Beyond Babel: Learning Mandarin Part III

Waking up at around 6:00am, I headed down the seven flights of stairs that led to my eighth-floor apartment, exited West Mountain Community, and began the long trek toward the pagoda atop TianMa (Pegasus) Mountain in the distance. I took my cell phone and a pair of earbuds, ready to soak up my Mandarin lesson for the day. With no school or university geared toward teaching foreigners Mandarin, I was left with self discipline and my own creativity.

At the advice of my only American co-worker, Rod, I had subscribed to a Chinese podcast service offered online that teaches English-speakers Mandarin. Rod was fluent in Mandarin and recommended the service highly. Equipped with a few of the podcast’s lessons which I had downloaded the night before, my phone would become my English teacher as I soaked up the view of Longyan city from the boardwalk that snaked its way around TianMa Mountain.

Two miles there, half a mile up, one plus mile around, and back again became my daily circuit each morning for nearly a year. Within the two or three hours it usually took me to complete my walk, I was able to accomplish prayer, exercise, my Chinese lessons, and even Chinese practice as I stopped for a bottle of bing hongcha (iced tea) on the way back.

It was even during these precious times that my heart began to break for the city of Longyan and even all of China as the Lord provided me with a spectacular view of the city which around 2 million people called home.

Longyan, Fujian, China

“Lord, help me to be a light for You in this city. Help me to learn Mandarin quickly so I can be an effective witness for You!”

As I devoted myself to this routine each day, the Lord blessed and began to give me success in the language. I was becoming more confident, but at the same time was needing to get more creative in my language learning and intentionally make more time for practice.

But that inevitably lead to a host of other problems…

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