A Journal through The Garden of Evening Mists

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A Journal through The Garden of Evening Mists

There is surprisingly little writing on the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia, especially if you’re looking for local, creative voices. Yet, few regions of the world suffered as much during World War II. Millions were imprisoned and many perished in resource rich countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, forced into slave labor for the Imperial war effort.

Living in Southeast Asia, I often wonder; who were those millions? Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng weaves, through the mists of fading memories, the story of two sisters whose lives were tragically affected by the war. But what is even more impressive is that the story also includes voices of the oppressors, the Japanese, with the entire story told though the images, visible and hidden, of a Japanese garden.

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Why For-Profit Couchsurfing Failed

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Why For-Profit Couchsurfing Failed

Last October, news broke that Couchsurfing CEO Tony Espinosa suddenly stepped down, the latest in a long line of setbacks for the newly private company. In this article, originally published in Bootsnall, I explore how an idea with so much promise lost its foundation – its member-build base – leading to its present day downfall.

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Singapore Fragile Balance: Rich Expats, Poor Migrants, and Unhappy Locals

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Singapore Fragile Balance: Rich Expats, Poor Migrants, and Unhappy Locals

In most countries, a man getting killed by a bus would be a tragedy, but quickly forgotten after a few days. In Singapore, this exact event resulted in a riot in Singapore’s vibrant, crowded Little India neighborhood, where low-wage South Asian migrant workers gather on Sundays, usually their only day off, to drink and socialize. The riot, first such one in 40 years, shocked the nation and is bringing to the surface thorny issues of migration, assimilation, and social cohesion. Issues which the city-state has been able to, for the most part, avoid.

However, blaming migrants, the Government, or even Singaporeans is missing the point. The reality is that the discontent’s source may come from the other end of the spectrum, far from Little India: high paid, expats who are driving up living costs in this small, island nation of five million and counting.

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Alone on New Years

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Alone on New Years

The following is a letter I sent to my close friends on New Years and I wanted to share it with the world as well. Happy 2014 everyone!

To my friends, scattered all around the world.

New Year’s is supposed to be a time of joy, festivity. But here I am, in Bangkok, Thailand, alone in a hotel room, looking over the city as a new year enters, into the third decade of my life.

For those who know me well, this isn’t a strange scene. I’m a vagabond, a vagrant, someone who doesn’t know my home anymore because, for most of my life, I’ve been moving. As a child, this type of life pained me incredibly, each move a burden as I struggled to make new friends in new cities and lamented as the old ones from across the country never kept in touch. But then, I kept my anger, fears, and pain inside, locked away from the outside world.

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Freedom from Assimilation: Learning from Einstein

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Freedom from Assimilation: Learning from Einstein

    “The undignified mania of trying to adapt and assimilate, which happens among many of my social standing, has always been very repulsive to me.” Albert Einstein

Einstein – a celebrity among Asians – is the most famous scientist in modern history, who used his splendid mind to destroy preconceptions. Among his many contributions to science are the discovery of the photoelectric effect, proof the existence of the atom, and the development of the special and general theories of relativity in early 1900′s Germany. He was also Jewish, a minority in an increasingly intolerant society. 

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Double Minority: South Indian in America

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Double Minority: South Indian in America

This piece is the second in a series of articles on Asian culture and identity – starting with my experiences growing in America. Originally appeared in 8Asians.

As a incoming Freshmen at UC-Irvine, I was amazed to see that more than half the tables at the student activities fair were ethnic, not interest, organizations. There were three Chinese groups, a Korean students association and a Korean Christian association, and tables for nearly every Asian country, along with a few token groups for the 40% non-Asian student population (Hispanic Students Association, Young Baptists). Upperclassman sitting at each booth were scanning the crowd, looking for their ethnic kin, ready to pounce. They didn’t seem to want to have me join.

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