It's classtime now. I am taken, much like a schoolboy, to my first day at language school. It's opposite the China TV building - Rem Koolhaas & co's extraordinary half-a-cube fancy. More on that another time. We struggle to find the Cross Border office on the 18th floor. A reflection of the times: it's merged seemingly overnight with another company, and a new logo hangs over the reception desk.
I am assigned two teachers: Lilian and Tina. Many Chinese have a western name alongside their own. We're starting from scratch so there's the tones, initials and finals to get right first. I'm focussing on speaking and listening, and we'll write in pinyin, the standardised transliteration of Mandarin into the roman alphabet. I'm not going to bother with reading and writing Chinese characters at this stage.
It's tough and I long for the breaks, but the teachers are good and I find myself sort-of enjoying it. Four weeks. It's a fantastic opportunity and privelege and I'll never have the time again, so must make the most of it.