Wednesday, June 30, 2010

in Padang

Arrived a couple of days ago. This is the first time I have gotten internet in the country. Looks like the next 2 months will be very busy. Hope I'll get a chance to keep blogging. Not sure what the internet situation is like at our place yet.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Kuala Lumpur - Day 2

Yesterday morning I couldn't sleep and woke up at around 6am. This morning, I felt pretty tired waking up at 9am. My room doesn't have a window so it's hard to tell what time it is. So after getting myself out of bed this morning, I walked around the city again and ventured to the west. I got to the Central Market and realized I had been outside of it the day before. It's just a big warehouse like thing with lots of vendors inside. Not too many people actually buying stuff.

The city feels different on a weekday. There seems to be less people around in general. Yesterday was very lively. There were tons of people walking around. I walked to Merdeka Square (Independence Square), where Malaysia's independence from Britain was declared. There were a few tour buses at the square but not much else going on. I think the marathon yesterday either started or ended here (maybe both). Should have came then. That would have been more fun. I still don't understand how people manage to run a marathon in this heat though.
I rode the Monorail to Bukit Bintang, the shopping district. Mostly because I wanted to ride the monorail (never been on one) and to find food. There didn't seem like there were very many food options where I was. After I ate, I realized I was extremely tired. I sort of felt the same way yesterday (jetlagged) but I was more tired today because of all the walking yesterday. So I went back to my room and napped for a couple of hours.

I really didn't feel like getting out of my room again but I figured I should do more while I'm here. And because of the time difference, no one else was online. So I ventured to the jungle around the KL Tower. There's a pretty big rain forest around the Tower. It really feels like a rain forest, I'm not kidding. Again, I wish I had gone yesterday because there would've been more people around. I didn't mind having the place to myself but there really was no one around.

There were many flights of steep steps and a rope bridge. In the middle of all this is the KL Tower. They built the tower on a hill so that it's

In the middle of all this jungle is the KL Tower. They built the tower on a hill and I think it was the world's tallest tower when it was built.

After strolling around the tower, I backtracked down the rope bridge and decided to take another path back to the end of the jungle. I went down this path that has signs that tell you about different indigenous trees. This would have been more enjoyable if not for the bugs that kept biting me. I have not been bitten once since I got here and after this little walk, I got several bites. They're pretty minor though, no swelling or anything. I also walked through the bamboo forest where there were clumps of huge bamboo.

The walk lasted about an hour. I would have stayed longer if I hadn't been completely soaked in sweat after the first set of steps. I was sweating like crazy at the end. It was super humid because it hadn't rained in a few days (it rained in the late afternoon) and it was even more humid in the jungle. Anyway, now I'm waiting for Greg to arrive. Really hope he finds his way through the mess of merchants on this street.

Side note: got asked for directions twice. The first time I was actually trying to figure out the subway map and thought that that person was going to offer me help. Too bad.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Eat, Shop, Walk, Repeat

I went outside again at around 10:30am and attempted to walk somewhere. That was probably a mistake because it was possibly the hottest time of the day. Definitely more for chilling somewhere. I walked around the neighborhood for a while, got some food, and went back to the hotel to cool down. I showered and rested and then went back outside again at nearly 2pm.

I ventured out of the Chinatown neighborhood and walked a lot. I walked to the Bukit Bintang area where there were no shortage of huge malls. I ate curry noodles at a little cafe. I really like the abundance of food choices here. Any type of rice or noodles you ever want with sweet tea or coffee.
One of the malls is called Times Square. Times Square is a huge mall. It even has an amusement park with a pretty big roller coaster.

There was even a Borders inside here. I spent a lot of time in this bookstore and a Japanese bookstore at the Petronas towers. I really like the stationary section. Americans don't really have stationary stores, I think. It's not the same...
I basically went mall hopping the entire afternoon, from Bukit Bintang to KLCC (Petronas Towers). It would have been nice to walk around the rest of Bukit Bintang (more shopping) but it was so hot that you can only stay outside for so long. I swear you could get dehydrated just standing outside because you sweat so much!! I'm serious! So I had to go into these malls to cool down.

The nice malls here have a lot of international brands. Their stuff is not any cheaper here. I'm not sure the average family can afford shopping at these stores often. But it seems to be a trend, to have international brands everywhere.

For dinner, I had chicken clay pot (rice cooked in a clay pot). It was pretty good as well. Again, very greasy. My meals have been around RM10 ($3-$4) including a drink. So not too bad since I get really full afterward. Anyway, that's what I did this afternoon. Went from one food place to another. Half the time I wasn't exactly sure where I was going. I wanted to head towards the Petronas Towers the whole time but it was hard to find the towers, even though they are supposed to be the tallest things around here. There are just too many other tall things around!

Kuala Lumpur - Day 1

First full day in KL summarized in the title of this post. I walked around a lot of neighborhoods today and found that I mostly fit in. Unless I try to say something, I think most people just assume that I'm from the area. A group of Chinese tourists also asked me for directions today to Chinatown. I managed to help them with my not so great Mandarin, at which point, I totally felt like a native.

I started off the day with trying to go up to the bridge of this:
But I got there too late and there were already a ton of people in line for the tickets. The tickets are free but they only give out a limited number of tickets each day. It took me a while to find the place where you get tickets from the subway station.

This was unfortunate because even though I was too late for the tickets, I was too early for anything else. So I walked around the garden behind the towers. It's pretty nice. Even has a jogging track.

Also saw this thing on the floor:

I live in the middle of Jalan Petaling, in Hotel China Inn 2. The hotel is decent and the location is unbelievable. The day starts out with some stalls on the sides of the street. It then gets increasingly pedestrian after that. At around 7 or 8pm, it completely fills up with merchants. Can hardly walk down the street. Very lively.
I will write about the rest of my day in another post, with more pictures.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Arrival in Kuala Lumpur!

I'm finally in Southeast Asia! Really feeling the distance when you decide to take the long route to somewhere. I got picked up by a friend of a friend and got driven from the airport to my hotel. It was really nice. I think it would have been exhausting to do that trip by myself. We met up with Stella and a couple of her friends, had dinner, and then walked around a bit.

Food here is amazing. I swear I'm just going to go around eating all day. No kidding. There's all sorts of tropical foods that I love. Jackfruit, dragonfruit, durien, mangos, lichee, starfruit, etc. I had a mango juice today that was definitely very freshly made.

The flight was okay. I was sitting next to 2 big guys who were taking up a lot of room. They took up the armrests next to me and I had to fight them for space. Seriously, don't people know that it's courteous for the window and aisle seat people to let the middle seat person have the armrests? I was going to say something but decided against it. I slept most of the time. Glad I didn't buy the food on the plane. They were really small and didn't look all that great.

So backtracking to the night before I left Cambridge. After the graduation, I started walking back with a friend who was also at the ceremony. He was leaving the next day for Singapore. We were almost back at our residences when I was like, oh, I have to buy a shirt for my mom. So we walked all the way back to the city center and each got a shirt. They had some new arrivals of Cambridge pennants. I really should have bought one. I didn't need to take out any money from the bank at all. People that I met up with kept paying for my food so I really didn't use very much money in Cambridge.

After we bought a shirt, we were on our way back the second time, when my friend ran into a friend of his. This friend just happens to have a girlfriend who goes to Stanford and he's moving to Mountain View to work for Google. So crazy.

I had dinner with my host. After dinner, we went over to the friend who is leaving for Singapore to help him pack. Singapore Airlines gives Singaporeans who are moving back to Singapore permanently an extra 10kg allowance for their luggage. But it's pretty difficult to fit everything so he ended up leaving a bunch of stuff. My host now owns 4 duvets/comforters, several lamps, and a bunch of other random stuff.

We saw him off the next morning. He had so many loose pieces of luggage. I was worried that he would leave something behind when my host flips over a plastic bag and finds 3 books that belongs to him. We had to chase after him to give him the books.

Anyhow, seeing Cambridge again was good. Not much has changed. Kind of wish I wasn't so lazy and had walked around some more. But chatting with people took longer than I thought. Everyone seemed to have time to chat forever so we did. Oh wells, looking forward to a day of exploration tomorrow.

Last Day in Cambridge

written on June 25, 2010

Time here has gone by so fast! It's okay though. I think I'm ready to leave. As with NYC, I didn't feel the need to walk around again and see all the sights. Not much has changed in terms of how the city feels and such.

I really didn't do anything useful this morning. Woke up and mosey-ed around for a long time. I had a meeting with a friend for lunch, at noon. I didn't feel like going out for a walk or anything. But the lunch was good. We went to this new Chinese restaurant in Cambridge that has a lot of Chinese people as customers. The food was pretty good. We went to a museum inside a polar research institute that had exhibits on expeditions to both the north and south poles. It was pretty interesting.

After the museum, I went off to the Caius graduation ceremony. I was cutting through the Lion Yard when I realized that there must be a bathroom inside the mall. This mall had been under construction when I was there and there are now many more levels. I saw a sign that said that the toilets were on the 2nd floor so I promptly took the escalators up one level and walked around until I saw another sign. Then I realized that “2nd” floor in the UK is actually the “3rd” floor in the US. Such a dumb mistake! The bathroom was free, luckily. Someone was actually wondering out-loud in front of the bathroom so it really wasn't just me.

I headed to the ceremony and sat with Sophia's parents. They met a few of the other Chinese parents so they were pretty happy. Some of the other Chinese parents were working in the UK. It seems like they hadn't gotten the chance to talk to very many Cambridge students during their days here. I somehow ended up with a seat right opposite the doorway. It was kind of weird.

The ceremony itself was pretty painless. There were no speeches at all. Only some mutterings in Latin that no one could understand. And then the graduates came in groups of 4, by alphabetical order, held onto the fingers of this one guy while he presents them to the Master of the College. Then, one by one, they knelt before the Master, while the Master confers the degree upon them. It seemed a bit archaic, I have to say. But I guess it was pretty fast, compared to American style ones. I didn't like the fact that they didn't ask the graduates to submit phonetic cards with their names. But then again, the name calling was not very loud at all. More for the graduates to know when to walk up to the Master.

I saw a bunch of people afterward. I was surprised at how many people I still recognize and that they also remember me. Everyone I talked to seemed to have plans for after graduation. A few are doing more school and a couple of others have jobs. There were also tons of opportunities to buy various stuff, like frames, pictures, and even a better looking diploma... I took pictures with a few people and helped a few other people take photos with their families and friends. Didn't really get to chat with people all that much because they were all busy saying goodbyes to friends, tutors, etc. But it was really good. Definitely worth the effort of coming all the way back, I suppose.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cambridge, revisited

Felt kind of strange walking around Cambridge again. The city hasn't changed very much. Maybe a few new stores here and there but everything seems very static.

I spent the day meeting up with a couple of friends. In the morning, I had coffee with my Chinese supervisor (kind of like a TA). I think that coffee sustained me through the day. Might have fallen asleep before lunch or something. But coffee here is more like espresso with lots of milk. She's graduating this year too. Just finished her PhD and post-doc studies. She's taken an associate professorship in Tsinghua, which means she has tenure there. That's really exciting. Next time we meet up will probably be in Beijing!

Then I had lunch with Sophia and her family. We went to a Japanese restaurant. My Chinese is really bad these days. After eating, we went for a walk along the river. The weather has been really nice here these past couple of days. People were saying that it was really cold until yesterday. We saw some a lot of ducks, black chickens swimming, and someone walking a cat. This all took a few hours and I got back to my friend's place at around 5pm.

Tomorrow, I'll be meeting up with another friend for lunch and then going to the Caius graduation in the afternoon. I guess that's really the reason why I'm here. The ceremony should be interesting since I've never seen one before.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Arrival at Cambridge

Written on June 22, 2010

Traveling between NYC and Cambridge was a really long and dragged out process. Still feeling tired and jetlagged from it. I left the apartment at 4pm and it took 1.5 hrs to get to the airport. I walked around to find elevators instead of dragging my luggage up and downstairs. I still had 2 hours to spare before the plane leaves. I realized I've never been in the JFK international terminal before. It is the most inefficient terminal ever!

First it took me forever to find the bathrooms. I wanted to change before going checking in my luggage. I did the self-check in, which is supposed to make the check-in process faster. But it didn't because the baggage drop people just ended up having to look up your reservation again to print out the luggage tags. So I stood in line for an hour for this luggage tag. And then had to drag my luggage to this place where they scanned all the luggage. So there were 3 things to go through, just for your luggage. And then there was this bottleneck at security because they had only 1 person checking people's passports. Usually it's very fast but they wanted to check more thoroughly so the line got really long. After that, we finally got to go through actual security and hand off our carry ons to be x-rayed. When I finally go to the boarding area, it was almost time to board the plane.

The flight was pretty full again and this guy got put into the middle seat between me and another woman. This guy was kind of weird. He wore a hat the entire time. It looked like the ones that they give out at ESP things but higher quality, maybe? I just find it strange that people would wear hats indoors. What is the purpose of a hat again? Seriously. And he had the fan on full blast the entire time.

Our flight was delayed getting off the ground. We didn't actually takeoff until an hour after our scheduled departure time. We still managed to get to Heathrow around the same time though.

I didn't sleep very much the entire flight because it was still early evening in New York time. I probably should've taken some sleeping pills to help me sleep because I got airsick at the end. Even got a little sick on the bus ride to Cambridge.

There was a really, really long line at customs at Heathrow. It took an hour or so to get through. I was pretty nervous about missing my bus while standing in line. I was hoping to get on an earlier bus but this turned out to be too ambitious. I managed to buy a sim card and top it up at the airport. I think at the end of this trip, I will have a ton of different currency and sim cards.

My bus took me to Stansted airport before going on to Cambridge. I think this was a shorter trip than the “direct” Cambridge bus from Heathrow, which goes by Luton on the way. Glad I took this route though because I met a woman from Indonesia at Stansted. Her daughter is graduating Cambridge this year. So we chatted and she gave me her contact info in Jakarta. I wish I was a little more lucid so that we can chat more. But I was pretty tired.

The friend I'm staying with met me at the bus stop at Cambridge. I showered and slept after I settled in. Hoping to meet up some people later on today and tomorrow. Hopefully I won't be too jetlagged.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Days 3 and 4 - New York Adventures (Continued)

Leaving New York today! ='(

Yesterday was a more chilled day of adventures. The day started with a sudden rainstorm. Luckily, we were still in bed and missed it. Yalu and I brunched and headed to the library to return and pick up her books. We stopped at a cupcake store on the way and were staring at this huge cupcake when one of Yalu's friends called. He and his friends were at the Guggenheim museum and wanted to meet up with us. So we got to the library quickly and picked up Linchpin, which we saw at the Miami airport back in March. Yalu had been on the waitlist for ever since. It's an interesting book. I would recommend this book, along with What Color is Your Parachute, to my job seeking friends out there.

We spent a little while walking around the Guggenheim Museum. It's an art museum that has different exhibits every once in a while. They don't have very much in the way of a permanent collection. So if you're an art person, it's probably worth getting the membership. But if you're not really an art person like some of us...

After this, we took a bus to Victoria's Secret where I took advantage of their semi-annual sale and got some lotions. Hopefully, they'll make nice gifts. Did you know that the first Victoria's Secret store opened at the Stanford Shopping Center? The store was started as a store for guys who felt weird buying underwear for their wives.

We got back around 3 or 4pm and ate tamales from Trader Joes. We watched some Conan, napped (me), and read some Linchpin. We decided to go out for Indian food for dinner and found a place nearby using Yelp. Unfortunately, the place was closed when we got there. It was very unclear whether the place was permanently closed or not. So we ended up getting something from an Indian food truck nearby, came back, and ate while watching more Conan. The rest of the evening was spent watching even more Conan and dismantling Yalu's closet.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 2 - Adventures around Brooklyn

I am going to be super jetlagged for the next few weeks. We woke up pretty late, mostly because I wanted to keep sleeping. After we managed to get out of the house, we had a very adventurous day. The original plan was to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, eat pizza at Grimaldi's Pizza, and go to the Transit Museum.

Our plan was to take the R train to near to Manhattan side of the bridge and walk across. So we took the N train to Canal St and waited around for the R train. We waited a long time and only saw N and Q trains. We were getting really suspicious and was wondering if the R train ran this weekend when we decided to walk around and found out that the R train was on a different platform at this station. Secrets of the subway.

After we successfully took the R train to the Brooklyn Bridge, we walked across to Brooklyn (first time for both of us). Then we checked out Grimaldi's Pizza. We've heard that it's got the best pizza ever. This was confirmed by the super long line outside the restaurant! So we decided that we would go to the MTA Transit Museum first.

But since we only had oatmeal for breakfast, we wanted a snack before the museum. It just so happens that there was an ice cream truck parked near Grimaldi's. So we went up to it and tried to decide whether we wanted to share a cone. The guy suggested a waffle cone because they're bigger but they were $6 each! So we decided to go with a regular cone ($3). The ice cream was not very cold and started melting promptly after we got it. So we stood around in the shade, near the curb, in a small park in the middle of the road, and finished the cone before we moved on.

The Transit Museum is all underground and the entrance looks exactly like a subway entrance! We were hesitant to go down at first. The museum was much bigger than we thought! We spent a few hours poking around at exhibits of how subway tunnels were dug in the early 1900s, the progression of the transit system in New York, advances in the money collecting technologies, etc. They also have a very cool collection of all the old subway cars. You can "go back in time" by going into the cars.

We walked back to Grimaldi's at around 3:30pm and stood in line for about an hour. When we finally got into the restaurant, we were both very tired and hungry. We ordered a 16" pizza with mushrooms and finished the entire thing between the two of us. It was pretty good but I don't know if it's the "best pizza I've ever eaten" since I was tired and hungry.

We took the subway back, watched some episodes of Detective Conan, and passed out on the bed. Well, I was napping and then Yalu decided to read this book about urban development. The book sounds just like a textbook and I fell asleep listening to her read... We woke up at around 9pm and watched more Conan.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 1 - New York

I think I was too excited last night and didn't managed to get very much sleep on the airplane. I was kind of tired when I got on the plane but it took a long time for drinks to come around. I flew Virgin America and I think they use the same planes as Jetblue, but I really think the seats are smaller. I had the window seat and kept wanting to put both my arms on the arm rests. I think the person in the middle seat should get both of the arm rests next to them. The good thing about this flight was that there were 2 power outlets for every 3 seats so I was able to charge up my phone.

I got to the city and met up with Yalu to get her apartment key. I got a bagel with egg and cheese. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have gotten anything because I ended up not eating very much at lunch. I had lunch with the Arup geo group. It was good to see everyone again. Although a lot of people were not around. People were really confused as to why I was there. It was hard to explain.. I was really tired when I was there and didn't feel all that well from the flight.

I attempted to get Shakespeare in the Park tickets but they were all gone by the time I got there. There was already people waiting in line in hopes of getting into the show in case some ticket holders don't show up. It was 2pm and they were going to camp out until 8pm!

I was tempted to go to the bar downstairs to watch the England vs. Algeria game but was too tired and slept until Yalu got back from work. We ate leftovers, watched Conan, and went for a walk. So the first day was relatively low-key.

SFO Airport

Written at SFO airport (2010.06.17)

The start of another journey. After traveling a lot around Europe, I got tired of traveling for a while and just wanted to stay in one place. But I guess once you start, it's hard to stop. I guess back then I wasn't nervous about going some place new because I was very naïve about traveling. Now I'm not nervous because I've been in so many different situations that I know I can figure things out. That said, all my travels so far have gone very well. I guess I'm just always very lucky.

Getting used to using my old laptop again. I spent an hour today taking off most of the stickers from the top of the laptop. Most of the stickers are super old and came off really easily anyhow. I'm glad for Goo Gone though. I've always been annoyed by the sticky residue from stickers.

Speaking of being lucky, I can't believe I'm getting the chance to not only travel to Southeast Asia (SEA) but also live there for a little while. I've been fascinated by SEA ever since meeting a lot of people from that region while studying at Cambridge. Now I get the chance the live there for a couple of months. This is just like last summer where I got to live in NYC. I've been really interested in that city ever since visiting with my family back in high school.

I really hope that this project goes well. That's right, I'm not just hoping all over the world, I'm actually working. I was in a class this past quarter where we designed vertical tsunami evacuation structures for Padang, Indonesia. This summer, two of us are going to disseminate these ideas to local engineers. We're working with a local university and students there.

I think our project is very technical and therefore, not really like what D-Lab does. But I think the training from D-Lab will still help a lot in terms of things to expect.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Around the World in 75 Days

I've always wanted to fly around the world and now I finally get to do it!! First stop: New York City.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Muir Woods

Some pictures of Muir Woods National Park, curtesy of X. Lots of really big and tall redwood trees. It's so strange. Most of the landscape around this area (most of Cali) consists of gentle, rolling hills with brown grass and shrubs. These redwoods live in a valley between these hills. Once you get out of the valley, the landscape changes dramatically.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My passport is filling up fast

I picked up my visa for Indonesia today!! Yay, I'm glad it went so smoothly. I dragged my brother along and we walked through a bit of Chinatown, North Beach, and the downtown area.

Slight change of travel plans. I realized that with 60 days in Indonesia, we're out of the country on August 27th. I've been pretty worried about my subletting situation. I'm supposed to move out of my current place and move into my new apartment by Sept 1st. So instead of hanging out somewhere in Southeast Asia for 10 days after the project, I decided to come back on the 30th and take care of all my apartment stuff. This still gives me about 3 nights in Singapore. And the flight I chose has an 8hr layover in Taipei. So depending on how on time that flight is and now tired I am, I might go walk around Taipei for a little bit.

So this summer's city/country hopping is looking like:
New York City
Cambridge, UK
Kuala Lumpur and Melaka, Malaysia
Padang, Indonesia (and maybe nearby towns)
Taipei, Taiwan

This is all starting this Thursday night. Too soon... I'm pretty much all packed now except for a few miscellaneous things. Still trying to decide whether or not to bring the sleeping bag. I think it will come in handy. All my stuff fit and is at 40lb right now. So it's not bad. But I think my stuff can be a lot more organized without the sleeping bag. Oh wells.

Monday, June 14, 2010

End of first year. Part 2

I think I ended on Thursday last time. So now onto the weekend.

Friday. Wasn't too eventful in the beginning. I just sat around wishing I had nothing to do so that I can watch Conan. =) X went to lunch with a friend so I went out to get a few things done, printed, met with people, etc. We did some final packing and my mom and brother came to pick us up. On the drive back, X got to see downtown Palo Alto, finally. I feel bad since I didn't really have time to take her around. Places are already hard to get to when you're living at Stanford. And when you've been here for a while, things are not exciting anymore. It's kind of like when Yalu visited me in England, I was like, and here's some other old building. Or when one of my HS teachers visited me at MIT. He was very impressed (shocked?) by the Stata building and I was like, "what? that thing?"

We moved a bunch of my stuff back home and then we went out for dinner in Chinatown. I tried to get my parents to go to a Thai place near our house but was unsuccessful. Maybe next time... We had a big dinner in Chinatown, at the Peony Restaurant, where my parents always go.

Saturday. It was hot. Very hot. X and I went walking around Lake Merritt, Chinatown, and Jack London Square. We stopped at the Bookmark Bookstore to cool down in Old Oakland. It was way too hot to do very much, we didn't feel like walking around that much. The big Barnes and Nobles at Jack London Square closed down. So sad! It's just one big empty building now. You could tell that the building was originally built for the bookstore plus cafe. I've spent a lot of time in that bookstore. So sad it had to close. There were a few new developments in that waterfront area. But one of the buildings look empty. Didn't look like anyone was leasing the space. That area could be really nice if people wanted to invest in it. I mean, it's a really nice waterfront area so hopefully more businesses will move in.

We got back and met up with one of X's friends. He took us to Muir Wood. It's a nice national park north of San Francisco. There are huge redwood trees there and a nice and easy trail to walk around in. Very good for family outings. The groves of redwood are in a valley. It's kind of strange actually. Most of the landscape around the area are rolling hills with yellow-brown grass and bushes. Not forest-like at all. And then you descend into the valley and all of a sudden, there are big trees. We stopped by a few vintage points to see the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

We decided to go to Japantown for dinner. I realized I had never been to Japantown in SF. It's actually pretty interesting. It was one of the first establishments of Japanese people on the continental US. It was a pretty big neighborhood until WWII came along and all the Japanese people got shipped to detention camps. Now there's only a couple of blocks of shops and such.

When we got to Japantown, X called one of friends and he came and joined us for dinner. We ate my snacks while we waited. Good thing I brought snacks! We had dinner at a Japanese restaurant that mainly served sushi.

Sunday. I had dim sum with my family and they drove me back to Stanford to watch the CEE graduation. I got there just as they were going to call out names and walk people. Great timing since the department head is not that great of a speaker... They kept mentioning accomplishments of professors and people who were not graduating. So lame. You would think that if they spend any time at all mentioning people, it would be of the graduates and stuff that they've done this year. The CEE graduation was inside Memorial Auditorium. This was really nice since it's always super hot outside on graduation day. I walked by a lot of other graduations that were taking place outside. There was a reception outside after the ceremony. It was pretty difficult to find people since there was a huge congregation of people. The little alley was too small to handle so much people. You can invite an unlimited number of guests so people had a lot of guests.

Friday, June 11, 2010

End of first year. Part 1

This has been one really long week... I'm moving back home for a little while and then heading off on a long journey. My trips and things are on the left panel. For everyone who's reading by RSS feed, you'll have to come to the actual website to see it. I have all the flights and things listed. Maybe more for my benefit than anyone else's. Everything is listed in local time.

Recap of this past week:
Monday. Long meeting with ESW team. We talked about goals for the summer and such. The meeting was so long that I picked up my take home final a few hours after it was available. Not the ideal situation but whatever. I spent the rest of the night working on the final.

Tuesday. Turned in the take home final in the morning. Started packing in the afternoon. I was pretty far along until I had to go to a meeting for my ESW group at night. Packing tired me out so I was not very lucid during our meeting.

Wednesday. I moved everything out of the room in the morning. Moved most stuff into one of the closets and the living room. Met up with the other guy who's going on this Indonesia trip and we decided on dates and flights. Went to a lunch with the geo group people at Castro Street. We went for dim sum, played around at a pet shop, had bubble tea, and then walked around this world market shop. It was a lot of fun. Then I went to a BBQ with some AAGSA people. People brought a lot of food to the BBQ but there were a lot of people and the fire wasn't very hot. So there was a lot of waiting and not too much eating in the beginning. We moved to a gas grill later on and that worked out much better. After that, I joined my ESW group again and we worked until around midnight when most of my group decided to go to a party.

Thursday. After deciding on our flights the day before. I decided it was time to go back to the embassy and submit my application for a visa again. Xiumin had a meeting with a company so it worked out great. I tried to activate my SFCU debit card but the ATM asked for a pin, which I never set up.

This SFCU thing does not seem to have very efficient customer service. I've had to go back to the branch several times to get things worked out already. Even had to call some for technical assistance to get external transfer set up. So dumb. You'd think they'd have all this stuff figured out by now. For example, why would you send someone a debit card and ask them to activate it by going to an ATM when they've never chosen a pin before?

After failing to activate my SFCU debit card, X and I went to my office where I bought my flights from KL to Padang and back. We managed to print this out and headed to SF. On the train ride there, I remembered I had to get a bank statement and cash for the visa. Luckily, there's a BOA branch right by the train station so I managed to get both of these things before going to the embassy. Everything went pretty smoothly at the embassy. The guy took my application along with all the application materials. The processing time is 2-5 days so I'll go back on Tuesday. After this I walked over to Chinatown and got a haircut. I miss the city life. It would be so nice to live near Chinatown and have everything I ever want within walking distance. Then I went back to meet up with X and we went to REI to buy a pair of sandals that I've been thinking about for a long time.

We got back in on campus and went to the SEG pool party. We chatted with various people and hung around. Didn't go in the pool. I didn't feel like changing into my bathing suit and people were pretty rowdy over there. We ate a lot and then went running afterward. We did laundry and packed some more after that.

This post is getting too long so I'll stop here for now.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Almost there

Finished 1 out of 2 take-home finals this quarter! Yay! I have a break between now and my next take home final, which will be distributed Monday afternoon. By a break, I mean that I will be working on the final deliverable for the soil berm project.

Today was a pretty productive day. I did laundry and cleaned the apartment, like all other Saturdays. Then I went out to lunch with some of Xiumin's friends. We went to Castro St for some very yummy Thai food and bubble tea. They dropped me off back at Rains and headed off to Half Moon Bay. Wish I could go with them to the beach but I have a lot of work to do.

When I got back, I finally managed to book a ticket to go from London to KL. Flying on a super cheap airline (Air Asia) for long distance (13 hrs). We'll see how that goes. No entertainment, need to pay extra for food, advance pick of seats, and baggage. But since they're out of Stansted instead of Heathrow, this makes up for the baggage fee. I had to pay for this flight with my HSBC card because the website wouldn't accept my BOA card. But even the HSBC card failed twice and I got 2 calls right away from HSBC asking me to confirm this purchase. Turns out, it was HSBC who stopped the transaction. But it all worked out in the end and now I'm finally feeling like I'm going to Southeast Asia.

I also realized this morning that even though I've been looking at maps of Padang all quarter, I have no idea what the rest of the country or the surrounding countries are like. I think I need to buy another one of these all encompassing guidebooks again. I think they're worthy investments.

After booking the ticket, I went to a SWE BBQ and chatted with some people. Not a lot of people showed up initially so some people started calling their friends. Stanford people are not as keen on getting free food for some reason. Must be the availability of food in dining halls.

I showered after I got back and started working on a take-home exam. Just finished it and can now relax for the rest of the evening. I also need to start packing up my room. I packed 2 boxes earlier but they aren't very full. Didn't want them to be super heavy and didn't exactly want my room to be in a mess right now.

Hopefully I'll get lots of work done tomorrow too. There are a few study breaks tomorrow too so they'll give me a chance to get out of this hot, stuffy apartment!

Short update - last week of classes

This past week has been pretty crazy. I don't even remember the last time I actually blogged instead of just posting random links. I pretty much spent last Saturday - Tuesday working on a homework and project, pretty much non-stop. There were a few social events here and there. There was a pig roast on Sunday at my dorm. The pig was pretty good. On Wednesday, we finally gave our presentation for the Indonesia project. There were a quite a few guests attending the presentations. I think we did pretty well and didn't go too much overtime. Xiumin arrived that day so I dragged her to the presentations too.

I went to work Thursday and Friday. I was actually pretty busy on Friday. I was doing some HR related stuff in the morning when people started arriving and wanted to go downstairs for bagels. So I got bagels with people and then was about to head to a meeting with the HR person when I got an email from one of the guys asking me to make a few changes for a meeting with my supervisor. Luckily, the HR meeting didn't take very long and I was able to finish everything just in time for a meeting with my supervisor and a few other people. Literally, just in time. The meeting went a little long so we actually had to push back my goodbye lunch by half an hour. Everyone came out for the lunch, even the supervisor. We went to a Thai place that had pretty good food.

Haven't had time to go exploring SF with X yet. So busy. I still have 2 take-home finals to do, 1 project to finish up, and a whole room to pack. So close... And then I need to seriously plan out my travels.