“I come home, but not frequently,” said the 34 year old, who hails from Minnesota. “My life is here now.” (Ted didn’t want his last name to be used because of privacy concerns.)
Like millions of other Americans, Ted, who also found a new career working in the high-tech end of the film industry, fled America and reinvented himself overseas. And nowhere is the expat invasion more evident than in East and Southeast Asia. In Hong Kong alone the number of American expats is estimated to be 60,000 in 2009, though many say that number is much higher.
That is almost the number of expats living in mainland China, which is somewhere around 72,000, according to the Chinese census. Kathy Pauli is one of them. She and her husband, both lawyers, decided to move from Washington, D.C. to Shanghai 10 years ago.
“We struggled at the beginning,” she said. “Everything was difficult. Even opening an account at the bank was a big struggle.”
Since then Shanghai has become home, and the couple have found work as attorneys dealing with international law.
Indeed, in my various travels, I have met countless Americans of all ages who have made lives outside of America, far from home. I know a Vietnamese-American woman who left America for Vietnam when George W. Bush became president and promised not to come back until he was out of office. I know another who had lived in Arizona most of his life, but who retired to Phuket, Thailand.
As an immigrant to America, however, I feel an impulse to defend the sacred myth I tell myself: that one goes to America to reinvent oneself, not vice versa, that opportunities remain abundant in the promised land.
On the other hand, having traveled to East Asia regularly over the last two decades, I have been struck by the diaspora of America's young. Some years ago, one young businesswoman told me in Thailand: "No one says the American dream has to be within America's borders.” In the age of globalization, she goes where the opportunities beckon.
Americans, of course, have ventured in waves to the Orient many times before, usually bent on some form of conversion. By contrast, the new generation ventures abroad with a surprising sense of humility and open-mindedness, eager to rid themselves of America's "parochialism," bent on reinventing themselves through immersion in local cultures. In the process they are ultimately redefining the American frontier.
American immigrants too are discovering that the new frontier lies in the lands their parents abandoned. In Hong Kong, Asian American actors tell me they have found more work than Hollywood ever offered. In Saigon and Hanoi, a parade of young, well-educated Vietnamese Americans, who once saw themselves as history's losers, now feel they are riding a new historical wave. Vietnamese American filmmakers who couldn’t make films in the United States are now making waves in Vietnam with their directorial debuts. An average film in Vietnam is made for less than $500,000 (USD).
From Dustin Nguyen (21 Jump Street) to Johnny Tri Nguyen (Once upon a Time in Vietnam), the Vietnamese film and TV industry got a boost from its expat population. “Viet Kieu are now involved with at least half of the commercial films made in Vietnam -- a stunning development considering that not long ago those who returned faced deep suspicion from the Communist government as well as opposition from staunch anti-Communists in San Jose and Orange County,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.
East Asia beckons. And young and now not so young Americans are responding (along with Australians, British and countless other Europeans).
Ironically, emigration out of the United States remains a little noted phenomenon -- no federal agency has a mandate to count emigrants. The State Department estimates 3 million U.S. citizens now live abroad, but most expats believe the actual number is much higher. Work exchange and education abroad programs report a steep rise in the number of students and recent graduates seeking to work abroad and U.S. companies overseas continue to grow.
If restlessness is a human impulse, Americans in particular have made it a national trait. It follows then that a country built on the proposition of expanding territory and transcending history requires a trans-Pacific imagination if the new generation is to have room to reinvent itself.
The future? I have seen it, but it belongs not to the old politicians cashing in on anti-immigrant hysteria, nor to the cranky intellectuals insisting America should look back to its European roots. Instead, the future belongs to the young American executive who sings Japanese songs in a karaoke bar in Tokyo "very well and without an accent," according to his Japanese counterpart; to the Cantonese-speaking American who negotiates across the continents as easily as she straddles two dissimilar cultures; to the Vietnamese American businesswoman who could have told us that home for her, for a while now, consists of two addresses, two time zones, two languages, two senses of history.
When he was growing up in Minnesota, Ted knew nothing about "the Orient," he said. “I didn’t even know any Asians.” By pure chance, after the dot.com bust, he was offered a software job in Taipei. Then he found love in Hong Kong. “I can travel the whole continent from here,” he boasts as he looked out to the Hong Kong harbor. “I’d discover a new country, a new city every few months.”
A more humble Columbus, Ted is finally imagining the two hemispheres as one.
Andrew Lam is editor at New America Media and the author of "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora," "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres," and "Birds of Paradise Lost," a collection of short stories about Vietnamese refugees on America's West Coast, which won the Pen/Josephine Miles Literary award.
Korean American candidate Roy Cho from New Jersey is one of 22 Asian Pacific Americans…
Missouri police are steeling themselves for a grand jury's decision on whether to charge the…
Ed. Note: Earlier this month immigration attorney Helen Lawrence joined a team of 10 Bay…
Above: Members of the workers’ rights group, Comité de Justicia Laboral (Labor Justice Committee) protest wage…
Ed. Note: Unless Congress acts, federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which…
English根據加州大學舊金山分校的研究顯示糖份飲料除了導致肥胖外，也將導致細胞老化。依據研究調查，若是喝過多的含糖飲料，人體白血球內的端粒（telomere）將變短。 端粒的作用是保護染色體完整性，而白血球內的端粒長度與人類的壽命有關。短的端粒將引發慢性疾病，包含心臟疾病、糖尿病和某些癌症。這項研究已於10月16日發行於 “公共健康（American Journal of Public Health）”期刊。此研究觀察受訪者在幾個星期內喝含糖飲料後端粒的變化以及含糖飲料對細胞老化的影響。端粒縮短與損傷氧化組織、發炎和胰島素抗體有關。加州大學舊金山分校精神病學的教授伊博（Elissa Epel）指出“含糖汽水將影響疾病發展、傷害人體對糖份的控制並且加速組織老化。”。伊博是此研究報告的共同作者。伊博亦指出“這是第一份有關含糖汽水導致端粒變短的報告。含糖汽水對端粒的影響不分年紀、族裔、收入和教育水平。另外，雖然研究是針對成人，但端粒的問題也同樣會發生在兒童身上。”比較“汽水”和“吸煙”對人體的影響研究亦指出端粒長短和壽命的關係。研究團隊計算每天少喝20盎司的汽水將可延長4.6年的壽命。 加大舊金山分校正在進行博士後研究的梁辛蒂（Cindy Leung）指出，端粒長短的影響性等同於吸煙和運動。研究指出飲用12盎斯的含糖汽水對研究內的參與者產生影響。研究內21％的受訪者每天至少喝20盎斯以上的汽水。“飲食也可能影響端粒長短。而目前我們所得出的研究結果是含糖汽水和飲料會對端粒帶來負面影響。”含糖飲料的其他負面影響研究亦針對含糖飲料對肥胖、代謝、第二型糖尿病和心血管疾病的影響。此研究的結果也推動立法者提出法案，徵收汽水稅，避免業者鼓勵大眾購買汽水影響健康。此項研究內共檢測5309位受訪者的DNA，他們是參與1999年至2002年國際健康檢測問卷， 年紀介於20到65歲，且未有糖尿病或心血管疾病病史。其他研究作者包括： 加州大學舊金山分校健康中心教授Nancy E. Adler、Blackburn實驗室副研究員Jue Lin、…