Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Big In China by Alan Paul

When Alan Paul's wife Rebecca lands the position of bureau chief in China for The Wall Street Journal, Paul did not hesitate to move to support his wife's career.  The family packed up their three young children and headed off for a three-year adventure.  They landed into the life the expatriate community; gated compounds, private schools and scads of servants to help with the cooking, cleaning, child care and other day to day chores.

Paul saw two reactions to the ex-pat life.  One group devoted their energies to recreating their former Western lives in every detail, training their Chinese cooks to produce Beef Wellington and shrimp and grits.  Paul chose the other route.  He and Becky wanted to experience their time abroad enmeshing themselves in the foreign culture they were surrounded with.  They chose to eat native food, take excursions far from the tourist spots and learn the language.

Paul also discovered an added bonus.  With so many traditional mooring cut loose, he and others found an amazing freedom.  People were free to try careers and follow hobbies they had not had the time to pursue before.  For Paul, that meant music.

Paul had come from a musical family; his father a doctor who played in a jazz band all his life.  Paul himself had worked as a columnist for years for Guitar World and interviewed many of the top names in music over the years.  But he had not pursued a musical career himself, figuring he could never be as talented or successful as those who surrounded him.  In China, he found himself meeting some Chinese musicians and along with another ex-pat friend, formed a band.  Originally started for fun, the band, Woodie Alan, became successful beyond his wildest dreams and blending Eastern and Western music.

Big In China is a fascinating travel book.  The reader learns about Chinese culture through several individuals who are profiled in depth.  Alan's love of adventure and his family and friends, as well as his ability to seize opportunities and live life fully are evident.  This book is recommended for readers interested in travel writing or music.

No comments: