There just isn't enough time to pursue all of my interests, one of which could be to learn Chinese. I would love to have a legitimate way to converse with and seek out Chinese writers and artists, especially as I am trying (successfully!) to contribute to the community in that way, but now I must do this with someone's help. Just being able to exchange trivialities with the other residents in my apartment building would be nice. I can't even order food in a restaurant unless there are pictures on the menu, a dreadful habit I picked up living in Japan for nearly two years.
As for even beginning to seriously consider studying Chinese, it's highly unlikely. Working five days and four evenings each week, and hosting an open mic at The Bookworm on the other evening, doesn't leave me much time for anything else. Recently, I've begun to knuckle down on my Italian, waking up early each morning to study for, at least, 30 minutes. I've been keeping at it for a few weeks, so I feel like the habit has stuck and that I can brag about it a little now. I have worked hard to keep my weekends free, which is my recovery and other time. I need that time to socialize, write, read, and relax. Unfortunately, those weekends are often filled with errands and other domestic habits necessary to existence which, naturally, can't be taken care of during the busy weekdays.
I feel guilty when people ask me if I can speak Chinese, which is quite often, and I tell them I can't. They are particularly dumbfounded after learning that I have lived here for 15 months and have yet begun to study. It's not entirely true. I had attempted to begin studying conversational Chinese in the Spring with another teacher at my school but, after the Summer vacation, we simply haven't been able to get our schedules to jive together. My duties at work have increased, as well, and I don't have as much free time as I did before.
Inevitably, these people who ask me questions, these unknown questioners and passing acquaintances, often with scornful looks on their faces, ask me why, and I feel impelled to tell them, to defend myself. I followed my fiancé, Angela, here, as she had studied Chinese as a student and wanted another opportunity to really improve her Chinese. I found a nice job in Beijing and, as China looked like an exciting place to live, thought it a great idea. Her family is Italian, they don't speak English and I have taken it upon myself to learn to communicate with them, so when I study language, I study Italian. We will marry next Summer and now I believe that it is important to make a grand push until then, which is roughly nine months from now. Perhaps my Italian will acquire a Beijing accent...
Obviously, I have learned a few phrases and continue to pick up more and more Chinese as the days wend ever onward. I have joked about only being able to order a beer, but it's not quite as bad as I make it sound. Perhaps, once the wedding clamor has died down and we return to China to make decisions about our next steps, I will lay off the Italian and pick up Chinese again when I may, possibly, have more time.