Cooperation among ASEAN

dr surin

During Asia Business Conference, I had the chance to sit right next to Dr. Surin, the Secretary-General of ASEAN and talked with him at a pre-conference meet up. Dr. Surin is one of the more inspiring figures I meet during the conference. His background as a Muslim from the Buddhist nation Thailand provide some sort of surprise for me. Moreover so when conflicts between Muslim in the South of Thailand and the militants are frequently reported not to long ago. As the SG of ASEAN, it was not surprising that he stressed on cooperation among the ASEAN nations, beginning from its students. To help among each other and to improve the relationships.

I’m a bit skeptical about his idealistic views but a reality check will show that communications with students of other ASEAN nations are a different story altogether. The only common theme I could point out is the youths’ fascination with foreign influence like branded goods. For his argument sake, Dr. Surin used the example of war of the worlds to exemplify what it takes for the ASEAN members to unify together. For the international students, the mere fact that they are outside their native countries and in a foreign situation is enough to substitute for the opposing enemy. And he admitted that the Myanmar issue is a pain in the butt.

I was pretty impressed by his opening speech during the conference. A trained economist he was not. However, it was the way he handled the questions hurled to him that showed his experience as a politician. I wished I picked a thing or two about being a diplomat. He was pretty suave in answering the questions and at the same time, giving out a friendly aura. Perhaps, I should put diplomat as a career prospect. It might help improved my non existing social skills.

Chicago Rush Pt. 3: City of Angels

chicago-macys

(Chicago, Illinois) Macy’s !

I visited Chicago cosmopolitan to look at their architecture. I must admit that my timing throughout the entire trip is not perfect, but perhaps, it was this sense of uncertainty that added some spice for the travel.

My train ride through the Metra was delayed because there was a homicide in the next station prior to my boarding. While the delayed was a nuisance and ate up significant time I could spared, being near a crime scene was indeed an excitement. I could not help but to try and lookout for the scene as early report come in that the person was hit by the train, or to another version, a gunshot.   Xiaolu and I looked out of the window, focusing up and down the tracks, and guessing whether the footprints that stopped halfway on the train tracks might have belong to the now deceased person.

Chicago was supposed to be the cultural center of the American Midwest. To a certain degree, I agreed that it was true. The many museums, cultural attractions, and unique Gothic architecture brought out the aesthetic appreciation in me.

chicago-culture-musuem

(Chicago, Illinois) “Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind, which are delivered down from generation to generation as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn.” ~ Addison

I meet a friendly security guard in one of these museums. He was a nice chap, with a side hobby dabbing in photography. He offered to take a picture of us, and gave some pointers on interesting shots around the place.

My time spent walking around the city area was spent photographing memories as well as sampling the local culture, as it was during a celebration period when I visited. It was a time well spent. I do hope that I have more time to spare to explore the remaining areas. I also learned that Chicago is a better place to shop for high end products comparative to NY because the stuff are slightly cheaper and the salesperson more responsive even though I might not give out an aura of a rich social elite.

chicago-skyline1

(Chicago, Illinois) Frozen river. Amazing skyline.

Dream of Renaissance

Chicago Statue

(Chicago, Illinois) Look at all the different faces.

Ever since young, I dream of remodeling myself. Shaping my whole personality, actions, gestures, facial expressions into someone I’m not. When I watched “The Pretender” when I was young, I used to think how cool it was to be able to transform into another person and fool the whole world with it. It was through this that I wished to be whole, to master and know a bit of everything. I wanted to be able to enter one day as a doctor, supervising the charge of another life and then, as a pilot the next day, planning my great getaway into the unknown. I recalled in a comic book that what gave Batman his edge was his ability to constantly rebuild his character. Breaking down and molding back something new.

It was a dream I suppressed for a while, only to relieve it when I watched Leonardo DiCaprio in “Catch Me If You Can”, an adaptation of real life story of Frank Abagnale Jr.. This character was indeed the great pretender, forging everything from checks, pilot license to a Harvard Medical School degree (or at least that’s what the movie showed). He was shown to have fraud around 4 million USD (real value at 2.5 million USD) at a time when converted to current dollar, is significantly larger amount. All these charges from when he is between 16 to 21 years old. I lived through most part of it with nothing that significant in my resume and wonder how far would I go by the time I’m 21. Now, Frank’s free from serving his time, and is a rich leading security consultant who works with the FBI.

It saddens me sometimes when I can take the path few took. I could be the next real life story of a person who is anyone. The only thing holding me back right now is the law and my conscience. I still dream of the dream, where I could slipped in and out of uniform and be anyone I want.

Chicago Rush Pt. 2: Alcohol and Consumer Spending

Americans love their alcohol. I discovered this when I was shopping for some alcohol too. Perhaps it is the last minute festive season purchase but the alcoholic beverage store seems to be thriving amidst the current economic situation. Those whom I meet are purchasing beers and wines to complement their Christmas dinner. Wines are cheap relative to the income over this side of the globe. So, it might not be a big deal for the average Americans to splurge over wines as compared to those with lower purchasing power relative to income. I learned a thing or two about wine tasting and the specific taste according to brand. It was still hard to get used to the taste. These alcoholic beverages gave off burning sensation and I doubt whether my tongue could get used to such abuse. Perhaps, with more tasting and new found preferences for more exquisite luxuries, I may find myself during a dinner with a glass of red wine on my hand and flaunting my wine knowledge to like minded individuals.

Plus, I learnt another observation as well. It’s an alternative way of measuring the people’s economic power. The type of food the typical consumer had more frequently when dining out revealed the society’s perception on current economy. For example, during economic hard times like recently, the average consumer will prefer more filling food like steak etc. Whereas on sunny days, the average consumer can settle on more luxury and dainty food which aren’t as filling like sushi etc. It is just a matter of responding to incentives. Although, if times were really bad, people wouldn’t even dine out in the first place.

Investing Career, Maybe?

One Way(Chicago, Illinois) Only a one way path?

I received an email notification about my participation in the Michigan Investment Challenge last semester. It’s a real life stock market investment simulation between the students of Michigan. I’ll let the email say the rest.

You ended up in the top six of the Investment Challenge 2008. Congratulations! With approximately 87 members competing, being in the top six is quite an accomplishment. It surely was a crazy time to be investing in the market, and the fact that so many of you had gains is quite an accomplishment.

Last year was a roller coaster ride on all the stock exchange board. My net gain was not a significant increase, but just the mere fact that there was gain already put me ahead of the index. I was actually lucky because I was involved in another analysis of the American economy before the whole panic started. All major indicators are strongly suggesting that the economy will take a huge dip so I put all my options into companies that tend to grow during recession. What I didn’t expect was Lehman Brothers and other financial big wigs suffered that badly as well.

While traditionally, each finalist is supposed to gain some financial reward, but due to the economic downturn and the sudden demise of some of the the loyal sponsors’ monetary coffer, let’s just say it is a bad time to invest in. Perhaps I should give this career field a thought.

Chicago Rush Pt. 1: Bleak Atmosphere

union station 2

(Chicago, Illinois)

My trip to Chicago started out with a mess. I woke up early in the dawn hoping to catch early transiting bus, which will eventually lead to the train station. However, the awaited bus never arrived. The winter was approaching record low temperature. Unable to continue waiting out in the cold, I phoned a cab to reach the train station only to discover my transport was delayed. Snow and ice covered the tracks and disrupt the schedule.

The few hours onbroad the train was spent in futile, but the scenery along the way potray the weather which will greet me along the way. Sadly, I wonder why I chosen this time to travel when weather forecast blurt out that this year winter is the coldest in a few decades and warnings of snow storm been plastered all over the tv screen.

union station

(Chicago, Illinois)

Chicago was not the bustling city I thought of it to be. My arrival was greeted by smoke bellowing factories as well as blacken and soot covered buildings. Together with the dismal picture of naked trees and gloomy snow shower, it gives off an illusion of dark atmosphere, foreshadowing the collapsing industries in the city.

My first encounter here left a bad aftertaste when a lady misguided me into the wrong track and to purchase a wrong ticket as well. However, the eventually kindness of other Chicagoan I meet here lead me to the right place where I need to dash across stations, meet the harsh windy winter of Chicago, talk myself into exchanging my wrong purchase with the train conductor and stand waiting for the time to pass.

Traveling to Chicago literally took up the whole day, and I guess to round up my first day by shoving snow, drinking hot cocoa and having a little chocolate fondue in the end was not that bad at all.

With Love

At times like this is when I felt a little homesick. I am not the type who will get emotional over a lot of things, but this song often reminds me of the things that did. I find the song resonates with my inner emotion a lot to touch my heartstrings and I often replay it when I feel lonely. One of my favorite songs, from my favorite girl group ~ SNSD.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuQnFruGenM]

Enjoy. Happy Mother’s Day.