lucky) be treated to a tasty morsel of her borscht.
(I crack myself up. No, seriously, when she asked me if I wanted a souvenir from Russia, I immediately answered borscht. It's so......... cabbagey!)

But now, dear readers, it is late and I am to bed. I've had a hoot writing this entry, and hope it bring smiles to your darling faces. I will try and update from the Black Dragon River, but can make no promises.
Life is good, folks-- I wish you all happiness and adventure and warmth!


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