Big In China

If you’re looking for a fun read I recommend Big in China by Alan Paul.  Alan is a friend of mine from Beijing.  We met when he and his wife, Becky moved to China in 2005 for her job as Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal.   We lived directly – literally, directly – across the street from them.  Becky used to joke that she’d see the light on late at night in Jim’s office, which faced the street and she’d panic slightly, wondering what he was working on…

Alan wrote the book some trailing spouses dream of  writing:  the trials and triumphs of dragging a family half-way around the world to live in a                  crazy-wonderful place and all the fantastic challenges that come with the adventure.  But Alan’s story has a twist – he met a local musician who shared Alan’s passion for the soulful tunes of southern rock and together they formed a successful band.

Alan balanced a life of freelance writing, taking care of three kids and playing music.  He was a rare species in our international community of trailing spouses:  Male.  While some of us were busy professionalizing motherhood, volunteering, searching, self-actualizing, shopping, studying, and pushing ourselves to perfection in ways that are never completely satisfying – Alan took what he always loved and did more of it:  played music.

When Becky got an awesome promotion four years later and the family had to move back to New Jersey, Alan had a tough time leaving Beijing and the band. Instead of letting the music die with the move, he decided to write a book about it.

Big in China features a few brief scenes with yours truly.   In one, I’m crying, in another I’m giggling so hard that I nearly wet myself, and in the third I’m dragging Alan to our compound’s equivalent of the village jirga:  Coffee Morning.

But there is a much bigger reason to buy this book:  It’s a good read about a family I adore and I want the book to fly off the shelves.



A few weeks ago I mentioned that there were no helmet laws for women riding motorbikes in Delhi.  Finally, a story this week on the front page of the Times of India about this very topic.

The story doesn’t offer statistics that show the number of female head injuries caused by motorbike accidents compared to men (has anyone thought to count?) – but the overall number of general female head injuries has increased significantly in recent years according to one study.  The rising numbers coincide with more motorbikes on the road.

Maybe someone will use this information to begin lobbying for laws that protect male and female riders equally in this city.


We had a second staging of Seven!  This time, at the American Center in downtown Delhi.    One of the missions of the center is cultural outreach to the local community.  The profile of the crowd this time was very different from our show last month:  Young, male and Indian.  I regret that we didn’t have a Q & A afterwards.  The play is about empowering women and I wonder how this message was received by a community that is still very conservative.

We may get a chance to run again – in the fall at the India Habitat Center.


Eddie lost a tooth today and put it in a baggie with this note for the tooth fairy:  “500 rupees please”.  (11-bucks!)


After Saturday’s performance:

Lala performed this week in the school play, After Juliet, a story about the feuding Capulets and Montagues.   She was a Herald:

Proud parents after the show:

A spring concert I attended to watch my friend Lola sing.  My favorite of the night:  Cantique de Jean Racine by Gabriel Faure.

Did anyone out there sleep-in until 10:30 on Mother’s Day like me?  When I finally stirred, the kids brought me a tray with yogurt, fruit and coffee.  Then they read me a poem and Lala played the flute!  Good job, Daddy….

A still-sleepy me with Eddie, Lala and my lump-lump Georgie under the covers:

Later on Mother’s Day Jimmy took advantage of a friend’s Lazy-Boy:

6 thoughts on “Big In China”

  1. Thanks Theo. I knew there was a reason you are one of my favorite writers; you have such good taste in what you read and recommend. Wish I could meet you at Jianghu and buy you a beer in gratitude.

    As anyone who was there knows, your presence in the book runs much deeper than where you are actually mentioned, so thanks for that, too. I might never be able to make you laugh as hard again, though. And I’m still trying to figure out whether or not Jim intentionally left his office light on all night.

  2. Ah yes and I’ve been meaning to tell you — we should be here when you arrive… Tell me the date again as soon as you nail it down…

    1. looking like the 25th/26th. depends on my flight out of belle paris… did i tell you we’re spending two weeks in dordogne? feeling mighty spoiled…

  3. Theo, just catching up with your blog. those 3rd children are pretty switched on aren’t they? anna lost a tooth a few weeks ago and i was a really bad fairy and FORGOT to do the honours for TWO nights in a row. the next morning she looked me straight in the eye and said, i KNOW you’re the tooth fairy just hand over 200 rupees and I’ll forgive you. CCF choir, After Juliet and another performance of 7 all in 1 week. i really want to see it somewhere so you’ll have to bring it to London. i know a great girl who reinvigorated the Young Vic in Borough and who’s husband is a set designer and took us to Les Miserables performed by the prisoners of, and staged at, HMS Wandsworth Prison (high security) – a very intense interpretation and the only play i have been to where the cast stayed on stage until all the audience had left the building. through double gates just like the ones at AES. god, i was melting at school today x

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