Disclaimer: I like to “tell it like it is” so don’t be mad :)
I’m a 90s baby so I remember dial up internet!
All my life I had computers in my home. My dad loves computers, studied computers, and works with computers, so as a child I remember always seeing computers, monitors, and circuit boards taken apart and assembled back together again. My first computer game was Pong and I remember being absolutely fascinated looking into this big screen (we had a big boxy monitor) and fervently moving the paddle from side to side to “ping” the ball. My favourite video game was nintendo 64 Mario (never ever finished the game :/) and immortal combat which I played with my sister for hours on Saturday evenings. When the internet became assessable to consumers I remember having to unplug the cord from the phone, crouch down behind the computer desk and turn the computer around to find the “socket” to connect it to the internet. Once plug, it took about 20 minutes (today I lose it just waiting 10 seconds!) to connect to the internet, and that awful screeching sound ugh! But once online, it was like entering a new world! When I discovered Yahoo AIM messenger I connected with a cousin who lived in another town, I remember my first message was “wow, we’re connected and we can chat online! So cool!” No longer would I have to fight with my sisters to use the landline phone to talk with our friends, now we had options, the phone or the internet.
I’m only 27 years old, and these memories serve as a reminder of how I was able to witness a computer going from a big bulky machine that took up half the family kitchen desk and only connected to the internet with an ethernet cord, to owning a Macbook pro that weighs less than 5lbs and wirelessly connect to the internet, right on my lap. Moving to Asia, I’m witnessing how technology is changing the lives of billions of people, and it's so exciting!
Being connected is a very be deal
Since I moved abroad I call my family every week, and keep my Facebook primarily so my mom can see me (yes I use FB for branding purposes but mostly so my mom can see what I’m doing and that I’m ok). When I moved to Israel, so many people were worried about my safety, like some kind of rocket would hit me. Israel, despite the conflict, I never felt safer because the security, intelligence, and resources that Israel has makes it quite safe place. I walked around Haifa, Tel Aviv (even the parts where there are migrants), and Jerusalem and felt completely safe. Why did I feel so safe? I had a cellphone, I had the internet, my school had my information, it’s a very small country and quite resourceful (if they wanted to find someone, they could. This is not conspiracy prior to moving to Israel I did research on their drones programs and studied some of their covert operations like Operation Moses, the rescue of Ethiopian Jews in Sudan in 1984, in fact one of my Ethiopian Jewish friends was a child at the time when her family walked from Ethiopia to Sudan to be airlifted to Israel). Israel is not a developing country, it’s a hi-tech, middle class, democratic, and well connected country. Key word, connected.
For countries that are not wealthy or as connected as Israel or the US, my travels around Asia has been an eye opening experience as I witnessed how technology can make a huge difference in people’s lives. When I went to China, shopping in an outdoor market, I saw farmers with QR codes posted next to their business so customers can pay via Alipay, very few instances did I see cash exchanged. When I was stuck at Poipet, the boarder between Cambodia and Thailand, there women begging on the street with their naked children in their arms, men on motorbikes eager to give tourists a ride to their hotel, and the roads were lined with travel businesses, casinos, hotels, and convenient stores. However, almost everyone had a mobile phone, few had smart phones, but a basic phone to make calls and send text messages. Yet, I didn’t many telephone poles. People used mobile phones to communicate, do business, and stay connected! Finally leaving the boarder, I was so happy to return to Thailand because it felt like going from a “3rd world country” to a developed country within minutes. Thailand, on the other hand, cell phones and the internet has made a very big difference in everyones lives, from shopping and doing business on the LINE app or Facebook (Thailand is one of the biggest users of Facebook in the world), and video chatting with friends and relatives around the country is a very big deal. Even the Sky Train and MRT, despite its problems, connects most of Bangkok (and is how I do my deliveries for this business) has transformed Bangkok from being too dependent of taxis, motorbikes, and cars (ok, traffic is horrible here, but imagine it without the BTS!). I have a friend, who has lived in Bangkok for over 40 years, she told me when she first moved here, it took 2 years for people to get their landline phones set up, people didn’t travel around so much between neighbourhoods like Sukhumvit, or Sathorn, because of traffic. She explained when cellphones came out, it completely changed the lives of people. People now are always on their phones or video-chatting, because they are now connected, it’s something so new to many people.
Traveling to Japan and Singapore, very rich countries that are even more connected than the US and select European cities. The infrastructure in Japan nearly looks like The Jetsons, an American show of what people thought the new millennium would look like. Minus the flying cars, Japan has maglev trains, Tokyo’s metro system is very well connected and has wifi service. Of course, much of this phenomena that is happening in Asia, already happened in the US and Europe 50-100 years ago. The same excitement for technology like, the creation of the telephone by Alexander Graham bell in 1876, or investing in infrastructure like the Federal-Aid Highway Act signed by President Eisenhower implemented on June 29, 1956, is what I see happening here in Asia. It’s very exciting to live in a region and witness again how technology is transforming people’s lives.
Not everyone can pick up their lives and move to Asia!
Okay, I’m being very optimistic, but that is one of the few “American things” left in me, this hopeful attitude to make a better life for myself. Aside from that, it’s very hard for me to talk to people back home because people already have everything. It’s no longer a big deal that I call from Skype from Asia, everyone already has the internet, a smartphone, and way too many apps. It’s ‘whatever’ that I can easily travel around the city, people grew up with trains, people get a car at 16 (though I got mine at 18) so what! Doesn’t matter that I’m starting an online business, in fact it’s strange I sell on social media, Amazon and Ebay are the online shopping platforms people been using since early 2000, why would anyone shop on Facebook and Instagram??? Most importantly, people think I’m very judgemental, not everyone can pick up their life, nor want to move to Asia because people have family, a home, a car, friends, and a job that they are happy with!
I understand that the expat life and being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. Living in a region where so many amazing opportunities are happening, I like to ‘recruit’ people to move and take advantage! I mean American multi-national companies have been doing this for decades because labor here is cheap (hence why there are few factories in the US). I think people are uncomfortable with my questions or suggestion to move to Asia is because they already have everything: the basic infrastructure, internet, capital, and network and reached a point of being satisfied, and I would go even further to say complacent. By no fault of their own, because Americans compared to the rest of the developing world, has everything and still very much “the land of opportunity” but now only for those that can afford to live in the key cities…like New York, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, etc and have the right skills, programming, finance, management, etc. Outside of that, why isn’t moving an option American seek (especially teachers whose professions and time is not respected, they can make so much more money and have a better life in Asia!) People have been moving, for a very long time, in search for food, jobs, and opportunities, I just want to share there are alternatives. And this doesn’t fit the American narrative, thus why people are offended or appalled by the suggestion. What I do very much appreciate about being an American, is the freedom of choice, and I choose to build life and business here in Asia.
Update for Healthy Hair Asia
A lot of exciting things are happening, I’ve met with a biodegradable packaging company as I seek to transition from using plastic to more eco-friendly packaging materials. I met with a designer, I realised that my labels are “way to much” and will work to make them more simpler and chic. This week I will be returning back to teaching, so now I need to be super organised and hire someone to help with sales and delivery!
As always, thank you for reading!