I headed off to Taiwan in 1977 to learn acupuncture after meeting someone at a martial arts camp in Aspen Colorado in 1975–it took me the two years to save up the money for a one-way ticket, washing dishes in a Chinese restaurant there in Fort Collins.
I didn’t actually know anything about Chinese medicine and had never even heard of Chinese herbs, but for some reason I thought it would be a good idea. I’d done a bit of Chinese at college, but the first acupuncture teachers I approached let me know right away that it was not good enough. So for the five years in Taiwan I continued my language studies, first conversation, then classical Chinese, working through Laozi, Zhuangzi, Tang Shi and Yi Jing. Meanwhile I was studying individually with different doctors and doing courses where they would have me: formal Chinese medicine schools at the time tended to turn away foreign students, for some strange reason. By then I had found out about herbs and went into them in depth with a teacher, using the Ben Cao Bei Yao as our text (and one I would recommend for anyone as an easy intro which has only relatively simple classical Chinese).
The language foundation was crucial for the next two years in mainland China, first in Nanjing and then in Hangzhou, where I followed Professor Song Guang-Ji, the 37th generation of Song family gynecology.
Leaving China and moving to Australia, in 1986 I set up a Chinese medicine gynecology practice in Melbourne, and have been practicing here ever since. Chinese medicine in Australia has a long and illustrious history, the itinerant Chinese doctors serving all and sundry around the gold fields, and embedding the impression in the Australian mind that Chinese medicine is safe, effective and cheap. Its been a great place to practice.