At different times throughout my childhood, I wanted to be a dancer, a gymnast, an author, and a journalist.
As a freshman in college, I fell in love with learning Spanish. Partly because my Spanish teacher was hilarious, and partly because I really had a knack for it and excelled in the class. During this time, I was also working full-time as a preschool teacher, which I enjoyed.
I chose Spanish as my major, and subsequently took courses in Spanish grammar, reading, writing, conversation, and translation, and the history, literature and culture of Spain and Latin America. For fun, I also studied Portuguese and a bit of French. With the exception of one witch and one incompetent instructor, I loved all of my language professors, and I still can’t deny that in the witch’s class, I learned quite a bit about the preterite and subjunctive tenses.
My minor concentration at Howard University was elementary education, and I thought that I would become a teacher or start a language-focused preschool. At one point, while studying simultaneous interpretation, I fantasized about becoming an interpreter for the United Nations. Interpretation is fun, and working for the United Nations would be glamorous and make me rich. I mentioned this aspiration to the witch once day when I ran into her in the corridor. She smirked and told me it would never happen. “Come back in five years,” she said, “and see if you’ve become an interpreter.”
By the time I’d finished school, I’d become a lover of languages and had learned that I quite liked to live abroad. I’d spent a semester in Spain and a summer in Brazil, and my Spanish and Portuguese had become quite good. I’d also returned to dance, and had been learning belly dance and taking Bollywood performance classes. Upon graduation, I was torn between two job offers–a dance job on a cruise that traveled from Spain to Greece to Malta and back weekly, or a position as a pre-school teacher in Turkey. I took the job in Turkey. I rationalized that I could use my degree in education, learn a new language, and study dance all at once.
I lived in Istanbul for two years before moving on to Lisbon, then returning to the United States. Now, back in Turkey, dancing full-time, and living with Brazilians, Turks, Georgians, Russians, and Mongolians, I often find myself facilitating communication between the Brazilians and the Turks. I am interpreting every day. It’s not the UN. . . it’s better.