Monday, June 27, 2011

Got a raise today

Too measly of a raise to be celebrating but I am updating my spreadsheet. Apparently, this "annual review" happens really fast. My boss met with everyone individually and gave them a letter telling them whether or not they got a raise. I think it took about 5 minutes per person. Definitely less than 5 minutes for me since mine is set. All graduate engineers get the same rate and same raise for the first two years.

We finished a submission today for a schematic design for a project. We wanted to submit everything by noon but we kept changing things and updating. We were really busy from 5-7pm implementing a bunch of changes. Good thing I (still) like what I'm doing. Otherwise, I would not last very long. We were all in the office on Saturday putting the bulk of the report together. We worked 8 hours and went out for dinner. I was so tired at the end of dinner.

Sunday was more relaxing. I think I still need to catch up on sleep though. I skyped with X and Y first and then called my parents. I don't think my mom is very fond of the video chat with skype. She thinks it's too low quality and not clear. But I did get to see Snowball! haha. Anyway, I went furniture shopping with a friend from work afterwards. We had lunch at a Japanese place. I had a rice bowl that had veggies and some raw fish pieces. It was like a sushi bowl, very good. We looked around at the furniture place but didn't end up getting anything significant. I still wanted to go to Ikea but I was tired.

I went grocery shopping around my neighborhood and went to the local markets for the first time. Things are sooo cheap. I got more than enough veggies for the week after spending $20 (HKD). For this price, I don't think I could have gotten even one little bag of veggies at a supermarket. I also got some cooked chicken. This will last me through the week. I wanted to get some fruits but couldn't find rambutan. One of the girls who is working in a site office brought some lai chee for us to share. Unfortunately, I forgot to get some before leaving... Oopse. I was too eager to leave after we submitted our stuff.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Friends and shopping

Quick update about what I've been up to since coming back to HK. Yes, my days have been mostly filled by work. I regularly work 11 to 12 hours now. I think I've mostly gotten used to it. I still wish I can eat earlier in order to digest by the time I want to go to sleep. 

I was really busy last weekend because a friend of mine from undergrad was here. He was doing research at the City University next to my workplace. So we went out for lunch everyday that we were both in HK. He left on Monday so we had to take advantage of the weekend. I visited his hotel on Friday hoping to help him make use of the pool and jacuzzi. It's an outdoor pool that supposedly has a view of the bay. It looked really nice and I was looking forward to it. But we went to eat dinner first because I was hungry. And then it turned out that the pool closed at 10pm instead of 11pm like we had thought. Oh wells, maybe next time... 

I dragged him to Ikea with me on Saturday where we met up with a friend from work. I had a really good time shopping. It's so much better when you have people to ask and discuss things. And... of course, I had someone to help me carry things back! My friend from work just happened to have a couple of friends from Australia visiting that night so we decided to meet up again for dinner. We went to visit her apartment, near Mong Kok. It's much bigger than mine. More than twice the size (and twice the rent!). 

And then the five of us basically ended up hanging out together the entire weekend. We made it to a pretty nice place for dinner Saturday night. Then we stood in line at a really famous dim sum place in Mong Kok but then found out that the wait would be 2 hours even though we got there before the place opened. So ridiculous! The lady gave us a card to a branch in Sham Shui Po, near where I live. So we took a taxi there. The wait was much shorter and the food was pretty good. I would probably take other visitors there. I think there are cheaper dim sum places though but I guess sometimes it's good to play it safe. My friend is really into reviews so I guess that satisfied him.

We then spend most of the rest of the day shopping. We went into a shopping mall to cool down and then the girls (there were 3 of us) started shopping. The couple from Australia really wanted to shop. I actually had a lot of fun. We went to 2 malls and we came across a MUJI. I actually saw this store in NYC before but it's so much better here. They have clothes, household items, and some food. I'm going to start filling out that furniture reimbursement form and see if I afford anything from there.

We met up again for dinner, which was a bit rushed because the Australians had to run off to the airport. We were an interesting group. We were actually all Chinese but only I can speak Cantonese. There was one person who is from China but lived in Australia for a long time. So she can read the menus but couldn't really get much done using Mandarin. The other three knew a little bit of Cantonese. We made it work between all of us. 

Doing a lot of different stuff at work all of a sudden. Really feel like I'm learning a lot. I spent the first month running finite element models and was getting comfortable with it. Now, all of a sudden, I'm designing piles. I feel like I'm over my head again. It's fine though because everyone is very willing to help out and teach me stuff. 

There's been a typhoon warning up this week. It was at level 3 (the highest is 8) on Wednesday but now it's back to 1 again. It's not too bad because the actual typhoon is missing HK altogether. I hope I don't ever get stuck in the downpour...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Back in HK

I am never flying United again if I had the choice. The check-in line was long and confusing. As the line moved I realized that we were moving towards self check-in machines. Most people didn't know this and was waiting for a the two people who were working to check them in. After I used one of the machines, no one came to put the tag on my bag for the longest time. I waved to some people and they just ignored me. So I kept waving and was about to start jumping up and down when someone finally came. I think the people behind the counter are supposed to just tag bags instead of checking people in.

The boarding was really confusing because there were just too many airlines blaring their instructions. I don't know if it's the accent of the people doing the announcements or the quality of the speakers but I could not understand what they were saying at all. They said the instructions in English, Cantonese, and maybe even Mandarin. I couldn't make out the words at all. It was the same when I got on the plane. I think on the plane, it was the speakers fault though. I had to put on my headphones and listen through there.

I never managed to catch the beginning of any of their movies. I watched half an episode of House. The food was mediocre at best. All the bread products smelled like they were baked properly. I have a rule of saying away from the "Chinese" selection, which usually involves half cooked rice. They didn't even serve any rice. I finished the 2nd book in the Twilight series and started on the 3rd. I had to stop every once in a while to nap or just rest.

I decided to take a bus back. The E21 goes pretty close to where I live. I had a huge headache that started about 6 hours before we landed. I didn't feel nauseous though, until I got on the bus. I took a Tylenol before I got on the bus and I think that helped. The bus itself circled around the airport area for a while before getting on the highway. The sharp turns on the roundabouts made me really nauseous and dizzy. I slept until we got to the Kowloon side. Otherwise, I would have thrown up. I had a bag ready but luckily didn't have to use it. I gave it to an elderly lady who was throwing up right when we were getting to my stop. I don't think I would recommend this way of transportation. It also took forever. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Stanford Commencement

The nice part about commencement is that I got to see a lot of my friends again. I was surprised to see so many people coming back for this event. A lot of people have started working already and made it back. I guess if I flew halfway around the world for this, it's not hard to imagine other people driving a few hours. Some of last year's grads also came back to celebrate with us. But the thing about a large crowd is that I never seem to be able to hang out or talk to anyone for long.

We got up at 6am to drive over to Stanford. We got breakfast on the way and I picked up my gown from Mahalia. It took a lot of phone calls to successfully meet up with people. I left my parents in company of a friend's parents. I ended up hanging out in line with the structural engineers from my year and we all congregated in the front of one of the lines for the school of engineering.

The morning ceremony took place at the stadium. I'm not sure if the undergrads were separated by school. It didn't seem necessary. The grads were seperated by school. We all had different hoods with the school's color. School of Engineering is orange. It's too bad that none of my pictures showed the back of my gown. You can see the hood better. I actually liked the thing despite the fact that it felt like it was choking me. My friend from Hawaii got me a lei made with shells and a type of nut. My mom bought me a flower lei from someone strategically selling them as we were walking to the stadium.

We were herded into the stadium and sat on the field. I wonder if they needed to replace the grass after we all stomped on it. The undergrads have this tradition of the Wacky Walk. We didn't see it because we came in after them. But I think it just involves dressing up and doing something "wacky". I think they take off the customes for the diploma cermony. I guess this setup is good in that they get to have some fun and still have normal looking pictures for the diploma receiving.

We managed to sit in the shade but the sun creeped around during the ceremony and it got burning hot. A few people from the Chorus sang America the Beautiful and the Stanford Hymn. I thought their singing was very nice. But I was distracted by some of them wearing cardboard (paper??) signs that said "Do" "Re" and "Me" written with markers. They looked like they were attending a kindergarten graduation. I mean, I guess it's funny but I really thought they looked dumb standing on the stage in front of 10,000 people.

The commencement speaker is the President of Mexico. His speech was pretty typical. I had a hard time concentrating when it got too hot. After his speech, we stood up by school and had our degrees conferred upon us. I met up with my parents outside of the stadium and we walked back to the car to drop stuff off. It was unnecessary to carry jackets around at this point. We made it over to Memorial Auditorium for the diploma ceremony.

I think we had a larger class than usual and it seemed to take forever to get to me. The venue for the reception is way too small for the amount of people (and amount of food they laid out). It was very crowded and and people started calling me before the ceremony had ended. I managed to meet up with everyone who called and got pictures with a lot of people. We went to get Jamba Juice after this, returned my gown, and got the car. I really wanted to keep the hood. I don't think they would have missed it since we just all dumped our gowns in a big bin anyway. But it would be a hassle if they actually asked for it back and it's not like I have anywhere to put it. My place in HK has no space for junk.

That was the end of a very long and exhausting day. I got slightly sunbrunt on my face again. The rest of me was covered by the long gown so that was fine. I really should enjoy the non-humid, non-cloudy sunshine here while I can though. Can't go outside in HK without breaking a sweat. Flying back tomorrow afternoon. So soon! I was just getting used to this idea of "vacation".

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Commencement tomorrow!

Commencement tomorrow! I need to remember to charge my phone because I know I will be calling and texting a ton of people. One of my friends came to Oakland with his parents today and I went to meet up with them in Chinatown. They were just finishing their meal so I joined them and we chatted. He gave me a ride back and his parents met my mom. They are from the same town in China. This is great because they can meet up tomorrow and sit together at graduation. It would be much better for all of them to have people to chat with.

I haven't been doing very much these past few days. I went to Stanford on Thursday afternoon. I bought a frame that matches the MIT one. This frame is seriously expensive. Oh wells. Course 1 decided to give us a nice frame so now I have to get a matching one. Can't get something cheaper! I had a good time chatting with all my friends at the SEG pool party. A few of them came to the party just to see me. I gave a few people the Angry Birds that I got in HK. I gave away the small ones which actually weren't so nice looking. Definitely fake stuff. Should have gotten them all at stuffed animal shops.

I really didn't do anything on Friday. I slept at midnight on Thursday night and didn't managed to get up until noon on Friday. I woke up a few times but kept falling back asleep. I got up and took a shower. My brother came back at around 12:30 because it's a minimum day for him. I ate lunch and then tried to read a magazine but still felt really tired. I went back to bed at 2pm and slept for another 2 hours. We went out for dinner that night.

Commencement tomorrow. Have to get up super early to drive over. I'm really not that excited. Certainly have none of the same feelings as undergrad commencement. I think it's also due to the fact that I'm already working and haven't been talking to other people about graduation. I might be more excited if I was at school and everyone was talking about graduating. There's a main ceremony in the morning where we walk into the stadium and there are speech. I really don't think this is worth it and I was surprised that my friends are going. My parents want to go so I guess we'll do it. We get our diplomas at the department ceremony at noon. The civil engineering department always gets Memorial Auditorium. This is much better than most of the other departments who have to host theirs outside in the sweltering heat.

Should be lots of pictures on facebook tomorrow. I'll try to put up my own album for once.

My cousin told me about the semi-annual Bath and Body Works sale that's going on. I think these would be very nice gifts for people in HK. I don't know who I would give this stuff to but I think they cost quite a bit in HK. It would be good to have some lotions and such around.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Back in the States again

Written on the plane from HKG to SFO. Just watched Twilight off of my computer. There is no personal TV on this flight. Seriously. It’s an 11+ hr flight and there’s just a central TV broadcasting really bad movies and old episodes of TV shows.

We were served lunch but it was really terrible. Good thing I had food before I got on the plane. I had breakfast but was hungry by the time I got to the airport. Of course, I didn’t think twice and got before getting breakfast at Fairwood. I think before HK, I would have thought more about eating out and realized that they would serve food on the plane. I think this crossed my mind but I’ve been eating out a lot. It’s pretty affordable and convenient to eat out in HK so it just made so much sense when I saw Fairwood.

I got to the gate right when they were starting to board. Perfect timing.

The alarm went off at 7am this (Thursday) morning like always. The MTR wasn’t as crowded as I had expected. But probably because I was going the opposite way. There is customs for leaving HK and I got in the line for Hong Kong Residents. There is a line for HK Permanent Residents, which I don’t qualify for. Actually, there was no line and they didn’t even stamp my passport. Very happy about this because my passport is running out of room! I was very concerned about getting another stamp in my passport. Looking forward to short lines going both ways!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

First "vacation"

Flying back to the US tomorrow!! Actually I find this very strange. I've just settled in here. Actually, seeing that my microwave is still sitting on the floor, I still have a few things to do before I can live comfortably. The concept of taking a few days off and flying back feels strange. This is also my first time taking vacation from work! Never had vacation days before.

I went to Mong Kok after work today and yesterday to get some gifts. Much more efficient and effective today. I amazed myself. Maybe it's a good thing I have limited cash these days. I used up most of my last month's paycheck to buy furniture and haven't submitted the reimbursement form yet. I still have a few more things I need to buy. But I should have another month's worth of pay in my bank account after I get back from the US! haha.

Our floor is doing a big renovation and seat rearrangement. I packed up my stuff today, which wasn't very much. I'm very glad that I was able to get rid of things that wasn't mine. Looking forward to having more space for my own stuff in the new space. Hopefully the new space will have good feng-shui. Emphasis on the "feng" part because the current space is under a vent and therefore very cold. Some of the guys on my team started packing stuff too. The movers are coming Friday at 5:30pm so they need to get their stuff packed. I kind of wish I could be there on Friday to see everyone frantically packing and then LEAVING the office at 5:30pm! haha.

The guys asked if I had packed already and all the usual questions. They have no requests for stuff from the US. I mean, you can get pretty much everything you want in HK. I might bring back some snacks for us to share at the office. Anyway, one of the guys asked something like, "how have you found your past two months here?" I was like, "uh, I think I've only been here for a little over a month." And then they started trying to remember when I started. One guy actually got it right. The other two was like, "we came back from vacation and there was a girl sitting in this space!" At some point during this conversation, one of the guys commented that it felt like I've been here forever and it doesn't feel like I've just started. I think I'm a pretty self confident person but I still welcome comments like these. There's always that small doubt that I don't really fit in with the rest of the group.

Anyway, I'll save the reflections for when I'm sitting back at home. Going to sleep now and then heading off to the airport in the morning. I think I'm going to take the Airport Express there. I think there are cheaper ways but the buses don't seem that much cheaper. And I'm going to bring back two large suitcases so I don't want to be wandering around looking for these buses. I'll be more adventurous and take a bus from the airport once I get back to HK.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Long weekend!

Spending some really long hours at work these days. I get really tired after a certain hour. I was editing some PowerPoint slides last night and it was getting so confusing because I had just started working on a project, it was getting late, and everything looked the same. Didn't even managed to proofread correctly the first time.

I've been trying to get some calculations out forever and was working on solely on them for the last couple of weeks. But on Thursday, it got really busy. The bosses suddenly realized that the guy working on this new project that we got is leaving for vacation that night and we needed to do a lot of calculations by the next day. So they pulled me to run some analyses and help out with other things. We were all working really hard on this project all of Friday so that we can get something to our boss who is leaving for a week long business trip regarding this project on Monday.  But I don't think we managed to get anything to him when he came back in the afternoon. So.... going in on the weekend to finish off stuff.

Coincidentally, our office space is being renovated. We're getting some new meeting rooms and people started tearing down walls at around 6pm. It got really loud and dusty. This promptly drove most people from the office. The guys next to me ran into a crisis though and they were trying to figure things out for a while.

Despite the intensity of our work, my coworkers are very funny. I think I should document the conversations.
(the conversation below happened in Canto)
Me: The logs don't show anything.
AL: What? What do you mean they don't show anything?
Me: There's nothing for this layer.
AL: ..... you know, if you can't say it in Chinese, you can use English. We can understand!
(another guy looks over and starts laughing too.)

This weekend is a long weekend. We get Monday off for the dragon boat festival. First weekend that I'm not doing something major like apartment shopping, moving, or getting furniture. I'm so excited. Still have to go into to the office but it will be more chill. I can sleep in! Also, a friend from MIT is coming for 2 weeks starting Sunday night. Too bad his time here overlaps with my trip back home.

In other news, I finally got my HSBC credit card today. Very happy about this. They called to ask me to submit another copy of my salary slip because the one that I submitted was a bad copy. First of all, I went into the branch and one of the staff made the copy for me. I really don't know why they wanted my salary slip because my salary goes to their bank! So I told the girl on the other end that I didn't have time for this nonsense. I told her that it's not my problem that their staff made a bad copy and that they can just look it up themselves if they wanted "my bank's monthly statement." I swear the customer representatives at that HSBC branch are either super condescending (before they find out I have an American passport) or lose all interest in helping me (after they see my American passport). I seriously don't know what's wrong with this place. Someone called from the bank to ask me to do a 5 minute survey about the bank and I really wanted to take half an hour to vent some anger and tell them how bad their customer service is. But I was still at work rushing to get something out. Next time, next time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


These kitchen appliances are really cute:

I used my induction stove for the first time this morning. I wanted to make some eggs for breakfast. It heated up super fast! My eggs were cooked in no time. I barely had time to play around with adjusting the temperature.

I've been getting a lot of stuff for the apartment. I haven't managed to get a trash can yet though. I really need at least one. I got some Doraemon dehumidifer things today. There are ones that come in plastic tubs that you just stick in an "enclosed" space. I think my whole apartment counts as one enclosed space.

I would blog more but I really need to sleep early. Been lacking sleep lately. Back to the US next week!