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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Am I Asian too?

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Am I Asian too?

Let me start on a lighter note – an anecdote from my Freshman year of College, more than 10 years ago. I was at the In-N-Out across the street from the dorms, in bar-seating facing a window towards the campus, with two Asian-Americans dorm-mates I’d just met. It was orientation week at UC-Irvine, so school hadn’t yet started, but I was excited. Finally, after six years living in the Midwest, I was in California, and, happily, already making friends.

“She definitely Chinese,” said the guy sitting next to me, pointing at a short Asian girl with an oversized backpack, on the sidewalk in front of us. 

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My Path: Being Vegetarian

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My Path: Being Vegetarian

A genuine choice never feels like a sacrifice. If you act from your heart, instead of feeling constrained, following your values is liberating. When your actions match your morals, the strength you gain inside is, I believe, the most powerful force in the world.

That is why, a few months ago, after years of learning, debating, and struggling, I decided to follow my heart and do what I felt was right. I became a Vegetarian.

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