I suck at driving.

I suck at driving - period.

You know, sucking at it isn't even the worst part. The worst part is I am actually very scared of it, and I lack the confidence and ability to tell myself that "when there is a will, there is a way (to become a good driver)."

Below are the reasons I believe have contributed to this big embarrassment:

1. I grew up in Taiwan where driving and parking are at least 20 times more difficult than in California, or 5 times more difficult than in Manhattan.

2. When I was 18, my parents hired a very bad driving teacher for me, who was rude and kept grabbing my hands. Traumatized!

3. I failed my driving road test, twice, and finally passed it the 3rd time. Self-confidence: totally destroyed.

4. I never drove until 10 years after I got my driver's license when I moved to San Francisco for my job which required commuting.

5. Five months into it, I got my first driving ticket for almost hitting a police car, on highway 101.

6. About 8 months later, I got another ticket for speeding on highway 280 on my way to a work meeting, while listening to bloomberg radio about how the stock market was tanking that day.

Here I am admitting this to the whole world -- I cannot parallel park; I lose all sense of direction when I drive; and I cannot talk to anybody when I drive.

To all my friends and family --

(1) If I drive to visit you, please know that you must be very important to me.

(2) If you need me to give you a ride, you will have to be the driver so that we can chat during the ride and be safe.

That's all. Not a big deal! When there is a will (to NOT be a good driver), there is a way!

* Saw the video from Phil's blog: little asian girl's badass parallel parking and felt very encouraged for 1 minute and then deeply hurt, therefore wrote this blog entry.

* Big thank you to the "kind but angry asian man" for promoting the book vote video on his very popular blog here and on another follow up post here


Nothing should be taken for granted

The delicious bread freshly baked for us. I ate a lot of it not only because I was hungry, but also to express my admiration and support to these women.

On a recent work trip to Hanoi, I met four amazing young women – their stories still resonating with me today. All between the ages of 18 and 30, they are students at our local partner’s vocational training program, learning how to bake bread.

With the help of a translator, I learned their stories. One woman attempted to take her own life, but was rescued; one had escaped from her abusive husband; one was deserted by the society because she was HIV positive; and one was sold by her own parent for child labor. All of them had one thing in common – under the conditions of immense pain and suffering, they have worked extremely hard to pull themselves up and are appreciative of what they have.

It suddenly occurred to me – these women could have been me! I realized that I take so many things for granted – a government that functions and cares about its people, a country that is relatively secure and developed, access to clean air, water, and justice.

It is hard to find the right words to describe the atmosphere in that little bakery kitchen; a mixture of warm tears, deep thoughts, depressing silence, and finally – some hope. This is a small reflection of my job at the Foundation. The more I do, the more things there are to be done, so we take small steps, while keeping a grand vision.

I would like to take you to meet these ladies in Asia, but I can’t. Therefore, I am linking you to The Foundation's newly printed 2009 Annual Report instead. If you are too busy to read the whole report, please:

• Read the story on Page 25 and see the miracle a train ticket can make!
• Read about our work in Bangladesh on Page 31 and learn that loan capital is only a start in helping micro-entrepreneurs.
• Go to Page 36 and read about some of the answers to questions that have never been asked before!

Please click on the image below to download the report:


Strategize Life As A Basketball Game

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
When Hayward let it fly from midcourt, the greatest ending in sports history was within reach

* A similar post is also published at Asian Philanthropy Forum

Last Monday night, I watched the NCAA basketball national championship game on TV. Duke beat Butler 61 to 59. It was a very exciting game and the winner wasn’t determined until the final buzzer sounded. Butler, lead by a young and unknown coach, was an underdog throughout most of the tournament, while Duke, lead by the famous coach K, has heavily favored to win.
As I sat there watching the teams play, I thought about what I learned from Dr. Carter Tseng at Monte Jade’s event in early April -- life is like a basketball game.

Carter is an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. I got to know him through my work at The Asia Foundation and Give2Asia, where he serves as a trustee. I have the fortune to see first-hand how passionate, sincere, and generous Carter is. He is generous not only with his charitable donations, but also with his time, wisdom, talent, and his ability to inspire people.

The audience that completely packed Monte Jade’s Chancellor Tien Forum lecture room listened carefully as he talked about how to “Seize the China Opportunity; Create a Brighter Future”. The 3 hour talk was so captivating that it felt like only 30 minutes. When he said life is like a basketball game, I was really inspired. He said you can be playing well and winning in the first half, but if you do not use the half time break wisely, or do not play the second half well, you would still finish up the game of your life as a loser.

Take him for example, he worked very hard and was also very fortunate to accomplish the goals of his first half game by the age of 45. He then took the time to travel and spend time doing things to improve his quality of life. After that, he felt that something was missing and that he had the responsibilities to accomplish some other missions beyond making a living and enjoying life. That was when he started to become a philanthropist.

Many donors I work with are in the “second half” of the game and are concentrating this portion of their life on philanthropic goals. Other donors are in the first half and are already donating generously. In the game of life, you can determine your own best timing and strategy for giving, but philanthropy is always part of a winning formula in life.

Here is my translation of Carter’s slide about his life as a basketball game:
1. Life’s first half – age 25 to 45
(a) Running around to make a living
(b) Work to make money
2. Life’s half time break – age 45 to 55
(a) Improve the quality of life
(b) Work to realize interests
3. Life’s second half – age 55+
(a) Pursuit the meaning of life
(b) Work toward the ideal world

* Link to download Carter’s speech presentations (mostly in Chinese).