As an Architect, I learned from I.M.Pei that Design Concept provides theUnderlying Spirit, but as Mies said “ God (or Beauty) is in the Details ( HOW it is actually constructed or articulated ).  An article In N.Y.Times’, Smarter Living section by Anna Goldfarb, wrote about “How to Reach Out to A Friend Who Is Having a Difficult Time”. With advice from esteemed psychologists and psychiatrists, she wrote about HOW to choose the right time and moment to capture the best effects, HOW to cultivate the right atmosphere and mind-set so that the Friend will feel comfortable opening up, and what words and tunes to employ to achieve some success.

Art by Lauren Martin


Notice the Friend’s Signs and Degree of Distress – Health, Workplace stress
           or Financial, etc.

Tread Carefully – depending on your relationship – assure confidentiality

Check your own state of mind – fit to help others ?

Pinpoint Concerns without Imposing.

Share Struggles – comforting

Do not Judge – Proper questions that will open up conversation .
       Examples:  “ Any especially difficult things bothering you lately ?”

Be Empathetic – Validate your friend.  The most helpful thing that you             
        can do for each other is knowing that you are sharing the burden  

Suggest Support –  For complex problems recommend reaching out for
         professional help, or religious consoling as appropriate.

Last but not least , Follow Up –  Continued support and continued Caring.


‘I BELIEVE’ – A worthwhile message about Friendship and the Ebb & Flow of Relationships – by an Unknown Author

There is lots of truth and wisdom here.

I Believe…
That just because two people argue, it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other.
And just because they don’t argue, it doesn’t mean they do love each other.

I Believe…
That we don’t have to change friends if we understand that friends change.

I Believe….
That no matter how good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while
and you must forgive them for that.

I Believe….
That true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance.
Same goes for true love.

I Believe….
That it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.

I Believe…
That you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

I Believe….
That you can keep going long after you think you can’t.

I Believe….
That we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.

I Believe…
That either you control your attitude or it controls you.

I Believe…
That heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

I Believe….
That my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and have the best time

I Believe….
That sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you’re down will be
the ones to help you get back up.

I Believe…
That sometimes when I’m angry, I have the right to be angry, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.

I Believe….
That maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you’ve had, what you’ve learned from them and less to do with  how many birthdays you’ve celebrated.

I Believe…..
That it isn’t always enough, to be forgiven by others.
Sometimes, you have to learn to forgive yourself.

I Believe…
That no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn’t stop for your grief.

I Believe….
That our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are,
But, we are responsible for who we become.

I Believe….
Two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.

I Believe…
That your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don’t even know you.

I Believe…
That even when you think you have no more to give, when a friend cries out to you –
you will find the strength to help.

I Believe…
That credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.


I Believe…
That you should send this to all of the people who you believe in, I just did.

The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything;
They just make the most of everything they have.


Friendship Story by Rick Chong – July 2020

Rick Chong is currently an independent financial consultant working in San Francisco.  Over the past 20 years, Rick has been active in the Silicon Valley venture capital business, first as a General Partner of Sycamore Ventures and later as a Director of Pac-Link Ventures.  He was formerly CFO of JL McGregor & Co. LLC, a start-up investment bank focused on investment s in China.  He served for several years as CFO of Amber Kinetics, a utility grade energy storage company based in Silicon Valley & the Philippines.  

Rick Chong

Rick is the Chairman Emeritus of the California Asia Business Council, a member of the Board of Trustees of the World Affairs Council, and past Treasurer of the Katherine Delmar Burke School in San Francisco.  He has also served as Chairman, President and a member of the Board of Directors for the 1990 Institute.  He has guest lectured at Stanford University, University of California Davis and University of San Francisco.   Rick received both his M.B.A. and undergraduate degrees from Stanford University.  He has been married to Beverly Chong for 37 years, and together with her has proudly raised two wonderful daughters, Alyssa and Stephanie.   They have lived in Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and San Francisco together.  


I was born & raised in the United States.  Identifying as nothing but middle American, I still recall the first time that my parents moved our family to Asia and how much I didn’t want to be there.  Even after living in Taiwan & Hong Kong for a total of 6 years before my senior year of high school, I still couldn’t speak Mandarin or Taiwanese, ate mostly American food, and hung around with the other students from the United States. 

Finally, on my father’s third assignment to Taiwan, he had enough of living in Tien Mou, which had become the ghetto for the American military back in the 70’s.  For the duration of my senior year of high school, he instead chose to have our family move to downtown Taipei where it was no longer possible to live in the American expatriate bubble.  Eager to continue to play basketball, I soon learned that there was an unsanctioned outdoor high school pickup game at the hospital nearby our downtown Taipei home.  Everyday after taking the bus home from school, I would climb over the wall and join other teenage boys playing basketball.  The only issue was that none of them knew how to speak English and I couldn’t speak Chinese, so it wasn’t easy making friends.  Still, there was one teenager who consistently reached out to me.  His name was Su Chung-Hwei.  Since he couldn’t speak much English, I just called him “Su”.  My siblings & parents loved getting to know a boy named Su. 

Photo of Su in the Taiwanese military

Many times, after basketball, Su would take me out to eat & drink at the local food stalls and show me what it was like to be a teenage boy running around Taipei.  He taught me how to cuss & swear in Mandarin, and I reciprocated by teaching him how to cuss & swear in English.  We soon became inseparable even though we couldn’t discuss much except short phrases about basketball, food & electronics.    

After that year in downtown Taipei, I went off to attend Stanford University as a freshman.  Each summer, I would return to spend time with my family back in Taipei and always looked up Su.  His English continued to improve, my Mandarin got better, and we started to hold dance parties together, swim at the local club, run around Taipei electronics stores and always manage to find pickup basketball games.  Our friendship deepened as our mutual language skills improved.  We shared in each other’s highs & lows.  I watched Su get into National Taiwan University and then get drafted into the Taiwanese military. 

Eventually, Su did come to the U.S. and today runs his own very successful garment importing business in Los Angeles.  He took the English name “Daniel” but I remain one of the few people who still call him Su.  I consider Su one of my oldest and dearest friends.  I don’t get much chance to see him in person these days with him living in  Southern California raising his family, and my family being up here in Northern California, but when we have the chance once or twice a year, it’s just like blasting into the past and re-living our youth. 

I’ve learned that friendship is really a result of acceptance – appreciating differences and finding mutual passions.  Su & I communicated in our odd language born of sports, movies, and chasing girls.  Over the years, Su would become fluent in English, and I would become fluent in Mandarin which has allowed us to deepen our friendship, but it was the initial acceptance by Su of a foreign kid on his basketball court that opened the door to a lifelong friendship.


Phil Chun Explores More Deeply Into Friendship & Friendshipology – July 2020

His note to Billy on July 22 :

Hi Billy,

How have you been? Tennis? Hoping all is well in the Lee family. 
I was thinking about “Making Friends” the other day and thought of the below. As you well know, in the age of Covid 19, making new friends will be a bit more challenging. You may add this to your website if you like. 
Be safe, Phil

”My Friend”
Because of our past, we are friends. Maybe it was the hobbies and interests that bonds us. It could be the weakness within us that we seek in each other’s strengths. Us, thinking alike and often finishing each other’s lines conjures familiarity. We can always count on each other. The color of your skin is unlike mine brought curiosity or of the same, brought commonality. We got each other’s backs. We never surprise each other, we expected it. We are a brother/sister from a different mother. We shared each other’s joys and sorrows. Our opinions are understood never to hurt but to be helpful. Yes, it is all of the before mentioned that made us friends. Thank-you for giving me permission. It was that very act that spawn our’s and all friendships. 
“Every day is unique and special”.


A Friendship Story of “High Mountain-Running Water” in Ancient China – by Wang Lili – Ningbo, China – July 2020

During the Warring States Period in ancient China, there was a man named Boya Yu who played the Qin (a kind of string instrument in China) very well.

One day when he was playing the Qin in a remote forest, a woodcutter named Ziqi Zhong came by. Boya used music to express his thoughts on climbing mountains. Ziqi would chime in and suggest,” As lofty as Mount Tai “.

Boya used his music again to express the running water. Ziqi complemented: “What a mighty river it is !” What Boya placed in music, Ziqi always responded with powerful understanding. Thus the two became bosom friends.

Later, when Ziqi died, Boya lost his bosom friend and was extremely sad, he threw his Qin away and vowed never to play again.

From this historical story, a special term “知音(zhi-yin)” in Chinese is thus created, which could be translated as “recognizing your music, inner feelings and potential impacts.”

This term “high mountain-running water” in Chinese is often used today to suggest the rare fortune of having friends who can really appreciate your passion, recognize your talents and endeavors, and further encourage and inspire you to reach a higher level.


Billy’s Comments: Prof. Wang Lili was the first Vice President of Ningbo University and an esteemed Material Scientist in China. He was responsible for getting me back to teach Architecture at Ningb U. in 1991. He is certainly one of my most admired, respected, and loved cousins – we are related as his maternal grandmother was the youngest sister of my paternal grandfather. I requested that he write something for my Friendship & Friendshipology Website, and within a week I received his response:

“Dear Ming Sing, It’s quite difficult for me to write a story about ancient Chinese Friendship in English as you requested. I tried my best due to the deep Friendship between you and me. I wrote a story here about “High Mountains and Running Water “Please see the attachment. I hope you like it. Cheers, Lili”



Wang Lili (Lili WANG, Lilih WANG), male, born in 1934, the Professor and Honorary Director of the Mechanics and Materials Science Research Centre at Ningbo University in China. Since 1956, he has worked in Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences; Institute of Chemical Machinery; University of Science and Technology of China. In 1985 he participated in the founding of Ningbo University and served as vice President. He was the Chairman of the Explosion Mechanics Committee of CSTAM, and has been the Chairman or Co-Chairman of several international conferences.

His research interests are stress-wave propagation, dynamic response of materials and structures, rate-dependent constitutive relation of materials under high strain rates, dynamic fracture, adiabatic shear localization, damage mechanics and impact engineering. To this subject, he has contributed immensely, with more than 300 papers. His books entitled “Foundations of Stress Waves” and entitled “Dynamics of Materials” are widely used in China as textbooks for graduated students since 1980s and the corresponding English editions have been published by Elsevier.

Over the past 60 years, he cultivated a number of outstanding students (including academicians in China) engaged in this field.

His scientific research achievements have won the National Science and Technology Conference Award, The Gansu Province Science and Technology Achievement Award, the Zhejiang Province science and technology Award, the Ministry of Education natural science first prize. In 2013, he won the Second Prize of National Natural Science (the first prize is vacant).


Sympathy and Understanding Build Bridges Between China and America – by Ban Wang -July 2020

Billy’s Comment : Indeed, Prof. Wang’s ideas apply to Building Friendship Globally – Person to Person, People to People, as well as Country to Country.

Prof. Ban Wang – Stanford University

Perceptions and relations between America and China have gone through good times and bad, depending on the geopolitical barometers. In 2001, the US intelligence plane intruded into China’s air space and got intercepted and forced down by a Chinese plane, aggravating mutual tension and sable rattling. Since then, America’s strategic pivot to the Asian-Pacific regions, the ongoing trade war, the conflict over the South China Sea and Hong Kong, and the Covid-19 crisis are now fueling the tension to a boiling point. But a moment’s reflection should quiet the horrible drumbeat: the US and China are inextricably interdependent and interconnected. All the existential anxiety about mutual threat and zero-sum game cannot diminish the prospect of the intertwined fate of the twin in the same boat. You do not have to look further than Stanford to realize how much mutual learning and joint ventures are going on between the two countries. China and US. are involved in deep partnership in many areas: economy, trade, technology, health care, supply chain, the environment, etc. A strike at the other means shooting at one’s own feet.

The destiny of America has intertwined with that of China—a record of curiosity, sympathy, and understanding. America came into being, they say, because Christophe Columbus discovered America. Actually, it was the search for sea routes to China that the explorer stumbled on the new world. At his death Columbus still believed that the American continent was Asia. An American minister wrote 400 years ago, “We people of America may be said to owe to China the discovery of our continent. I often advise my students, you come to Stanford not just to learn computer science and to embark on a tech project. You come here to build bridges between Chinese and American people.  One of the most effective ways is cultural and intellectual exchange and learning from each other. Students and scholars are in a good position to carry out and fulfill that noble mission. If the governments of two countries often face off in confrontation, the people of two countries have always sympathize, connect, and befriend each other.  

Sino-US cultural exchanges date back to the dawn of modern China. In 1901, Lin Shu, a well-known writer, translated Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin and commented on the tragic fate of black slaves that paralleled Chinese subjugation under colonialism. Titled 黑奴吁天录 (black slaves’ outcry for justice from Heaven), the translation invests the American novel with a classical Chinese call for Heavenly justice.  Uncle Tom’s Cabin was adapted to a spoken drama by an overseas Chinese student group in Japan, headed by Li Shutong. In the Lu Xun Academy in Yan’an during the revolutionary years, George Washington, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman and many other Americans were admired as heroes for building a democratic nation and modern culture. Some American even joined the ranks of Chinese fighters in the War of Resistance against Japanese invasion.  In the 1960s, Chinese support of the Third World movement resonated with America’s civil rights movement, and the Martin Luther King assassination in 1968 sparked huge street demonstrations for days in Chinese streets against racism. Reading King’s “I Have a Dream” and reciting Lincoln’s Gettysburg speech were a routine practice for English learners in China. The Chinese leadership and people understood very well what the multi-ethnic, civil rights groups in America were fighting for: minority rights, human rights, the call to end the Vietnam War, and demands for social, gender, and racial equality.

By the time Nixon visited China and the Sino-US diplomatic normalization in 1972, many Chinese began to study English the way they had studied Chairman Mao’s little red books. National and provincial radio stations broadcast English lessons day and night. I learned my first English lessons mostly by listening to Voice of America. Based on a very popular English conversation primer English 900, the lessons were broadcast from VOA’s station in Hong Kong, usually in the midnight.  At the risk of being accused of listening to the “enemy” radio, I got up in the dark of night, wrapped myself up with a quilt, and listened to the lessons, almost suffocating inside. There was no headphone at that time.

By the time Nixon visited China and the Sino-US diplomatic normalization in 1972, many Chinese began to study English the way they had studied Chairman Mao’s little red books. National and provincial radio stations broadcast English lessons day and night. I learned my first English lessons mostly by listening to Voice of America. Based on a very popular English conversation primer English 900, the lessons were broadcast from VOA’s station in Hong Kong, usually in the midnight.  At the risk of being accused of listening to the “enemy” radio, I got up in the dark of night, wrapped myself up with a quilt, and listened to the lessons, almost suffocating inside. There was no headphone at that time.

In my undergraduate years in Beijing Foreign Language Institute in the 1980s, things American swept through colleges and society. The English Department, the largest of all, was nicknamed “British Empire” for its capacity of the winner in sports, theater activity and other contests. But few English majors liked the Oxford or Queen English taught by British teachers. Instead, most students would favor American teachers, listen and imitate the accent of VOA. Everybody tried to sound like the Yankees.  It was China’s honeymoon with America, which was an image for young people to dream and to strive for.

But America was also marred with flaws unworthy of the democratic principles. The TV series Roots, a saga of the slave trade, Africans’ journey to America, and racial exploitation and oppression in plantations, left a deep impression on me. That did not stop us from admiring America’s “power.” Watching the movie Rambo: The First Blood, we all became big fans of the macho hero played by Sylvester Stallone. But Prof. David Crook, a Canadian anthropologist and “foreign expert,” came out and put up a small poster on our classroom building to dissuade us from this deplorable mindset. We were being poisoned by imperialist ideology, he protested. Professor Cook urged us to be critical of the film, which was a propaganda of American military action in Vietnam and colonial conquest.

After graduation in the mid-1980s, most of my classmates chose to come to America to study or work. Those early birds were the envy of all. 

Since then, America has presented a mixed image to the Chinese people.  China, on the other hand, also has also been cast in mixed images: it is either a monstrous capitalist juggernaut or an evil Communist power. Recently the Cold War narrative of China and US. Is being updated, fueling the conflict and misperception. Academic area studies during the Cold War targeted specific geographical areas of strategic relevance to the US, presuming an authoritarian rule behind the iron curtain. This approach says, here we had democracy; over there was totalitarianism. This rigid divide blocks mutual understanding and communication and mystified people about the values and goals shared by all Chinese and Americans; it leaves people mystified as to why Chinese have long loved for Martin Luther King and held up so many Americans as champions of democracy and as icons for China.

Today, what fatally obstructs mutual understanding, sympathy, and communication is the myth of the absolute difference that divides America and China and places them in different universes. The myth declares that two countries have entirely different cultures and systems, that the difference is so huge that the two countries cannot co-exist under one eaHeaven and on planet Earth. This is a lie. The history of China-American cultural and intellectual exchange has constantly proven it to be a lie. People of both countries have always been able to understand and sympathize with each other and share certain values–as human beings and even in their distinct identity as Chinese and American. The Chinese revolutionaries admired George Washington, Martin Luther King; Chinese citizens applauded and supported America’s civil rights movement and anti-racialist movement. Chinese English learners love and appreciate a vast array of American writers, Hollywood and pop songs. Chinese consumers love myriad things American from Apple I-phone to cars. So, what is the real difference?

For people trapped in the myth, China’s lockdown and ubiquitous masks in response to the Covid-19 reflects its deeply entrenched “cultural difference” rooted in totalitarianism and conformism, which are unacceptable to freedom loving Americans. This irrational obsession with “cultural difference” is destroying the fabric of the global community and leading to more disasters and hatred, until people realize that lockdown and masks are not about Chinese culture or the American way of life. These public health measures are human and universal; they reach into a deeper and ancient core of human civilization that transcends the so-called cultural, national or political differences. It is a human civilization rooted in moral empathy, obligation, and care for your own safety and the safety of your neighbors.


Ban Wang is William Haas Professor in Chinese Studies in East Asian Languages and Cultures and Comparative Literature at Stanford University. His major publications include The Sublime Figure of History (1997), Illuminations from the Past (2004), History and Memory (Lish yu jiyi) (2004) and China in the World: Culture, Politics, and World Vision(forthcoming 2021). He has edited 8 books on Chinese film, memory studies, Chinese studies in the US, the Chinese Revolution, socialism, and the New Left, including Chinese Visions of World OrderTianxia, Culture and World Politics (2017). He has taught at SUNY-Stony Brook, Harvard, Rutgers, East China Normal University, Yonsei, and Seoul National University.


FRIENDSHIP a LIFELONG QUEST for ALL OF US – by Hiro Yokoi – July 2020

Friendship… It sounds like a lifelong quest for all of us regardless of whether you want just one true friend or you are just interested in getting connected with as many people as you can. For me, yes, it is also my wish to find some true friends throughout my lifetime but when it comes to friendship, I cannot put aside a particular situation given to me – twins. I was born as an identical twin, so wherever I was, I would always be with my twin brother. We had nothing to hide and even when either of us had a girlfriend, we would spend time together with her as if we were triplets! In my childhood, my parents often yelled, “Don’t stay in your own world! Get down here and talk to us!” When I was in my teens, my twin brother and I were given ‘our’ own room on the second floor of our parents’ house, so as soon as we got back from school or we finished our dinner, we would go upstairs and close the door of our room.

(A scene from my childhood, Kawasaki, Japan)Hiro at right

We were so happy that we didn’t want anything but ‘our world’ that was taken for granted. Even each of us didn’t think deeply about to figure out what it really meant to us. But, perhaps, it could be thought of as an ultimate form of love and friendship that would be pursued by generations to come! I am so thankful for God to give my twin brother and me the greatest gift to sense and touch what love or friendship is all about beyond any social and biological boundaries. On the flip side of it, however, one problem came up to us: How might we get away from our comfort zone, or ‘our world,’ and leverage and apply what we have sensed, touched and learned through our ‘twin’ world into another real world of human society? This genuine question together with my relevant life experiences shaped my passion to make this real world a better place and commit myself to the wellbeing of next generations through friendships and things I love.

It was Dad’s death that made me realize something I really lost that made me feel loved and valued (from Dad). That vacuum forced me to find out an alternate to fill it – friends. My father once said, “Remember, one day, parents will die, normally earlier than you. Then, who’s gonna support you and make your life sweeter, later? Not your brothers but friends. True friends! Hiro, are you confident enough to say that you feel happy now? Is your current work what you really want to do throughout your life?” It made much sense to me not just because he was a successful business man as a Global Executive Vice President of Toyota but also because I have heard a lot about how much he had put others’ needs before his own and cared about and for others. His relationship with others always started off as friendship.

A year later since he passed away, I ended up quitting my high-paying consulting job and, while staying connected with my friends and exploring new friendships, I followed my authentic path to become who I want to be, as a co-creator in education innovation.

(At the opening ceremony for SEELS, Tokyo, Japan)

It was along the way when I met Billy – that was in June 2015. I was invited as an awardee, together with the co-awardee, Mr. Frank Furtan, then President of the Swatch Group (USA), to the 5th World Children’s Festival that took place at The Ellipse behind The White House. Billy was also invited as a guest speaker and came there on that date. Sure enough, this condition might seem insufficient for Billy and me to come across despite the fact that both of us were merely at the same place on the same day. We had a mutual friend, Chris, a British senior guy, and Chris kindly asked if I had any time to meet up with him and Billy together for lunch. Then, we hit it off right away by sharing a common vision – to commit ourselves to making a positive impact on society. It was a natural way of making friends because of the nature of friendship, which is built upon trust and respect, first and foremost.

(After the ceremony of World Children’s Award 2015, Washington D.C.)

I must acknowledge, however, that some may argue that it is not called ‘friendship’ but ‘acquaintance.’ Yes, that argument would be justifiable if I merely bumped into Billy not through a trusted person like Chris, or our mutual friend, without any common values and thoughts. Rather, our meetup showcases the magic of friendship: A good friend always brings out the best in me and helps me expand my social circle as I wish! So, not surprisingly, Billy and I had stayed connected with each other since then, and a year and a half later, he kindly invited me to his house in Palo Alto and we made our friendship to the next level! (I met his wife, Lucille, as well, and we spent New Year’s Eve together, wishing us a wonderful new year 2017 full of laughter, health and happiness!)

(At Billy’s house on the New Year’s Day, Palo Alto, CA)

That is why I am writing this to him and his fellows. Such reciprocity in friendship represents how my life has been shaped, and you can easily grasp it if you trace the thread of my friendship. Let me run the clock backward, quickly, from the time when I met Billy for the first time. First, why was Chris there at the venue of the World Children’s Festival? Because I let him know that I was invited to the Festival. Okay, then, why was I invited? Because the host, International Child Art Foundation, awarded me the World Children’s Award 2015. Why so? Because they thought my Foundation (Akira Foundation) deserved the award after recognizing my Foundation’s activities to promote social innovation and support and engage youth as leaders of social change in Japan and beyond. Then, what activities made ICAF believe that Akira Foundation would deserve the award? The following two outstanding activities – TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program and SEELS, or Social Enterprise English Language School led by Filipino migrant women in Japan. To make the long stories short, these two projects were brought to life through new friendships. For the TOMODACHI Program, one Director of American Councils for International Education approached my co-founder (my twin brother!) of the Foundation through LinkedIn. For the SEELS, Cesar Santoyo, who then had worked on supporting Filipino migrants across Japan and helping them improve the quality of their lives, approached me by email just right after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan in March 2011. Then, how did Cesar know me before sending an email to me? Actually, he was an attendee at an international conference where Akira Foundation was an institutional partner and my name was listed as a guest speaker in the brochure. As with the meet-up between Billy and me, we hit it off immediately when we met up in person, and it turned out that Cesar and I founded the new social enterprise together to create jobs for Filipino migrants women who used to have no choice but to work as hostesses at a night club or pub.

(With CLS Directors worldwide at the head office of American Councils, Washington, D.C.)

So, the question may arise like this: Why did Chris, a Director of American Councils, and Cesar trust us? Maybe, Akira Foundation’s activities and track record, for sure. Yet, it is not good enough. Friends and friendship – they endorse me for what I have done, and the halo effect of trust has been accumulated through friendships and brought me closer to who I want to be, over time.

Four years have already passed by since I closed my Foundation as time-bound. I am currently an external advisor in international relations at a national university in Japan and help them explore international opportunities. And still working with American Councils to develop and implement another national program called the Critical Language Scholarship Japan Program that is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Meanwhile, I decided to go back to school and pursue a doctoral degree (Ed.D. in Penn Chief Learning Officer) at the University of Pennsylvania. Anyway, no matter where I am and what I do, I stay connected emotionally with my friends even while staying away from them, socially and physically amid the COVID-19 pandemic. No doubt that friends enrich my life and the world around us, and make me get through the complex world much easier than it would otherwise be. It sounds like I were still in another parochial world with my twin brother because I feel so happy and alive!


Hiro – Hirofumi Yokoi (横井博文), Japan

Hirofumi is an external advisor in international relations at the Institute of Global Human Resource Development (GHRD) at Okayama University, Japan. He supports the University’s international activities, as well as promoting and enhancing a culture of global engagement across and beyond the campus.

Until recently, Hirofumi was a professor at GHRD at Okayama University and an institute director of Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Prior to the position at the University, Hirofumi had led Akira Foundation since its inception in 2009 and kept front and top of mind its vision and mission, “Social Bridge Between Japan and Global Village,” for seven years.

Hirofumi had taken several advisory roles in national and international organizations including as a strategic partner for the UN-led World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship (theWSIE) and a country director in Japan for the TOMODACHI U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange Program at American Councils for International Educations. Hirofumi was also a project assistant professor in the Global Leadership Program (GLP) at The University of Tokyo (2013-2015).


HOW MANY REAL FRIENDS YOU THINK YOU HAVE ? – by Prescott Lee – July 2020

I’m 58 years old. I consider myself a gregarious extrovert. I have friendly chats with total strangers all the time. I have many friends. It’s in my blood, in my DNA. After all, I’m the son of the creator of this blog — Mr. Gregarious himself, Billy Lee.

In the culmination of the classic Christmas movie It’s A Wonderful Life, Clarence the angel leaves a copy of the book Tom Sawyer for main character George Bailey played by actor Jimmy Stewart. Inside the cover of Tom Sawyer is a handwritten note from Clarence: “Dear George, Remember no man is a failure who has friends!”

Well guess what, I currently have 726 Facebook Friends! Yup, you heard that right, 726! I got so excited, I told my wife. She said, “These are not the kinds of friends Clarence was talking about.” She laughed, “You’re a tremendous failure.”

She asked, “How many of those friends would you recognize if you ran into them by chance on the street?”  Hmmm. Maybe 75%. “And of the ones you recognized,” she asked, “how many of their names would you remember?” Ummm, probably 95%. She said, “No way. Prove it.”

So I decided to prove it. Of my 726 Facebook friends, I counted how many are Actual Friends, how many are Close Friends, and how many are just Acquaintances.

I defined an Actual Friend as someone whom I would recognize and whose name I would remember if I ran into him/her by chance in the street. It’s someone I’ve spend considerable time with. Someone whom I’d look forward to having lunch with. Someone whom I respect as a person and whom I would offer varying degrees of help, if they needed.

Most people would define a Close Friend as someone who would be there for you if you were in trouble. The problem is that you never really will know until the day you are in trouble. If and when that day comes, you will likely find that some of the people you thought were Close Friends were not there for you, but some of the people you did not consider Close Friends were there for you.

I, instead, define a Close Friend based on how I would respond to them if they were in trouble. I would drop what I’m doing in an instant to help a Close Friend in trouble. For me, Close friends are people I’ve spent a lot of time with or have had an intense bonding experience. They are people I have maintained contact with throughout our lives. They are up there with family.

I went through each one of my 726 Facebook friends. 50 were family. Of the remaining, 676, drum roll, please.. 20 (3%) were Close Friends, 151 (24%) were Actual Friends, and 505 (63%) were Acquaintances, Well, I may not have as many friends as I thought, but at least I did not fail to prove my wife right, again. She sometimes jokingly says to me, “You’re such a loser”. My response is, “At least I didn’t marry one.”

How many real friends do you think you have?


BILLY’S COMMENTS : Prescott is indeed my NO. 1 Gregarious Son, but I have to admit that he is much more witty and high-spirited than I. He is also a Great Prankster among his good friends.


Rah Rah Fraternity Bonding – Fun Fellowship Not Easily Forgotten – articles by PC Mar

Billy’s comments : Below are two articles by FF Bro. PC Mar : Poker Tournament and Reunion Tennis. Having Fun Together is undeniably part of Fellowship Building. Enthusiastic writing surely adds more flavor and meaning.


FF Reunion Tennis Event, Friday 29 December 2017

Venue:  Tennis Centre, Hong Kong Jockey Club, Happy Valley

                 Gallop Restaurant, Main Clubhouse

What a poignant moment when Sis Sandra Chen (wife of Sr Bro William Chen) came to the venue and learned that she would be on Bro. Jonathan Leung’s team as part of our team tennis competition. 

Forty Three years earlier, she was Ms Sandra Choy, English teacher at Diocesan Boys’ School, and the photo on left shows her standing with Bros. Russell Yeh and Jonathan Leung at their graduation dinner (much like the US high schools proms).  Bro. Russell had to man the registration desk at the Park Lane Hotel lobby so wasn’t able to play tennis, but Bro. Jonathan was one of four team captains. 

The competition format is one used by Hong Kong Lodge in its biannual tennis day where a round robin is played, doubles teams play 4 games each, then is substituted by a new pair, and a set is played first to 6 games, tiebreak at 6 all, sudden death at deuce.  In the finals, the team captained by Bro. Ed Sun won over the team captained by Bro. Jonathan.

The tennis event, which came because of an initial inquiry from Bro. Bill Chen, “Why is there no tennis?” listed on the first issuance of the Reunion program, was to be a strictly social affair,  but turned out to be highly competitive. 

Bro. Ed Sun urged his team (consisting of Bros. Yinan Zhao, Paul Chiu, and Eugene Y Lee) onto victory with comments like “Keep the ball in play”, “Get the point back”, “Hold serve”, and “Let’s break ‘em”.  The runners up team was captained by Bro. Jonathan Leung.  The other captains were Bros. David Wu, Jr, and Herman Cheng, and they played to a tiebreak draw for the no. 3 spot.

Other notable moments:  Sr. Bro. William Chen showing wicked slices off both the forehand and backhand side, Sis. Sandra just getting every ball hit near her back, Bro. Yinan hitting near 100 mile serves, Bro. Charles Tseng recovering his Columbia Univ varsity tennis form despite not playing for 15 years, Bro. Darryl Woo showing a very competitive spirit in going for every shot and driving it back hard, and Bros. Tim Li and Patrick Cheng showing why California brings out good tennis players.

After tennis, we all went to the Jockey Club’s Gallop Restaurant for a dim sum lunch, in which the Club General Manager donated a bottle of champagne and longevity buns as part of our lunch.  The group sang a “Happy Birthday” for Bro. PC Mar, who turned 76 just a week earlier.

Bros Hanson Jay(also DBS alumnus) and Philip Mok, Chairman of HK Lodge, joined us for the lunch.

In total there were 16 players, for that morning we lost 5 players:  Ed Wan who had a medical emergency at home and was thus delayed getting to the Reunion, and four pledges who were detained by the M/C for his needs:  Michael Sung, Tavis Liu, Henry Wong, and Robert Hsiung.  If these four were to have played, the competition would have been even more severe as all are quality players.

Weather was perfect, the before tennis char siu bao, egg tarts, red bean paste buns, etc, and coffee/gatorade/pokari drinks, all made this a perfect tennis day at the 2017 FF Reunion.  Bros. Kent Yeh and George Chan helped with the photography and organizing the transport, along with Bro. Nathan Chan at the hotel lobby.  Bro. Ed Jen even made an appearance, for which his reward was an injury to his right calf but like a good FF brother fulfilling his commitment, he soldiered on to the end.

I have no more words except to thank all who helped out on this event: Bros. Kent Yeh, Jonathan Leung, Herman Cheng, Ed Sun, David Wu Jr, and Paul Chiu, George Chan.

PC Mar


FF Reunion 2017 Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament

Saturday 30 December 2017

Venue:  Tao Heung Restaurant, Windsor House, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Doyle Brunson, Las Vegas poker pro, says, “The essence of Texas Hold’em

is to put your opponent into an all-in situation, where if he wishes to stay in

the game, he has to risk his entire stack of chips.”  Another maxim is, “Luck for getting good cards does go around the table; the key is to maximize your winnings when you get the good hand, and minimize your losses when luck favours another hand.”  “Play not your hand, but your opponents’ hands.”

Bro Clifton Chang: “My two hole cards were a Queen and another diamond, the King and two other diamonds were on the table, making for a strong flush set, but wouldn’t you know, Bro. Di Wu had the nuts — the Ace plus  another diamond.”  You gotta play your opponent’s hand, thinking “I bet he has the Ace” when you view the Ace player’s betting pattern.

Bro. Carter Chang: “I had a pair of 3’s, all in against a pair of Aces, but what comes up on the river(the fifth of 5 community cards), but another 3?” Bro Carter is like an old style IBM 704 first generation computer, spinning gyros as he works out the probability of his outs, the anticipated returns on future bets, and the opponents betting strategies thus far.

Similar situations play themselves out hundred times over in our 2017 Reunion Poker Tournament.  We started with 38 players, knocked out all but 10 players into the final table, and in 3 hours, which ended by 1:30 am, Bro. Di Wu of Boston Lodge emerged as Champion, followed by Bros Wen Ying of Shanghai, Greg Wu of Boston, Carter Chang of San Francisco, and Peter Du of New York Lodge.  All won cash prizes made up 100% from the players’ buy ins of HK$400 each.  Champion’s prize was HK$5,300, running down to $1,350 for the 4th Runner Up, ie Bro. Peter Du.

For Hong Kong Lodge, it was our pleasure to host and organize this event; with thanks to Bros Clifton Chang and Pierre Wuu, who provided chips and cards, and their considerable advice in holding these FF Poker tournaments, and to Bros. Stephen King and Nathan Chan in working out the rules and format, to new Bros. Chris Yu, Mike Cheuk, Henry Wong, Tavee Chiu, and Mike Sung for the set up and table assignments, and Bro. Terance Wan for being the final table dealer. 

Great tournament, good fun, even better FF spirit.

PC Mar


MY LADERA FRIENDS – by Gary Lee – July 2020

20 Years ago Year 2000 Gathering – Punta Pescadero, Baja, Mexico
Front fm Left: Mike Voss, Eric Chapman, Gary Dodge, Brad Dodge, Jim Driscoll, John Hanson
Back fm Left: Garrick Baggs, Calton Stetson, John Safier, Garry Lee, Neil Norton, Glenn Rudolph


In the summer of 1974 when I was 10 years old, our family moved from New York City to a small suburban community in California called Ladera. I was entering 5th grade at the local elementary school. On the first day, I was warmly welcomed by a group of boys who all seemed quite happy to have a new kid joining their class. A boy named Gary Dodge was giddy about having a new schoolmate with the same first name as his, yet he assured me that we would not get mixed up because the other kids could call him by his nickname Gee. Every day at lunch, we all gathered in the same spot on the same bench. Neil Norton often had a box of instant Jello in his lunch sack, and we would form a line to be doled out a palmful of the coveted flavored sugar snack. If you were lucky enough to have something good to trade, you had a shot at getting a bite size piece of John Hansen’s mom’s famous chocolate chip cookies.

In sixth grade, we kids were bused to the local middle school, called La Entrada, which consolidated 3 of the local elementary schools. There were new friends to be made, new kids to hang out with, and new activities to join. Yet at the end of each school day, our group would gather down at the elementary school yard to play basketball or football together until dinner time. In the summers, we all hung out at the community pool.

At the start of 9th grade, some of us, including myself, went to private high schools, while others were split between the two public high schools. We saw less and less of each other, yet on weekends, we would gather at the local shopping center parking lot in the evenings to hang out and drink beer. Lazy summer days at the pool were still had, but more seldom, and it now included girls.

When college rolled around, we all went our separate ways, created new groups of friends, and rarely saw each other. We each stayed close with a few of the group, and would only hear about the others from one friend who heard from another friend.  

It wasn’t until many years after that we reassembled at Mike Voss’s wedding. Many of us had not seen each other in 5 or 10 years, yet when together, it was like riding a bike, enjoying each others company as we used to, with barely a hiccup. My friend Neil Norton saw the importance of this group’s togetherness and afterward began arranging reunions every 5 years or so. The first couple were in Baja Mexico, where Neil’s family owned a house on a remote beach. Others were held in Lake Tahoe, and Yosemite. Our last reunion occurred in Joshua Tree just 2 weeks before the COVID-19 outbreak. It had been over 10 years since meeting up together.

Our individual journeys have taken us on varying paths, from being an accountant to an arborist to a minister. Along the way, we got married, had kids, some got divorced, some remarried. Some have had life threatening events, one took his own life. At our gatherings, we peripherally talk about our families, our jobs, our parents, and the crazy world around us. But we purposefully keep it light. What we focus on are the memories of our past, of previous reunions and crazy antics, enjoying each other’s company in the moment, and creating more memories for the next reunion. We toast to our friend Jim who had passed and relish in how fortunate we all are to have such a beautiful friendship.

20 Years Later Year 2020 Gathering at Joshua Tree National Park, Ca.
From left going clockwise: Lars Nilson, John Hansen, Neil Norton, Gary Lee, Garrick Baggs, Chris Carlsmith, John Safier, Glenn Rudolph, Brad Dodge, Mike Voss, Mark Elder, Gary Dodge, Eric Chapman, Jason Hubbard


Billy’s Comments: As a parent, I coached Gary and many of Gary’s friends soccer when they were around 10 or 11, and I was a loyal supporter at many of their baseball games as well. What an amazing group of characters – different personalities yet so harmoniously connected. I have to salute Neil Norton for keeping the group together, and I salute Eric Chapman for coordinating their very recent one. The spectacular gathering was written up in Ladera Crier by Chris Carlsmith titled : ” Ever wonder what Ladera Friendships mean to our children? Lifelong ties and memories ! “ It takes good efforts to sustain ! BTW, I miss seeing Andrew Rossi in the photos. How are you doing, Andrew ?