Thursday, February 28, 2013


Thought I get one more post in before March comes along. Site is getting very busy. Things ramped up after the Chinese New Year holidays. We just had our first on-site site meeting that was super long. I felt like things are really getting serious now. I hope I get help soon because my work load is increasing by the hour. The contractor has two shuttles in the morning and in the afternoon. I used to be able to leave before their first afternoon shuttle leaves at 6:15pm but now I seem to need to take their 2nd shuttle, which leaves at 7:15pm. People stop working at around 6 to 6:30pm so it's perfect time to catch up with paperwork. But I really don't want to stay so late because I get really tired. I sleep pretty early these days as well.

I finally got a smartphone after all this time. I have to call people a lot more now that I am on site and is remote from the office and my support system. So the prepaid thing wasn't working out anymore. And my old phone was really about to die soon so I figured I should upgrade to a monthly plan and a new phone. After much debating, I decided to get a Nexus 4. It's more expensive to get the phone here than in the US but after doing the math, I found that it's cheaper to get it with a plan than to get the phone separately. I live pretty close to places that sell phones and plans. So I basically got prices from all of them and found the bests plan. So now I can respond to emails and such while commuting. I kind of miss the days when I just zone out on transit. I feel like I need more time to zone out.

I also bought my tickets for my April-May trip home! Will update the sidebar on my blog later. I've scheduled my exam and booked my Boston flights as well. I got my holiday approval back from HR today as well. So all set! Can't wait. I'm sure I will need a break before it turns into summer in HK. And I'm sure by the time I get back, my site will be running in a more routine mode.

I'm also looking for a new apartment. I feel like I'm ready to move on from this little thing. I feel like it took quite a while for me to get mentally prepared for the rental prices out here. I think it would be more practical to move closer to site. But I also want to move somewhere where I can go running easily, which would mean I need to go farther out than where I am now. Anyway, I think I just need to make up my mind on where I want to live. Too many neighborhoods in HK. And as long as I get over the fact that I have to pay >$1,000 USD a month, I think I can find a decent place to live. I suppose I should do this soon since I seem to have a lot of guests coming over in the next few months.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

CNY holidays

Chinese New Year here is like Christmas. No one wants to work. Everyone was in super holiday mood on Thursday and people started leaving at around 3-4pm. And today, Saturday, all the drillers are on holiday so there is not much going on at site. A lot of people are on vacation so it feels like you can't get much done anyway.

On Wednesday, I met up with a friend to go on a hike. We were trying invite another friend to come along but apparently she had also planned a hike on Lantau Island. But her hike was more strenuous than what we had in mind. The trail that we looked at was a good length but didn't have very much uphill or anything challenging. The most challenging part was where to get off the bus. The buses on Lantau Island are more like long distance coaches. They don't announce the stops like the regular buses elsewhere. So of course we got off too early. Luckily, the bit that we added was very easy, mostly concrete paths so that was a nice warm up.

We hit the uphill part at one point and there were good views of the harbor. I am definitely in better physical shape than before going to site. I didn't find the uphill part very challenging at all. We snacked at the top before going down. The good thing about hiking in HK is that not only is it super convenient to get to the trails, you can also stock up on food before you start. There are always supermarkets around. We got some muffins, sugary drinks, and Snickers bars before heading out. I think we hiked for a good 4 hours before reaching our destination of Tai O, a fishing village on Lantau Island.

I had actually chose the trail specifically because it ends in Tai O. I had never been there before and have been meaning to go. I like seeing the sea. The waterfront at Tai O is filled with little shops selling all kinds of snacks. You can also get a small boat out to see pink dolphins. Some friends of mine who came to visit said that they saw some on these boats! Anyway, we were not so interested in these dolphins and went in search of food. This particular friend really likes to eat so we had toufu fa and 2 different pancake-like snacks. I was full by the end of it. We waited around to watch the sunset at the beach. Typical of these close-to-equator places, the sun sets straight down and is very quick. It disappeared off the horizon in a matter of minutes. There was a patch of clouds at the sea-sky horizon though.

The line for the bus back to town was super long. I think we waited 30mins to an hour for a bus. And they had a lot of buses taking people back. It seems like is village is a popular destination, even for the locals. My friend had wanted to eat dinner back home but forgo that after seeing the line for the bus. So we went to a mall near Olympic and had dinner at the Simply Life. There is a Simply Life at the mall at our office. It had a small location and there was always a line for it. Then it moved to a much bigger location and we had all been anticipating its opening for months. But it is just too popular. There is always a line for it and reservations need to be made a month or two beforehand. So I still haven't been to the one at our office.

All in all, it was a fun day. I got slightly sunbrunt on my face and neck. Should really wear a hat to these hikes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Year of the Snake

We get Monday to Wednesday off this week for the Lunar New Year. The contractor told me that they would be getting off at 4pm on Saturday so that everyone can go home early. And then right after lunch, people started packing up and leaving. It's funny how things work sometimes. It's the workers who are driving the program. If they say that they are leaving, then they are leaving. There's nothing the management people can do at that point. Anyway, everyone was super eager to leave so I left with them. I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging around the island and went to the flower market with a friend later that night. There were a crazy amount of people and tons of different kinds of junk on sale.

I didn't do much on the first day of Lunar New Year. I hung around my apartment and skyped with people in the morning. Then I did a good amount of cleaning. Didn't managed to do any cleaning beforehand. Although I was smart and took my clothes to wash before the big cleaning day. I went to pick up my clothes on Friday night and my usual laundry place was just swamped. It is run by this couple and the lady said that she doesn't think they'll be sleeping that night. I think it happens every year.

I ventured out to one of the temples in Wong Dai Sin. It was packed with people. They set up this really long path for people to walk so that the actual temple is not crowded. I swear it too nearly half an hour to walk through the maze just to get into the temple. The up side is that there is no waiting, just a lot of walking. I was overwhelmed by the amount of things you can pray to. I didn't stay out for long and just went back to the apartment after that.

I met up with some people for lunch on Monday and then some of us went to hike the Peak Trail. The actual Peak Trail is not exciting at all since it is all flat and just goes around the Peak. But the girls I was with suggested that we walk up to the Peak. I was looking forward to this part because it's a semi adventure to find the right road and it would be uphill. We found the path pretty easily although the two girls kept wanting to consult their smartphones. This is one of the reasons why I don't want the convenience of a smartphone. I would rely on it too much instead of just figuring things out as I go along. I mean, we saw a road on a map that is named "Old Peak Road", how obvious could it be? Anyway, Old Peak Rd was pretty tough as the climb was pretty steep. I found that I'm in much better shape now that I've been on site for a month. I think the two girls were done after we got up to the Peak. We went for ice cream and we ended up doing the Peak Trail as well. We took a cab back down after waiting for the wrong bus. The cab driver kept hitting the brakes on the way down so I was feeling a bit sick by the time we got to the bottom. I treated myself to tandoori chicken when I got back to Sham Shui Po. An Indian place just opened recently and they were one of the only restaurants open so they were getting a lot of business. Their food looks good so I definitely want to try out their other selections.

I am officially starting to study for the rest of my PE exam, the surveying part. Reprinted some references and practice exams. I actually already have quite a bit of study material. I just didn't manage to go through all of them last time. Anyway, I think I'll be okay this time since I know what to expect.

I've been thinking about taking the LEED exam too but I really have no clue about green design at all. I think that exam involves a lot of reading and memorization, which I think I prefer over doing actual calculations. I feel so lazy these days. Don't even want to have to touch my calculator. But looking at the Prometrics website, it turns out that I can take that exam in HK. Don't even have to go back to the US for it.

Going on another hike tomorrow. Will post some pictures tomorrow night.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why is it so hot in the winter?

I went to buy a pair of transition lenses yesterday. I feel like such an adult, getting a new pair of glasses without waiting for my current pair to break. I feel a real need for a pair of sunglasses for site because it can get really bright and I am outside a lot. The site foreman says he's never seen a site like this one in his 30 years of experience. Not sure why I am always so lucky like this, doing things that normal people might not ever get a chance to do. Sigh... Site staff at government sites don't need to do routine inspections and deal with contractual stuff at the same time like I do. Sometimes I really feel out of my depth.

I was back at the office again this past Sunday to work on a different project. The office security guard was like, "Is it better now? Didn't see you yesterday." I was not impressed. I was, in fact, climbing all over the site on Saturday inspecting a ton of holes. That's what I do these days, inspect holes. There are 6 drilling rigs on site right now and I cannot spend more than an hour in my cabin before having to go out to inspect something. The contractor's project engineer was like, "this is not working out. Maybe we should move our offices up to the higher platforms and just sit there." The special part of this site is that it is on the side of a very steep slope. So they have erected a ton of steel and bamboo scaffolding everywhere. Everyday, I have to go up and down these temporary stairs. I think I'll get used to them soon but they are still scary because you can see the bottom while going up the stairs. When I first arrived, I remember wondering why the foreman walks around with his head down. Now I understand that you have to look where you put your feet, otherwise you will definitely trip over something.

I think I have definitely lost weight since going to site. I weighted myself at the gym on Sunday and was really surprised. I have been bringing my own lunch, which consists of a sandwich for the past couple of weeks. This got boring so I am trying to think of ways to change it up. I am also stocking up on some granola bars because I usually get really hungry again at around 3 or 4pm. I have also been sleeping more.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Site experience

First week on site with no external meetings. My boss finally came around to visit the site after working on this project for the past year. I think sometimes HK is just so small that you feel like you can go some place anytime and then end up never going. I think he now has a better appreciation for the site. Even said that he would visit regularly since it is a challenging site.

I attended a class on construction contract claims last weekend. I have a sudden interest and appreciation in all things related to construction contracts and construction management. I really had no clue where to begin with all these terms and conditions in a contract. But after attending a couple of classes, I am starting to get a feel for the general aspects of standard contracts used in HK. I've been meaning to read through the contract for this project in detail but haven't gotten around to it yet. There is actually quite a lot of routine stuff to take care of.

Routine inspections take up a lot of time. For any site, you do your routine inspections, take notes and photos, and then enter them into the computer for filing. The added challenge for this site is the topography. It takes a while to get anywhere and back down. And since the site is just starting, a lot of things are still being developed and things are changing on a daily basis. Everyone is trying to figure out which forms to use and how to get things done.

And since we still haven't managed to hire a resident engineer for this project yet, I have to do all the paperwork as well. There tends to be a lot of submissions by the contractor in the beginning of a project. I think looking through these things are usually a shared effort by the office and site staff, with the office staff leading. But my boss is too busy. So we (I) have come up with a compromise where he talks me through each submission and tells me what to look for. I check the things that he has asked me to check and follows through on the rest of the it. Previously, I had tried to read these things on my own but my total lack of experience makes it hard for me to comment on anything. I think once you see things happen once, then you know what is important.

I think this will be an interesting year. Part of me really wants things to settle down and become more routine. But another part of me is excited by the different types of challenges that I have to deal with on a daily basis. Once my site gets an actual resident engineer who has years and years of experience, I would no longer have to (get to) deal with these higher level issues. I would definitely be less stressed and have more free time but it would also get boring. Anyway, hopefully I won't mess things up too badly before that happens.