Much ado about egg tarts

Pasteis de Belem. So well-loved all over Southeast Asia as the Portuguese egg tarts.  When in Portugal, I have to have ’em every day!

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The original egg tarts

The original pasteis tastes incredible!  I have a bit of a history with these egg tarts.  One of my assignments during the KFC launch in Myanmar was to sample all egg tarts across town (about five bakeries in total in Yangon) and study their price points and diameters.  You see, in some parts of Asia Pacific, egg tart sales make up about 22% of the chicken shoppe’s top line during festive times.  I find the butterfly effect simply fascinating: monks used egg whites to starch clothes and make pastries with leftover yolk; then separation of the state and the church forced the “conventional” pastries to open market; centuries later, there I was, accidentally ended up with the duty to sell them to unsuspecting Myanmar consumers under a U.S. name.  I find all of it wacky and fascinating at the same time.

The week I spent in Portugal also coincided with Facebook’s ban on the derogatory term “Kalar” as a way to crack down on hate speech in Myanmar.  Kalar is a term that has sadly evolved to become contaminated with the assertion of extreme nationalists in their hate against Rohingya.  While I am ashamed to witness the current episode of history unfolding in Western Myanmar, I have to defend the original term and its cosmopolitan beginnings.

In fact, the word Kalar originally used to be referred to Sri Lankan, Portuguese, French, German, Armenian and Persian travelers to old Burma.  Essentially, Kalar used to mean foreign travelers, passing through a much more open nation at the time.  In Burmese language, a chair is called a Kalar-Htaing because common Burmese used to sit on the floors and the exotic chairs became fashionable after foreign travelers brought them to common households.  For those with Burmese skills, I found this interesting article from a 1987 magazine, embedded at the bottom.

In any case, one Portuguese explorer from Lisboa made it all the way to the tropical palace gates and became what the old Burmese would call a Kalar-Wun (Foreigner Minister), a governor of today’s Thanlyin back in 1500s.  He went by his Burmese name, Nga-Zin-Ga, or at least that was the case according to official history text books.  One descendant of this 16th century Portuguese community in Myanmar, James Myint Swe, published a book a few years ago – you can find it here.

Today in Myanmar, we are often blind to history and Myanmar’s former self.  Being open and warm to foreign visitors and explorers used to be the tradition in the 16th century, and it was acceptable to even assign guests coveted courtly positions.  The recent trend of xenophobia – specifically among the educated – is new and quite embarrassing.

Because Myanmar has been closed off, we missed out on an opportunity to lay our hands on the official secret recipe of original Pasteis de Belem, and Thais got hold of it!  The Thai diplomats built an open air pavilion (or a zayat) for the Portuguese, still on display near the Belem monastery, and in return, received the official state secret, THE recipe.  Original recipe in exchange for a ZAYAT?!  I blame my government for many things, but this nearly tops my list.

From 1987 October “Doh Kyaung Tha Sar Saung“:

 

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Shelf Life.

MBA term 2 opens with a question to myself: What am I doing with my life?

As anyone familiar with MBAs would know, term 2 is all about recruiting.  Most MBA summer internships transform into a job offer after the graduation.  Those pursuing banking and consulting careers are going through an extremely, structured summer internship interview process right now.  Suits adorned with a sleek London Business School name tag are seen walking around the campus every day for various recruiting events.

In the middle of all this, I do not know what to do with my life.  Yet here is a thing: uncertainty = potential.  In my uncertainty lies a world of opportunities I can choose to pursue.  But potential has its shelf life.  Potential is a brief, volatile, metaphorically radioactive state where you change into some other form (hopefully something productive) or you decay away the potential each passing moment you aren’t utilizing it and shaping it to your goal.

The only way I know how to manage this process is to give time and actively seek out those who are currently where I might want to end up at one day.  I am going to reach out to people, hear their stories, learn about the world out there, and see what suits me.  Just because my classmates are cracking case practices, and visiting offices in nice suits does not mean that is the best course of action for me.

My friend sent me this essay written by David Brooks of New York Times.  Brooks talks about resume virtues and eulogy virtues in his essay.  When I read this, I actually gave a little chuckle because my first assignment at MBA was to write my own eulogy.  Not to promote London Business School here, but the school wants us to think about our lives and careers in a more holistic way.  Take a look at this book below, for instance.

Titled “The 100-Year Life,” the book argues that our three life stages of education, work and retirement will blur and converge into a multi-stage longer life.  We are seeking further training and learning.  We want to volunteer and dedicate ourselves to causes while being fully employed.  Companies are starting to offer such arrangements: At Bain, 10% of your time is dedicated to pro bono consulting.  Career paths that our parents took will not work for us today.

There is no conclusion to this blog post, since there is also no conclusion to my January internship explorations right now.  Later this year, I can be anywhere.  I can be doing an exchange program in any part of the world or trying out a role I have never done before.  The world is my oyster.  I feel grateful I have this freedom.  Stay warm, readers.

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Highest and Hardest Glass Ceiling

The gendered nature of HRC’s campaign loss at this time around is a painful one.

Here I acknowledge that people have complex reasons for going with different candidates, but there exists a gender dimension to the 2016 election results in America.  Many of my friends cried yesterday at work, and between classes.  The mood this week could be a lot better.

HRC was not a “cool” choice among young people, like Obama was in 2008, when the Hope sticker was a cool accessory on college students’ laptop covers.  But with HRC, even when compared side by side with the scandalous disposition of the current president-elect, people still faulted HRC for her personality, not the policy she has been campaigning for or the public issues she brings up with facts and figures.

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This election is a slap in the face.  We mourn, but now we have to move on because there is so much work to do!

To young people in particular, I have as Tim said spent my entire adult life fighting what I believe in. I’ve had successes and setbacks and sometimes painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your professional, public, and political careers — you will have successes and setbacks too.

This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.

It is, it is worth it.

And so we need — we need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives. And to all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me: I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion.

Now, I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will — and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.

And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.

The Well Curve

Now that I have a London zip code, a UK bank account, a Giff Gaff number, and a national health insurance code, I am about 90% set on becoming a London resident.  I believe that this relocation process will be officially complete once my Apple App Store is switched to a UK account.

Mixtape

As a born and raised Yangonite, I will always carry a part of Yangon wherever I shall live in the next couple of years.  As much as I enjoy my new life in London, with its very British way of calm and collected energy, the chaotic Yangon is always in the back of my mind.

And I started dreaming about being back at my family home since the very first week, which is NOT how homesickness normally works.  When you are homesick usually, you get really excited and high on the new place for the first few weeks or even months, and a sense of longing kicks in later.  In my case, I am having this parallel experience of thoughts about home, an excitement about London, and a hectic beginning of the orientation modules at school, all at the same time.  This has not given me much time to decompress.

What will become of this blog?  No idea so far.

Listening to Karen’s Mixtapes floods my flat with Yangon nostalgia.  And I also found a playlist I gave her last year, titled The Well Curve.  Here is the same playlist on YouTube.

“It’s called The Well Curve because it’s low on the middle and high at the extremes, which is how you feel when you go through a negative experience. These 5 songs are supposed to accompany your journey through The Well Curve.”

Enjoy your Well Curve journeys!

Applying for MBA from Yangon

You probably have been thinking about it for some time.  You might have even bought a few GMAT books in a fit of inspiration.  As with any good ole MBA application process, it begins with opening your least disliked GMAT book.  But what about other resources?  How could you best prepare for yourself with limited resources of Y-town?

First of all, do you  need to fly to Bangkok or Singapore to take a test?  Definitely not.  I took my GMAT at Hlaing Township in the MICT Park.  The Yangon-based GMAT Center is not only convenient and quiet, but the staff are also extremely friendly.  One female exam staffer even served me a cup of coffee during my bathroom break out of her sheer generosity and kindness.  The Burmese Way to GMAT test-taking!  Do it.  Highly recommended.

Myanmar Inspiration GMAT Center at 01 652 316
Building 7, Room 6
MICT Park, Hlaing Township
Yangon, Myanmar.

For preparation, there are a few teachers popular with local students.  You could enroll at MAY International Education Center (http://www.mayeducation.com/), but that school simply was not for me.  Because I have had an extremely strict work schedule even on weekends at the time, the school’s relaxed attitude with cancelling classes last minute did not sit well with me.  I cancelled eventually and had them refund me for all the last minute class cancellations and delays (I paid my bill in August and could not take my first class until October!).  Do not do it.  Not worth your time.

Now, there are no Kaplan or Manhattan Centers with free tests or workshops you can go to like in big cities like New York or London, but there are a few websites that really helped me with this process.

https://www.manhattanprep.com/

Manhattan Prep guidebooks are really easy to follow and great for freshening up the basic concepts from high school.  You could also take Thursdays with Ron online courses, which give you a good insight to how the exam works.

There are also sites such as http://gmatclub.com/ the Economist GMAT app, or the Veritas.  I also started a Facebook messenger group of GMAT study buddies, all of whom are better at math than I am.  We would work at our different pace, then meet up for coffee to discuss harder problems.  I actually had fun.

In the first few weeks, it helps to also start writing down your personal statements as you prepare for your GMAT.  Some acquaintances often come up to me and ask me to share my essay as a reference, and I have always politely declined such requests, mainly because personal statements are hugely personal.  It is supposed to explain your psyche, your post MBA plans, and what this particular school means to you.

Not to generalize, but most local candidates are far more competent quantitatively than me, so I devoted most of my time on GMAT math, and wrote my statements with a little help from my friends.  A colleague of mine did one official GMAT guide, took his exam within a month, and got something like 760.  If personal statements are your main point of weakness, start this process early, brainstorm your thoughts, write down notes in little post-its, and get feedback from friends and mentors, as well as people who understand how these things work.  Select advice smartly.

If you have an interview invite, cough up and take a plane!  Perhaps not to the U.S. or the U.K. but schedule something with an alum in the region.  I did my MBA interviews in the same day in two different cities back in March, and trust me, the sangria I drank that evening was by far the most delish.

The last bit, there is the livewire and the decision wire from Clear Admit.  Even after everything you have done, these things are such a crap shoot, so check out http://www.clearadmit.com/livewire/ and see where people are at.  It certainly helped me.

The whole process took me five months (September-January) and I applied for Round II deadlines.  A few people did it from Myanmar last year.  There are two enrolled at MIT after a few years of work experience in Myanmar.  There is one going to Yale.  I am going to London Business School.  There’s one non-traditional profile who took her GMAT in Bangkok over Thingyan.  One person left Myanmar, moved to the Bay Area to prepare, and got into Berkeley Haas.  A friend prepared her applications in Yangon entirely, went to INSEAD and just had a huge signing bonus with Boston Consulting Group.

So lighten up!  You can do this!