Well this is how my China Odyssey began (“commencing countdown, engines on“) back in 1988 when following the success of the AIESEC international conference, in Galway, on “EC – China Future Trade Relations” the Ambassador of China to Ireland, His Excellency Zhou Yang, presented me, as the Organising Committee President, with a scholarship (“you’ve really made the grade“) to study Chinese at the Beijing Language Institute [today’s Beijing Culture and Language University] (“now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare“). ..I recall we presented the Ambassador with a solid gold A. T. Cross Pen, made in Ballinasloe . Wonder where that pen is now?…. Anyhow, I’d only planned to be away in China for a year, a new country and culture, the excitement, and the chance to pick up a language none of my other friends spoke – besides they were all emigrating to London and the USA – which I found to be a tad unadventureous. Thereafter my plan was to return to Ireland and find a job…
..that was over 21 years ago.
“I’m stepping through the door. And I’m floating in a most peculiar way and the stars look very different today.
For here am I sitting in a tin can, far above the world.
Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.
Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles, I’m feeling very still.
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go“**.
**Lyrics from David Bowie’s Space Odyssey
And it still does as it plots a course towards Ireland and home.