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By Kent Converse

Lily Wui got to spend four wonderful days taking our Rotary District's Ambassadorial Scholar around to Western Kansas Rotary Clubs, so she could give presentations on her stay in Hong Kong. Lily Wu is her name, and she is beautiful, talented, smart and a joy to be with. My dear friend Brooke Allen wrote me about how his wife seemed to be concerned with me having so many young friends who are girls. Well, one answer is that most Rotarians are a little old and most young people taking advantage of Rotary programs like, Youth Exchange, Rotary Scholarships etc. are girls. That is just the way it is.

The Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship is awarded to about 800 people worldwide. It is considered to be one of the premier international scholarships in the world. It is equal to a Rhodes or Fulbright Scholarship with the bonus of wherever you go; you are welcomed by the worldwide Rotary Family.

The Ambassadorial part of the scholarship is to learn about different cultures, speak to at least 10-12 Rotary Clubs and do some traveling. Lily spoke to over 50 Rotary Clubs and traveled to Thailand, Mongolia, China, Philippines, Macao (Macau) and Vietnam. It was an incredible journey for Lily's parents who were born in China. They immigrated to Guatemala where Lily was born. When she was seven they immigrated to the United States. They speak Chinese in the home and have learned Spanish and English. All of this makes her more interesting, most fascinating and adaptable. The perfect Ambassadorial Scholar.

Anyone would be happy to have a daughter like Lily. At the age of seven she learned English better than 99 per cent of native born Americans. She studied hard as a lot of Asian students do and won a full, four year, all expenses paid scholarship to Wichita State University. She had a part time job with Koch Industries and earned 10,000 dollars.

This is where the story really gets interesting. She gave the 10,000 dollars to her parents. They could have done anything they wanted with the money, but they saved it. Talking to Lily about money she said “I am a saver, not a spender.” She said this is an Asian Cultural thing. The wisdom of her parents who are older and wiser.

How many daughters do you know that go to school and cost their parents nothing and end up giving their parents 10,000 dollars?

On television the other day, they featured a mall in California that had somehow bypassed the economic down turn. Why, because it was mainly an Asian mall that catered to Asians. What is the difference? Asians, on the advice of their elders, only spend if they have the cash. They are not drowning in plastic.

When the Vietnamese boat people first came to Wichita Kansas, they did any job they could get. A lot of them moved to Dodge City, Liberal and Garden City Kansas to work in packing plants. Some of the hardest work you can find. I asked a friend who worked in the packing plants if there were a lot of Vietnamese still working in the plants. He said, “A few. Most of them have saved enough money to start their own businesses.” I know one Vietnamese who came to Wichita with nothing in the late 80s. Now he owns a large restaurant and a strip mall.

It was very common to see 10-20 families buying one home and all living there until they paid it off. Then half would move to another house and so on. I stayed in a house like that in Oklahoma City. They gave me my own room. I got up early and found my way to the TV room in the dark. I thought I would watch a little TV. I soon found out there was a Vietnamese sleeping in every corner. Grandma, who cooked for all in the house, worked 24 hours a day because they all had different shifts.

My parents were a product of the depression. They started farming in 1934 and did not have a wheat crop until I was born in 1941. Try doing that. Their favorite saying was: “A penny saved is a penny earned.” They knew it wasn't how much you earned but how much you saved that ultimately determines wealth and financial security.  Asians seem to live by this mantra regardless of what is going on in the economy. 

Lily stayed almost six months longer than she anticipated in Hong Kong, so she needed some help. Her parents were happy to send part of the 10,000 dollars to Lily. She had prepared for a journey few could replicate.

A good New Year resolution this year might be to learn just how cheap you can live.
You might find out the cheaper you eat the better the food is for you. Saving can be just as fun as spending. A fun rule to learn is the "rule of 72." It means that when you save money and say you are getting 10 percent compounded, your money will double in 7.2 years. If you get five per cent your money will double in 14.4 yrs.  Have fun improving your life.

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