Sunday, December 29, 2013

Reflections on 2013 and Thoughts on 2014

Another year! I just reread what I wrote about 2012 and all those events feels like a lifetime ago. I spent most of this year working on a construction site and really got to see things happen. While on site, I had more time in general and was able to get a lot of life things in order, such as getting my PE and started keeping track of my finances. After paying back all my student loans, I started putting money away in savings and finally ended 2013 with a fully maxed out Roth IRA.

Some highlights of this year:
January - Started my site assignment. I think I need to write something about how my site experience has contributed to my engineering career overall. It has definitely broaden my experience.
February - Adjusted to life on site. Finally got a smart phone.
March - Moved to a new apartment on Hong Kong Island. Parents and brother visited. Xiumin visited.
April - Went back to the US again and took the last of my PE exam. Passed everything and is officially a Professional Engineer in California!
May - Attended Yalu+Mike's wedding
June - Met up with Yi in Hangzhou!
July - Weekend trip to Singapore with roommate
August - Hot, sweltering days at site
September - Major geotech conference in Paris and then vacationed in Marseilles. There are definitely perks to working at a big office with money for "training" and a small professional society that can also support these kinds of activities. Back at the office.
October - Weekend trip to Guangzhou and nearby areas.
November - Adjusting back to life at the office. Celebrated Thanksgiving with friends.
December - Really busy at the office...

Thoughts for 2014:

  • I really need to put some serious thought into how long I want to stay in Hong Kong. It's weird because there's not really a deadline or anything and I can really just leave anytime I want to. But there are a lot of things I like about living in HK and feel like I would really need to re-adjust to living in the US. More on this later. 
  • I heard a podcast (either HBS or TED) about being grateful and that it really makes a difference if you list your blessings on a weekly basis. I might try that.. That would be a good motivation to write in this blog at least once a week.
  • Along with this whole moving/not moving business, I would really like to do more traveling in Asia while I'm here. Definitely need to do a long trip before I leave but in the meantime, short trips would do too.
  • As far as work goes, I will have been working 3 years full time in April/May. Hope to get another chartership status within this year.
That's it so far. We get New Year's Day off and since it's so cold here lately, I might stay around the house and write more. 


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Thanksgiving in Hong Kong

Been really busy lately! I have been meaning to write about Thanksgiving celebrations but haven't had the chance. Anyway, here it is:

I celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time in Hong Kong this year with some friends from work. I baked a pumpkin pie, some cookies, and made mashed potatoes for our small party of five people. People kept being really amazed by the pie and I keep having to explain that the flesh of the pumpkin is attached to the skin. We ordered a turkey from one of the restaurants at the mall attached to our office. At first we thought that we can order from different restaurants because many of them were advertising it. But then we realized that it's from the same catering place. We should really piggback on them and offer a pie option for people. I bet a lot of people would be interested.

It took me a while to find canned pumpkin as it is not popular here. I went through several of the more upscale versions of the big chain supermarkets and failed to find anything. The big supermarket chains here have "regular" versions and more upscale versions, usually branded as "international" or similar that sources more international foods, catering to expats. Anyway, I was forced to look up "American" grocery stores and went to a store that sells things solely imported from the US. They were out of canned pumpkin! Good thing I made a list and a plan of attack. The second store on my list turned out to be closed. I finally found a really upscale supermarket that had a mountain of Libby's canned pumpkins. All through this process I kept thinking of the times I searched through both Cambridges (US and UK) for Chinese food and now that I'm in Hong Kong, I'm combing through the city for American food.

Anyway, some pictures of our feast:








Friday, November 22, 2013

Recent kitchen creations

Haven't written much here in a while so I thought I'd upload some pictures. I've realized that I can make pizza in the little oven we have. It's actually really easy to make your own pizza! The dough is just normal flour, water, and yeast. I did my first one without yeast and just used baking powder, which meant the bread was more flat. The sauce was just tomato paste with some olive oil, crushed garlic, and dried basil. The sauce was really good! 


This was the one last night. I ran out of veggies so this one featured Ikea meatballs. I made several in between these two but those pictures are on my iPad.

Also got a pre-made mix for pancakes that produced really fluffy pancakes. The pot in the background contains apple cinnamon sauce. 




Sunday, November 3, 2013

Recent and upcoming weekends

I splurged on a mechanical keyboard yesterday after being really frustrated with my keyboard at work! The one that I had at work is kind of old and it takes a lot of pressure to get anything typed. I went for the blue switch one that makes a clicking sound. I hope it's not too loud for my neighbors. Will see if I get any complaints on Monday. But I really doubt my typing will be a distraction since there's usually a lot of noise in our open plan environment anyway. I basically tried out every keyboard at the computer place in Sham Shui Po before setting on one. Some of these keyboards can get seriously expensive!

There's a another typhoon passing by so it's been really windy this weekend. No real rain though. I wanted to go to Peng Chau last weekend, which was really nice but never made it. It didn't seem like a good idea to go on the ferry this weekend since it was so windy. I basically used the weekend to catch up on work and did some household cleaning and cooking. I've been bringing lunch to work whenever I can because I find the takeout at the food court to be extremely boring. I don't mind so much if we went out to eat because that at least involves getting away from the office for a while. This buying takeout business is also very time consuming. Anyway, cooking is lot more healthy and less expensive.

Our office managed to get a professor from one of the universities to come give some classes on advanced soil mechanics. We're doing three days of classes spread over the next couple of months. I feel like a full day is too long though because people can't really absorb so much. Anyway, we'll see how that goes. The first class is next Saturday. I kind of feel like I should review basic soil mechanics. Not sure if I ever learned it in the first place...


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hong Kong Park

Autumn in Hong Kong is very refreshing. It is finally cool enough to walk outside without feeling like you're trapped in an oven! I walked around Hong Kong Park last weekend and discovered parts of it that I've never been through. There was a shallow fish pond with lots of fish and turtles. There was also an aviary with lots of nice birds. I wanted to do the hike from the Peak down to Aberdeen but stopped at Pok Fu Lam as it was getting dark. Will find a chance to do all of it next time.




Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Weekend in nearby Mainland cities

This weekend I went with a couple of friends on a weekend adventure to nearby cities in the Mainland. It is a long weekend over here with Monday the 14th being a holiday. The pan was to go hiking in Shaoguan on Saturday and rafting somewhere else on Sunday. I would leave them Monday to go to Zhongshan to visit family. Not very much went as according to plan.

As it turned out, my friend is actually a very bad planner. Unlike my other trips where most of the important things are figured out, we had nothing figured out when we started. We only found out we can buy train tickets from HK to Guangzhou online the afternoon before we left and most trains were already full. So we decided to take the MTR to Shenzhen. My friend had read that you can take either a bus or a train from Shenzhen to Shaoguan so we looked for bus tickets after we got off of the MTR at Lukwu. But turns out you can only get buses at the other cross border checkpoint so we ended up taking the SZ Metro to the SZ train station. This took a long time as SZ is actually a very big city. When we got too the train station, we found that trains to Shaoguan leaves at 5pm which would not be ideal for hiking. In hindsight, we could have still gone, spent the night there and then hike leisurely the next day.

But instead, we chose to buy a ticket for Guangzhou that left an hour and a half later. We had lunch and then promptly napped on the benches. I didn't get very much sleep the night before and was still a little sick so I had been really looking forward to an opportunity to a long train or bus ride. After we finally got to GZ, we find that the high speed train station is really far from the city center and it took more than half an hour to get into the city by metro where we finally were about to properly start our holiday.

We walked around a pedestrian street and were really not that impressed by the shops. There were not as many accommodation choices as we expected but we managed to find a pretty nice 3 star hotel with reasonable prices. One of the things I like about traveling in the Mainland is that accommodation is cheap. We proceeded to walk around Shammien Island and then found a place to eat at another pedestrian street. The restaurant we ate at had traditional Guangdong food which we ate with pretty good tea. We walked around the pedestrian area after but it was mostly clothing stores and not many interesting things. We walked along the Pearl river for a bit and then tooka taxi to the Canton Tower. Wee got there after 10pm and I have to say that night views are not very good. Daytime viewing is much more interesting as you can see more stuff. Especially since this tower did not have an outdoor viewing area and the glass window reflections blocked a lot of the view. We tried unsuccessfully to get a cab back and ended up taking one of those motorized "three wheel vehicles" which consisted of open air seating behind a driver of a scooter like vehicle who drive through many red lights. We got back safely in the end and slept pretty well that night.

We were in a bit of a rush to get to the train station the next morning to catch our train to Shaoguan. We had thought our train left at 9:30 and ran to the gate at exactly 9:30. Luckily for us, the train's actual departure was at 9:44am. None of us has bothered to actually read the ticket after we bought it.

So we finally got to Shaoguan and found the train station to be very desolate again. We asked about buses to the hiking area in Danxia Mountain and found that we had missed the bus. Some driver trying to make money told us the bus only confess every hour so we asked around for prices and ended up taking a taxi. The bus probably comes more often but who knows. We were again accosted by people trying to make money after getting to Danxia Mountain. These people on scooters told us that tickets would cost $120 each but that they can take us in through the backdoor for $60. I think it was not too bad to take them because everything is very far apart and it would have taken us a long time by foot. This backdoor deal was a bit sketchy but we ended up right at the start of one of the trails so that worked out fine.

We did some serious hiking all the way up to this fortress. We all agreed that there really should be more warning at the start so that people know what they are getting themselves into. Fortunately for us we went up one way where we can easily see the highest point. The way back down was more hidden so the people who took that way up had no idea how far they had to go and where they were going. We saw one group who were complainting loudly at the start and one of the girls even has her shoes off (probably had a pair of shoes that were unsuitable for hiking to begin with) and we warned them they had a long way to go.

After our tiring hike, we chilled at a restaurant/bar and recovered before striking out to find the geology museum. We found a driver who was willing to take us for very cheap. After we got there we found ourselves at the sex/erotic museum instead and were told that the geology museum was actually inside the park. We would need tickets to go back in. I wouldn't have minded staying at the park for the night as it is very scenic and peaceful. But we had already left the park and wanted to try to get to another nearby city to stay for the night. That city has some temples and things but I really doubt we would've been able to see anything given all the travel time necessary to get there. I've found that it's hard for my friend to give up on an idea after he's decided on something. Anyway, we got to the high speed train station only to find that all tickets to that city were sold out for the day and that the next available train for GZ was at nearly 8pm, which meant we would have 2.5 hours to kill. So that's where I wrote most of this on my phone due to the lack of anything else to do.

After we successfully got to GZ, I got another train ticket to Zhongshan for the next morning. We asked about nearby hotels at the information desk and was recommended one that had train station pickup and dropoff included. The hotel was pretty standard but didn't have any 3 people room. The double delux had a couch included so we opt for that. The couch was kind of small but still OK. We proceeded to go find food and went into a nearby mall whose Chinese name is the same as Festival Walk, the name of the mall I work at. Really can't escape. But as it was nearly 10pm, things were closed. We settled for a Cha Chan Tang serving HK style food. They really made everything that you could find in HK. So we all got some stir fried noodles and milk tea. It was 11 by the time we finished and we still hadn't showered so we basically went back to the hotel and slept.

The next day we parted ways and I headed to Zhongshan by high speed rail. Got up to the platform just as they were letting people in. Really need to reserve more time for these train stations. They are very big! It takes forever to walk from one end to the other. Anyway I got to Zhongshan and was met by my uncle. We had a lunch together and I managed to get some bank stuff done before heading back to HK. The trip back took a while as there were no ferries due to a typhoon. So I took the bus to Shenzhen and then took the MTR back. There was lots of traffic in Shenzhen and tons of people at the border crossing. Maybe I should have had dinner in SZ and avoided the rush.

I think it was good to get away from HK for a long weekend. Should really do this more often. But better planning and not being sick would definitely help.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Back at the office

Another 4 day work week coming up. We get Tuesday off for National Day. People in the Mainland get the entire week off. I feel like we should get Monday off too. But hopefully it will be pretty chill with people taking vacation and all. At the moment, our team has a lot of people but really don't know what will happen when people finish their secondment assignments or go to site.

People don't seem to be working as much as I did last year. Whenever I'm in the office on the weekends, no one else seems to be in from our team. For example, I didn't see anyone yesterday even though we're supposed to be rushing out another set of tender drawings... Or maybe I was just working way, way too much last year. I was basically there 24/7, pushing out tender drawings and submissions on a daily basis. Nowadays, our team can afford to have someone sit there and do only coordination work for Stubbs Rd. He's doesn't have to take up an actual submission. And there's a graduate just playing around with old models and waiting for the new layout plan and structural loads to come through from the client. Last year, I was doing coordination, making tender drawings, putting together submissions for Stubbs Rd and still had to look after two other projects. Basically I was doing 3, 4 people's worth of work...

Anyway, I've talked to my boss about rotating to the structures group. Not sure when this will happen but I think it will be good for me to learn structural design. I guess the downside is that I will have to give up working on my current projects again. I like to be fully involved in the projects that I do. Otherwise, you just end up helping out with small stuff instead of being able to look at the whole picture. And I'm a big picture person. I can't do anything without knowing all the details and background. I think it would be beneficial for me to learn the basics of structural design and the structural way of thinking about an engineering problem.

I'm also brushing up on finite element analysis. What I learned in school was very theoretical. I think there needs to be a link between what I learn in school and what I am doing now, which is heavily relying on a commercial program for my analyses. Most of the people at the office didn't have as a theoretical background on finite element as I did. It's just not taught in undergraduate studies and even for MS courses, it's really hard to connect academia with practice. I'm hoping to make some notes or a presentation so that people can at least have an understanding before diving into hardcore continuum mechanics modeling.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Another typhoon

We have another typhoon coming! This one is supposed to be the strongest typhoon this year and it's heading straight for Hong Kong. It's actually the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane right now but it is supposed to get weaker as it comes closer. The projection is that it will be the closest on Sunday. We're likely to get at least a T8 warning, which will hopefully last until Monday. The weather has been pretty extreme this summer.

It's been pretty chill since getting back to the office. The first day couple of days I left at a decent time since I had dinner plans. I went to another former coworker's wedding banquet last Thursday night. He invited a lot of former coworkers and it was nice to see everyone. I continued to eat a lot of food both that night and Friday night at a hot pot with some other coworkers. I went grocery shopping in the Wan Chai area on Saturday and made some falafel on Sunday. I did some fried and some baked. The fried ones are definitely better. You definitely need to use a lot of spices because otherwise the falafel are just a mush of chickpeas.

Last week was a 4 day work week because Friday is a public holiday for the mid-autumn festival. I managed to come back to make dinner on Monday. Tuesday was more busy because I was helping out with another project. We went to a project dinner on Wednesday night hosted by the contractor. The food wasn't that great but it was really nice to see everyone again. We had two tables of people and the contractor had a good amount of their own people there. There was a lot of jokes and fun small talk at our table. I do miss the people at site because the contractor's people are pretty fun.

Paris conference and fun

Now back to the Paris part of the trip. This part was very busy so I'm not sure I could've blogged even if I had a keyboard. I flew to Paris on Thursday night and got there Friday morning. After unsuccessful attempts at both getting more money out of the ATM with my SFC account (card expired) and breaking up my €100 bill, I found out I could just use my credit card to buy the train ticket into Paris. The first thing I noticed when I stepped out of the subway was that the sun was very low and always glaring in my face. I guess I used to HK where the sun just goes straight up and does not hang out near the horizon. 

Friday. I did a lot of walking. I was partly following an itinerary from TripAdvisor on walking around the Latin District. I ended up walking a lot more than that and was exhausted by the time I got back to the hotel. The hotel we stayed at was very basic but we each got individual rooms with all the standard amenities. I was wondering if it would be more like a hostel but it was not bad. I met up with the other girl who was sponsored by HKIE and we went for dinner nearby. She has been working for a few years and just finished a MEng at MIT. She's very cool and we got along very well.

Saturday. The start of the Young Geotechnical Engineers Conference. We managed to get to the university where the conference was held not too late. The university has a very nice campus. One of the buildings even had a green roof. There were around 150 participants from all over. It was really cool to meet people from different backgrounds. There were 3 parallel sessions for the most part and I was really impressed that some of these people managed to publish and present in English even though it is probably their 3rd or 4th language. The Q&A got a bit tough sometimes though. The organizers managed to get the funding to put the papers in a book. It's really nice and encouraging that this is an opportunity to publish a piece of research that may not be readily accepted by other journals or conferences. Definitely aiming for the next round. Some of the presenters from industry didn't have very impressive projects though. This really made me realize the scale of things we are doing in HK. Other countries are just staring to do things like testing for soil nails when there has been 50 years of extensive experience in HK. That night we were treated to a very nice gala dinner at a very old restaurant.



Sunday. More presentations followed by a closing ceremony. I think I would like to get more involved in these professional societies in the near future. After a few mishaps, we finally managed to meet up with my coworkers at a restaurant near their hotel and the next conference venue. When I got out of the metro station at Porte Mailot, I realized this is the neighborhood that Yalu stayed at during her summer in Paris! I had always wondered what that big structure next to the hotel contained. I got even more familiar with the Metro 1 line this time around.

Monday. I got to the conference a bit after it started. Good thing I made one of my coworkers come get me. I wanted to drop off stuff and change but when we walked back to the conference I was really amazed by the size of the audience. We were told during the young engineers conference that the main conference was going to have 1500 participants. It was really amazing to see that number in actual size. No way I could have found anyone in that mess. The first two days were plenary lectures featuring big names in academia and industry. There were no Q&A due to the large size of the audience. 

We were given pretty nice stuff at the conference. We each got a shoulder bag filled with flyers from all the sponsors, a 4 day Paris metro ticket, bottle of champagne, notebook, USB with the proceedings, etc. My boss ordered the hard copy of the proceedings which he immediately regretted because it came in a box of 4 volumes. We managed to ship this (by boat) back to HK. We had to do them separately due to weight limit for this rate. Hopefully all the volumes make it. The only thing that was lacking at the conference was food. The coffee breaks always ran out of snacks and they only served finger food instead of real meals. You would also think that at such a big conference with exhibits (sponsors had booths to show off their stuff), they would have coffee and drinks lying around all the time. But nope, things were promptly stowed away after the coffee breaks. 



Tuesday. So on Tuesday we decided that we really need to get our own lunch. Luckily there were a lot of really nice restaurants nearby. I think we went a bit crazy in eating at nice places these few days. Every meal was a really nice one. Some people were really into mussels and oysters. I don't really like shellfish so I just ate more of the other stuff. We had all kinds of meat at every meal. 

My coworkers also went crazy with shopping for luxury brand items like Louis Vuitton and Chanel. I think we went shopping every night as they had orders from friends and family to buy different things. They claim that it is a lot cheaper, especially with the tax refund. It really amazes me how people are willing to spend an entire month (more than a month?) of their salary on a wallet. 



Wednesday was when the parallel sessions started. The organizers had different types of sessions, labelled discussion, workshop, and symposium. But there was no explanation in the program about the differences of these things. And I'm not sure the speakers even knew! I think it's really important to make sure your participants understand the rules of the game. How else are we to participate? Anyway, the discussion sessions were the most traditional in that they consisted of presentations and Q&A. But they were really quick, 10 minutes total. I think the workshops were meant to be more discussions among the audience. One of the workshops I went to had short slides, basically summaries from the presenters and a lot of discussion from the audience. But in other workshops, the presenters just used up all the time and there was no Q&A. It was strange. 

Due to the growing realization that we are spending too much money on food and that we needed to get rid of the 3 bottles of champagne, we decided to cut back on eating out on Wednesday night. Instead, we went to a Monoprix and bought a bunch of stuff like, bread, cold cuts, salmon, cheese, and fruit. We had a pretty nice meal back at the hotel. We even got to see the Eiffel Tower glow with its own light show from the hotel window.

Thursday, I met up with my previous boss from SF who is back in London now. We had lunch together with the other HK people and just chatted in general. It was nice to see him and I'm glad I didn't miss him entirely. I was on the lookout for him the first two days and then realize I should just send an email. Apparently he didn't even participate in the first two days and just arrived on Wednesday. There were a lot less people at the second half so it was easier to find him.

We concluded the conference with another nice meal at a very cute restaurant we happened upon after shopping. 

Friday. We were all pretty lazy in getting out of bed. Due to the complexity of reservations for this trip, we found out at some point that breakfast was not included in the later reservations. We ended up eating at the hotel anyway due to convenience. We managed to get ourselves out to Provins, a nearby little town that is a UNESCO heritage site with many Medieval buildings. My coworkers did not really understand my lazy style of traveling, which included only finding out the most important pieces of information, like how to get back to Paris. They kept trying to make this one train that I knew would be impossible to make. Sometimes, it's a lot less stress if you just give up early and accept the fact that you will take a later train! Anyway, there was plenty to see at the train station. We even got an ice cream cone and souvenirs. The town was pretty small and there were tourist maps at some places with routes marked out. We managed to walk pretty much the entire thing and ate dinner at a kebab place before heading to the train station. I think my coworkers were expecting more of a tour from me but that would be too much work. 



Saturday. I had wanted to go on another daytrip but seeing the slow speed we tend to move at, we decided against this. My coworkers still wanted to shop so we had breakfast and then went shopping again. The other girl on this trip had to leave around noon so my boss and I kept walking to the Longchamp store to fulfill his orders. After this we really had no idea what to do for the next few hours so we decided to go up to Sared Ceour because it's about the only attraction neither of us have been to on this trip, even though we've both been there before. 

We managed to find a "short cut" up the hill that involved some long flights of stairs. We found a ton of tourists at the top and saw street performers making a fortune. We had another fixed price 3 course meal and walked back down where we passed some very cute shops and markets. We gave up trying to walk all the way back and ended up taking the metro where my boss was nearly robbed by a gang of girls. Luckily he said he felt it coming and moved out of the way quickly. When we got off, a bunch of police was waiting for the girls and arrested them right at the station! Maybe someone reported them right away or they stole a GPS phone?

I think living in HK has really made me not used to dirty spaces and street violence. I usually feel very safe in HK. Maybe it's the density of people. There are always enough "eyes on the street" to keep people from doing random things. There are targeted violence but that's very different. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Marseille (Part 2)

I've been back in HK for a while now but just hasn't gotten around to publishing these posts. I actually wrote them on the train ride from Marseille back to Paris.

..........

After getting dehydrated on Sunday, I went back to the hotel and rested. Took the chance to Skype with Yalu and waited until the weather was cooler before heading back out. I took the tram to the Longchamp Palace. I think they were getting ready to close so I didn't see all of it. There was a choir there singing though and that was really nice. I headed back out to the port for dinner and decided I really wanted a burger. 



On Monday, I wanted to take a cruise out to see the calanques, which are these cliffs that are supposed to be really beautiful. But unfortunately, it was really windy that day and the lady at the sales desk warned me that I might get sick. I guess I could have taken the bus out to the university and hike there but I was kind of lazy in investigating this route. By the time I realized that this was feasible, it was much later in the day. After a lunch of a falafel wrap, I went to the Fort Jean. I found the fort to be very well kept. It was almost museum like with signs and explanations. The place was very clean and had really nice views of the harbor. There were a lot of passage ways and towers to explore. I just wish it wasn't so windy! I felt my bag being blown and it would have flown away if I hadn't held onto it. My bag even had bottles of water in it. 

The fort connected to the Museum of the Mediterranean by a pedestrian bridge. You end up at the rooftop terrace of the museum which had nice lounge chairs. The museum is a very nice structure. I think it's meant to be a history and culture museum but it had the looks of an art museum. The building is a box structure that has an outer walkway wrapped around it. You can get to all the floors from this walkway. The walkway is covered by the facade of the building which hangs from the main building. This outer facade is porous and lets in sunlight and wind. On top of the walkway, they've installed speakers that softly plays sounds of the Mediterranean, like the sea, people at markets, etc. So it's a really nice walk. I had a cappuccino at the ground floor and just chilled there for a while. Really wish they were more into coffee than espresso. 



I went back to rest after this and decided to check out the beach in the afternoon. I only made it to the closest beach and that was a really dirty beach. I just dipped my feet in and the water was very cool. On the way back I finally found the bus that goes to the farther beaches and it was packed with people going back to the city. I supposed that's where I should've gone. But instead I walked around another nice park.



I had waffles and ice cream for dinner. I had this ice cream in Paris, in the Galleries Lafeyette, while waiting for my friends to finish shopping. The one I had there seemed to be a lot bigger than the ones people were getting here. They let you pick 3 flavors and shape it into a flower. Maybe it was because it was less busy at the one in Paris. I thought the two scoops I got here were small too. 

I went back to the hotel before sunset this time and spent the rest of the evening skyping briefly with another friend and then reading the rest of A Thousand Splendid Suns. It's a very moving book, especially at the end where everything collided. It made me realize I know nothing about the Middle East. Some of those Afghan restaurants that I ate at back in the States must be run by people escaping the conflicts described in this book. I got the book from the Salvation Army in HK and ended up giving the book away to a lady sitting on the bench next to me at the train station. I saw that she had a bunch of magazines, some of which are in English. I think she said that she can read English. 

I think I could have done something this morning, like go see one more sight or something. But I feel very lazy these days and just spent the time packing. I've been eyeing this buffet restaurant that has a huge selection of cheeses. In Paris, because there were always at least 3 of us and we always shared our meals, every meal felt like a buffet in that we got to try out so many different things. This buffet had a pretty good selection of meats and seafood. Their food was ok, wasn't all that great. But it was fun trying out different things and eating a lot of cheese! 

Anyway, on the train to the airport now. Only have €5+ in cash. Doubt I will need anything though. Maybe a snack. I got a thing of couscous and a bottle of Vitamin water. I've been drinking all kinds of flavored waters and trying different drinks out. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Marseille (Part 1)

I'm at the Marseille train station waiting for my train back to the Paris airport. This trip felt like it went on forever because of all the intensely packed days. I had two days of one conference, four days of another conference, and then two full days of chilling in Marseille.

Overall, I think Marseille is pretty nice. The Old Port area is really pretty with all the boats and nice view out to the Mediterranean. There are also all sorts of art pieces around since there was a cultural festival here earlier this year. But outside of the touristy parts, I thought the city was very quiet and not that clean. This is probably because I've living in HK for too long. The public transportation comes every 10 minutes and stops running at around 9pm. I got a 72 hour pass so I used a good share of it.

The BB Hotel I stayed at was not bad. It has all the standard stuff. Except I really wish I looked into hotels near the port more because that's where all the stuff is. It was kind of a pain to always be waiting for the bus. It was walkable to the port but the walk wasn't particularly nice and I wouldn't do it at night. This is a problem because most places don't serve dinner until 7 or 7:30pm and since the bus stops running at 9, dinner could be a problem. The first day I ended up having to take a really round about way to get back. Definitely used the pass enough times that day.

I arrived Saturday night from Paris and started exploring on Sunday. I didn't manage to get out of the hotel until nearly 11am and decided that the easiest way to get to the port was by metro. I had to make one transfer (there are only 2 lines). This is where I found out that the trains come only once every 10 minutes or so. It took me nearly half an hour to get to the port even though it wasn't far at all. The port was bustling with tourists. I walked around all the restaurants before deciding on a small place near one end. I had a fish filet that wasn't that great bit maybe that's because we've been having some really good food in Paris (more on that later).

I went up to the Notre Dame church which was on top of a hill. The view was really nice but it was windy and hot. I think I got a bit dehydrated here and went back down after exploring.

Some pictures from this first day:

Monday, September 9, 2013

In Marseille

Last full day of vacation. Hoping to have some time to blog tonight. Going to find some brunch.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Typhoon and upcoming trip

Last week we had a T8 day. A pretty big typhoon skirted by Hong Kong and the whole city shut down for a good part of the day. The typhoon wasn't even that close to the city but it brought high winds and scattered showers. As the typhoon got closer and closer on Tuesday, we had a T1 and then the T3 signal. I think the whole city was checking the HK Observatory, which posts the official weather warnings the entire time. I had a feeling that we would get a T8 so I didn't even bothered to cook lunch for the next day. I think the T8 signal was put up sometime around midnight. I remember being woken up by sudden rain a couple of times at night. We got the whole morning off and I took the time to write entries in my training logbook. Our company's official policy is that you don't have to go to work if the signal is still in force at 12:30pm. The signal was lifted at around 2pm so I technically didn't have to go to work. I still went up to the site to take a walk around to make sure things are okay. I had to go out to buy groceries anyway so I thought I might as well. Things were not bad at site actually. The contractor's staff came to site as well and just hung around.

I really doubt we will get another one this year as typhoon season is waning. There is currently another one on the radar but it's pretty far away.Anyway, can't wait for it to actually become autumn. It's been cooler the past week after the typhoon but it's just been so humid that I'm usually soaked in sweat after making one round around the site. I've been going through multiple shirts and pants throughout the day.

I went back to the office last Saturday for a class offered by the company on making presentations. The class took the whole day, which is long but that gave a good amount of time to go through everything. I really don't like classes that have to rush through things because they don't have enough time. Anyway, this class was different from the basic presentation skills class I attended last year because this one was focused on the elements of a presentation and how to put one together. It's not really about presenting but how to capture your audience with visual aids. I like how the company hires external consultants to run these courses. These specialized consultants usually have very nicely prepared material. The course came with its own workbook, which looks like a really nice hardcover book. I thought the most interesting part of the course was thinking about how to present qualitative ideas with good visuals. Hopefully I'll have the chance to make use of all these new tools.

I managed to book my train tickets and hotel for my Marseille trip. I'm going to have some time after the conference to do a couple of day trips near Paris before going out to Marseille. I think it is definitely cheaper to travel around Asia than Europe. I had a hard time finding a non-sketchy place to stay in for Marseille. Even dorm beds in hostels were 30-40 Euros a night. Budget hotels are not really budget and had all these sketchy reviews. Hopefully the place I picked is okay.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Another Beach Day

I wanted to blog about my second beach trip this summer earlier but my phone refused to upload the pictures. Anyway, I met up with a friend for brunch on Sunday on the Kowloon side so I figured I'd take the chance to go to beaches farther away. 

I chose to go out to Lantau Island in hopes of finding a beach that is less crowded. I had planned to go to Cheung Sha beach but found that the buses going that way had a really long line. So long that I didn't even managed to find the end of the line. I decided to take the bus to Mui Wo instead. I figured that if the buses were too packed on the way back, I could always take the ferry to Central. On the way to Mui Wo, I found out that there is a beach, Pui O, on the way. Some people were getting off so I got off too. 

The beach was just what I wanted. No crowds, nice wide coast, trees for natural shade. The sand is naturally black from volcanic activities. It wasn't all black but you end up having this gray mixture. I didn't mind 

Water buffalo on the way to the beach:
 Not a lot of people and the water is really shallow. There was a lot of trees providing shade.




Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dinner

Sometimes simple is the best. Thick slices of bread drenched with olive oil and topped with crushed garlic, tomato, and mozzarella cheese. I went to an upscale supermarket to get the cheese. The local ones just don't carry cheese. At this upscale supermarket, I saw some really nice tomatoes and picked up 3 of them. The price tag said $9 but I wasn't sure if that was per item or what. At checkout, I found out that it was per 100g and the total for 3 tomatoes came out to be $45 HKD ($7-8 USD)! Who buys/sells tomatoes in units of per 100 gram?? Anyway, I had them put those back and picked up some at a local supermarket on my way home. Anyway, dinner was delicious.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Keep the door open, please

I've been trying in vain for the past few days to keep our office door open. It's been raining and windy due to a typhoon passing close by. So I wanted to take the chance to leave the door open so that we can get some fresh air in. Our office at site has no windows as it is part of a semi-basement. We have a fan and AC that circulates air. But people keep closing the door when they leave!

I think part of it is because people here grew up in an environment that runs the AC 24/7 during the summer months and therefore feel that closing the door will keep the cool in and conserve energy. But I think part of it is also a cultural issue. As the site team, we're the client's representatives on site. So the contractors give us a certain amount of respect. And therefore, they feel that when they leave our office, they should close the door behind them so that we're not disturbed after they leave. I had a hard time keeping my door open back when I was in my little container as well.

I feel like in the US, there is a lot of literature telling you to keep your door open so that you seem more friendly and open to people wanting to talk about issues. I think in our main office, the directors generally keep their doors open as well but I think that might be due to the very limited number of offices and the entire office is an open plan anyway. So keeping your door closed is just not going with the open plan theme. But our staff is also a mix of local and expats. I wonder what it's like in offices with all local people. Do they keep their office doors closed all the time? Is it a cultural thing or is it really just a practical thing due to having AC?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hot, hot, hot

It's been so hot these days that any time it gets under 30 deg C (86F), it feels cool. Any breeze helps. In fact, there has been a hot weather warning from the Hong Kong Observatory up all day. It is 10pm and it is still in affect. The warning is just a general warning for the public to pay attention to being hydrated and avoid working in the sun for too long. The UV index on clear days is really insane here. It goes up to 11 or 12, which is extreme. It only gets that high around noon to 2pm but that's still pretty amazing.

If the weather doesn't change into sudden thunderstorms this weekend, I might go check out the beach on Sunday. It would be nice to just go find a nice beach and relax. Although there is bound to be a lot of people all over the place. Are there hidden/undiscovered beaches in HK?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New toys

Using my new bluetooth keyboard! But seems like it will take some getting used to since the keys seems to be positioned a bit weirdly. The most major issue is that the space bar does not extend to the right enough for me to comfortably hit it with my right thumb...

Went back to Sham Shui Po on Monday after stopping by the office after work. I realized I left the juice I bought on Sunday in the fridge and wanted an excuse to go get it. And then on the shuttle down to the MTR station, I saw that my backpack is basically falling apart. The bottom part is coming off. So this gave me the right excuse to go get the juice and go by SSP for cheap stuff. I found a backpack that I like as well as this keyboard and a wireless mouse. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Thoughts on society

I just watched a very interesting video about race (in America) from HBR (link to article here). There's a lot of these videos that talk about racism since the recent court case. I think race is definitely a very big factor in American society, whether people want to acknowledge this or not. It's just like religion. People want to believe that the US is a place where people are equal regardless of religion and race. But it really isn't and some religions and races have higher statuses than others. I wish that instead of trying to always sweep these matters under the table, we can talk about them more openly.

After living in Hong Kong for more than two years, I think it's very interesting to explore the topic of racism in HK society as well. I hope that whatever insights I find here can turn into something of wisdom when I go back and live in a so called "non-racial" society. Hong Kong is a much more homogeneous society where the Cantonese speaking locals dominate every aspect of life. I find that teams at work tend to shift towards wanting to become homogeneous in the sense that everyone speaks the same language (Cantonese). The Mandarin speakers usually accommodate and learn to understand, if not speak, Cantonese. The English speakers are tolerated but I feel like they are just not included at the same level. And I really don't know if this preference for a homogeneous team is more for language or for culture. Just the other day, some of my friends were talking about college dorm life in HK and how it's hard to room together with Mainland kids because their habits and "culture" is just too different. There's really no conclusion I can draw here. These are just some of my observations and thoughts on this matter. There are also a lot of minorities in HK as well. There are Indians, Pakistani, Thai, and other SE Asians who live in their own little communities. I really don't know very much about their lives and how they manage to live in HK. But I do feel like these minorities are much more hidden. I always like to scoff at the lifestyles maintained by HK bankers because I really don't think they know HK at all. But the HK that the minorities live in must also be a very different reality than the one that I or the bankers know. Even though this society is much more homogeneous on the surface, it's very complex when you start to dig.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Paris conference booked

I booked my tickets for Paris! Going to be in France from August 30th to September 10th. From beginning to end, the whole trip is almost 2 weeks. I leave HK on a Thursday night and get a day to wander around Paris (maybe with other people who are also going to the conference?). Then I have six straight days of hardcore geotech conference. I think the conference will end at decent times and can go explore Paris again during the evenings. After the conference, I have almost another six days of vacation. I am thinking I want to go to the south of France and just chill in nice seaside towns and beaches. The conference and airfare is pretty much all funded through a combination of HKIE and my company. So it should be good. I should really read my previous posts on Paris to see what I have done before!

It started raining again this week. I guess it's okay since it's not as hot. Sometimes it just pours a lot and people usually try to wait it out, at least during the really hard downpour part. It's kind of dangerous to be working at site during heavy rain anyway. Things get slippery. Today, I got stuck outside after doing a round of inspections. The clouds just came in really fast and I barely had time to make it to an umbrella before it started pouring. There are some really large umbrellas set up to workers around the site (mostly to provide shade). I was wondering when I would get to go back to the site office when the guy driving a dirt truck offered me his umbrella. That was really nice. I got back to the office and returned the umbrella to him as he was leaving the site. I still go pretty wet though but these days I bring another change of clothes with me. It's a really good thing that I bought a pair of water resistant pants at REI in Portland when we did that road trip.

I've been finding site life really boring. Lately, all we have been doing is piling works. There is nothing else going on. I don't have to deal with all the messy stuff anymore so all I'm really responsible for is doing routine inspections and following the site progress. I think that following site progress is really as much work as you want to put into it. You can get down to as detail as what each piling plant is doing at a particular moment or you can not care at all and just enter data as they come in. I kind of feel that knowing everything is extreme but not knowing anything is not really being responsible. I just think that our role as site supervision team is really extraneous to the entire construction process. We're part of the quality control effort but we're really only there so that someone can be held responsible when something goes wrong. Other than feeling extraneous, I also feel that there is really no opportunities working at site. It really doesn't matter how good I am, I would still be doing the same sort of thing over and over again. I've realized that what I really like is to be able to move up in an organization and keep getting more of the spotlight. But as site staff, there is nothing to move up to. I feel like it's becoming a big waste of time. It's not like I can really do other things at site since there is always someone interrupting me. I'm wondering if I can go back to the office early and rotate to the structures team and learn from them for a while. Don't know if this will really work out but the most I would be staying  on site is until the end of this year anyway.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

FB Newsfeed

Lately I have gotten a lot of my news firsthand from Facebook's news feed. It started with the Boston bombings, then the Asiana flight, and now the Zimmerman case. I opened the FB app on my phone to find that a lot of people have posted things about these news, whether it is to say that they are okay or an outcry at the event. It's interesting because I guess I (and probably many other people) are subscribed to FB more than they are to the news. If you're just going about your life, you might not necessarily have time to pick up the paper or watch the news.

Today was not very productive. My model for the research project is not working for some reason. And they cleaned the pantry tank again in the morning. I knew this and went into the office later in the day but the smell still lingered around and the office felt stuffy. I left after not being able to get things to work and decided to take the MTR to North Point and walk back home just to explore that part of the neighborhood a bit more. I only walked on the main street and didn't find anything interesting. Just the usual mix of stores. But it was a nice walk. I feel like I should get to know the eastern side of HK Island more.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Another weekend

Okay, it's official. Having a TV is a huge distraction and time waster. I think the problem is that you can just turn it on and flip through the channels and settle on watching something. In the tragic event that there is nothing on, you can settle on the news channel and watch the daily dose of news until there is something interesting on. For example, I just watched Monsters Inc. on TV. If I didn't have a TV and wanted to watch Monsters Inc, I would have had to find it online or on my iPad. That takes planning and initiative. By the time I get through just thinking about the logistics, I probably would have settled on doing something else, like cleaning the house or something else productive. 

Went into the office again today and tried to get a model running before I went to work on the presentation for next Wednesday. Our client is visiting the site. He's one of the richest people in HK and everyone is going crazy about this visit. The contractor has been doing a lot more housekeeping to make the place decent looking. And apparently he's interested in hearing a technical presentation about the site. At first, I really didn't think he would be interested in the hardcore technical details so I made some graphics heavy slides and was proceeding with putting lots of photos on the slides when we found out that he actually likes technical stuff. 

I basically spent all day on this presentation. I guess it's good that we're getting some good slides made since we haven't really made very many presentations for this project. There are so many aspects of it and I'm sure we'll need them later on. I should really keep a good collection of presentations for my projects.

I went back to Sham Shui Po afterwards to check mail again and found a check from my previous wifi company. I've been expecting this check for a while so it's good to finally get it. It's a small amount but at least I don't have a constant nagging in the back of my head to go check that mailbox anymore. I also found a letter from BD in the mailbox. I opened it to see what the charges are and it basically lists a few things are "seem" to be out of order, including illegal expansion of the unit onto the "roof" of the ground floor level. The expansion comprises mainly the first two units. I lived in the second one. Good thing I moved out. I wanted to take photo of the letter but the security dude was there so I didn't want to look too suspicious. 

I wanted to do a little shopping for sports shirts and pants because I need more for site. I was debating whether or not to go all the way out to the Tung Chung outlets when I spotted a shop that sold sports clothing near the SSP MTR station. Totally forgot about these stores that sell cheap clothing! I got a couple of shirts and a pair of pants. Hope they work out and last the next couple of months. So that saved me a trip all the way out to Tung Chung. It would have costed $23 to get back from Tung Chung! I think I need to explore the Island more instead of relying on places in Kowloon and Lantau. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sunscreen

I bought 2 bottles of sunscreen last weekend. This is my biggest sunscreen purchase in years. I really can't remember when was the last time I actually went to a store to buy sunscreen. There are all these new terms now like "helioplex" and "PA+++". I swear these things didn't exist back when I still took time to look at sunscreen labels. It hasn't been as hot lately but the past few days has been really sunny. I just felt the need to get good sunscreen and put it on religiously throughout the day. I currently own 3 big bottles of sunscreen. 

I have successfully kept track of all my expenses in the month of June. Well, with the exception of the Singapore trip, which I am just counting as one lump sum. I used to use Mint.com to keep track of all my accounts but then moving to Hong Kong happened and I now have too many accounts everywhere. So I used the free time I have nowadays at site and at home to put together a spreadsheet to track expenses and all my accounts. I was inspired by our spreadsheets at site to keep track of construction progress. We put a lot of time into making our spreadsheets do everything for us at site so I figured that I should really spend just as much (if not more) time making something that could do that for my finances. 

I also decided that I really should have a budget but in order to do that, I would really need to have a good feel for my expenses throughout the month. I think I've done pretty well at guessing my expenses for a month. Except the "Food" vs. "Dining Out" gets a little fuzzy at times. I think it's pretty clear that you're "dining out" when you're eating at a proper restaurant. But what about takeout? Or bread for breakfast? You can get really nice pastries or fried noodles for breakfast here and I think it's cheaper to eat out for breakfast than to buy cereal and milk. 

I've spent basically all of last weekend at the office working on a research project. It's really good to have a long stretch of uninterrupted time to do work and think. I am starting to see how people can do research for a living. While I think this is nice, I really don't think I can actually do it for a living. I kind of wish I have a couple of weeks to work on the project straight through. We have a lot of downtime at site but it's not uninterrupted so that makes it hard to concentrate.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Singapore trip

Went to Singapore for the third time last weekend with my roommate. We really wanted to go somewhere for the long weekend. July 1st is the anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the Mainland so we get the day off. Hong Kong people really like to travel so all flights on or near that weekend are either sold out or really pricey. It seemed like all my FB friends were on vacation. The only choices for under $2,000 HKD round trip was Singapore, KL, or Taiwan. My roommate's brother lives in KL but he wasn't in town that weekend. And both of us have been to KL and didn't find it very interesting. Taiwan was a good choice because both of us want to explore more of Taipei and trains to nearby towns are convenient. But my roommate hasn't been to Singapore yet so that was definitely a winner.The only thing about the cheap flight to Singapore is that the flight is at a bad time. In fact, flying became the major highlight of our trip.

The flight is with United and it is actually a connecting flight between Chicago (origin of the flight) and Singapore. The flight was supposed to leave at 8pm on Friday night and get to Singapore at around midnight. But the flight was delayed at takeoff for 6 hours so we ended up leaving HK at 2am. We were really tired when we finally boarded the flight. I was smart to bring an eye mask and slept the entire 3+ hours. We got to Singapore pretty early in the morning and stumbled into our hostel. We were told that we couldn't check in until 3pm so we dropped off our bags and went exploring.

We had food at a nearby hawker food place. There weren't very many choices so early in the morning but we were satisfied with some fresh noodles. We then did a lot of walking and explored Little India until it got too hot outside. We went to Orchard Road and walked around the malls some more. Right when we were completely exhausted from the lack of sleep and all the walking, we spotted a really nice couch in a public resting area inside a fancy mall. We promptly sat down and fell asleep. Felt really refreshed after that!

We went back to the hostel, cleaned up, napped, and then went back outside when it was getting dark. We got chili crab in Chinatown and then walked around the harbour front area and even went inside Marina Bay Sands before going back to the hostel and had a really good night's sleep.

That night, we decided that we did pretty well with the sightseeing on Saturday. We happened to find a visitor's center in Chinatown and they offered a few dollars off for tickets to Universal Studios. It was recommended by friends along with Night Safari. Ideally we would do both but decided against buying tickets for both. I think that was a good choice because we would have been really tired. The lady was really helpful and we even had a plan of attack.

Unfortunately we overslept a bit and didn't make it to the park right when it opened. It didn't seem like a very busy weekend though so the lines weren't all that long. We went on ride after ride and even took a picture with the Cookie Monster!! I need to get that picture off my roommate. We got tired at around 3 or 4pm and left for the beach part of Sentosa. I napped on the beach. I had bought my swimsuit with me but was too lazy to go change.

After this we had dinner near our hostel and relaxed at our hostel before heading to the airport. Our flight leaves at 6am Monday morning so we had planned to spend the night at this world famous airport. We got to the airport before midnight only to find that there were no United staff at the counters. So we couldn't check in. All the nice amenities are inside the departure terminal! We could even see it through the glass walls. We were really disappointed and walked around until we found an aviation gallery (made for kids) that was relatively quiet, out of the way, and already had people sleeping on the benches and the floor. I went to sleep pretty much right away and woke up before 3am because I was getting cold. I got a tea latte from the Coffee Bean near the check in and found out that we can check in at 3:30am. I also found nice couches at the Coffee Bean that would have been much nicer to camp out in.

We finally checked in and walked around the really nice departure terminal. We went to the butterfly dome where all the butterflies were sleeping. Sat down at some foot massage chairs. I found that my left leg is definitely much more muscular than my right leg. I think it is generally normal for right handed people to have stronger left legs because this balances your body out. But I think after continuous exercise on site, my legs have become a lot stronger. The foot massage also does thighs and I definitely felt that my left leg is a lot harder! Anyway, we also found the movie theater where they show free movies. The chairs were comfortable and had lots of legroom. It was a good thing I set an alarm because otherwise, we would have missed our flight.

Our flight back was a bit turbulent because there was a typhoon nearby. The typhoon unfortunately was not very close to Hong Kong so no chance of a day off. I didn't feel so well at the last part of the flight. We made it back home after spending a lot of time at airports and sleeping in public places. I spent the rest of the day just chilling around the apartment because it was pouring rain outside. I had wanted to check out the annual march that Hong Kongers hold on July 1st to voice their opinions about the current government. The starting point is in Victoria Park, which is really close to where I live. But it started to rain right when they started, just like the June 4th thing. And I was really tired. So I just watched it on TV. I think I am a lot less productive these days with this TV around.

Anyway, it was a good trip. I really like Singapore. It is like Hong Kong but with more ethnic groups. I think if I ever end up doing a long SE Asia backpacking type trip, I would definitely schedule Singapore somewhere in the middle just to get a break. It is such an easy city to get around, especially for English speakers. And even if you didn't speak English, you can also get around in Chinese, Tamil, or Malaysian.

Singapore for the 3rd time

Some pictures from the Singapore trip! Longer post later.

Had some time on this trip to go to Sentosa and enjoy the beach. The beach wasn't all that impressive but it was nice to just chill and nap under the palm trees. 



Inside Universal Studios. Haven't been to a theme park since Six Flags during Senior Week. This one is really small (as compared to US ones) and you can definitely do everything you want to do in one day. We even left before it got dark.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Flight delayed

Flight is delayed for 6 hours due to late takeoff at the origin. The flight we are taking is a transatlantic flight coming from Chicago, stopping in Hong Kong, and then going onwards to Singapore. So I guess they took off from Chicago late. We were all packed, ready, brought all our stuff to work in order to leave straight for the airport. But I guess this is better because I get the chance to come back and shower. It was pretty hot and gross at site today. Also, we were planning on sleeping or hanging out at the Singapore airport after we get there (at around midnight). But with this delay, we'll be getting to Singapore at around 6am. I don't know what we would do there so early but probably just rest a bit and then hit the city. Anyway, I'll take this chance to write a bit about recent events.

Site has been boring these days since all we're doing is piling. And I guess as one of the assistant resident engineers (ARE), I'm not responsible for the big decisions anymore. Following site progress is really a matter of how much you care. You can do more or less. In the end, we're just observers and the contractor is really the responsible party. I prefer to be more on top of things though. And to that end, we've split up the site works so that they are more manageable to follow. Before, we were just taking turns to go out to inspect things but not really following the progress. I feel like as an engineer, I should really know what is happening on a day to day basis.

But starting next week, we will be back down to having only 2 AREs. The girl was was at site to replace me during my vacation stayed for long enough so that she can have a full year of site experience. Now her team wants her back at the office. Or maybe she wants to go back. Anyway, and somehow, they have calculated that we don't need one more ARE on site. It will be busier with only 2 AREs but I think it is still okay. I'm getting kind of bored of site life already though.

I am still working on the research project that my boss and I got funding for from the company. Hopefully I can wrap it all up in July. I wanted to finish everything in June but I ended up working a lot of Saturdays because other people were not available. And it's hard to work on these things at site since there are too many interruptions.

Other than that, I've been enjoying a lot of summer fruits, including lychee. I've been buying a lot of lychee lately. I've found some pretty cheap ones but they usually not as good. There are a lot of fruit stands on the way back from work so I'm always tempted to buy stuff.