As a child of Japanese immigrants growing up in predominately white areas in The States, I knew we were always different. We took our shoes off inside the house (weird). We ate fish and rice (super weird). My mother dressed me in conservative pinafores (super duper weird). Like aliens from another planet, we didn’t speak English with each other. Everything about our family was strange. I learned to accept we were simply different and I would always be weird.
Entering preschool and being exposed to other kids, I was intent on learning about them. I quickly became one with the fact that even if details of our family life weren’t like my white friends’ families, there were similarities. Almost all of my friends had two parents, roofs over their heads, clothes on their backs, and shoes on their feet just like me (I grew up in a Beaver-Cleaver area).
Then I hit grade school and there were all kinds of other kids. Most with two parents and single income households, white picket fences and a dog (or cat). But there were some kids who only had one parent. Some kids whose moms and dads, both worked, some of their moms and dads even worked two jobs. They walked to and from school on their own. They prepared their own snacks and microwaved their dinners. I couldn’t understand why these kids were left to fend for themselves. “Everyone is different”, my parents would explain. I dimly recall accepting that answer since no grown-up was able to provide a satisfactory answer to all of my questions.
At 13, I went through an exploratory phase, removing myself from the comfort of my neighborhood, riding the bus for an hour towards outer San Francisco. There, my mind would be blown.
Kids were doing drugs (weed and a lot of meth). Some went to school, others had dropped out. Their parents — if they were still together — worked two or three jobs and never home. Almost all of the kids did not know life outside of what they knew. College? What’s that? Just finding a part time job that offered benefits were their end goals. I didn’t understand — the world is so much more! It was wrong how some people seemed to have it easier than others. Why was this happening?
Little did I know, this was the beginning of a life-long passion, or purpose if you will, to find out why this gap exists and what I can do to fix it.
Over the course of my late teen and early adult life, I contributed on macro levels — volunteering, tutoring, mentoring, even building an academic path to join the system and make change. I realized too soon this is not the way to reduce inequalities quickly and at scale. But the lingering question remained: How and what can I do?
Moving to Asia (and again, I use the term Asia loosely as this region is massive) changed my life and the way I viewed things. South East Asia excited me. This region, I found, is the one place I could serve my purpose.
Many people have been asking what I am now doing. First, I am moving to Bangkok from Tokyo full time in November. Second, I am on a mission to solve a problem that has always been something close to my heart.
More on that later.
And with that, I will be blogging again about tech, the landscape in this region, and thus dusting off this space to resurrect PixelBits.
Hope you enjoy the ride (if anyone is still reading).