"People without hope, can rotten a nation"
When I read the news of migrants and refugees risking their lives to reach the shores of Europe and trek hundreds of kilometres to build a life in Germany, UK, or Sweden, I can empathise. I'm no bleeding heart liberal, but from what I read about the growing opposition to immigration and how to solve this crisis: 1. people should stay in their countries to develop it and create jobs 2. Most of these "refugees" are young and military aged men abandoning their families in war zones, who illegally cross through all the safe countries in Europe, how could they leave women and children behind, their economic migrants! I do believe in borders, legal migration (humans migrating for over a millennia), and there are genuine refugees that face real danger at home. However, what many don't understand about this crisis, is that globalisation and technology has given people a window to see what life is like in the outside world, and most importantly, hope. Hope is such a powerful force. I don't remember where I read this quote, I think it was in Obama's acceptance speech when he won the noble peace prize, but he said "A people without hope can rotten a nation" and I think that is very true. People living in abject poverty, unemployed, torn by war didn't have much hope...until internet and mobile phones enabled them to see the world. So, this "migration crisis" that Europe is going through of young men and few women and children from North Africa, the Middle East, Eurasia, all have hope and stories of those that were able to make it to Europe to have a better life. We all need more humanity.
As more and more people are connecting to the internet and have smart phones, their hopelessness and living in generational poverty is no longer a hinderance. So long as one family member can escape and find work abroad, usual a man, life can be a lot better. What they see on TV or in shopping malls are all attainable, and no longer completely out of reach. They too can have a beautiful home, feed and send their children to school, have nice things (not everyone wants what the West has, but basic stuff) so why not risk it all and go to Europe, Australia, Dubai, Qatar, Canada, or America where they can make 5X more money and send money to support their families? Multi-national companies are hungry for cheap labour,there are no jobs at home, and their weak governments and non-existence infrastructure is not giving them a better life. So staying home to many is not an option. Just as America was "discovered" the global poor has seen what life in the West through a screen, or books, or working as nannies, maids, taxi drivers, etc., life can be better, but not at home.
I will never forget my trip to Cambodia being stuck in Poi Pet, near the border and seeing 3rd world poverty. From mothers begging on the street with their naked and fragile children, crowds of men with motorbikes asking tourists if they needed rides, piles of garbage and makeshift landfills along the road, and dust everywhere (there were a few trees). So. much. dust! But I could see the hope in people's eyes. I asked myself, "What keeps these people so hopeful?" It was quickly clear that the endless stream of tourists and and casinos, cash exchange, little market stores, visa runs, and hotels at the border was creating jobs and opportunity for the local people. Many people I saw had some kind of smart phone (nothing fancy) and it was humbling to observe how happy people were with their phones and connecting with the world through Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. The internet enabled them to escape and enter the digital world. The internet allowed them to get jobs and opportunities. For me, I was fortunate to grow up in a home with computers and the internet in the 90s. I cannot imagine what it's like now for people that just were exposed to the internet and it's endless possibilities and window to the outside world.
Given that I'm American and educated, I have a lot of privileges, that obviously sets me apart from refugees, migrants, and the developing world. But we share a hope for creating a better life for ourselves and going to a country that can give us opportunity (You know, how America was built and marketed itself as the land of immigrants?) What the world is experiencing is rapid globalisation and technology that has enabled opportunity for all kinds of people. Faster than what people may be comfortable with or what immigration systems can handle, but people will continue to leave their home in hope for a better opportunity, and Google Maps and Facebook Messenger makes it a lot easier to navigate the world. If your not too familiar with the history of "Asian tigers" like Singapore, South Korea, 30+ years ago were poor, torn from war, and quite under developed. But with industrialisation, globalisation, economic development, trade deals, and visionary leaders, these countries have rapidly developed their countries to the ranks of wealth and development found in the West. And in South East Asia projects like ASEAN and AEC demonstrate the vision of economic and trade unity in a region that has over 600 million people, this is an exciting place to be as an entrepreneur and businesswoman/man.
As a female entrepreneur living abroad, when I tell my story many people think I've made "ballsy" and courageous move (I don't know why they say balls, because they are sensitive, a vagina is a lot tougher!). Plus, I'm no feminist, but men have been moving around the world and going on adventures, pilgrimages, business trips, etc. for a long time. Eventually women would go tired of sitting at home, so I don't see myself as unique, I see that I live in an era that has given me the opportunity to move and go and build a global online business.
Each country, job, and relationship has been an experience that has led me closer to building Healthy Hair Asia. Which all began in the summer 2013 studying French at Université Laval in Quebec, I learned that my little database of hair blogs around the world had a lot of potential, and a friend invested $1000 so I could work on my idea. My graduate research of drone strikes operated by Israel led my curiosity to learn more about Israel. And once I learned more about it's innovative tech sector I read the book "Start-Up Nation" that inspired me to move to Israel. And once I found my way to Israel, I took up every chance to explore the start-up world, met many great people, gained new skills, joined a women tech group, and gained a new confidence (chutzpa!) that I would need in the business world. Israel was my launchpad, to moving to Asia. I traveled for a few weeks, first to Hong Kong, where I got my Chinese visa, was amazing, but outrageously expensive. I continued my adventure to Chongqing, China but I hated the isolation and size of the city. So I talked with someone who said to go to Thailand, because it's cheap, has an expat community, and entrepreneurs. So I packed my bags and left for Bangkok with no intention of staying just "feeling out" the place.
After 3 weeks in Bangkok, perfect timing to get a teaching job, and a lot of networking I have built a solid foundation and vision for Healthy Hair Asia. In addition, I had a chance to visit home and took the time to explore Silicon Valley (see what the hype was all about) and with a network of friends in the tech world, I was lucky to crash a few couches and see Google's Campus, Facebook Campus, visit The Computer History Museum, go to a few meet ups and talk to other founders and techies! In summary, San Francisco is a great place for start-ups, but overly expensive, too much homelessness (I cannot get used to that), saturated with too many start-ups, and over-valuations of start-ups that promise to "disrupt" some industry. Asia is the best place to be an entrepreneur!
Now, that the school year is over, I am trying my luck in Singapore. From what I read, it's THE place (in SE Asia) to find funding, which from my last post (thanks for everyone's positive feedback), is the next step to build Healthy Hair Asia. My hope, hard work, weird luck, network, and timing has gotten me this far, I cannot wait to explore Singapore!