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Happy birthday
By Xiong Zhi (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-07-04 10:37

Alan Paul takes a break from music to sip Chinese tea in Ritan Park in downtown Beijing.[China Daily]

Alan Paul ducks into the shade of red wooden beams in the Stone Boat Bar in downtown Beijing, pulling out a roll of promotional posters for his band, Woodie Alan.

The 41-year-old didn't always see himself as someone who could sing. Then he came to Beijing, adding "half-baked Chinese rock star" to his repertoire.

"Being an expatriate can be liberating," he says. "You're not bound by the same expectations."

Paul says he would have once resisted career changes that required separating from his family and friends in New Jersey.

Then in 2005, his wife received an offer to be the China bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. Paul surprised her by hopping on board.

The family - with Jacob, Eli, and Anna, now age 10, 7, and 5 respectively - shifted to Beijing and settled into a hectic pattern of writing, traveling and networking with expats.

Last spring Paul met guitarist Woodie Wu, the other half of their namesake band, when a friend recommended Wu for guitar repair. Now a five-piece ensemble, Woodie Alan plays original music and a few covers, from classic Bob Dylan to more obscure blues bands.

Rehearsals and recording sessions are squeezed in between journalism deadlines.

A senior writer and China Bureau Chief for Slam, a basketball magazine, Paul writes "Expat Life", a column which appears on the Wall Street Journal website - its Chinese translation, "Laowai in China", is also online.

Paul has written about a variety of topics, from his brief bid as an Olympics torchbearer to his children's suffering over the expat community turnover.

"If the column has helped break down stereotypes, if I've been a bit of a bridge, I'm happy," he says.

(China Daily 07/04/2008 page18)

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