Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkins and other fun

This past week was a relatively relaxing week at work. I mean, we're still trying to make a whole lot of deadlines and such but since things weren't imminent, we didn't see the point of staying late.

On Tuesday, I organized a pumpkin carving with the other graduate engineers. Several of us went down to Taste (a supermarket) and bought a couple of pumpkins. Some of us brought some knives from home and we carved them. The knives weren't exactly the right kind, the rinds were very thick, and we didn't have a whole lot of time. But we managed to finish both of them. It was amazing how many people we managed to cram into a tiny meeting room. The company is very fond of glass walls so everyone who walked by did a double-take. My boss used the meeting room after us and he was like, what is going on here??

Thursday turned into a short day with all of us leaving by 7:30pm. It felt really early to me and I walked around my neighborhood and picked up some papayas and shui mai. The papayas were small ones and looked really good. I only wanted one but the lady stuffed three of them into a bag and it was only $10 for all of them. I'm going to make some papaya and banana milkshakes soon! I got back, realized it was still really early, so I got changed and went back out to look for some dinner. There's a place that I've been meaning to try out. They make rice in clay pots. I ordered take out and they said to come back in 15 minutes. So I decided to go shopping for a external hard drive for work. I've been meaning to do this so that I can keep a hard drive at work and have work and personal stuff separated.

I got back and watched part of a movie while eating my take out. The clay pot rice didn't turn out to be as good as I imagined. I thought that the rice would be tastier. Anyway, I saw a place that makes sticky rice. Smelled really good. I'll save that for the next time I get out early, I guess.

I'll admit that I did no work at all Friday afternoon. We had a meeting Friday morning. And then the people who were promoted to Grade 6, Senior Engineer, in the geotech group held a celebration lunch. They booked 8 tables at the dim sum restaurant and we all crammed in there. Some of the people from the site offices even came back for this. After lunch, I went around with my Inner Challenge team to fundraise.

I joined the company's Inner Challenge team where we're hiking for 30km in the mountains. We're supposed to raise funds for the Breakthrough Youth Camp as well. The company sponsors the event and we have several team participating. The youth camp was designed by the company as a charitable activity. This event is somewhat of a tradition at the office so the old timers all know what's going on. It takes a lot of time to walk around the entire office asking people for money. We collected a lot though. People are very nice. It was also interesting to finally walk around our floor and meet more people. I feel like I've never ventured out of our little corner. Getting too comfortable nowadays.

So lunch went until around 2pm. We fund raised for 2 hours. And then we had a foundations design workshop starting from 4pm. The workshop had too many speakers and went an hour over. These workshops always come with food at the end but a lot of people left by the time it ended. There weren't as many people to begin with this time. So there was a lot of leftover food which we brought back downstairs.

A lot of the food actually disappeared overnight. We think that people took them home. Anyway, I was back at the office this afternoon (Saturday) to do some calculations. I feel like I have no time to actually crunch numbers during the working hours. A few of us munched on the huge plate of salad that was still in the fridge. Very healthy lunch.

Lots of submissions on the horizon though. So I'm foreseeing a couple of very busy weeks...!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

6 Months! 10K and tailor made shirts

After next week, I will have worked for 6 months at my first job! I can't believe time has gone by so fast. At the same time, I also feel like I've been working forever. I feel like I've done an incredible amount in these past 6 months, both in terms of work and in life. I've moved to yet another country, started my first real job, got my first apartment, gotten a lot more fluent in Cantonese, learned the work culture in HK, joined a gym, and expanded my circle of friends and acquaintances. 

More on the recent stuff though. I ran a 10K today and feeling sunburn now. This race didn't feel like it had a lot of people. It was held at the Disneyland Resort but we didn't actually get to run inside the park. We ran around the Inspiration Lake and Arboretum instead. I thought the course looked very short on the map and then read the legend where it said that the 10K participants are to run around the lake+arboretum 3 times! I usually don't like running in circles but I guess the circle was big enough and there weren't a lot of opportunities to see other people going in the opposite direction. 

Anyway, Disneyland is very interesting. The MTR goes there and once you're there, it doesn't feel like HK at all. There's a lot of open space. You can see the hills that have no development on them and there's even a parking lot. The race was pretty very well organized. The bag check felt pretty secure and well looked after. The was even a kids race that was held at the field next to all the booths. There were a lot of families. The only downside to this event was that they had a lot speakers and pre-event things. They even started late because there were too many people they had to recognize! Their awards ceremony was also very late. Not sure why they decided to hold it an hour after everyone is supposed to have finished.

It was very hot. I ran it with a friend from work. We were very disappointed at the end at the lack of food provided. They gave away a goodie bag and such but only had one little snack booth with non-appetizing selections. After the race, we walked around the outside of Disneyland and saw the pier. I don't think this pier is operational. We were wondering if there were any boats to take us back to the Kowloon side. The pier was farther than we thought so we missed out on the raffle at the end. We took the MTR to Tung Chung and got lunch there before heading back. I passed out after getting back for a bit before heading out to my tailoring appointment.

I got this Groupon deal for 3 tailor made shirts. I had made an appointment and an Indian guy picked up the phone. Then I found out that it's in the mall next to the Chungking Mansion. When I finally found the place, it turned out to be this very tiny place but it was very busy! I think everyone else there had the Groupon deal. The guy did some quick measurements and I picked out the fabric I wanted. I didn't think they had very good solid colors. Their solid colors were very guy-colors. So all the ones I picked were striped ones. Hope it turns out well. It was very hard to visualize what the end product would look like with just fabric. I swear there were many different styles for women shirts. Anyway, I told the guy to make my shirts shorter. I really don't like shirts that are too long since I don't tuck mine in. I guess that was the good part about the tailoring. The whole process was very fast but now I have to wait 3 weeks. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekend hike

Living in a crowded, busy, very urban city makes me miss the outdoors and nature. Where is my nearest tree? So I decided to go hiking today (Sunday). The nice thing about HK is that nature is very readily accessible. I took the MTR and then a bus to find some hiking trails in Sai Kung. Sai Kung is a mostly hilly, mountainous forested area in eastern Kowloon. I took the bus past Sai Kung town and got off at a bus station where I got some fish balls to start my journey. 

I went on this trail that went along the reservoir that had a lot of mangroves, wedding picture-taking people, and mini-mangroves:

The end of the trail leads to the Folk Museum, where they rebuilt a part of a Hakka village. You can go inside to see how people used to live, the tools that they used to harvest, etc. The house arrangements are very Hakka in that they all have the second story loft. 

The actual ruins of the village are down the road. Very educational for families. Nice hike plus more! I saw a couple of families on the way. 

 Instead of turning back and going back to the bus station, I continued on another trail. All the HK trails are very well marked with levels of difficulty, length, maps, etc. Impossible to get lost! I went on a "family trail" so I think it's supposed to be easy. There are "country trails" which are very long but they split them up into "stages" and you can do the stages separately.

This family trail had a lot of stone steps that led up the side of a mountain. The views were very nice. I got a call from a friend while walking along this trail. She asked if I wanted to do something outdoors! It's too bad that she lives in HK Island and Sai Kung is very far for her.

Lots of steps. This is probably not such a good trail for small children. I didn't see very many people along this trail. At some point, a helicopter flew by broadcasting something about "beware of forest fires."

After I found the end of the trail, I made it back to the main road and got on a bus to Sai Kung town. I really like this town because it's got a very busy pier where you can buy fresh seafood. You buy them directly from the boats. I got a pineapple bun from a really busy store. They're probably famous or something because the line is very long. The bun was also relatively expensive. This one equals the cost of 3 buns at the shops near where I live! But it was very good.

I ate it sitting on this platform that overlooks the piers and some palm trees.

All in all, it was a very good trip. Didn't take too much time or effort to get there. Even managed to get back before sunset even though I left early afternoon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mid week holiday

I think I can get used to these mid-week public holidays. Wednesdays are definitely good days to be on holiday. Because it chops up your week and it feels like you're working less. Or at least have a day to recharge and get more sleep.

I went for another massage with another Groupon deal. This place is pretty nice. They give you a locker and the bathroom has showers and a sauna. I was there pretty early so there weren't a lot of other patrons. I have 5 more sessions left. I think I need to use them wisely.

After this, I was in a very dreamy and relaxed mood. I found an Indonesian restaurant that another HK blogger blogged about. The place is in a little corner with lots of other Indonesian restaurants and shops. All the other customers were Indonesian, with the exception of this one family where the dad is white. Anyway, the food was really good. They definitely use a very good combination of coconut milk and spices. Their chili sauce definitely wasn't the same as the Padang ones. Anyway, their menu has a lot of good selections and their customers all seem very happy. Wish I can speak more Indonesian. I think I've forgotten a lot of it already.

I walked to find some shoe stores to buy another pair of running shoes. The first place I tried to find didn't exist anymore. I kept on going to the second place on my list and nearly gave up. I was right outside their building and couldn't figure out where they were. And then I realized that they were inside the residential apartment building. They set up shop inside the 1st floor of an apartment building. Seriously would not have found the place if I wasn't looking for it. The place was very small but was very busy! They carry Mizuno, Nike, and Asics. I gave Mizuno another try because their shoes start at a lower price. But I didn't like how hard it felt, which was one of my complaints about my pair of Mizuno shoes. The lady said that Mizuno uses air cushion and Asics uses gel. I was wearing my Brooks and she said that they are very rare in HK, have to go to Singapore or US to get Brooks. I ended up buying a pair of Asics that has more gel than what I've been wearing. Went for a run in them after getting back. They felt pretty good.

Work is very busy. So much stuff to do! We're bidding for another job that I think we have a good chance at winning. I seriously did not imagine I would be doing so much in such a short time. Learning new things every single day. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to learn so fast but I guess it would get boring.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Massage and shopping

This weekend has been interesting. I managed to spend a bit of money on myself. Saturday started off pretty slow. I went to the gym at around 10am and worked out for a little bit. I stayed away from the treadmill and was on the elliptical mostly. I think I need new running shoes, more on that later.

I ate lunch and then headed to the office. I got to the office at around noon and there was a sign that asked me to register before entering. Normally, you only have to register on Saturdays after 2pm. I was wondering if they had changed the rules and walked into a non-air conditioned office. It was when I was putting my bottles into the recycling that I remembered that it's supposed to be national holiday. October 1st is China's National Day. In China, they get the entire week off. In HK, for those of us who are only supposed to work 5 days, it's basically not a holiday.

I mostly took care of some personal stuff at the office and didn't do too much project stuff. I did start on a few things though. I got bored and headed out. I headed to TST for my 7pm massage appointment. I saw some massage deals on Groupon the other day and purchased two of them. The one I went to on Saturday is a foot + body massage, 50 min each. The deal seemed pretty good. The place is located on Knutsford Terrace, which has some really nice Western restaurants and bars. The street is on the side of a hill and is pedestrian only with lots of outdoor seating areas. The street has a very nice feel to it.

The massage place is nicely decorated and scented. They even had little TVs for people to watch while their feet are getting massaged. The masseuse said that the shin area on my legs are very bloated and stiff from running. I definitely felt that my left leg is stiffer than my right. When I joined the gym, they had this machine that measures the amount of muscle in your legs and arms. The machine said that my right arm is stronger than my left, no surprises there. It also said that my left leg is stronger than my right. I wonder if this is normal for a right-handed person or if it's all that military stuff I did way back. Anyway, my lower back and shoulders are also very tight and stiff. I did the pressure-point massage instead of the aromatic oil one. Which meant that the masseuse didn't use any oils and kneaded my muscles over a towel. Felt very good afterwards. But my lower back is a bit sore today.

Anyway, I also got a deal for 6 sessions of lymphatic massage. This is supposed to produce a lot of benefits like weight loss, endorphins, relief stress, etc. I just hope that they can loosen up my back. I booked a session for this upcoming Wednesday, which is a holiday. Should be interesting.

Right after I got out of the massage place, the fireworks started. I ended up watching part of it from Nathan Road, which was blocked off from cars. There were a lot of people out. I tried to get closer to the waterfront because you can only see a tiny part of the fireworks between the buildings on the road. But I couldn't even get within 3 blocks of the waterfront. There was literally too much people. People started getting there before it got dark. Should have known better. Anyway, 20 straight minutes of fireworks.

After the fireworks ended, I went to redeem another Groupon at a pizza place. It's the second time I've been to that place. The pizza is okay. The fries are very good though. I wanted to get a milkshake but they didn't have any more (wouldn't make it so late at night?). I figured the MTR would be very crowded getting back so I took the equally crowded bus back.

I'm beginning to be more brave in taking buses. I have a general idea of where things are now so it's easier for me to just hop on a bus that's going towards something I know. I found out about some interesting trails and wanted to do the one that started at Kennedy Town. There's a bus that goes from near where I live directly to Kennedy Town. I've heard that there's a lot of expats in that area and have been meaning to go check it out. The MTR doesn't go all the way there (yet) so you have to take a bus.

The hike was the main thing I had on my to-do list today, along with getting a fan. But as soon as I stepped outside today (Sunday), it started raining. Not too hard at first so I was hoping it would let up by the time I go to the other side of the harbor. But it just kept raining... I gave up on the hiking part since it was also very windy. I basically ate lunch there and then tried to take the bus to Olympic, where there are some big malls that I've been meaning to check out. But then I got too adventurous with the buses and took one that took a different tunnel than what I was expecting. So it ended up taking a long time for me to get to Olympic because I had to take the MTR after getting back to the Kowloon side.

The malls at Olympic were kind of lame. The malls were very big as in they have a lot of space. But there didn't seem to be very many stores. Maybe I wasn't walking in the right places. I think I prefer more compact malls. The stores themselves were kind of small. I felt like there was an uneven ratio of public space to stores space. I was looking for running shoes but the "sports" stores that I went into had more fashionable shoes than running shoes. The Marathon Sports had some cheap New Balance selections but the sales people clearly did not know much about running shoes and kept trying to stick these ridiculous looking Nikes at me. Maybe I just don't understand fashion...

I walked all the way to the Mongkok East station and took the train the Shatin Ikea. One of the things on my to-do list was to buy meatballs and a fan at Ikea. Turns out, Ikea doesn't have fans. I did get cinnamon buns and meatballs though. On my way out, I saw another store with fans and got a mini-tower fan. I dragged everything back and made fried rice.

I chopped up all the vegetables I bought yesterday to facilitate future cooking. I find that I am much more likely to cook if the veggies are already chopped up. And it's more efficient to chop everything in one go. Veggies at the wet markets are very cheap so I can get a nice variety. I think this is the second time I've used my rice cooker. I usually make noodles or pasta.

That's it for the weekend. There's another typhoon in the area. It's at signal number 1 right  now. Kind of hoping it would get up to 8 again so that I can chill at home again. Of course, it would mean a very crunched schedule at work since Wednesday is also a holiday.