Saturday, December 29, 2007

Courtside at Pistons Game

I don't have a working camera at the moment, but I used PhotoBooth to snap this shot of me at the scorer's table and the action in front of me. I should have been bolder in turning around the computer and snapping. I missed some great shots.

There are not too many things I miss living in china (people are a different story). Near the top of my former routines that some times long for are Allman Brothers at the Beacon Theater every March and courtside seats, pen or laptop in hand, at NBA Games. I’m not crazy enough to fly back for the Beacon but I do get to squeeze in a few NBA games every year on my winter visits. Last night I made it to the Palace of Auburn Hills for the pacers/Pistons game, my only opportunity this year.

I was living in Ann Arbor in 1996 when I started writing for Slam and so the vast majority of the first NBA games I attended as a member of the press were at the Palace and it feels a bit like going home. I was there plenty early and chatted with a bunch of people, including Clark Kellogg, who broadcasts the Pacers games. I did a feature on him as a player last year and he gave me bi thanks for helping him with his kids.

“My son saw that from a friend at school before I even had it at home,” he said. “He was really impressed to see the old man in Slam.” The guy is on TV talking hoops nationwide most nights of the week, but his son only perked up when he saw him in Slam. Word!

For an upcoming story I am doing on Dr. J I also chatted with Pistons assistant coaches (and former NBA All Stars) Dave Cowens and Terry Porter. But the highlight may have been meeting Rasheed Wallace’s mother. I spoke to her on the phone for a story I did on him years ago. Sheed is a bit of a headcase and was much more of one at the time. He was hard to talk to but I somehow tracked down Mrs. Wallace at her home in Philly. She is an RN who worked ina Philly hospital for years and was as straight shooting as her son was not. I need to find the story, but she said something like, “I don’t know what’s wrong with that boy” and was really a pleasure.

I reminded her of that last night and she remembered the whole thing. She looks a hell of a lot like him and stands at least 6-1 (Sheed is 6-11). When I mentioned that, she said, “I look a lot better than him, though, right?”

“Of course, Mrs. Wallace.”

Huckabee Fever!

Apropos to nothing, except I found this hilarious. From the NY Times:

On Thursday night [Huckabee] told reporters in Orlando, Fla.: “We ought to have an immediate, very clear monitoring of our borders and particularly to make sure if there’s any unusual activity of Pakistanis coming into the country.”

On Friday, in Pella, Iowa, he expanded on those remarks.

“When I say single them out I am making the observation that we have more Pakistani illegals coming across our border than all other nationalities except those immediately south of the border,” he told reporters in Pella. “And in light of what is happening in Pakistan it ought to give us pause as to why are so many illegals coming across these borders.”

In fact, far more illegal immigrants come from the Philippines, Korea, China and Vietnam, according to recent estimates from the Department of Homeland Security.

Asked how a border fence would help keep out Pakistani immigrants, Mr. Huckabee argued that airplane security was already strong, but that security at the southern United States border was dangerously weak.

“The fact is that the immigration issue is not so much about people coming to pick lettuce or make beds, it’s about someone coming with a shoulder-fired missile,” he said.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Trip going well, new column up

The trip is going well. We have zipped through time zones like time travelers and we're all now more or less adjusted. we had a great week skiing in Colorado and are now banging around beautiful Bay City, Michigan Becky is speaking to the Pinconning Rotary Club today about her China experiences. I will eagerly grab a front rwow seat.

My new column is up here. Let me know what you think,

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Radio Silence likely

We are leaving this afternoon, in about three hours, for our annual whirlwind, pray-our-flights-all-leave three week tour of North America. I'll make a few updates when I have a chance to breathe, but expect lots of silence in coming days.

Drop me a line with your number when you can and I'll hope to speak to as many of oyu as possible in coming weeks. Happy Holidays to one and all.

Pittsburgh feedback

My column about moving out of the Pittsburgh house brought a lot of old friends out of the woodwork and I had some really nice exchanges with several people in the last week. I wanted to share some of them here. Since I didn’t ask folks how they felt about it, I’ll leave names off. All of these are people I haven’t been in touch with for anywhere from 10-20 years.

I really can’t express how much these mean to me. Honestly, I wouldn’t trade having had these three people read that article for having 20,000 strangers read it, or being on the cover of Esquire or whatever.

One high school friend writes:
I know what you mean when you say that the move out of Pittsburgh was in some ways a bigger deal than the move to Asia. Even though D.C. feels a lot more like the Old Country than San Francisco did, there is a feeling of displacement that I will never shake.

Having grown up thinking that everyone always comes back to Pgh., I am still in a sort of shock that so few of us did. And worse, when I go there now (my mom having sold our house about 5 years ago), it doesn't even feel like my Pgh. anymore. Mostly when we're there I'm seeing older people, and it feels ... old. I especially think about this with my kids, like, what kind of life are they going to have not being in Pgh., not being surrounded by family, etc. It is a perpetual weirdness.

Another old bud, a fellow member of the Rodelf Shalom fighting Orange hoops team weighs in:
I hope this message find you well. What a great reflection of what family means and the values that were instilled in you by your parents as a kid but even more specific what it means to be a true Pittsburgher expat. We are an amazing group of people that seem to be everywhere for a city that was never really that big.

I have been living outside of DC, for almost 20 years now, and when my parents sold our house 15 years ago to move down to DC to be closer to all of their kids, it was very strange no longer making that Thanksgiving trip (mind you I don’t miss the traffic) on Wednesday to drink in Shady Side or play in the turkey bowl Thursday morning (limping home is so spot on as it is no fun getting old). You realize though that the memories never fade and with all tales only grow stronger over time.

On one of my trips back to the Burgh recently I got a chance to go back into my old house with my kids and do a true memory lane moment (ok 45 minutes and had to be dragged out). It was surreal to say the least but as I left the house I realized that it was the family in the house that made it special not the house.

Sorry for the rambling but wanted to drop a note and say hello and hope everything is going well for you and your family. And more importantly that while some of the sites and places back home change the city is still the same – intimate and friendly.

And then this one from a longtime neighbor:

Hi. This is __, you know the guy that grew up around the corner. I got your article emailed to me from --. I am not an expat, but I did leave home a while ago. My parents sold our house last year. Your article hit home with me. So did the photo. I am a bit chocked up. There was something universally true in your article, and of course there was something that was deeply personal in it considering it many ways it was my exact experience.

I cannot get myself to look in that direction often. It is acknowledging that sense of leaving those good comfortable things behind as we grow. It was a great place to grow up. We become our parents. And they are getting older. All that stuff...

Thanks for the article! It was good.

Friday, December 14, 2007

"Can you dunk?"

Those of you who have been reading this blog from the beginning, meaning since we moved to China in August, 205, approximately 775 posts ago, may remember a little incident when we went to the giant police station get our long term Visas for the first time.

I didn’t speak a word of Chinese and was blown away by the massive building, manned by serious looking officers in crisp blue uniforms and filled with thousands of Chinese and quite a few foreigners waiting in long lines to get their papers straightened out.

I was awed and humbled and decided not to speak unless spoken to. We were with the mighty Mr. Dou, WSJ driver and government affairs minister, and he cut to the front of the line and dropped our huge stack of papers onto the desk in front of a serious looking police officer. The guy starts going through all the papers, stamping them, looking intently. Suddenly, he stops, reads closely, looks up at me, smiles and says, "I very like Slam."

I couldn’t have been m ore surprised if he started singing a Muddy Waters song.

He asked me a few basketball questions -- "what do you think of Yao Ming?" "Who do you think is the best basketball player in China?" Then we went and got in another line and he came over and talked to me some more. He was clearly a hoops fanatic. I thought that Mr. Dou's view of me changed right then and there, though I'll never know if I was just imagining it.

Anyhow, I've seen officer Hoops every time I’ve gone in since and we've continued to talk ball. He is a nice guy. I gave him a Slam or two along the way and he asked me last year if I would ever play ball with him and his officer friends. I said sure, then I never heard form him again.

A couple of weeks ago we went in to get our get our 2008 visas and he wasn’t there. I was kind of sad. I asked the officer helping us where "the basketball officer" was and he laughed. He knew who I meant and said he was off that day.

A few days later officer Hoop contacted Lily, WSJ office manager and again said he’d like to play ball with me, gave her his number and asked me to call. Then he called me on Sunday morning and invited me to join him that afternoon. Well, I couldn’t say no. I had to check this out.

So last Sunday I grabbed a cab and headed down, having no idea where I was going. It wasn’t all that far away, a large park on the side of the bustling 4th Ring Road. It has been damn cool and I assumed we were going to an inside gym, but this was a large complex of outdoor courts. I paid 10 rmb (about $1.50) admission and entered. There were about 7 or 8 full courts – all of them running 4-4 half court games. Around the edges there three or four soccer pitches as well. All of them were packed, with several hundred people out there huffing and puffing. I saw one Caucasian guy on one of the pitches.

I have never been a great basketball player and I am way rusty. I have not played a game in years and not at all since I came to China. Also, these guys had been playing for a while and I was fresh out of a cab and thrown into the game for my first run in three or four years.

It didn’t help when I walked on the court and he asked me, “Can you dunk?"

I laughed but didn’t say, “These days I’m not even sure I can touch the net but 23 years ago under the guidance of my man Ice, I almost dunked a tennis ball at Davis Park. I did get it through the rim.” Instead, I just said, “Uh, no.”

“Oh,” he replied. “You just work for Dunk magazine.” Then he repeated that in Chinese to his buddies and they all laughed.

My first two shots were airballs.

The other guys were pretty good. I have watched enough Chinese pickup games to have a decent sense of what it would be like. These guys play all the time and they are good, savvy, solid players. The oldest guy was 40 and he was pretty good and strong as a bull – he took great delight in battling under the boards with me and using his broad back to block me out. Most of the other guys were early 30s.

Their style of play, however, reminded me of old guys at the JCC or Y – savvy, understanding angles, tough, ability to hit bank shots and put in ugly looking jumpers and little runners. There was one big guy, on my team, probably about 6-5. He was wearing a Jordan warmup suit and had a ponytail. In between games, he sat down and smoked cigarettes. He was pretty good but kind of lazy and prone to calling weak fouls. I didn’t know how to say “foul” in chinese and don’t believe in anything but the most vicious hacks being called ion the playground anyhow, but they called them for me a few times.

Anyhow, it was fun. I got my contact knocked out with in the first few minutes, saved it, wrapped it in a taxi receipt and played on with one eyed vision, which didn’t seem to hinder me much. I gained steam as we played on and did fine. Got a lot of offensive rebounds and scored on putbacks, hit a couple of foul line extended jumpers – always my one and only sweet spot beyond two feet -- and passed and defended well enough to not humiliate myself.

The honor of Dunk magazine was defended and as I was limping away on a gimpy hamstring my new friend told me when to call him any time I need anything. Which is worth way more than an unstrained hammy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Always Time for A Wall pic

An acquaintance just found and sent me these photos of me and Dixie on a broken down section of the Wall from their visit in October 06. I took my folks on a school-sponsored trip to the Commune at the Great wWll.. very cool place. This section of the Wall is an easy 15 minute hike from there. Dixie and I ventured further than all the ladies and she snapped these.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More Pittsburgh

Here are a couple paragraphs I cut from my last column, all stuff about Pittsburgh... it just seemed like I was going a little overboard with that angle and needed to trim it back, but it's all true...

Whole column again can be read here

By the way, now that I finally realized they are free, I am not going to post entire columns up here anymore. Please go to WSJ site to read them instead. Thanks.

Displaced Pittsburghers are a unique lot. Many of us truly love the city we have left behind. There are websites dedicated to the Pittsburgh diaspora and the editor of one of them recently wrote me to discuss my different feelings about being an American expat living abroad and Pittsburgh expat, living in New Jersey.

That seemed insane at first, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I lie awake the night before closing on my first house, in New Jersey, because I felt like I was being unfaithful, abandoning the hometown to which I always thought I would return when it was time to settle down. I never had the same conflicted feelings about moving to China, because I knew it was temporary.


Thanksgiving is always a veritable diaspora reunion, with people returning to Pittsburgh from all over. I have long looked forward to making the November pilgrimage across the Pennsylvania Turnpike from New Jersey to Pittsburgh, routinely stopping at a McDonalds filled with people decked out in Steelers gear making the same trek.

Super Moverz

Our friend Wyatt Cameron runs a great program here called Super Moverz. They are moving back tot he U.s. this summer and he is gearing up to launch it as a business. Check out some of his promo literature and his models- Anna and Eli both featured. I really can't even describe how much all three of our kids love Wyatt and this class.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Cabrera/Bream Oh My

I told the writer form the P-G that I still follow the Steelers AND the Pirates online at every day, admitting that at this point following the Bucs form China was downright depraved. "Would you describe it as being more like the attraction to watching a train wreck, or like a drug addiction?" he asked.

After brief contemplation, I told him it was closer to the addiction. The team, after all, is on the verge of its 15th consecutive losing season, which would be an all time record FOR ANY SPORT. And it all began one fateful night in October, 1992, as I sat perched on the edge of my couch on 27th Street and watched a nightmare unfold. It was my darkest moment as a sports fan, by a large, large margin. I was thinking about it again after that conversation and then saw this, from Bill Simmons, on

The most agonizing baseball moment since Bill Buckner's gaffe was Francisco Cabrera's series-winning single for Atlanta that killed Pittsburgh in the 1992 playoffs. Not only did the Pirates blow a ninth-inning lead, not only did Cabrera, a no-name, deliver the final blow, not only did comically slow Sid Bream somehow beat a Barry Bonds throw home, not only was it the Pirates' third straight October defeat ... but Bonds signed with the Giants a couple of months later, banishing the Pirates to small-market hell. They haven't been heard from since. The franchise was effectively murdered by one play.

It's a perfect summation.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story

There's a story on me in today's Pittsburgh Post Gazette. It is really strange to be on the other side of this process, but I enjoyed speaking with reporter Bill Toland and I think he did a good job.

I should have told the reporter that I am former delivery boy. Considering that and that the PG was the newspaper of my youth -- and that I still read it online every day, this is an honor.

The story is here.

If you are a P-G reader who came here because of the story, hello. The only error in the piece was that you actually can read my WSJ columns at the site for free. Just click here.

New column Up

And I just found that I can get a free link. Click here to read and pass along.

This random Pittsburgh image seemed appropriate accompaniment.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Maplewood's latest and greatest

Welcome to the world Jackson Lange, son of George and Stephanie. I'm proud to have helped lure them out to Maplewood. They were great additions to the town and he is even better, I'm sure. Also happy that the world has a new Jack Lange. The original was George's father and my next door neighbor growing up. He knew where many of my bodies were buried back in high school because I think he was up half the night. And he never ratted me out. Belated thanks Jack.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More Funny Music Tales

I set up a blog over on the Woodie Alan website, so I won't be throwing every detail of our gigs up here – unless people are enjoying them. I'm not really sure about that, so let me know. I will share one more really good one.

I also put a new photos page up there. Woodie has a bunch of photographer friends and so we've gotten some really cool shots recently, including a bunch from that Yugong Yishan gig, sampled here.

We played another gig at the Jianghu Jiuba hutong bar last Saturday. It was their first anniversary party and the little place and its courtyard (now enclosed and heated) were packed. We played a great set. It really felt good. We were supposed to play from 6-8 and then Dave and I were supposed to join our wives at a dinner/birthday party for our friend and neighbor John Scales.

We played about 7-8:15, and our bassist Zhong Yang took off for his money gig and we were about to say good bye but the owners loved our music and begged us to stay and play one more set after the jazz band played "just 20 minutes." Of course we couldn’t say no. He said the bass player from the jazz band would play with us.

They played close to an hour and were actually really good. While they were playing, I finally became fully immersed in China by gambling with a bunch of Chinese people (probably rather rudely while the band played behind us).

You see Chinese people playing cards and gambling all the time all over the place, usually with small crowds gathered around. I've stopped and watched many times and never can quite figure out the games. Woodie and his pals and cousin were getting a game going and I joined in and it was a lot of fun. It was a simple game and the starting pot was just 1 rmb (about 15 cents) but it could build pretty fast and there were some decent sized pots.. I won a couple, too.

Then the band finished and Woodie talked to the bassist who was a jazz snob and said he wouldn't play with us. Word got around we were absent a bassist and some guy walked up and said to me, in English, "I am dong. I can play bass." Well, welcome to the band Mr,. Dong.

We played an off the cuff thirty minute or so and were rocking pretty hard and then Woodie brought up a friend guitarist and we played a big singalong "Knockin on Heaven's door." And then I launched into "Sweet Home Alabama" and it was really fun. We don’t play the song but I had seen the guitarist play it and I knew he knew all the riffs and I just thought it would be a kick to sing “Sweet Home” to a room full of young Chinese and it was.

We were going to call it a night, but I started playing "Not Fade Away" and everyone grabbed it and ran. The guitarist had a slide on from "Sweet Home": and he started wailing and we just caught a groove and took that jam to the moon and back. I couldn't believe it. People were rushing in from the courtyard and the back room to hear better and see what was going on. I felt for that moment like we were the hot band playing in the hole in the wall little bar you’re always searching for and I frankly couldn’t believe it. It was an out-of-body experience.

I hated to see it come to an end. But it did. Woodie stayed to play harmonica with the next band, but Dave and I packed up as fast as we could – and arrived at the dinner after 11 pm. Everyone thought we were real cool guys, except our wives, but they were fine, too. Very supportive women, they are.

I unrelated music news, some of you find it even funnier that I am leading a Chanukah sing-along at Friday night services this week.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Last column


Long-Distance Democracy
Takes Missionary Zeal

November 23, 2007

Last week, about 50 American citizens gathered in the lobby of an upscale Beijing apartment building. Munching chili dogs and brownies and sipping Diet Coke, beer and wine, the group, which included investment bankers, lawyers and analysts, crowded around a speakerphone to listen to a speech by Michelle Obama, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Another 150 or 200 people were listening in from Shanghai, Tokyo, Nagoya, Singapore, Hong Kong and Jakarta.

The call was the work of Americans in China for Obama, a group started last year to raise money for and awareness about the candidate. The organizers also hope to advise the candidate about China issues. Last June, at a similar event, Sen. Obama addressed groups in Beijing and Shanghai over the phone, accenting his own experience growing up abroad and answering questions. No other major campaign seems to boast a similarly well-organized grassroots group in China. However, candidates including Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Guiliani have made significant fundraising and outreach overtures to Americans living in London, Hong Kong and elsewhere.

Democrats Abroad and Republicans Abroad each have chapters around the world, dedicated to helping American expats remain politically engaged. Both groups have active chapters in Hong Kong but not in mainland China, where they fear antagonizing the Chinese government -- though there doesn't seem to be any law prohibiting their presence and my own sense is that it wouldn't cause a ripple. Interested American citizens here can and do join the Hong Kong chapters.

I have always been a bit of a political junkie, and I still track the ups and downs of Washington through online news resources. I have voted in every election since I turned 18, including off years and off-off years, where only things like school boards and town councils were on the ballot. Because I moved a lot and always wanted to have a local vote, in my first 12 years of eligibility I registered and cast ballots in Pennsylvania, Michigan (twice), California, Florida, New York and New Jersey. When I moved to China it never occurred to me that it would be more than a blip in my voting record.

But when I finally tried to swing into action before last year's midterm Congressional elections, I realized that my New Jersey registration had been canceled because I had had my mail forwarded to my parents' house in Pittsburgh. For the first time in over 20 years, I was no longer a registered voter. Rectifying that proved more difficult than I anticipated.

Americans living abroad have had the right to vote by casting an absentee ballot in the congressional district where they last resided since 1975, when Congress passed the Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act. I had the vague idea that I could now vote electronically, but in fact no expat can do so.

China can present some unique problems; for the last two weeks I have not been able to log onto the government site,, because it is banned behind the Great Firewall of China. I don't know why, nor will I ever find out. It is equally likely to reappear at any moment or remain locked down indefinitely.

Luckily, voters can also register at the Web sites for Democrats or Republicans Abroad, or the non-partisan, an essential resource. But even though I registered and downloaded a New Jersey registration at the latter the other day, I still have to mail it back to Essex County, N.J., and wait hopefully for an absentee ballot to arrive the same way -- so I can again use snail mail to cast my ballot. I urge any American living outside the country to get an early start checking his/her registration and receiving an absentee ballot, because it can take a while. It's no surprise that some expats have taken a missionary zeal to helping others cast a ballot.

"I see helping Americans living abroad register and vote as a part of the long tradition of fighting for the process and right to vote," says Carolyn Sauvage-Mar, Chair of Democrats Abroad-India. "Your chances of meeting all the rules and deadlines as John Q. Public are 50/50 at best, so we're trying to improve the odds."

Democrats who don't manage to update their registration, or simply prefer to vote as an international community member, can also cast a ballot in the Democrats Abroad Global Primary, to be held on their site from Feb. 5 to Feb. 12. The victorious candidate will receive the votes from the Democrats Abroad delegates who will be at the party convention next August. Republicans Abroad are not running a similar election, nor will they have delegates at the convention.

Recent elections have emphasized the value of each vote. Ms. Sauvage-Mar says there is anecdotal evidence that overseas ballots helped turn the 2006 Virginia Senate race between George Allen and Jim Webb, where less than 10,000 votes helped shift the body to Democratic from Republican control. The 2000 Gore/Bush election was also a reminder of the power of a single vote, a fact often sited by politically active expats.

A feeling that the Bush administration has damaged America's international standing has prompted many Democrats living abroad to look for ways to assist their party. "I never did that much here politically until after President Bush was elected and I became very concerned about the state of our country," says Anne Stevenson-Yang, who has lived in Beijing for 17 years and is active with the Obama group. "It felt like my country changed while I was away, almost as if your parents moved house while you were away at college and didn't tell you."

Similarly, animosity towards Bill Clinton spurred some expat Republicans to get involved, including Christopher Fussner, an American in Singapore who has lived outside the U.S. for 25 years and is now Global Chairman of Republicans Abroad. "I never even voted the first 12 or 13 years I was abroad," says Mr. Fussner. "Then I became really disgusted with President Clinton's policies and said, 'Whoa, I better figure out a way to do something.'"

Some people who live abroad feel that the experience actually fuels their desire to be involved and changes their perspective on politics. "People getting politically involved overseas seem a bit more genuine and dedicated to what they're doing than many back in the States," says Alan Seigrist, Vice Chair for Republican Abroad's Hong Kong chapter. "I find the same thing in Democrats Abroad, and the mere fact that we are all friends and colleagues shows that it can be a friendlier political environment here -- until Election Day that is."

Living abroad offers a different perspective on America and its place in the world. Many feel that by living and working with people from many nationalities, they have gained a keener appreciation of the challenges and opportunities presented by an increasingly globalized society.

"I actually think we see the future coming a little bit more than most Americans are able to," says Mike Dardzinski, an American who has lived in Beijing for four and a half years and was one of the founders of Americans in China for Obama. "Living in most places in America, you just don't deal with people from all over the world every day like we do here, and that's the future."
* * *

Write to me and I'll post selected comments in a future column. Please let me know if you want to share your thoughts but don't want your letter published. Below are some edited responses to my previous column about my band Woodie Alan and how it represents the opportunities that the expat life provides to try new things.

Your column captured the ability to reshape life as an expat. I worked in a big ad agency in New York, pulling some long hours and complaining about it. I'm now a corporate refugee -- and happy to be doing something different -- marketing for a school in Beijing, where I moved last year.

I also lived here in Beijing for a year back in 02/03 and used to tell people back home that it was like the Wild West. If you can think of it, you can do/be it. In my youthful vanity (I'm sure I've matured in the last few years), I had always wanted to be on TV. So when I was here that year, I actually got a gig as a CCTV English teacher on the air.

-- Vicky Yip
* * *

I loved your article on your band, and I applaud your drive and hard work to make your dream happen expat style. As an American living in Bangalore, India, I agree that you get a chance to reboot when living abroad -- friends who you might not choose at home, clothes you wouldn't wear, food you wouldn't eat, things you wouldn't try.

-- Lisa Semmes
* * *

I often daydream of picking up and moving to another part of the country for that "reboot" you wrote about. Meet new people, experience a new adventure, let my new surroundings influence me in ways I never thought I could; opening up a whole new world that I new existed beyond the life boundaries that we surround ourselves with. Your column definitely gave me that hope.

-- John Yocca
* * *

My family and I spent almost five years, arguably the best five, in Tokyo. I really enjoy your columns, which all ring true and it is interesting how you uncover all the gems of the expat life. You still have more to uncover so don't come back to the States yet. Enjoy yourself. I tell friends that what my family and I experienced cannot be purchased!

-- Jay Loftus
* * *

I'm an expat in the U.S. and your column (especially the first year) captures the essence of the experience. I admire the fact that you and your family have tried so hard to learn about China and have made an effort to really see the country. Good luck with the band.

-- Roshni Sacks

Thank you all.