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What can your story be in the United States?

5 posts from April 2011


Just another working day

I was thinking for a long time how to start my blog here. To be more specific,  I was wondering should I start writing about my feelings before arriving to U.S. or about how was the trip, maybe about first impression in US  and finally I came to conclusion that since this blog more or less reflects our  life during internship here in U.S. it would be the best to tell about my ordinary working days, what takes the biggest part of my time during the week. I hope it will help you to make a picture what can you expect on your daily bases if you are participant of BAFF Professional Internship Program.

Before I begin I would like to provide some short information about my internship to make my blog post more understandable.

I'm interning at Lloyds TSB bank in New York. My background is in finance management and now I'm working with hedge funds while assisting to vice president.  My key responsibilities include analysis of statistical data using quantitative and qualitative reasearch aspects in order to determine the mean variance optimization models required to better allocate assets within investment portfolio. Also, participating in manager selection effort when selecting hedge funds lies in analyzing the structure as well as the principals involved.

So here we go... My Tuesday! 

I fasten the cufflinks, tighten my tie, put on the coat, take umbrella and leave the house. It is lightly raining, still the weather is warm and you can feel that spring is here.  After a five minutes walk I'm in a subway. The train is fully loaded and there is no place where to sit even though it is still a quarter to seven in the morning. Well, I will have to read it while standing again. I’m starting to read a book that I have got from library yesterday. It is about… sure it’s about hedge funds. After forty minutes ride (reading) I’m in the center of Manhattan, the area where skyscrapers are all around you like trees in a forest and here is office were I work.


But today I have a breakfast session at JPMorgan Chase  so it’s still about 10 minutes walk till the destination. JPMorgan Chase is one of the oldest financial institutions in the United States. With a history dating back over 200 years.  It is a major provider of financial services, with assets of $2 trillion, and is the U.S. banking institution having the second largest market capitalization and third largest domestic deposit base behind Wells Fargo and Bank of America (according to data of 2009). The hedge fund unit of JPMorgan Chase is the largest hedge fund in the United States.

The streets are full of rushing people with almost every second person holding a morning cup off coffee. When I finally reach J.P. Morgan I have to assign myself at registration desk and pass the security check. I take a place at conference room and gather all presentation materials. I mark the most important numbers and make a brief overview about the fund that is going to be introduced in a fifteen minutes. Now I can go to take some fruits for breakfast, which are served in front of conference room together with hot drinks and bakery goods. After a moment I am sitting again in my place, having breakfast and waiting for presentation to start. The presentation takes about one hour including question session.  After presentation I’m going straight to my work place. It’s right next to Bryant park and Bank of America tower, in  huge Metlife building. IMG_5731

Lloyds TSB bank has 34th and 35th floors there and my work place is on 35th. The outstanding view to all skyscrapers is still breath taking even after a few weeks since I started my internship here. 


The morning tea and a quick look at the newspapers while computer is loading. Now I’m ready to start working. Today, I have to prepare  some reports. Until the lunch time I analyze different data from funds performances reports and information from Bloomberg’s terminal while trying to systemize it for reports.  For those who are not familiar with investment Bloomberg terminal is a computer (machine) with two screens where investors can literally access, crunch, analyze, and store information on their favorite companies while, from the very same screen, teleconferencing with a colleague and monitoring the relationship between the United States dollar and the Japanese Yen. For professional mutual funds, hedge funds, private partnerships, insurance companies, banks, and other financial institutions, a Bloomberg terminal is considered an absolute requisite.  To be honest, before coming to U.S. I knew that such a thing exists but I have never used it before in Lithuania. Moreover, I guess none of Lithuanian universities have it while here it’s almost vital if you are in finance field.

During a lunch brake I go together with few colleagues to get some food. In NY you can find any kind of cuisine which suites you the most for quiet good price. Usually, we buy food for going back to office where is a nice, spacious kitchen with tremendous view to time square. Also, sometimes I cook myself at home and bring the food to office and leave it in a fridge until the lunchtime comes.

Going back to work after having a nice meal is always difficult and I guess most of would agree with me on this statement. There is a lot of intense work waiting for me since I have technical analyzes training session in One Beacon Court (also called the Bloomberg Tower) at 4pm.  Again, for those who have no idea what is technical analysis I’ll try to explain: the official definition would be -  It’s a method of evaluating securities by analyzing statistics generated by market activity, such as past prices and volume. Technical analysts do not attempt to measure a security's intrinsic value, but instead use charts and other tools to identify patterns that can suggest future activity. In simple human language it’s  the way  of prediction  in investment world  while analyzing different charts and according to past data  try to predict how can the price change.  So, there are some special methods and tools how to do that and these training are exactly about that.

Alter finishing work with reports, together with some colleagues from Lloyds TSB we go to Lexington street where in modern building we will have this seminar.  It’s three subway stations away and five minutes walk after getting out of metro.  Still raining quit heavily. We go straight to reception to get permission to pass the security. I’m here for the first time so the person takes a picture of me and prints a batch for visitor with it and details were I’m going to. The building is really amazing with the modern furniture, big aquariums, and glass walls.


We make a small tour around before the training starts. Through the glass you can see the TV studios and the programs for Bloomberg’s channel being filmed, how people lead radio programs, and other stuff how it’s being made.

The training takes more than two hours. Fist speaker introduce the most common the methods how to analyze the chats while the second one about new ways which are not that popular yet.  Also In the end of training as usually Bloomberg  (I noticed that later from other Bloomberg events) introduces the futures on Bloomberg terminal, which can be used to improve the efficiency of work. All in all, a lot of new information

After the training I grab some snacks, which are served in hall in front of conference room and rush to the library. It is not far from my work.  I have to make it there as soon as possible because working hours are  only until 8pm. and now it’s almost 7pm.  In library I give back the borrowed books and take a few new ones. I made everything in time. Now I can go home.

8.40pm. and I’m walking down a street were I live. It’s still heavily raining. Mostly, during weather like that  people feel sad and depressed but not me, especially today. It was a tiring but great day. I was doing a stuff I like, saw a lot of things  new for me and for this reason I am almost singing in the rain…. There is still reading session left and time to communicate with friends in Lithuania (those who can't sleep at night), but the the most interesting part of the day have passed. 

This was my Tuesday.


P.S. Pictures are taken not on that day.





On memory and silence.

And then there are days when the skies are overcast and the rain comes. Great torrents that answer some deeper calling of the soul that has had too much sun. Better have your windows open to hear the rush of water instead of sleeping in a sealed-off airconditioned cell. Although, it is not as bad as it seem - prolonged exposures to real silence are invigorating. If you exclude all the outside stimulant from your life like media, books, other people, you will find that the silence will stimulate your brain to fill in all the empty space.

Such are Sunday afternoon with torrential outpours. I leave the windows open for a time, but after a while the droning sound of the rain and the rustle of the palm trees becomes too loud for me to hear the podcasts and I close the windows. Silence ensues. Our everyday technology is not much different from nature, - the air conditioner lives it's own personal life, waking up from time to time to assert it's existence, just like an unseen animal in a cage. The ceilings and the walls are of reenforced concrete so no sound comes into the great hall and the bedrooms are quiet. The air is cold, heightening the cathedral feeling of the place. The outside is a complete blank - nothing can be seen through the tall windows except for a wall of sound. One almost expects the tall windows to be of stained glass - would have been so much more appropriate with the whitewashed walls and the redwood furniture. Some protestant church with its austere interior would have been shamed by the guest house.
After a while the rain stops, but I leave the windows closed. I try not to break the silence in the evening hours with sounds of music or speech. It is the middle of the night on the other side of the world with monday just a few hours away for the sleeping. My Lady graces me with a few self-humiliating lines and retreats into the shadows of Milanese life. I see flashes of dark streets near Brera, closed shops and silence of parked cars. She is just an outline in the dark, a shape of a  female in a jacket and a fedora hat walking in the orange glow of the street lamps.
Images begin flashing in the mind, memory becomes more crystalline with the passage of silence - it is no longer a hazy recollection of events, but a vivid  living part of yourself. This is probably one of the reasons why people pick up smoking or consuming alcohol - an excuse to spend time without purpose, a chance to slip into a condition when what is happening outside is not much different from what is happening on the inside. When your mind is blank and unmoving it spills and intermingles with the world of objects, so that you can no longer distingues between the room you are in and the interior of your brain.

Night comes. I dream of winter and of a completely different Sunday, of a day when me and my baby brother go for a walk in the forrest just outside the residential area where we live. He makes me bring a sledge with a lambskin on it - white as snow so that he can enjoy a comfortable ride through the wood, while I get to navigate the snow drifts. My brother is still little, four or five years old. He is wearing a deep blue jumpsuit and a leather and fur hat with ear flaps that makes him look like a little pilot from the beginning of the previous century. We wonder the pathways among the show covered bushes, poking here and there with a flat wooden shovel, talking nonsense and falling into snow. The air is crisp and clear and in the dream I can clearly hear the high voice of my brother when he is calling to me. We argue, we quarrel. The day is bright with blue shadows but as afternoon approaches the bright colors fade and a tinge of red colors the skies and we begin walking back home. It would snow in the night, to cover our tracks.     



On arrival.


I shall not try to adhere to any kind of a narrative in any of my writings here. This is not a diary in which the progression of events follows a strict logic of time and succession, more a series of letters or, even worse, essays. No two people have ever given me a matching description of what an essay is, there is no general consensus and as such, no limitations. An essay is a roaming beast formed in a literary minds that wanders the fields of themes and subjects, grazing here and there. Essays are a form of relieving your consciousness of ideas and images that are struggling to live on the paper but don't have the vitality to become books and novels. For the time being they are confined to the essay wastebasket.

Blogging platforms are ill suited for such purposes, because they require constant attention on the mundane in order to be popular. A person who simply rambles about sunshine and the flowers and records his literary endeavors is not considered by western standards to be a blogger (but he does qualify for Livejournal). A blogger in western sense is a kind of an audacious truth-seeking commentator, who vents his frustration on the pages of his blog on a variety of subjects, ranging from the politics of the Middle East to the intricacies of interactions between players in the newest Mumorpaga. Problem is - bloggers are forgotten just as soon as the crisis that made them popular has passed, while essayists just collect their essays, edit them, rehash and publish a book.

But, for the sake of consistancy, lets get back to the story.
Clouds break and the city is still covered in a haze. What can be made out from the illuminator is an endless succession of parallel streets without end. The coastline is straight and seems empty. The scale of the buildings along the edge of the water is out of proportion to the sprawling neighborhoods that. It is hard to gauge distance from that view, as if you were looking down on a badly made scale model. The craft descends and I see overpasses, more rows of dingy houses that terminate abruptly in a runway. We hit the tarmac and there is a silence as the plane slows down. Several people begin clapping, but only as an afterthought - so unlike Europe.
I experience a sudden attack of deja-vu as we step off the German airbus and into the sleeve of the airport conveyor. Moving deeper into the building is like stepping back in time to 90s or even maybe 80s in term of the finish and look of the place, the aesthetics of design. Badly lacquered wood panels on the walls, worn steps and an airport shuttle with stained windows and a stainless-steel interior. As we go to the immigration control the setting sun is shining through the grime and the world outside is a collection of concrete boxes and conveyors moving slowly. Everything looks unclean, aged, every counter and every sign and every surface bears signs of constant use. None of the sheen of the scandinavian airports, no glamor of duty free and glass surfaces in Arlanda, no bright pictures of blue-eyed blonds smiling at you from the frozen landscape of Finland. Feels more like Greece, or maybe even Egypt.
Leaving the airport I strip off my jacket, but still find my attire inadequate for the heat as I persperate profoundly. I am greeted by Cadia and Lamsy, both slightly taller than me, a couple by the look of it - we walk to the car.  A large parking lot, multi-story, almost empty, lacking any pedestrian pathways. Cadia's car is littered with junk, things forgotten and never used - there is no airconditioning and as we pass through the toll booth and get on the freeway the wind blasts through the open windows. The city outside is the same collection of concrete boxes, only now, as we are moving towards the beaches, modernist skyscrapers begin dominating the skyline. Whitewashed and half as tall as the ones in New York, they feel sparsely placed, huddling together for solace. The freeway is a patchwork of asphalt, the road slightly uneven. As we drive the causeway we see the port and the distant cruise liners moving out into the ocean. We are passing more modernist buildings and finally arrive in Miami Beach.

Lamsy's apartment is confusing. He begins describing it as a singular piece of design - two units remodeled into a single space, washer-drier combination share a niche that is occupied by a refrigerator from the other side. It is not a typical american dwelling, too Art Deco for suburban arrangements. And yet, there are little flaws everywhere, little imperfections that make it quite believable that this place was designed as a past-time, rather than a job. The master bedroom is missing a door, and the light switch for the second bedroom is in the hallway.
I have a shower and we dine in a subpar mexican cafeteria, eating tacos and drinking overpriced cocktails. But just before that, we walk out to the ocean on my request, that by that time has become milky blue from the setting sun. Cadia runs into the water, splashing her feet in the shoals while holding up the hem of her dress. I am more sedate, careful lest the tide wets my italian shoes. I take some time to look at it. Every friendship has an initial stage, when two individuals are not quite sure of each others position and take their time to tentatively probe. I will probably go for a swim tomorrow...     



On aloofness.

Flying west is less straining on body and soul. It is as if you are locked in place above the rotating globe, pinned in one spot above the world with the atmosphere rushing past you with the sun an unmoving companion - permanent on the horizon. The golden shine is a bridge to be followed, all timetables ignored - night and day just an illusion for creatures confined to the few hundred feet above the rocks. It is a funny state of being, one that elates the mind and strips the superficial thoughts, like "Where I am going?" and "What am I doing?". As you look at the deep ocean of the space above, the blue so unreal, so unlike the one you see from the ground, you start questioning your identity. Are you your possessions? Are you your actions? Are you your body? Compare all of that to the size of the sky above and you will find that you can not give a single answer.

There are clouds over the North Atlantic, and Canada is covered in blinding snows. Going south along the coast there is very little change in the climate, until the Airbus is plunged into thick clouds and turbulence.  Winter winds clash with the perpetual summer of the tropics. Flying south is less straining on body and soul, but it the fuselage is tested, as are the nerves. A second helping of scotch, another meal. Very soon I find that I have finished the book I brought with me, it's words still lingering in my mind: "Great skill goes into production of bows and arrows, but the result is - birds fly ever higher...". The futility of it all, the powerlessness of man. Come to think of it, were I to crash through the clouds below and smash into the ocean at full speed, I would not have felt the least bit wronged by fate. My last thoughts would have been of the sun at the top of the world and that eternal state of being.

My modified laptop runs for five hours straight, its inside clean and new. All the files and software I had are replaced, Ubuntu nestling in the corned of a spacious drive, silently purring and carrying out only the essentials. There is nothing but a word processor and a few images - all of the fluff that comes with big commercial operation systems is missing. I type a letter - five hours is just about the right amount of time for me to go over every syllable, checking for hidden meanings and things that could be understood incorrectly. I write in Russian to a certain female, now removed from me by more than just geography. The Mediterranean, the Atlantic - all of that water between us and all that time when she will not be reading my letters, not in the way that I envisioned them to be read. But I don't perceive this exercise as entirely futile, not up here, not with such close proximity to the sun. I still take time to write, perfecting every word until the screen goes dark and another helping os scotch arrives. Ones feelings of rejection get alleviated by the loss of pressure and connection with the mundane life - all that transpired before leaves a sense of vague loneliness, like the one after an especially pleasant dream.

One can't help contemplates ones own death and uselessness to the world, not when confronted with the total emptiness. If you call me a pessimist, then you have missed the point. But I am straying away from my narrative. The flight culminated in the approach to the beaches of Florida. From the haze that hang above the ocean I could make out the coastline. The city grid runs into infinity... 



Today was a long long day.  In the morning radio interview. Topic- BAFF  of course :) (my first time on radio :)) The rest of the day freezing in the forest... filming Latvian National Armed Forces training. There is nothing better than a hot cup of tea.