Be Awesome

Look, our forefathers died for the "pursuit of happiness," okay? Not for the "sit around and wait of happiness." Now if you want, we can go to the same bar, drink the same beer, talk to the same people every day or you can lick the Liberty Bell. You can grab life by the crack and lick the crap out of it.
--Barney (HIMYM)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Weekend Singapore Trip

Had a long weekend and took a trip to Singapore.  Singapore is close and quick to get to with just a 90 minute or so flight from Jakarta.  It was a very impressive city.  What people say about the orderliness and cleanliness holds up for the most part.

View from the taxi ride into the city (traffic free!)
I found the city to be a very English-speaking friendly place as many, many Singaporeans I came across spoke it very well.  Mandarin and other Asian languages were also very prevalent.

We took the subway a lot to get around the city.  It was very quick and convenient with trains coming often.  One thing I never liked about the DC subway was that it took forever to get anyway on it during the weekends as trains came so irregularly that it was usually just easier to drive into town.
One of the many subway stations.
Some of the crosswalks make fun laser sounds to alert the blind when it's safe to cross.
Malls were all over the place with many connected to each other that one could continually be walking in a mall not know they had already traversed through several of them.  One mall we had to visit was the Marina Bay mall.  It had a channel for people wanting to take rides and a skating rink.  It also had some great views of the Marina Bay Sands resort, the most expensive casino/resort property in the world.
The mall at Marina Bay
A view of the most expensive hotel in the world.

Entrance to the Art Museum.
The only skating rink I've seen where people wear ice skates but there is NO ice.
We also took a trip to the Singapore Chinatown.  First impression, this was the cleanest Chinatown I've ever been to.  It almost reminded me of how a museum might display a Chinatown.  Very clean, free from any vendors of knockoff Rolexs, pirated DVDs, or fake purses/perfumes.

We ate a late lunch here and had some excellent steamed chicken and visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple which supposedly holds a tooth from Buddha.

Pristine Chinatown streets.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
 In the evening, there is a light show put on by the Marina Bay Sands each night that was fun to watch.  To finish the night, we strolled the Clarke Quay area that had tons of nightlife with bars, live music, and clubs.

The next day, we went to the Sentosa area to go for a walk and see the sights.  The train to cross over had a huge line as there was some sort of event going on at the other side.  We decided instead to just walk around instead.

Yep, we rode this train.
 To finish off, we went to go try chili crab.  Crab cooked and topped with a spicy chili.  Yum!

Overall, it was a short, but great trip.  We saw a lot of Singapore but will definitely have to take another trip to see the rest.  There was still the aquarium, zoo, and Universal Studios to check out.  Plus, there are a number of nightlife places that would be fun to go to as well.  Next time.

Monday, August 13, 2012

First impressions of Indonesia

Made it to post and I'm now in Indonesia and finally got internet.  Jakarta is very much a very busy, crowded city.  I can't help but make comparisons to the only other SE Asia city I know, Bangkok, but am working to stop that and understand the city for itself.

It's very crowded, traffic lives up to its reputation, and the pollution is rough.  I've lived in Beijing before as well as spent time in Bangkok, but Jakarta really beats them out in these two categories.  I think what really is a game changer in the traffic and pollution categories is public transportation infrastructure.  Beijing has it's subway system and Bangkok has the sky-train: these really make a significant difference.

Housing in Jakarta is pretty nice.  I'm in government owned housing temporarily which is a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment but the living room and dining room are spacious and it's walkable within 5-10 minutes to work.  Later, I'll be moved to one of the many sky-rise apartments in this city.  In both cases, the housing is nice and a significant step up from where I was at in DC for the past year (renting a room in a basement).

The embassy community in Jakarta is very large.  Spent the first couple days getting acclimated and doing various tasks related to in-processing: HR related forms and tasks, begging IT in DC to close my account so the Jakarta Mission could open one for me, security and health briefings, and courtesy meetings with senior management within AID and the embassy.

One perspective that has changed for me is my attitude toward doing rotations.  For Junior Officers with AID, our first tour is actually classified as a training position.  Depending on the post/Mission, there are varying ways this is implemented.  Some have first tour officers work directly in their functional area throughout their entire tour to improve their skills and knowledge in that field.  Others will do a mix of work in their functional areas combined with rotations throughout the Mission in other offices.   The ADS Chapter on USAID's Foreign Service Career Officers has more in-depth information.

At first, I was inclined to want to stay in my functional area to really develop and show off my capabilities in that work.  However, after speaking with several senior leaders in the Mission, I was often advised to consider really taking advantage of this opportunity to work in the other functional areas and gain breadth of knowledge of how USAID Missions operate.  This would allow me to better understand development and provide insight to make me a better leader in the future.  So now, I'm planning my rotations but keeping in close contact with my home office.  While rotating to various offices, I'll continue to perform minor assistance/acquisition actions.  I think with the experiences I've had in DC and BKK so far coupled with the new rotations throughout the Mission, I'll be well-equipped as I progress through my career.  We'll see.

And now, just a few pics from some places I've passed by in the brief time I've been here.

Interesting bar name.

The statues in front of the luxury malls Grand Indonesia and Plaza Indonesia.

Fashion show within the mall.

I like to call these "snake-fruit" due to their appearance and texture.

Nice presentation for displaying bananas.

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