Ni you kongr ma?

“What do you like to do in your free time?” asked my teacher in Mandarin. “How do you say I like learning languages, reading, meeting people and going to the gym but to be honest but I don’t usually have much free time?” I asked in English. This was the standard answer I had always given in foreign language classes over the years. My teacher looked at me, confused. “I thought you were only working one day a week while you’re here in China?” she said. “That’s right,” I replied. “Well you’ve only been here for a week and you don’t really know anyone, how can you not have any free time?”

Hmm, it was a good question. It’s true I had only been there a week and yet somehow I had managed to get myself on a committee to organise a “British Day,” joined a group called “Women in Business,” been to school every day to learn Mandarin, done some sightseeing and bought quite a lot of new clothes. Oh and looked into volunteering at a local primary school. I wondered what I would do if I did have some free time? I decided that this was a good opportunity to find out.

On my first totally free day I revised the Mandarin I’d learnt while sitting outside in the sunshine, started a new novel that I’d got for Christmas, met my husband and some of his new friends for lunch and then went to a yoga class at the gym in the evening.  Turns out that sentence I’d been churning out all these years still suited me just fine.