“MORE THAN LIFE LONG FRIENDSHIP” by Joie Chan – January 2021

Joie with Billy and Lucille

I’d often heard of my father’s old friends— Uncle Billy and Aunt Lucille. My parents had reconnected with them when they moved to California in the 1980s. But by then I’d grown and flown from my parents’ home, and only visited with them periodically over the years they lived in Menlo Park.

They most often referred to Uncle Billy in a sort of “one name” way—like Oprah, or Cher. He was always called “BillyLee” and was a true favorite of both of my parents. This was quite an achievement, honestly, as parents don’t always share the same friends.

My father knew Uncle Billy first as a fraternity brother—fellow members of the “F.F.” fraternity of Chinese men. Looking at Pop’s photo collections from the 1950s, I recognize what an important and meaningful community this was to them. As I understand it, the “Flips” were true brothers-in-spirit for the young members, an adoptive family while their blood relatives were back home in China or other far-flung locales.

Back in the day, they had grand parties together—black-tie balls at fancy, big-city hotels. And many more casual gatherings; my father treasured and kept so many pictures of weekends at the lakes in Wisconsin and Michigan. The “Flips” were joined by the “sisters”, and it seems many great romances were born of these get-togethers—relationships that blossomed in communities where these young Chinese might otherwise have felt adrift.

Over the years, raising kids, pursuing careers in other places, some of the brothers maintained only a loose, Christmas-card-type connection. Every year we’d receive “family updates” from F.F. families in Delavan, Wisconsin, or Oakland, California, or Fairfax, Virginia, or Taiwan, or even Menlo Park. The “Flips” stayed in touch, even if they didn’t see each other for years.

When my parents relocated to the Bay Area, my father was quickly welcomed back to the F.F. fold. He reported lengthy lunches with “young brothers” and said it was his “responsibility” to attend “F.F. meetings” as often as possible. He made it sound like a bit of a chore, but I know he was truly delighted to reconnect with his dear friends from forty years earlier and make some new ones too.

When Pop’s health declined, as his only daughter, 2000 miles away, I was constantly anxious for him. Finally, it was clear my mother could no longer care for him at home, and he was too frail already to move close to me and my husband. His final home was a care facility in downtown Menlo Park where he was certain to be medically well cared for; still, I was deeply worried that he’d suffer the pain of isolation.

I knew he needed his truest friends to help him through the final stage of his life, and instantly I understood I could go straight to his dear “BillyLee” for support. This was a blood-brother sort of friendship, and sure enough, Uncle Billy immediately rallied to Pop’s side. For the last two years of my father’s life, Uncle Billy was an absolute lifeline. He helped me identify and make arrangements with a Chinese couple who became daily support-givers to my father. Uncle Billy himself made regular trips into town to visit Pop, who could no longer recognize him, but I believe he cherished the feeling of having a friend nearby in these twilight days of his life.

And Uncle Billy became my friend too. He told me the things fathers don’t tell their daughters: about the neighborhood in Shanghai where my father was raised, about Pop’s role in the F.F. brotherhood. He was my confidant as I worried over Pop’s decline; was he being properly medicated? Did he have pain? Was he being treated well? Everything I worried about– Uncle Billy was there to find the answer.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my father. Losing him is the biggest heartbreak of my life. He left such a tremendous hole in my heart, and I only wish I’d had him a little– or a lot– longer.

But he left me a legacy that includes the friendship he shared with Uncle Billy and his F.F. brothers. I think he transitioned from this life with that brotherhood at his side. What I learned is that true friendship isn’t just for the years we are young and beautiful, with parties and picnicking at the lake, but for a lifetime, and even beyond. A friendship is a bond that doesn’t ever break.


Joie Chen believes storytelling is in her genes. “My father always said his father– my grandfather– was famous for his ‘letters home.’  Journalism, she says, gives her the opportunity to continue that tradition.

She’s been an award-winning television journalist for the better part of 30 years. Best known for her decade as an anchor and correspondent for CNN and CNN International, she won multiple awards for her work there, including an Emmy for breaking news coverage. She won a second Emmy as a Washington, D.C. based correspondent for CBS News. She later served as the anchor of Al Jazeera America’s prime time current events program, America Tonight.

Today Joie supports a new generation through journalism education. She has a leadership role at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. Based in Washington, she works to develop new programs and partnerships for Poynter, upholding its mission to make good journalists better.

She’s a native of Chicago and currently lives with her family near D.C. 


” GIFTS ” by an anonymous author – January 2021

Something happened to me last month that caused me to lose sleep. It taught me what it might feel like to walk in someone else’s shoes, but it also enabled me to experience friendship in a visceral way.

I belong to a local community-based group on Facebook that allows people to give away something they no longer need or ask for something they do need. “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure,” as they say. The idea behind the group is to help your neighbor while at the same time reduce consumerism. The types of “gifts” range from something silly, such as a bottle of hot sauce, to something valuable, such as a $10,000 piece of art. 

In an unusual offer, a school teacher offered school supplies and thousands of books, “Come to my classroom on Monday 9-5 and take anything you want…and bring me food since I’ll be there all day!” I had been looking for books that my 4th-grade daughter might actually enjoy reading.

When I saw this offer, I thought this classroom would be an ideal source–better than the library because the books are already curated by the teacher.

I arrived at 9:15am and found the door ajar but no sign of the teacher. I left a note asking if there was a better time and 2 tangerines, then left to go exercise. I figured she would receive sweets from other people, so I thought she would appreciate something healthy. In fact, when I was driving off I saw 3 people walk toward her classroom with what looked like a breakfast treat in a white bag. I came back afterwards and still no one was there. I didn’t take anything (either time) and gave up. On my way home I called my friend, who was one among many who had also expressed interest in the teacher’s offer. We talked about how it was a waste of time (I saved her a trip) and odd that the teacher wasn’t there. 

The next day  the teacher posted that she was changing the date to Wednesday. Soon after, she claimed that people took items from her classroom without her permission. She was angry and felt violated, and people (many of whom were teachers) were outraged. I decided to reach out to her to let her know what I knew, thinking that it might help. Maybe she knew the people I saw. Maybe the time table would be helpful. If I were her, I would appreciate any info to put the pieces together. Do unto others…right? I messaged her, reiterating that I came and left a note. When she said she changed the time, I didn’t bother pointing out that it was a day and a half after the event. I empathised with her and said, “No good deed goes unpunished” and our conversation ended.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. She then posted close to midnight that she was cancelling the “classroom giveaway” and that people who are not already her friends must not contact her or come anywhere near her or her classroom. Then around 1:30am I noticed she messaged me saying that I must have been the person who stole her items because she went back to her classroom and found my note. She was going to report me to the group administrators and accused me of illegal breaking and entering. 

At best, this was a simple misunderstanding but at worst, a situation all gone wrong. It would not be the end of the world if I was expelled from the group, even though I had really been enjoying participating–both giving and accepting gifts. However, the thought that the community, especially the teachers, could think that I caused all this hurt made me sick to my stomach. That’s why my husband urged me to describe my side of the story in public. I was being wrongly accused because I was transparent and identified myself. She brought this all on herself, but unless people closely followed the thread, they might not have realized that. She was vociferous that her classroom was her sanctuary and everyone resonated with that. She said she would bring the full force of the district and teachers union against the culprit(s). 

Now it was my turn to say, “No good deed goes unpunished.” to myself. I left a note to identify myself, and now all her anger was directed at me. I stayed up until 3am writing a message to the administrators and the teacher, explaining that I had only the best intentions and that I did not take anything. I was hoping I could reach them before they took any action. In situations like these it doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong because at the end of the day it was a “He said, she said” type of situation. My husband wanted me to cc my friend since she knew what happened, but I didn’t not want to drag anyone else into this, especially without her permission, and did not want to delay my response.

I didn’t get much sleep that night. I was experiencing what it feels like to be wrongly accused. I imagined what it would be like to have the administration/people with clout (our beloved teachers) against me. I shuddered at the thought of charges actually being brought against me. Sound familiar? This is what people of color experience on a daily basis. Black, indigenous and people of color have to choose between doing what’s reasonable or what’s necessary to stay out of trouble. 

How does this story end? I received the best gift from my friend. Unsolicited, she called the administrators and vouched for me. Fortunately, the administrators believed my side of the story and the teacher accepted my apology for entering her classroom. The teacher quit the group out of anger because the people who “stole” had not brought back everything that was missing. Thankfully, the group still thrives and I’ve enjoyed many positive experiences since. 

Through this experience I learned what it’s like to be on the receiving end of unjust accusation, something our friends of color experience everyday. I also experienced the gift of friendship. It’s nice to be able to have a friend to call on in time of need, but you know you have a true friend when she helps you without your asking.


BILLY’S COMMENTS : This story above reminds me of an early experience at Phillips Academy Andover. One winter evening in front of the Library building, a bunch of us students were having fun throwing snowballs at each other. I had just scooped up some snow and was packing it into a ball . Abruptly Mr Benton the chemistry teacher appeared, grabbed my arm, and accused me of having thrown a snowball that barely missed him. That was not true as the snowball in my hand was the first one I was building, but my English at that time was not good enough to defend myself and by earlier Chinese teaching I was taught never to rebut or embaress one’s teacher. The feeling of being wrongly accused was truly insufferable, however. I actually cried silently for days.



Thanksgiving last year, I sent many good friends a letter of Thanks & Gratitude, and invited them to contribute articles to my  Friendshipology website <https://friendshipology.net>. Many schoolmates responded and several wrote intimate thoughts. 

One classmate wrote:

I’ll consider your invitation to write something for your Friendship website, but frankly it may not promote friendship. I had one close friend you would know who was so rapid and full of hate for Trump, he could not tolerate my conservative ideas. Others experienced the same relationship. We no longer communicate. I fear the contentious political differences will forever taint friendships and even families. Sad.

When I worked on a 20,000 acre horse and cattle ranch in desolate eastern Montana, it was truly an awakening. My east coast upbringing was very different in values character and ethics. My Montana hosts and their ranching friends find so much more in life than people in the stale east They have a remarkable inborn wisdom as well as an honest, stable sense of values” I stand by my thinking to this day and feel this difference is the heart of our current day thinking politically.

You truly make our day every year when you remember OLD friends. Thank you so much.”  I will not attend our reunion. I prefer to leave our alma mater with special memories and not see the destruction of all those things we cherished. Keep the annual greeting alive !!! “

I wrote back :

You must write this story for my website. There is a lesson to be learned. I hope you will have ideas on how and when to agree or disagree or agree to disagree..

As an architect, I think of SPACE all the time. Give some Space and bring in Light to Create Joy. Yes, I know you will write well because it will be heart-felt !

After another letter from this classmate, I replied:

I really admire and appreciate your honest, direct, and trust-worthy kind of friendship. Even though I share much of the liberal philosophy about gender and racial equality etc., I am weary about the frequent liberal elitist conceit. A year or so ago, a Chinese friend brought a delegation of 20+ students from Shanghai’s FuDan Univesity’s School of Business to the S.F. Bay Area to visit Stanford, Apple, and Facebook etc.. He asked me to give a talk to his students on one of their only free afternoons. I hesitated but finally agreed to take up the challenge. I wondered how I could impress them after they had just met and visited the crown jewels of Silicon Valley, and what could I really say that could be of permanent value to their aspiring futures.

Having come from Shanghai, I knew well that the Shanghai people are generally very proud and ambitious and FuDan School of Business is the HBS or SBS of China. I decided to talk about Arrogance of the Brilliant, Privileged, Elitists.  I told them to remember two different kinds of arrogance : The Self-first Flaunting Bullying type as exhibited by President Donald Trump, and the Snotty Hypocritical type revealed by Hillary Clinton as she called those who didn’t follow her ” A Basket full of Deplorables”. I also told them about a few of my own Family Members who looked down at those who did not have a good education and called all the poor people “Dirty Thieves”.

I am hoping to learn from this Friendshipology Initiative on how people can better relate to each other especially cross-culturally. So far I have 80+essays shining light on various aspects of friendship. Unfortunately most stories are about the bright cheerful experiences and there are not many awkward situations where we really need to focus and learn from. 

I think we can learn something valuable from you, because I feel that you also feel that we all need to know better. If you don’t mind, I like to quote  you in a future article. I won’t reveal your name. Indeed, I like to hear more about your inner thoughts and feelings.

So far, I have learned that people will always have different points of views. It really is better to learn how to cultivate common goodness in oneself and others and enthusiastically cooperate and collaborate on common challenges like this Covid-19 pandemic.  US-China relations is at a very low point today. I like very much to revert that ! 

Cheers with warm affection always,

Classmate wrote:

I will offer more comments in time, but want you to see, first hand, what the Cowboy Culture is all about. The National Rodeo Finals is currently on TV. It is a ten day Super Bowl with the top cowboys competing for top national honors in about 10 events. You can view it (about 3 hrs) starting at 4 western on RFD our channel 74 called the “cowboy channel”. Give it a shot. No politics. All America

I hope you will appreciate the solid character of the participants. These kids put their faith in God, country and their way of life. A world champion may throw his hat in the air, but only after dropping to one knee and thanking God for his success. This is a far cry from our million dollar athletes who jive in the end zone in self praise.

I wrote again:

Politics is a dangerous topic for conversation, indeed. It can make people get furious at each other. When I decided to do my research on Cross-cultural Friendship, I volunteered at the English in Action Program at Stanford University’s International Students Center.

Before, they paired me with a Japanese Post Doc to practice English once a week, I was cautioned seriously to avoid three topics in our conversation in the beginning : Politics, Religion, and Sex.

I did that for the first month but opened up gradually afterwards. Dr. Junichi Matsubara  and I conversed regularly for almost three years, on almost all topics, and we became really really good friends. 

Just before he departed for his home, Kyoto, Japan, his wife who was in the U.S. with him, gave birth to a baby boy. It took them weeks to select a name good for the boy’s future. Indeed, after choosing a Japanese name, they also picked an English name. Guess what, they decided to call their little baby boy , ” Billy”.   Wow that was the best reward I had ever received in my whole life.

Don’t forget : Junichi is from Japan and I am from China originally.

Yes, I’ve learned a bit more from the RFD website as it presents many positive aspects about the Cowboy culture which I now begin to understand and admire. Just for your amusement, here is a Chinese Western video which shows a lot of anger and cruelty, but that’s what entertains people ( myself included ), I am afraid.

Please watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nC6H40x0mAQ .

Latest from Classmate:

I appreciate your passion for friendship and I treasure your annual reaching out to classmates. It is unique and meaningful. Thank you.

Again, I am now spending most of my waking hours supporting organizations and causes which I feel are fighting for me and the survival of the country we both love and respect —- and I served in the navy to protect. I look forward to your annual greeting. You have achieved your goal of maintaining a friendship !!!!


” FRIENDSHIP FOR MORE THAN HUMANS” photos sent by Dan Chao – January 2021


BILLY’S COMMENTS: Dan, you just showed us that LOVE & FRIENDSHIP ARE SO ESSENTIAL UNIVERSALLY. You also suggested that we Humans can learn from Animals. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I studied these photos a bit more carefully and noticed these many different pairs all appear to be peaceful, gentle, caring and truly happy together. I noticed that some even enjoyed being photographed together. Few apparently grew up together and thus are familiar with one other. Starting together young seems to help. Playing together to have fun is important. Some needs to be more patient like that monkey with the three pups. Hugging, leaning on each other, tet-a-tet together apparently build warmth and deepen bonding. Having full trust and feeling totally safe can be detected from the eyes of that owl and the wolfdog.


ABOUT DAN CHAO: Dr. Daniel K. H. Chao has over 40 years of experience in commercial and investment banking, corporate finance and management, company and project development, equity investments and risk management. He was a former SVP for TerraPower, chaired by Bill Gates, and was responsible for all business and financing activities for the company, which culminated in the formation of a joint venture with a leading nuclear power company in China.

Dr. Chao is also very active in non-profit organizations. He is currently the Board Chair of the 1990 Institute and a member of the Committee of 100 and of the National Committee for US-China Relations. Dan is also currently a Board member and Treasurer of Asian Health Services in Oakland, and an Advisory Board member of the Asia Society of Northern California. Dan has served on the Advisory Board of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Board of the US-China Business Council, the Advisory Council of the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy (Tufts U.), and was the former President and Chairman of the California-Asia Business Council. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the Head-Royce School in Oakland and the Pucheng Microfinance Development Association in Shaanxi, China. Dr. Chao holds a B.A. from Stanford University (Phi Beta Kappa), an M.A., M.A.L.D. and Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and an Advanced Professional Certificate (Business) from New York University.


“Friendship In Ladera” by Diane Gow – January 2021

Di – Diane Gaw

As someone who has lived in the small California community known as Ladera for more than 25 years, I sometimes feel like I am lucky to be stuck in a time warp.  The world around us has at times become disjointed and “self-first” focused, and yet, I don’t ever feel that way here.  We landed in Ladera quite by accident and over the years it has become astonishingly apparent to me that it is one of the luckiest events of my life. We were a young couple with 2 small children.  We moved here from the suburban life in Menlo Park, and I felt like we had landed in the Wild West. As people who took up residence in November, the first winter was pretty lonely. I felt completely isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. And then, like sunshine after rain, Spring came. The LRD pool opened and life as we knew it was forever changed.  We discovered other families who had small children. We met the neighbors. We visited the restaurants and unique shops at the bottom of the hill. And most importantly, lifelong friendships sprouted from that early seed.

I am convinced that this experience began 60 years ago when the first families moved in to this small planned unit development.  Those first families set the stage for those of who followed in their footsteps.  They established a recreation district to be the center of the neighborhood.  They created paths for wandering and had foresight to protect land around them.  The families had barbecues and street parties and July 4th activities that began traditions passed down through the ages.  And through those activities, families found friendship.  The Ladera kids all trudged to the Ladera school and played in the creek in the afternoons.  Couples formed pot luck clubs (at least one of which is still in existence). People took turns watching each other’s kids so they could have a night out. People in the neighborhood took on leadership roles at the LRD and in the community. And people cared about their neighbors.  Most families who now move to Ladera, move here because they want that sense of community and friendship.

I am blessed to have developed so many BFF’s (best friends forever) here in Ladera.


Diane Gow
Here’s a little bit about me.  I grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts  and attended the University of New Hampshire. On a whim I followed my then boyfriend, now husband to California for what I thought would be 2 years.  35 years later I’m still in California.  I attended  Santa Clara University School of Law and practiced litigation for a few years before I was lucky to stay home with my 2 boys  and be part of their childhoods. We moved to our wonderful community of Ladera in 1995 and I’ve been actively involved in the neighborhood for the past 25 years.  I currently occupy the General Manager seat at the Ladera Recreation District and I moonlight as an assistant to Ladera Crier co-editor LInda Fornaciari. I dedicate myself to sprinkling kindness throughout the world. 


BILLY’S Comments: Di knows my son Prescott and his twin children, Gage and Lexi, well, since the children participate at Di’s regionally known LRD Swim Program. I personally am grateful for her help in arranging the LRD Meeting Room for my last minute talk to a visiting delegation from Shanghai, China’s Fu Da University, last year. It was a holiday, yet she took time to help me. I deeply deeply appreciate that. For me, a Neighbor indeed became a Friend. Thank you, Di .


“In Praise Of Actual Connectors in Friendshipology” by Billy Lee – January 2021

During the past few years, I have been studying Friendship and How to Develop Friendship. Along the way, I learned that surrounding situations and people have much to do with what could actually happen. To promote Friendship we, indeed, need to capture or create suitable conditions. Those people who contribute to such activities, I shall call them Actual Connectors.

This article “ IN PRAISE OF ACTUAL CONNECTORS IN FRIENDSHIPOLOGY “ is written to honor several of my personal friends and acquaintances who have been doing just that knowingly or not knowingly. I want to applaud them and thank them.

George Rider and Dan Ward , class corresponding secretaries from Andover PA’51 and Yale YC’55, have been responsible for keeping our classmates connected via the school alumni magazines. It’s not just fresh news they pass along, but the Spirit of our Common Aspirations and the  Schools’ mottos : “Non Sibi ‘’ for Andover and “Lux et Veritas”for Yale.

Linda Fornaciari and Di Gow the forces behind Ladera Crier (LC ) and Ladera Recreational District ( LRD ) were introduced by an article by Linda Hubbard in 2016.  The Ladera Recreation District’s mission is to provide a clean, safe recreational environment in which members can exercise, socialize, relax, and develop lasting friendships through a variety of social events, traditions, and leisure activities. The Ladera Crier is one of the most beautifully presented monthly community publications in this country – keeping up with Ladera’s reputation as the Best Educated Community in the United States today.

Vic Young, and Mike King ( whom I address as Brothers since we all belong to this Chinese Fraternity, FF Fraternity ) produces the FF Bulletin and coordinates our Facebook Connection respectively.  They keep the members engaged on serious issues as well as having fun and laugher together. In this fraternal organization, the wives or Sisters actually play a key roll.  They provide important wisdom and extra warmth in our relationships.  To hold activities in private homes has proven to be the best environment to build bonding. We can only do so when we have the Sisters’ enthusiastic consents.

Marge Ketter and Mike Revzin are National Officers of US China People’s Friendship Association – Marge the Membership Director and Mike the Editor of  USCR ( US-China Review) a quarterly publication of US- China People’s Friendship Association. US-China relationship changes with political  conditions, but for people who intrinsically value Friendship over Conflicts, we must be patient and steadfast- with eyes open and also hearts always open. We must stay connected.

I discovered the word CONNECTORS “ few years ago when a friend introduced me to Malcolm Gladwell’s  book,  TIPPING POINT.  Indeed, Connections are important and Connecting People for Good Causes is especially important. Connections could be Friendships. Connecting People is part of Friendshipology.

Billy’s magazines that Actually Connect Friends


” ABOUT FRIENDSHIP – Part One ” by Catherine Zhao – January 2021

Catherine (w/hat) and Best Friend

This is an article I promised Billy for over a year. Billy once told me I’m very good at being late, so is my article. To pay for the late fee, I’m going to write a long one. And here is the first part.

Before I wrote this article, I asked myself: what is the definition of friends? Some people say friends are someone you like hanging out together; some say friends are people who help each other. I think friends are two different souls finding each other dearly and always want the best for each other. Shay* is such a friend to me. Actually Shay is one of my best friends.

I met Shay in New York City on the first day I moved into The Webster Apartments. The Webster Apartments is a building on the upper west of Manhattan for single women only.

At that time, I had lived in the U.S. for over two years. I made American friends, but none of them I would consider a real friend –  who would like to spend time listening to me and to share laughters and sorrows together. I asked many of my friends who, like me, coming to the States to study from China: do you have any very good American friends with whom you can share your laughters and sorrows? Very few of them answered “yes”, or “I once had one”.

Is it really hard to make a really good friend who has a different cultural background from mine? I have been struggling with this question for a while until I met Shay.

Chapter One “Oklahoma! The musical?”

The Webster Apartments provided two meals for all tenants. As I already missed the first meal by moving in too late in the afternoon (yes Bill is right I’m always late), I rushed to the dining hall for dinner super early.

Trying to find a seat to start my dinner, I saw a blonde lady eating alone by a table.

“Hi, can I join you for dinner?” I smiled and asked her.

“Sure.” This lady looked at me and squeezed the word from her full mouth.

Two years later, when Shay and I became close friends, Shay told me the moment she saw me look around for a table, she told herself: girl, please do not come to my table. When I was walking towards her table, she almost prayed for me not talking to her.

“Why?” I asked her.

“I  never had any close Asian friends. I didn’t know how to deal with it. Plus I had a very long day and I just wanted to have a quiet moment by myself.”

This lady, who never had a close Asian friend, was trying to be polite by answering all my questions.

“Where did you grow up?” I asked a very typical question if you were in China.

“I grew up in Oklahoma.”

“Oklahoma! The musical?” I shouted out excitedly.

To be honest, I knew nothing about Oklahoma, either the state or the musical. I happened to see a picture of the musical in a movie magazine when I was 5 years old in China. Surprisingly I still remembered it.

Maybe it is my loud voice, or maybe my sudden excitement, the eyes of this young lady lightened up and started to tell me her stories growing up in Oklahoma. I told her what my experience was like living in a country more than 12 hours flight from my parents. We also found out we both loved literature and writing, and neither of us liked working out.

We talked for two hours at the dinner table and another two hours at the lobby when the staff kicked us out of the dinning hall as it was going to be closed at night.

“Hey, we should hang out! I haven’t been to many tourist spots in New York City.” This young lady offered me an invitation.

“Me either! Let’s visit the Free Lady this Week this weekend!”

“You mean the Statue of Liberty? Yes I’m in!”

“Yes yes Statues of Liberty.” I finally knew the real name of that huge woman with a torch. Zi You Nv Shen 自由女神 [Statue of Liberty] in Chinese which can be literature translated as “Free Lady”. But at this time I didn’t know this was just a beginning for this young blonde lady to correct my English in the next 5 years.

This is how I met Shay, who later became one of my best friends.

Want more funny stories between Shay and me? Please stay tuned for Chapter Two.

* As my friend told me she’s very shy (Really?) , she wants me to use a pseudonym. I’ll name her Shay for this article.

——————————————END OF CHAPTER ONE—————————————————

Bio of Catherine Zhao

Catherine has been Billy’s friend for over 5 years since her last year at Stanford University. She is currently working as a product marketing manager for a technology company during the day , and a standup comedian at night, with various random volunteer work on weekends depending on her mood. She was a technology journalist in Silicon Valley, though she never had one signal journalism class at school. She studied linguistics, comparative literature, and anthropology in China and the U.S. She really likes talking to interesting people (like Billy) and retells the story to strangers. She’s currently working on a course to help people of different cultures communicate better with humor. If you have any questions or any funny stories, please reach out to her at suiyucathy123(AT)gmail.com.

Catherine – the standup comedian

———————————End of Bio—————————————–

LIFTING OF THE BAMBBO CURTAIN – from Ping Pong Diplomacy to non-governmental people to people scientific exchanges between the US and China – by Li-chun Wu – January 2021

Li-chun with husband Robert Wu, Amb. Gary Lock, and Bill Fuller of Asia Foundation

The relation between the US and China had seen its ups and downs since the establishment of diplomatic relation in 1979, although it has plunged to new lows.  It reminded me however, of the long period when there was zero interaction and full of hostility toward each other for more than thirty years since Mao Zedong’s Communist Party began to rule China in 1949. China was perceived to be behind a Bamboo Curtain, similar to the Iron Curtain post World War II between the west world and the Soviet bloc.

But before the Sino-US normalization, the bamboo curtain was even slammed shut further by the radical policies of the Cultural Revolution, controlled by Mao’s wife Jiang Qing led Gang of Four, between 1966 to1976. Families separated by the border could not even communicate or correspond for fear of being branded as “anti-revolutionaries”. For the Chinese scientific community, the impact of the Cultural Revolution was even more disastrous, with intellectuals deemed as class enemy and demons of the society. They were sent to the countryside, to the May Seventh Cadre Schools to participate in manual labor. All research works except those related to the national defense or military was stopped, and publication of any scientific journal discontinued. With universities closed, professors denounced, no fresh blood of graduates could feed into the research communities. Majority of the personnel and staff from three arms of scientific administrative organizations, Chinse Academy of Sciences, State Scientific and Technological Commission, and Chinese Association for Science and Technology, an umbrella for all professional organizations, were disbanded—only Chinse Academy of Sciences had a skeleton of crew remaining. Chinese scholars were scorned, isolated, and out of touch with the global rapid advancement of science and high tech industries.

The bamboo curtain cracked open unexpectedly during the height of the Cultural Revolution in China.[1] An US ping pong player accidently got on a bus for Chinese team during Nagoya World Table Tennis Championship in Japan in 1971. Mao decided to invite the US team to an all-expense paid visit to China. They were treated to the highest level of the curtesy and etiquette from the host, including meeting with the Chinese premier Enlai Zhou. It led to the secret visit of the National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and then followed by President Nixon as the first ever siting President to visit China which led to the establishment of Liaison Offices in each capitals, and eventually normalization of diplomatic relation in 1979. Thus, the ping pong diplomacy started with the goodwill between athletes of two countries, gradually thawed the cold war. Lifting of the bamboo curtain “opened the door to trade, culture, and advancements in technology and sciences; while also creating a window of opportunity for China to shed the isolationism and grow into one of the most powerful country in the world.”[2]

Ping pong diplomacy also opened the door to the private visits initiated by Chinese descendent US scientists. They noticed signals that Chinese government might be open to non-governmental scientific exchanges between the two nations. Preeminent Chinese scientists were invited to visit US first. The organization in charge was Committee for Scholarly Communication with the Peoples Republic of China (CSCPRC), a non-governmental organization, facilitating people to people contacts of various disciplines of the scientific community on all level.

By 1976, CSCPRC had hosted Chinese delegations to US and organized several trips of US scientists to China. American Steroid Chemistry and Biochemistry Delegation was one of several US-Sino scientific exchanges, organized jointly with National Science Foundation, and visited China from Oct 10 to 29[3].  The delegation was led by Dr. Josef Fried, Chairman of the Chemistry Department of University of Chicago, and co-led by Mrs. Patricia Jones Tsuchitani, of National Science Foundation. A team of 10 scientists, including scientists from universities of different disciplines, medical doctors, and scientists from pharmaceutical company, came with a mission to study about the widely used Chinese steroid oral contraceptive, starting from the indigenous source to manufacturing to their eventual usage and distribution in Chinese family planning, as contraceptives were not widely used in the US yet. I had the occasion to participate in the people to people scientific exchanges before establishment of formal diplomatic relationship as I was assigned to be one of the two interpreters to the group, although I was a researcher at Beijing Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. The host in China was a supposedly non-governmental organization, Scientific and Technical Association of Peoples’ Republic of China (STSPRC), as a stand-in for the skeleton Foreign Affairs Service Group of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

This delegation had come at an opportune time, the first American group to visit China at the end of the mourning period for the recent death of Mao Zedong in September, and arriving in Beijing four days after the arrest of the Gang of Four in Beijing. They were warned by the US Embassy on stopover in Tokyo not to talk about this explosive news with Chinese hosts as the news had not been publicized in China yet. However, at the US Liaison office cocktail reception for them, a liaison office staff slyly hint about the event. I had to pretend I was ignorant of his innuendo, although I had learned it from my fellow interpreters, staying at the Peking Hotel, via grapevine.  One interpreter, who had just came back from the North East, told us about the arrest of Mao’s nephew, who was an ally of the Gang of Four. We were all excited by the significance of the downfall of the Gang of Four, but we had to pretend that we knew nothing, as news of this magnitude, had to be trickled down to the ordinary citizens after the high ranking officials and communist party members.

By the time when the delegation arrived in Shanghai, toward the end of the visit, the whole nation and the world had learned about the downfall of the Gang of Four and the changes of Chinese political leadership.  Big character posters, dazibao, were posted all over the walls surrounding their hotel and everywhere, denouncing the crimes committed by the Gang of Four, and the juicy detail account of how they were arrested. It was to the delight of them, especially the political science professor from Ohio State University David M. Lampton, who with Leland Chinn, originally from Hong Kong, Research Fellow at Searle Pharmaceutical Company, would photograph all the posters they could find, and witnessed its political implication at first hand.  He later became a preeminent China expert, Emeritus Chairman of the Asia Society, author of many books and articles regarding Chinese domestic, and international policies and receive numerous award for his expertise.

The direct contacts between people in scientific exchanges gradually lead to mutual understanding and trust which paved the road to normalization. The initial private contacts of Chinese American scientists, such as Nobel Laureate Chen Ning Yang and the biologist, Mann Chiang Niu of Temple University and many others were critical in helping Chinese researchers to rejoin the international scientific community. In the following two articles published in Annals of New York Academy of Science in 1998, have recounted in detail the history of the role of scientists had played in normalizing US China relations.

  1. KATHLIN SMITH, 1998. The Role of Scientists in Normalizing U.S.–China Relations: 1965–1979, Annals of New York Academy of Sciences. Smith’s NYAS article.pdf (uoregon.edu)
  2. RICHARD P. SUTTMEIER, 1998. Scientific Cooperation and Conflict Management in U.S.–China Relations from 1978 to the Present, Annals of New York Academy of Sciences, , Pete’s NYAS article.pdf (uoregon.edu)


[2] Ping Pong Diplomacy StudyMode.com. Retrieved 03, 2013, from https://www.studymode.com/essays/Ping-Pong-Diplomacy-1477050.html

[3] National Research Council. 1977. Oral Contraceptives and Steroid Chemistry in the People’s Republic of China: A Trip Report of the American Steroid Chemistry and Biochemistry Delegation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/20334


Short bio – Li-chun Wu

Li-chun and husband Robert Wu went back to China in 1956, and worked at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Zoology in Beijing. She was sent down to the countryside, May seventh Cadre School in Hubei as part of the Mao’s order that intellectuals had to be re-educated. She was often called upon to be an interpreter for the visiting scientists before normalization between US and China. She and her family immigrated to US in 1979, and worked at the Life Science Division, NASA Ames Research Center. After retirement, she assisted her husband Robert in founding Nanyang Model School Alumni group in Northern California, founding Berkeley Chinese Alumni International Association, and non-profit US China Green Energy Council. She was at UC Berkeley first, before graduated from Simmons College in Boston Massachusetts.


BILLY’S COMMENTS : Li-chun and Robert were also Directors of The 1990 Institute. I admire them as an inseparable couple just like CB Sung and wife Beulah. Robert and CB are no longer with us, but Lucille and I intend to stay connected with Li-chun and Beulah for as long as possible. I deeply appreciate Li-chun’s special effort in writing this essay about US-China Friendship for my Friendshipology website. <https://friendshipology.net> Thank you, Li-chun !


“Three Tales Of Friendship” by Landy Eng – January 2021

Landy Eng



I’ll admit when Billy Lee, my FF Fraternity sponsor of 30 plus years and architect of my first San Francisco home, asked that I contribute an article on “friendship,” I really had no immediate idea of what I should write about.  I decided finally to use a formula that has worked for others and me in the media industry:  tell a story with interesting characters.

The main character in all these true tales shall be known as Swan.

TALE ONE – A Campus Friendship

Her name was Grace and she was an engineering student at Swan’s university.  Grace was originally from Taiwan where her father was a renowned basketball coach.   Swan was recognized on campus for bringing the first Mandarin language course to the university.  In other words, he got things done!  Grace registered for the course and her easy “A.”  Swan got his “B.”

Grace transferred to an Ivy League school after her first year, but kept in touch socially through friends and the Asian Students Society.

An Urgent Request

In her senior year at her new university, Grace called Swan with an urgent request:  could Swan coach her for an upcoming interview for Harvard Business School.  Grace said that she was horrible at interviews as she had failed miserably in getting the best internships though she had a near perfect GPA. Swan agreed to coach her and was in her dorm the following weekend.


Grace was always a bubbly person in an Asian sort of way.  She was confident enough for school, but was less confident in other ways.   Swan immediately recognized the need not only to coach by role-playing, but also to boost her confidence.

Swan role-played and reverse role-played with Grace a whole day over bottles of root beer and pizza.  At the end of the day, Swan concluded she’ll be ready to interview, but more importantly, Swan had shown her how much of an achiever she was coming to America as an immigrant speaking only Mandarin and becoming an outstanding engineering student in a top Ivy League school.

She took the coaching and confidence boost to heart and was given admission into Harvard.  In fact, the interviewer said, “You’re confident and you’re a good interview.  Very different from other Asian ladies whom I’ve interviewed.”

TALE TWO – Helping A Stranger

It was a cold wintery day in January.  Swan was a management trainee with the First National City Bank based in New York City.

The management training program was very intense.  Trainees from Stanford, the Ivy Leagues dominated the group.  Days began before 8am and ended well past 8pm.  Lunches were eaten usually at one’s desk and dinners – if there were dinners – were reduced to 30 minutes.    There was zero tolerance for submitting work late.  In other words, there was no time – or interest by other trainees – to socialize. 

While riding the elevator and strolling the halls to think through a problem, Swan made the casual acquaintance of Bikkit, a female accounting clerk who was originally from Hong Kong.  She was a dedicated employee who did her accounts diligently each day.  She had a nice Hong Kong accent. They chatted for a just a few minutes in the hallway.

Pulling the Trigger

One day when Swan decided he needed to get away from his desk and try the cafeteria, Bikkit spotted him, stopped and asked to sit down where Swan was eating his sandwich.   Swan acknowledged her with a simple “hi, how’s it going” and went back to his lunch.   After a taste of her own meal, she said bluntly, “You’re a management trainee, aren’t you?  How did you get into the program?”

A  Good Result

Rather than give her a short answer, Swan explained the value of getting a degree and encouraged her to consider going to night college.   They exchanged bank extension numbers and Swan encouraged her to contact him if she needed to ask any questions.  She called over a half a dozen times to arrange meetings in the bank’s cafeteria.

The meetings were always short lunches.  Swan helped her pick a college for the night business undergraduate degree program and helped her with her essay.

That October, Swan transferred to Latin America, working for the International Banking Group.  They stayed in limited contact by mail.

A few years later, Swan received a letter from Bikkit.  The letter thanked Swan for his interest and time in guiding her.  The letter also said that Bikkit was now entering an MBA program.

Tale Three – Not Lost in Translation

Tokyo’s Ginza is an incredible urban strip.  On Sundays, it is more interesting with a complete ban on cars and instead tables and umbrellas for everyone to use.

As in all cities, the buskers tend to fill the streets with their talents.  One particular young man, Sean, stopped by Swan’s table and tried to entertain him and his wife.  Rather than brush Sean away, Swan invited him to sit down and chat.

A Big Mac Opportunity

Swan saw something in this young man immediately.  Sean was multi-lingual, determined and hungry, both physically and for a job.

Swan invited him to lunch at McDonald’s.  Along the way, Swan noticed what may be the only homeless man on the Ginza.  Swan said to Sean, “Do you see that homeless man?  Do you want to be like him.”  Sean replied, “Never!”


The two spoke for an hour over their Big Macs.  Swan was doing most of the talking and Sean was asking most of the questions about how to find a job with no degree.   Swan’s answers lit up Sean’s face.

They agreed to meet up again before Swan left Tokyo.  Swan invited the young man to visit him abroad.

Thru email, Swan found out that Sean had taken his advice and found a job with a roaming Japanese TV crew who valued Sean’s ability to speak English and his fearless approach to foreigners.

Sean visited Swan 3 months later and was a completely different man who now had a job and a purpose.

To Brother Billy, to me these three tales of befriending and helping those in need are the best examples of “friendship.”   Ask Swan!

About the Author

Landy Eng is a first generation Chinese-American who wrote in 1975 one of the first articles about Chinese-Americans called “Chinese in America” which is part of the collection at the Museum of Chinese Americans in New York City.  A corporate person who became an entrepreneur, Landy has lived in New York, San Francisco, Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore.  He has worked in Brazil, Holland, Switzerland, China and Hong Kong.  He is most content leading not-for-profit groups which help children and environment.  He helped launch a half-way house for victims of human trafficking in Laos.  He continues to acquire and renovate properties in the U.S. albeit without the expertise of Brother Billy.


BILLY’S COMMENTS : Landy has proven himself to be an amazing Leader in Building Collaborative Friendships. He was particularly helpful in building up the Asian Business League in San Francisco during the 1980s. He was one of the Founders of the FF. Fraternity’s Singapore Lodge in 2009, and he served as FF Fraternity’s Senior Advisor very recently.

Landy ( with Sunglasses ) surely knows how to Build Collaborative Friendships.


” Friendship Created Through the Community Mural Process ” by Susan Kelk Cervantes – January 2021

Drawing of Susan by a Beijing Chinese Student

Through the practice of community mural art with hundreds of participants there is a miracle that happens.  That miracle is a friendship, a bond between all of the participants, maybe unknowingly for some but it is there.  You feel it when everyone is set and focused on their part, a harmony is observed.  We may not grasp the meaning of it during the process and well beyond the completion of the mural project but it is there.  I do not realize the impact the process and experience have on others until maybe much later. 

For example, out of the blue twenty years later, I will get a message from a former participant, a homeless person, who needed to let me know how the experienced transformed his life and made him a better person for himself and the people around him.  Just by including this person in the community process changed him.

Another time during a mural project with many youths who had little or no art in their lives.  During our community mural design workshop, the youth are asked to develop a theme for their mural and draw out their ideas.  One young girl said she couldn’t draw and wasn’t going to draw.  I said to her that she could draw anything, that it didn’t have to look like anything, just express your emotion.  She said all she could do was scribble.  I said that is fine, do all the scribbles you feel like.  It is okay.  She was not happy with her scribbles.  I suggested she color in each of the shapes the scribbles made and see what happens.  She did that and it came out to be a very beautiful bright abstraction.  Everyone liked it and her design became the background for the whole mural.  Her whole being came alive and involved in the process.  This was art transforming life. The experience made her more pleasant, happier, not negative around everyone, and encouraged her to cultivate friendship with her peers.


SUSAN KELK CERVANTES, artist, educator, veteran of the SF community mural art movement, the founding director of Precita Eyes Muralists in the Mission District of San Francisco. Established in 1977, Precita Eyes is one of only a handful of community mural arts centers in the United States creating over 600  murals locally and internationally. Cervantes is responsible for numerous collaborative community murals considered some of the finest in the Bay Area such as Leonard Flynn Elementary School, Mission Playground Pool, Precita Valley Community Center, Bayview Foundation, the S.F. Women’s Building, and many others.  Through a collaborative art process Cervantes is dedicated to social change by transforming the environment and lives of the participants through the creation of community murals. In addition to studio and mural painting Susan  works in various mediums including mosaic, painted ceramic tile, bronze relief and “ polyfresco” .

At age 16  Cervantes moved to San Francisco from Dallas, Texas to continue her art education at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1961 where she met her life partner visionary artist, Luis Cervantes.

In the early 70’s Cervantes was influenced by the Mujeres Muralistas, the first women’s mural collective in the Mission District.  Inspired Susan continues to practice the collaborative process as a key to community awareness and positive transformation.


BILLY”S COMMENTS : As the coordinator of The 1990 Institutes’s US-China Cross-Cultural Art & Environment Projects, I had a weighty dilemma one summer. While China National Childrens’ Center in Beijing was all set to welcome the American student delegation promised by The 1990 Institute, I was unable to sign up the American studends as the Economy was bad that year and the parents all asked to cancel their pledges. I had to solve this problem quickly in order not to disappoint our Chinese partners ! Luckily, I knew about Precita Eyes Muralists in the Mission District of San Francisco, so I took a chance to approach their director Susan Kelk Cervantes. Everything turned out perfectly. Susan’s methodology was an EYE-OPENNER for China as she taught FREE-FLOWING CREATIVITY, and IMPROVIZATION in collaboration. Her compassionate encouragements won her deep respect and affection. She is still well remembered by the Chinese students and teachers from Beijing as ” A VERY VERY SPECIAL AMERICAN FRIEND & TEACHER “.

Susan Cervantes- 5th from left – with Mme Sarah Randt – wife of US Amb. to China – center