You don't have to be an Asian teenage girl to enjoy MOCHI!

Last night, I was honored to be interviewed by Mochimag to promote the book vote on their blog. Jennifer Kung summarized our conversation in a clear way that speaks so fluently to their target audience. Check out this blog and their e-magazine to see what the Asian American teenage girls care about!

‘Books for Asia’ Online Campaign: ‘Choose a Book. Change a Life.’
By Jennifer Kung

As young adults and students, a lot of you have the heart to give to those in need, but not necessarily the financial means. That’s why we’re eager to let you guys know about this simple, immediate and powerful way you can help bring books to children in Asia, just by watching a quick video and making an online vote.

The Asia Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on philanthropic work in Asian countries, is currently holding an campaign through their program “Books for Asia” until March 29, 2010. You just have to go on their website and choose your favorite book out of five popular children’s classics titles: “The Little Engine That Could,” “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” “Corduroy,” “Who’s Spot?” and “Make Way for Ducklings.” For every vote, a generous donor of the Asia Foundation will contribute $1 – up to $10,000, and the winning book title will be delivered to the entire first-year English class at Khishig-Undur School in Mongolia. You can watch their video of how your vote will benefit Mongolia students after the jump.

The best part of this campaign is that it allows teens and young adults to contribute in a way other than money. By voting online, and sharing their website link and video on Facebook and Twitter, you can help bring awareness to the cause—which is the fundamental goal of philanthropy—as knowledge is power.

In an interview with Mochi, Alice Wu, the Associate Director for Resource Development at the Asia Foundation, pointed out how we all reach a certain point in our lives where we can take what we have learned and start to give back. Alice came to this realization after getting her MBA at NYU Stern and working in finance, where the value of her work was mostly measured by money. In order to use her skills to contribute to society, she joined the Asia Foundation, which allowed her to give back to the Asian community by doing what she’s good at—raising money and using her knowledge of Asian and American culture to bring awareness on an international scale.

Most importantly, Alice explained how in the non-profit world, there are many different types of “money”—for young people, their form of “money” can be spending the time and energy to learn and care about certain issues. By going on nonprofit websites, participating in charitable events and simply thinking and caring about others, young adults can educate themselves to think on a philanthropic level, which will plant a future generation of leaders who can act upon these values of giving back.

So if you’re at all interested in learning more about how you can contribute to Asian countries, go to their website at http://www.asiafoundation.org/ to learn more. Besides “Books for Asia,” you can check out their other numerous programs such as “Women’s Empowerment Program,” and spend some time watching their more informative videos here.

Click here to become a fan of the Asia Foundation on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @Asia_Foundation. There’s only less than a week to vote and raise money for these children in Mongolia, so share the link and help make a difference.


If you want proof, just ask me! -- Choose a book, Change a life

* A similar version of this post is also published at Asian Philanthropy Forum.

Please meet Tungaa, pictured here with some young friends from Khishig-Undur School. Talking to Tungaa can transport you straight to rural Mongolia, back to her elementary school’s 4th grade classroom, and she’ll tell you how books changed her life and many other lives in her hometown.

Books for Asia is The Asia Foundation’s longest running program, and distributes one million brand new books each year to students, educators, and community leaders throughout Asia, including to rural Mongolia. As a student, Tungaa read books from Books for Asia in her classroom, and it changed her life’s path. She is living proof of the impact this program has had.

These moments of “proof” of impact are hard to explain or capture, and yet they are what we ultimately work hard for. How do you use technology to share the thank-yous, the smiles, the determination in the eyes, and the heart-warming hugs from the communities that you help? These moments need to be shared with not only colleagues in your organization, but also those who have the ability to help.

So we decided to provide a window into these changed lives, and engage those who care by allowing them to choose the storybooks we send to these young students. As far as I know, Books for Asia is a pioneer in using interactive digital media to convey the power of a book. For our first online “book vote,” we traveled to meet school children in the hill tribes of Thailand. Next, we headed south to a school on small riverboats in Bangladesh. Our final destination in this book vote, is the frozen plains of northern Mongolia, where we met people whose lives have been changed by these books.

The best thing about the current book vote, is that a generous donor has offered to donate $1 to The Asia Foundation every time someone chooses a book and casts a vote. Please help us spread the word.

If a picture paints a thousand words, this video will inspire you in a way that words cannot. As Tungaa says in the video, “If you want proof, just ask me!”

PS: Added in April 2010 -- thank you all so much for voting. We successfully got over 10,000 votes and raised $10,000! Watch the delivery thank you video here.

PS: Related posts: Books for Asia & The Power of Books


Making a lot of money doesn't make you a good person

Last night's event at World Affairs Council Annual Conference --

John Wood, "If you make a lot of money, that doesn't make you a good person. It is how you spend the money."

Sorry for the rush post, but I just want to share this with you as soon as I can.

If you have one free hour, please enjoy:

~ brought to you from a corporate refugee~


No need to go to Greece

First time seeing this tea when I was in Crete. (Click to read the Chinese name.)
The direct translation is -- PhD in Happiness. The amazing thing is that the Chinese pronunciation really sounds like "Roo-i-bos". I got super excited and took this picture, only to realize that it is everywhere in the US! Buy your Happiness PhD in a supermarket near you!

Some people travel because they want to see different parts of the world.
Some people travel because they want to step out of their own world.
Almost everyone travels for both of these reasons combined.
If you are more for the "getting away" reason, this post is for you.

On my flight back to San Francisco from Greece last September, I couldn't help but feel a bit sad for the usual reasons --

I can't believe the vacation is over!
I need to go back to my 9 to 5 routine life tomorrow.
What is there to look forward to next?

With that said, I was completely okay to say goodbye to all the excitement, peacefulness, and beautiful scenery in Greece. Because I know that some things are better kept in my memories so that they will always stay beautiful and I will only cherish them that way.

More importantly, I know I am lucky to call one of my favorite cities in the world home. Then I realized that there was no need to travel all the way to Greece to look for what I needed.

All I have to do is to turn things off -- the cell phone, the TV, the computers, and the watch or any time measuring devices (important!). And to set things up -- the out-of-office auto reply emails, the voicemail vacation outgoing messages, and any social networking vacation statuses. If you can, try to pretend you do not even understand English.

Now give it a try for 2 days, then you will know what I mean.

Wake up and fall asleep whenever you want to.
Talk to people, face to face, only if you feel like it.
Eat when you are hungry or when you encounter something delicious.
Move around with no destinations, based on the sky, not the map.
Write with real pen and paper and take pictures if you don't want to forget about something.
See what attracts your eyes, hear what pleases your ears, and pay attention to what pokes your curiosity.
Take the time to think with your brain and feel with you heart.

You will then understand that there is no need to go to anywhere else, just go back to the time when information flowed slowly without the "help" of technology, then you will come back as fresh and charged as new! (to all of those emails and messages that have been waiting for you. ahh.)

PS: If you want to leave a comment, please do it here, not on my facebook page. Thanks!

Last Day in Greece - you don't know a city until you go shopping there!

*** Please read about the debt crisis of Greece and consider spending more money there. I decided to emphasize my shopping experience in this post to hopefully stimulate its tourism income which contributes to about 15% of the GDP of Greece. ***

View of the Acropolis from my breakfast table at Hotel Grande Bretagne before flying back to San Francisco

I don't even know why I am still blogging about this trip 6 months afterwards. Instead of sharing the moments with readers, this is more like a documentation for myself. Regardless, my Greece travel journal is finally coming to an end!

The last day of this vacation was spent back in Athens. We checked in at the famous Hotel Grande Bretagne and immediately went shopping for souvenirs for friends and family. This was necessary because I barely bought anything at all in the past whole week.

Everywhere in central Athens, you can find little souvenirs on the streets

After some careful observation, I chose one store and decided to buy most of the food related gifts from there. (Price Bargaining Tip #1: buying a lot from one store is always good for volume discount.)

I brought a huge basket of items to the counter and didn't even bother finding a translator, I said to the owner, "10% cheaper?". (Tip #2: show no fear and only confidence. Tip #3: make a low enough offer, without embarrassing the seller, and to show that you are knowledgeable and reasonable.)

After he said no way too many times, I told him, "all of these are for other people, not for me." then I took one box of candy and pointed to myself, said "can you give this to me?" with a big smile on my face. He finally said yes. (Tip #4: when all failed, just tell them to do you a favor and be sincere.)

I wasn't this lucky when I tried to buy a little Greek dress for my lovely niece... Long story short, I didn't have enough time to do my "price comparison research" and did not have thick enough skin to walk away from pushy and fake people. (Tip #5: understanding the market environment is more important and more powerful than any negotiation skills. Tip #6: you are the one paying. If you don't like the sellers, you don't need to give them business. Period. )

After my super efficient shopping exercise, we walked to the Acropolis to enjoy this incredible historic site. We climbed to the top and saw the sun set into the edge of the city as Athens went to sleep.

Entrance guard dog

Parthenon's guard cat

Looking down at the Acropolis Museum that I visited in Day 2 journal

At a square by the train station, looking up at the Acropolis in its evening light.

Some of the souvenirs I bought:

Greek Ouzo wine for guys - nice packaging
Colorful tile magnet for every one's fridge - I am keeping one for myself
Cute tiny jar of Greek honey - sweet...
Postcards! lots of beautiful postcards!
Bookmarks from the Acropolis Museum for book lovers
Silver jewelry - I got a pair of earrings for myself

My last picture in this amazing country, in front of the hotel and the Parliament building, waiting for the car to the airport.

So long Athens~

* if you want to leave a comment, please do it here, not on my facebook page. Thank you!


Are people good or bad?

I did something wonderful last week.

Strictly speaking, it wasn't me who did that wonderful thing, but I was the person who came up with the idea and found the right person to do it.

Among the never-ending requests from his busy and stressful job, my request popped out, and he happily said yes.

When I got his email agreeing to make the donation, I took a deep breath before I stepped out of my office and called for my boss to tell him the good news. I then sent an email to my colleagues who are working on this project in a small village in frozen Mongolia. (They later on wrote to me saying that it was the heartwarming news that they needed the most.)

Afterwards, I put myself back to my own space and took a moment to remind myself one thing -- people all have an unselfish and giving side.

Having this belief seems to be the minimum requirement for any fundraiser for any charitable organization, but it was not given in my situation. A couple of years ago when I got out of business school, I remember getting mad at someone and telling myself "just like how some people are naturally nice, some people are also naturally bad."

Ever since then, like a researcher, I have been collecting evidence, counter-evidence, and taking mental notes here and there, trying to prove or disprove this belief.

This donor is so busy that I don't even take one extra second thanking him too much. So please allow me to thank him here. It is people like him, a story like this one, that keeps the philanthropic world going. I am grateful to have experienced this.


Cultural Difference

Interesting but useless? (from the book of "Useless Japanese Inventions Chindōgu")

Sitting in the middle of a group of senior high-profile people, I was the interpreter for a visiting scholar from China at his closing formal dinner.

The chairman of the hosting organization asked this scholar, "What was the most interesting thing you observed during your visit in the US?"

I did my job and made sure to use "interesting" in my Chinese question.

The scholar looked at me longer than usual, and said to me in a lower voice.
"Alice, I have been to many of these formal concluding events in China, and nobody has ever asked me for the most "interesting" thing before."

I took it as if he was talking to me, instead of asking me to translate this to the chairman. Therefore, I asked him in Chinese in a lower voice, too.

"Really? Then what would people ask you in China?"

He said, "They only ask me to share the most "useful" thing I learned, which is rarely the most interesting thing at all."

Can you see the difference now?