Friday, May 20, 2011

Seminars and adventures

Another week at work! It's been almost a month since I started working. This week has been pretty hectic and crazy. I've been getting back pretty late every night so I haven't had the energy to do very much. I've pretty much been working on the same model all week, trying to make it work. It hasn't so far and I'm kind of worried.

We had a meeting on Monday and Thursday for the project where I met more people who are working on the project. On Thursday, I met a girl who is on the structural team, working on the same project. She's Chinese and is from Perth, Australia. I thought that was interesting so I emailed her to see if she wanted to meet up for lunch sometime. She invited me to a hot pot dinner on Friday with a bunch of other young expats, all working at Arup. I haven't really met any other expats because my whole team consists of local people. Not that I've met very many people outside of my own group, actually.

Let me recount my adventurous Friday, starting from the beginning. My entire group decided to register for the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers, Geotechnics Section's Annual Seminar. The four of us (the junior staff), met up at the MTR station and found the shuttle that takes us to the conference center. I really doubt I would have found this shuttle without them. They did not tell me that we can dress causally to the seminar. It was weird because some people were in suites while others were in t-shirts. Anyway, the entire day was about landslide prevention methods, which is not what our group does. The first part covered the history of landslides in HK and that was interesting for me because I didn't know about these major events. I don't think it was so interesting for my coworkers though. I managed to find a series of "photos" in the conference proceedings that were obviously photoshoped and they got a kick out of that.

We had lunch at a pretty nice buffet restaurant. There were so many people that they had to book two buffet places. There was Chinese and Japanese food. I thought the sushi wasn't very fresh though. Anyway, we all stuffed ourselves. Sometimes, I think my Chinese is really not up to par because I seem to miss out on some key conversations. Good thing my coworkers don't mind me just tagging along with them. At some point over lunch, they decided that we should skip out on the first half of the afternoon section and just come back after the afternoon coffee break. I'm not sure I should be divulging the rest of the details here so publicly but I suppose we can write it off a cultural experience for me. We did a couple of very Hong Kongese things in that period of time.

Anyway, we had first dips on the coffee break snacks and drinks when we came back. After eating more food, we found good seats that were towards the back and near the aisle so that we could leave right after the last session. To get training hours, we have to get our certificates stamped. My coworkers were extremely fast in whipping out the certificates, getting them stamped, and went down the escalator. By the time I looked up, they were already gone. I looked around for them and after a couple of minutes, I realized that they must have gone down the escalator. They were all waiting for me at the end of the hallway though. Couldn't believe how quick they were.

I had planned to go sort out my internet situation after this but then decided that I didn't have enough time between getting back, dropping stuff off, and making it to the hot pot thing on time. So I went to Citibank HK, the only place that is opened until 7pm, to try to get a credit card. But they wanted proof of 3 months worth of salary and at least 2 months worth of paying rent. So that was a failure. I proceeded to go to the hot pot dinner, which for some reason, was all the way out on HK Island. Needless to say, it was way more expensive than a similar place in Mong Kok. I was expecting the waiters to speak good English at this price but no such luck. Good thing we had a native HK person in our group (he studied and worked in Scotland and England for many years) or else we would have had to rely on my Chinese and bargaining skills! That would have been extremely sad.

We had way too much food but it was really nice to get to know more people at the office. A lot of them are from the geo group as well so I'll see them around the office. They all seem to be working in groups were there are more than one expat. I guess my group is special in that we all speak Canto. I wonder how it works in other groups. Would the non-Canto speakers feel left out? Must be weird.

Another seminar tomorrow. After that, I'm going to go buy furniture and figure out internet. My coworkers said that the plans I found were expensive and that I should find cheaper ones if my building supports them. They said that the ones I found should be last resort if the other ones don't operate in my building. I'm so glad that they tell me these things because the other expats seem to be paying a premium for everything. The prices for rent that they're talking about seem really excessive.

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