Western Canada Trip D2: Whitehorse

Day 2

This morning I woke up feeling relaxed, knowing that I have nothing scheduled until 13.15. I woke up at 7.15, then checked my emails and news to have an update on the (financial) market. A cultivated habit my father and I have after arriving in a new city is to go by foot around the area surrounding our hotel. But first, I asked the receptionist on whether breakfast is included in my booking, hoping to find eggs and bacon to feed my starving stomach. Apparently not. Disappointed, I decided to watch the sunrise instead of looking for breakfast, since the sunrise in Whitehorse at Winter occurs around 10 am.

PSX_20181217_193615Bison at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

The sky was still pitch black, with a trace of clouds quite visible if you observe the sky carefully. Whitehorse is a small, square city that has an ambience of being in the U.S. Wild West, probably because the city was being established partly due to the gold rush in 1896-1899. A slow walk from one end to the other takes only 30 minutes, with three story buildings along the road, which functions as restaurants, hotels, shops and cultural center. The night before, when I was studying the map I took from the hotel’s lobby, one thing that caught my attention is the availability of McDonalds and KFC at the northern part of the city. There are also several Japanese restaurants that are managed by Chinese families.

PSX_20181217_193813Yukon Wildlife Preserve
After slightly less than two hours wandering around, I went back to “the strip” or the busy part of the city nearby Best Western Inn, and ended up in Starbucks. There is a comfortable corner sofa next to a window, where I sat, allowing me to observe people walking on the street and cars passing through the intersection. I spent few hours there writing and editing photographs that I took yesterday.

PSX_20181217_194047Yukon Wildlife Preserve

The plan for the afternoon is to go to Yukon Wildlife Preserve and Takhini Hot Spring Spa. I didn’t bring my bathing suit with me (to be exact, I didn’t have one in Canada), so I bought one for a discount in the Sports Express counter located at the strip. Time flies really fast when you are busy doing stuff, even during holiday, that I have to went back to my hotel not long after.

PSX_20181217_194322Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Before the rendezvous with other guess and the tour guide, I had my lunch in Gold Pan Saloon, a restaurant and bar inside the Best Western building. Little did I know at the time that I will spent quite some time there in the next few days. It was nominated as one of the best bar in Canada by Globe and Mail few years back.

PSX_20181217_194512Bambi at Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Our tour guide called Kirstin, a very funny and talkative German girl. She drove us through the Alaskan Highway heading to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. It is a large natural park with fences partitioning the animals so that they do not eat or fight each other. I really recommend going there, as the landscspe was majestic and the animals were quite active as well. I felt a very strong connection with the nature when walking through the place, observing the clouds blown by the wind and the animals wandering around the wonderful landscape. At the time of my visit, there was some clouds and the sunlight diffused through it, resulting in a very soft light reflected by the snowcapped mountain.

PSX_20181217_194713Sunset Hour at Yukon Wildlife Preserve

PSX_20181217_195144Sunset Hour at Yukon Wildlife Preserve

We got to see arctic fox and Canadian lynx, among others, but they are too active running across their territory and it was very difficult for me to photograph them. The rest are pretty static, like the bison who welcomed us by dropping a massive poop and the moose who kept on eating after our arrival.

PSX_20181217_195408That’s Me at Yukon Wildlife Preserve

PSX_20181217_195521Road Alongside the Park

After two hours of the tour seeing various Canadian animals, we headed to the Takhini Hot Spring to take a dip on the 40 degrees water. It was a pleasant and relaxing experience, but to me, the water is not as hot as it should be. The hot spring is equipped with bathroom and two pools, one with 30 degrees water and the other one with 40 degrees. Both pools are facing a mountain, giving you a really wonderful time to just gaze at the landscape and ease your muscle.

PSX_20181217_195803The Sun Going Down Behind the Mountains, Yukon

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Takhini Hot Spring Spa

We got back to the hotel at 5.30, which means that we have less than four hours to take a nap, dinner and shower. I took my dinner at a Japanese restaurant three blocks away from my hotel, a quite fancy restaurant serving various sushi and donburi. Not long after waking up from my power nap, an Australian girl I met on the tour invited me to join for a drink before the aurora sightseeing tour at 10 pm, which of course I obliged to. We went to the same bar where I had my lunch earlier and drank a glass of red wine.

PSX_20181218_014121Aurora Borealis Seen from North of Whitehorse, Yukon

PSX_20181218_013550Aurora Borealis Seen from North of Whitehorse, Yukon

We went about 30 minutes north from the city, where the company I hired for have 5 cabins facing a lake up north. Although the magnetic fields were not visible to my naked eyes, my camera could capture it decently. We spent 3.5 hours there, most of the time staying nearby the fireplace or inside the cabin. It has long been the ultimate challenge for me to capture aurora borealis as a photographer and here I am, witnessing the nature at its finest.

PSX_20181218_084429Starry Sky and the Aurora Seen from North of Whitehorse, Yukon

The best shots I got were during the first 30 minutes of arrival, when the sky was do clear that you could see the stars and the aurora far away north. Then slowly the clouds creeped in and covered much of the sky, leaving us no option but to spend time around the fireplace or inside the cabin. The kids are sleeping by midnight while the adults were sipping coffee and hot chocolate. And finally at 2pm we headed back to the city. I was pretty sleepy when the guide dropped me at the hotel, and knowing that I have a city tour tomorrow at 10 am doesn’t make it any better. But that’s another story for the next post.

PSX_20181219_082028That’s Me Again with the Aurora

PSX_20181218_084607Cabin in the Woods, Congregating Around the Fireplace

 

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Western Canada Trip D1: Montreal to Whitehorse

Day 1

I woke up with a sense of panic. I quickly grabbed the alarm clock beside my bed that was supposed to ring forty five minutes ago and looked at the time. It was 5.05am, which mean that I got three hours to prepare myself and took an Uber to the airport. I turned off the charger of my phone and went straight to the bathroom, doing my morning routine. Less than twenty minutes later, I was inside Brahim’s car, my Uber driver, and headed toward the Pierre Trudeau Airport.

PSX_20181216_140425Air Canada’s Airbus on the Hangar in Montreal Airport

This is my first big trip since one and a half years ago, when I started my Master program at McGill University, which then landed me a good job in Montreal. Growing up, I used to travel extensively with family. My first trip overseas was to Singapore, when I was three. My father was on a business trip and my mother, sister and me were tagging along to save the hotel cost. My mother told me that on that trip, she remembered buying a hainan chicken rice for me and my sister, nourishing us while watching the news. It was the day Lady Diana died.

PSX_20181216_140621Edmonton from the Air

We visited Singapore every year since, mainly for shopping. However, it wasn’t until I was in the undergrad that my family started travelling to far away places, such as United States, European countries, and South Africa. We have became quite efficient in choosing line for security check, separating laptop and tablet from the luggage and following the rules for bringing liquid. So it was a shame to me today that I got my luggage inspected because I was bringing a jumbo sized toothpaste inside my shower kit. They threw it out. But to be fair, toothpaste isn’t really a liquid but a paste, which is semi solid. I learned few years ago that bringing a frozen water through the security check was actually allowed, so today’s incident amused me.

PSX_20181216_140851PSX_20181217_065707Canadian Rockies, Alberta, from the Air

Pierre-Trudeau airport was decent, although not as nice as Singapore or Hong Kong, but is clean and organized. As usual, I bought a necessary but overpriced bottled water (CAD 2.30), the same bottled water that cost me only 20 cents in my local supermarket. But buying in the airport is still better than buying one on the flight, which tend to be more expensive. Forty five minutes before boarding, I called my mother and shared some details in case something bad happen during the trip.
I always read the in-flight magazine at the beginning of the flight and as I flipped the on-board magazine, I set my eyes on the possible next destination, Sri Lanka. A destination that I have been planning to go for the last three years, but haven’t got the time yet.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0468.JPGSunrise from the Airplane in Montreal

The airport in Edmonton, my first transit, was more lively than Montreal’s. There’s a Chinese takeaway called Wok Box, where I got my lunch before departing for Vancouver, my second transit before finally getting to Whitehorse. What was supposed to be a one hour transit in Vancouver turned into a three hours delay due to a malfunction in our plane’s cargo door. We were stuck inside the plane for hours, only to eventually went back to the gate. At least Air Canada service was good and they provided us with a meal voucher and a discount for the next flight purchase.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0487.JPGPassing Through Above the Farms in Edmonton

Coincidently, I met my parent’s friend from school when I was buying my dinner in the airport, who was en route to Calgary. We ended up chatting while eating in the airport’s food court for about an hour. I also talked with my seatmate, a girl in her twenties who has just got back from Peru and was coming back home to Whitehorse, my ultimate destination. She was very enthusiastic about her trip and I know deep inside that I was jealous of her. I mean, what could be a better feeling than waking up at 2am to hike the Inca Trail to see the great Machu Pichu, or canoeing at night to see alligators few meters away from you? One day, thought to myself.
There’s a free airport shuttle from Whitehorse’s airport to my hotel, Best Western Inn. The hotel was comfortable and nearby the “strip” or main street, so I would recommend it to tourists visiting Whitehorse. However, I found that the tap water to be unsuitable for drinking, so I am planning to buy several bottles of water tomorrow (the vending machine inside the hotel sells a bottle of water for CAD 3).

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0500.JPGRainy Day in Vancouver

One thing I quickly realized is that Whitehorse itself isn’t large and could be easily traveled on foot, which is a good news for photographers, like me, who are planning to catch the sunrise or do a morning walk. But that is another story for tomorrow.

PSX_20181217_193208Whitehorse, Yukon

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A Reflection on Life’s Trouble

A lot of times in my life, when I think I have many problems, I ask myself, “do I have more trouble compared to other people in this life?” This is a very selfish question, for it mean that I tried to underplay other people’s problem and overstate my own. The truth is, almost everybody think that way, thinking that they are faced with unfairly high amount of issues and other people are not having a more difficult life than their own.

This is similar to the question posed by psychologist earlier this decade by spreading the questionnaire, “do you think your driving ability is above average?” More than half respondent answer “yes” to the question, signifying overconfidence bias within individuals, because it can’t be the case that more than 50% of population is better than the average.

So the answer to the question is a NO. No, if you are living in a developed countries or are currently reading this, our problem is no greater than the average human problem, both in quantity and quality. Quick research shows that three billion of people, almost half of world population, are living below $2.5 a day, among them 800 million are starving every day. Seven hundred people are lacking clean water and are at risk of diarrhea.

Imagine if you were born under this circumstances, living day-by-day doing manual labor for your life. You want to eat? Then you got to work on your fields (if you are lucky enough to have one) or fish on the river. To drink, you have to carry bucket of water from the well, or nearest water source, and cook it to avoid infection. To cook it, you need to chop some woods and bring it to a place you call home. You have to endure this each day, even when you are tired or not in the mood that day, because it is a necessity and not an option.

This raw data led me to think about the second question, “are we going to be happier if we have less trouble in life?” Yes, having fewer problem might allow us to do what we want (sleeping more, reading all day on a cafe, watching our favorite series, travel), but I realized that it will lead to lower life satisfaction for some of us in the long-run. For troubles are a two sided sword, it build character and endurance, but it might also result a setback in our life, an outcome that we feared will materialize. On the positive note, having troubles in our life mean that our life is progressing, for those having lots of it are challenging their own status quo and striving for a better life. Hence my conclusion that having fewer trouble may lead to us complaining less in the short-term, at the cost of lower long-term life satisfaction. But do not mistake “less complain” with “happiness”, for I do not think people are truly happier when faced with less issues in life.

If you go deeper into the root of people’s hate in facing issues in their life, most often it come not from the problem itself, but rather from the frustration and fear of the negative outcome that may happen. Frustration is a strong word, the feeling of helplessness toward certain things, most often rooted in their inability to do something that is required to solve their trouble. Few years ago David Allen, in his book “Getting Things Done”, taught me to create a list of options available to solve my problem. By writing down the problem into bullet points, and list all the action I could do, I could think about the best course of action more clearly. Often, this led me to the optimal result given my condition at the time.

Take an example of my current problem, having to learn French and passed B2 (advanced) level in less than 1 year, to be able to stay working in Quebec. I do not think I am a lazy person, actually I’m eager to learn a new language. However, the pressure of having to do something within a very limited time has got me frustrated. To solve this problem and create a peace of mind for myself, I did create a list.

First, I could ask for an extension of my work permit, which will give me more time to learn (I’m giving it a shot, no matter how small is the chance of getting one). Second, I could ask my employer to apply for the permit extension using a slightly complicated process for them (which I did last week). Third, I could learn French like a maniac by taking the online course and private course after work and during the weekend, something that I have done for the past month (after I received my work permit). Or fourth, I could just give up on everything and come back to work in home country when my permit expire, the “worse outcome” in my perspective although it may no necessarily be a bad thing in reality. Even in the case of the worse outcome, I could still come back to work in Canada by applying for permanent residence from my home country, an option that give a floor to the “worse outcome”, limiting my loss in the medium-term. I recommend other people to write their options whenever they asked me for an advice, because usually by elaborating their problems, they understand their problem better.

I have to admit that doing this exercise may not help me much in solving my troubles, but it has significantly improve my peace of mind, by knowing that I have done everything I could possibly do, even if the outcome is still a failure. By being able to think clearly, I could focus on my work and study, which enhance the probability of the “best outcome”. Relating back to the first question, I realize how small my problem is compared to the average world’s problem. Something that seems so important in my life, yet so insignificant from the world perspective. I doubt the world will be a better place even if I achieve the best outcome, vice versa.

And what about the second question? Are we going to be happier by living a less troubled life? I think the answer will be a personal one. But as a person who take exams for fun and the challenges involved, I could confidently say that I am happier when challenged. The problem is that sometimes I felt that the challenge is too difficult for my current “level” in life, but I guess that’s part of the fun too. Even just now, by shifting my mentality from having a “troublesome life” to a “challenging life”, I have become a more positive and confident person. I guess sometimes the trick is to fake it (that you got the problem under control and you just need to stick to your plan) until you make it (hopefully).

Cheers to all of our troubles, past and present.

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Omega Seamaster 1957: A Watch that Seamaster 300 Should Have Been

It has been over one year since my last review of Rolex Datejust I, and three years since my review of Omega Seamaster 300, the watch that has striking resemblance with this Seamaster 1957 version. As someone who has a relatively small wrist (6.5 inch), the 41mm size of Seamaster 300 has been a little annoyance to me, with the lug extending slightly beyond my wrist’s bone. Even after cutting the bracelet to the minimum allowable, it is still wear slightly too large for my wrist.

Hence, I was excited when in Baselworld 2017 Omega decided to release the Seamaster, Speedmaster and Railmaster limited edition version with smaller case size and a tribute to the 1957 version of each watch. The speedmaster 38mm is indeed a nice addition to the speedmaster family, but it is too similar in my taste with the 39mm Speedmaster FOIS (numbered edition). Meanwhile, the Railmaster just does not appeal me at all (I would personally rather have 36mm Rolex Explorer or even 38mm Aqua Terra) due to its water resistance.

On the other hand, the Seamaster 1957 is a completely different beast compared with the other Seamaster family. Classic and understated, yet polished with all the new 21st century technology (anti-magnetic feature and higher standard of accuracy) and capability to survive heavier water activity. Just like the submariner, the seamaster is designed as the all-around watch. Now, let’s take a look at the actual watch and my personal opinion about it.

KY179129

First, the boxing is nice and feel solid, although I would personally appreciate smaller box rather than larger and sophisticated box like this. The Seamaster logo is embosed on the top of the watch box, and on the inside you would find the watch itself and a carrying case with the spring bar remover and two extra straps. The packaging caters to the vintage look of the watch and it does feel high quality, whoever is in charge of advertising this Seamaster 1957 must have think it thoroughly.

KY179130KY179133

The carrying case supplies you with one NATO strap, one brown leather strap, spring bar removal tool (and few extra spring bar inside it). It also has a designated pocket to store the watch, although I tend to think that the profile of people who bought this watch are those traveling with only one watch at the time, the one on his wrist. No complain here, but I wish Omega also include a soft cloth to wipe off the smudges with this set.

KY179134KY179138

Compared with Seamaster Professional version, the Seamaster 1957 is much more shiny due to its polished nature of the case and outer part of the bracelet. And this make the watch much harder to photograph in various lighting conditions.

KY179144

As of the time I wrote this, I have been wearing the Seamaster 1957 for over three weeks, cycling around Montreal, kayaking, going to work, etc. The bracelet is very comfortable, and just like the Seamaster 300, it allows you to micro adjust the size with the slider on the clasp. This is important in hot weather, when I want to wear my watch looser than usual.

KY179148

The cool thing about Seamaster 1957 META certification is that you could register your watch at Omega website and see the various details of testing applied to your particular watch. Mine shows that the average daily deviation is 1.2 second/day, which is within 0-6 seconds/day limit.

META

While I would not call this is a “slim” watch, it is certainly not intimidating and easily slip under my sleeves when I need to dress up. And of course, I could always switch to Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso 976 when needed.

KY179150KY179149KY179147

Now, let’s see how the watch looks like under day-to-day activities.

PSX_20180810_194721PSX_20180903_102823

I hope you noticed the reflective glare by now, see the picture below if you haven’t.

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The bezel of Seamaster 1957 could be rotated clockwise and counter-clockwise, unlike Seamaster 300. This allow me to use it either as a simple time marker or as a second time zone indicator. In terms of the smoothness, it rotates in a more rigid way than the Seamaster 300.

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And this one is under bright sunlight.

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The pricing is a little bit on the high side compared to previous Omega version (on par with Rolex Submariner), but considering the feature and “limited edition” tag on it, I think its fair enough.

What is the conclusion then? Well, to me the Seamaster 1957 nails every part of my checklist and it is a better fit to my wrist than my previously owned Seamaster 300. The design is more classic and understated compared to the much more polished Seamaster 300. Few years down the road, the Seamaster 1957 could be one of the most significant piece in my collection due to its sentimental value, bought after finishing my graduate study and the beginning of my career overseas.

Enough with the talking, the adventure is waiting ahead!

 

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Now That I Passed the Whole CFA Program: Is it Worth the Effort?

If you are working in finance and have friends/colleague who did CFA level 3 exam last June, there is a good chance that you have seen them posting their exam result today, usually stating that they passed the whole CFA program after years of effort. I am happy for those who managed to pass the exam, which I think shows dedication and continuous learning process, even after graduating from university. From an outsider perspective, with so many people posting their celebration at the same time, it is easy to think that it was an easy thing to do. But I could assure you that behind every of those post, there are unique stories to be told, frustration to be shared and hope to spread. This post is my humble story, progressing from a person who was unable to understand “Time Value of Money” concept three years ago, to a person who could recall Black-Scholes formula while dreaming today.

My Story

Let me start the story by going back to May 2015 (3 years and 3 months ago), the day I decided to quit from medical school in Indonesia and start my journey in the finance world. It was the fifth month I was working in the hospital and just the beginning of rotation in the internal medicine department, after successfully completing my rotation in the neurology and oral health department. I was having a burnout, unhappy and wondered if I was doing what I want to do for the rest of my life (if you have to ask this question, the answer is probably a no). Also, I had not been actively trading/managing my family equity portfolio since entering the hospital, something that I love doing since 2012. After three days of life planning, talking to my parents and friends, I firmly gave my resignation letter to the head of the department, and so began the new phase of my life.

Well, if you are in a major career change from xxxxx to business/finance, guess what people suggest. Of course, the rational option is to either take the MBA or the CFA program. And that is exactly what I did. Three months after my resignation I joined a business school for its Master of Management program with specialization in Applied Finance, after enrolling in the statistics and corporate finance course, I already knew that this is what interests me. I love solving quantitative problems so much that I took the CFA level 1 exam in June the next year.

2015 Aug – Enroll in Master of Management program (Binus Business School)

2016 Jun – CFA level 1 exam

2016 Nov – FRM level 1 exam

2017 Apr – FRM level 2 exam, finish M.M program, obtained Financial Modeling designation

2017 June – CFA level 2 exam

2017 Jul – Enrolled in Master in Finance program (McGill University)

2018 Jun – CFA level 3 exam, finish M.Fin program

However, it is not without sacrifice that I sailed through this journey, I had to forgo the time for me to relax, meet my friends, or even the luxury of sleeping well. The last three years have been a very difficult time for me personally, not only I have to proof myself that my decision to quit from medical school was a prudent one, but I also have to keep moving toward my goal of working in the finance industry in U.S. I would bring a schweser note anywhere I went and read through couple pages while waiting for something, either it is for a food when eating out or waiting for my professor to consult on my thesis, On average, I did 20 hours of study each week for 3 years to pass these exams.

It is a truly humbling experience to be considered as failing in one subject (to be a doctor, in my case) and having the pressure to proof myself that I could be successful at another subject. This might be the reason I have been pushing myself to the limit, whether in my study, following every major development happening in the world, or trading on my personal account. In my previous role, people could potentially die or become disabled if I do a fatal mistake (or if I study just to pass the exam). Today, I still like to think the same way (think of managing pensioner’s defined benefit plan).

Was it Worth It?

One thousand days since I quit medical school, I am not the person I used to be known as anymore. I went from zero to hero in terms of finance knowledge education, moved to Canada and employed as a research analyst in a macro-boutique firm. How much of this is attributed to my status as CFA candidate? A fair portion, I would say. Would I be in the equivalent or better position without doing the CFA program? In my thinking, it is unlikely to be the case.

As stupid as it may sound, having passed the level 1 exam helps me get into the Master in Finance program at McGill University, which opens my door to the possibility of working in Canada. And passing the level 2 also helps me got my current role after graduation. As you can see, the options I have are very dependent on the previous steps I took, this concept applies in life generally. That is the major reason I have to give major credit to the CFA program in opening the doors for me to explore better opportunities in the world of finance.

I think this is why the program is popular among finance people in the first place, as it tests not only the financial knowledge of the candidate, but also the work ethics and ability to manage time and stress. Going forward, I would still expect a significant growth in the candidacy and may be the decrease in relative value of an employee with and without CFA charterholder (as the number of charterholder increases), but nevertheless I believe in the future, the CFA program will still create competitive advantage for finance professionals and benefit the society as a whole.

And when you study to learn, not to pass the exam, the result speaks for itself.

CFA Level 1 Result

L1CFA

CFA Level 2 Result

L2CFA

CFA Level 3 Result

L3CFA

 

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