Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Musical journey (53)

This month's musical piece is a song I wrote on the eve of 2000 and I still cannot believe that 15 years have passed so quickly since then, when I just started university. A youngster with rock-bottom self-esteem and zero life experience struggling with his sexuality and looking for love and acceptance in all the wrong places, I was one maladjusted homosexual. Not really a boy but barely a man, I had to brave the arduous journey of self-discovery and constantly pick myself up after having fallen and my heart broken by people I did not even know. Never losing faith though, I had the same single dream of finding a partner for many years. In fact I kept that dream alive for so long that on the eve of 2000, I truly felt I have had it for a thousand years, hoping that it can come true in the next millennium.

Loneliness is very easily magnified in celebratory crowds especially when they consist of happy couples and countdown parties on new year's eve are a prime example where sadness in people just gets worse. On 31 December 1999 I needed an outlet for my depression and so I wrote this song. 15 years on when I hear this song again on the same day, those emotions back then still manage to get to me. Fortunately I am now in a much better position, happily married and all. I guess being steadfast and holding on to the same dream relentlessly did pay off in the end.

Here's to a fabulous year ahead. Happy 2015.


词 / 曲 : 锦泉





快答应自己    从今要好好地活
就算从明日起  痛会历历如昨

[A Dream of a Thousand Years]

Listen to the lonesome ticking of the clock as the sound fills the emptiness in my heart
Listen to the solitary wind bringing a little chill
Listen to the noise from the crowd beside my ears
Listen to the sound of my breaths which touches me the most

Look at the brilliance of the fireworks highlighting the hole in my heart
Look at the naked sky a moment later bringing unending pain
Look at the countless swaying shadows in front of me
Look at the tears welling in my eyes

A dream of a thousand years
In exchange for nothing else but heartache
After this very second at the end of the night
What would I be left with

A thousand years so fleeting
Giving me no time to look back
Why did doomsday not arrive
To put an end to everything

Tell yourself that from now on you shall live your life well
Even though the pain tomorrow will be like yesterday
And make yourself another dream
For life still goes on

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dear diary (part 4)

That is a picture of me in my messy office at 6am. It's not too flashy I know but it is put here in case people want to see me clothed for once. Hehe. Let me now share more of my everyday life for this last week of my second full rotation in Papua New Guinfea.

OK, two hostages have died in the Martin Place siege in Sydney, which is not a good outcome. I am keen to know the fallout of this tragic event especially around why the man was not put on the terror watch-list and out on bail despite allegedly committing so many offences (he has not been formally charged for a single one of them). Workwise, the visitor left early this morning (good riddance! I can finally get my life back). In the last few days, we managed to correct almost all the bugs and cleaned up the errors in the application's database. I also managed to load in all the alarm changes and all I have to do is to work with the production team to execute them little by little. I am well on track to deliver what I have promised my boss. Phew! I also have to train the operators as part of this change, which will be a breeze because they are really nice and friendly people. On an unrelated note, I finally moved the mouldy chair out of my room to the far end of the corridor and placed a note to ask for camp services to dispose of it. I can't believe my back-to-back was fine with a chair covered in mould in the room. Also, you might not be aware that I take my little bolster everywhere and it is now with me in my room. I make it a point to keep that locked in the cupboard so that the cleaners who enter the room daily won't find that extra bedding item strange and out of place. However I forgot to hide it before I left the room today and the cleaner placed it nicely on the freshly-made bed. Eek. That bolster has stains on it and is quite unsightly (but oh so comfortable) and now my secret is out—I cannot live without it, something that has been with me for many many years. The Christmas decorations are now up in the mess together with very old-sounding Christmas carols on repeat over the PA system. All this and yet not a shred of Christmas mood in the air—this is quite a feat. I guess the locals have lower standards as they are quite easily satisfied just like how easily amused they are—it takes very little set them off laughing without a care in the world. I envy them.

Alright, yesterday wasn't very productive (it was supposed to be my rest day after a hectic week fixing software issues, manipulating spreadsheets and databases and taking care of a visitor) but today is a different story as I formally begin the background work for the alarm management program that will be kick-started at a new site in my next rotation. The best thing about this is I am totally in charge of this site meaning I don't have to work with materials that have already been pre-developed by my back-to-back (some of them are not working correctly or in the way they should be). There is a lot of work involved and I am not going to rush through it. I am going to go into detail and do it well—people will remember a project if it was done well, not because it wasn't delivered on schedule. Quality not quantity applies here. I also had an opportunity to talk to the new boss that just came on site (the back-to-back of my site boss) and highlighted the challenges I am currently facing in this project. I don't expect anything to come out of it but at least now he knows (well he only knows of the main issues, there are lots more under the surface). I guess he will soon find out that this PNG site is nothing like the other established facilities. It is business-as-usual here everyday despite nothing really working well. Today I completed the background work for only one system out of thirty but still I am satisfied with my progress for a least I started the ball rolling. Tomorrow will be D-day—the alarms that have been loaded into the software will be enforced onto the control system, whether the production team likes it or not. I will make sure that it happens. On a different subject, my room will undergo spring-cleaning tomorrow (I suspect this is done annually) and I have been told to lock everything away to facilitate this. I left a note asking the cleaners to dispose of everything that has not been locked away as they are pieces of junk left by the previous occupants. I know the cleaners won't do it immediately (they did it five days later) but at least they will know why there are so many unwanted loose items in the room.

I got quite a scare this morning when I encountered a fresh bug in the application just when I was about to execute the alarm changes. I couldn't believe that after so much work, the application was going to fail me on D-day! I called the vendor of the software and he suggested I reboot the server and I did just that. The problem went away thankfully and I managed to execute 446 alarm changes. It felt so bloody good to be able to check this off my list. I will make sure I milk this major progress to the max so that everyone knows I was the one who made it happen! Now that that is over and done with, the rest of my five days on site will be a breeze. All I need to do is more of the background work required for the meetings I am facilitating in my next rotation. You'd think that with a relaxed workload ahead, I would have more time for gym right? Today something that never happened before happened—I actually worked all day in the office and then moved on to dinner like a zombie only to realise I was supposed to be doing cardio after work just when I got my food in the mess ie. it was too late (I didn't want to gym after dinner as that is my quiet "me"-time when I veg in front TV watching news on the cable network). This means that I would have to do both gym in the early morning and then cardio in the evening before dinner tomorrow. I can't believe I have become one of those people I never understood—people who allow work to replace gym. Even though I did it inadvertently, I still can't "forgive" myself for this. That is what ten years of gym routine does to your mind. However this is an addiction that I am willing to continue. And on a totally separate topic, today marks one year of married life for me and my boo. It is such a non-event that I actually am writing this on 21-Dec as I totally forgot the date. Ision forgot about it too as he also didn't mention this when we talked over the phone. The thing is we "celebrate" the anniversary of us getting together ie. 06-May and we think this marriage anniversary is not really a significant date. Maybe if we had a grand wedding then we might think differently. Here are the pictures we took at the British Consulate in Melbourne one year ago.

Locals here are friendly but they tend to have a hidden motive. For instance, one kitchen worker asked me to buy a cheap touchscreen phone for him from Australia (he would pay me first). I had no choice but to say ok as I was taken by surprise (he asked me at point blank). I will try to drag this on till he forgets about it. Why must they approach me?! URGH! Anyway, I mentioned in one of my earlier entries that if I could participate in the karaoke competition held on site on the eve of 2015 I would surely win. I said that from the perspective of locals being very shy and therefore not good at performing in front of an audience. But I do know that some of these locals have really nice voices (think rich tones typical of black singers) and I am sure they will not miss the chance to share their gift. If that happens, I might very well lose but there is no way to find out when I cannot join the contest. Workwise, things have been quiet. A lot of meetings here have to involve people in the Brisbane and Sydney offices and teleconferencing is heavily relied upon. The network is not always reliable and the signal breaks now and again so I had to stress to people today that if remote support is the only way to go for those meetings I am chairing in my next hitch then I would have no choice but to highlight any consequent ineffectiveness and inefficiency to the managers (I will be holding those sessions at that faraway site ie. remote dial-in is required if people can't make it to that location). That lazy person who is required to support my meetings first have to commit to providing that support before I can start worrying about it being remote or not. The big challenges I face at work here are usually things like that that are non-technical. If only things work smoothly here... On the exercise front, I did weights (biceps and back) at about 7.30am and then 30 minutes of cardio on the treadmill at 5.30pm to compensate for the missed session yesterday. Looks like the estimated amount of protein powder I brought to PNG from home based on a projection of I needed was spot-on—I would run out of it after my last weights session for this rotation tomorrow. My carry-on luggage when I left PNG last time weighed exactly 7kg on the scale at customs. My guesstimation skill is very good it seems.

I just discovered that company employees who do rotation work on site get their public holiday entitlements paid to them in March every year as well as get their annual bonuses in April which means a fat pay cheque for two months in a row. With such high salaries, you still get expats lazy to the bone and you can't help but look at them with even more disdain. And it is this unmotivated attitude that causes so many incidents on site. As I go through the incident log, I am surprised to come across many rather over-the-top cases that would never have happened in a normal plant elsewhere in the world. Here are some examples: lightning hit atmospheric vent that constantly emits flammable vapour into the atmosphere and caused a fire (this can only be rectified with a re-design of the system though); a cook doubling up as camp maintenance personnel while clearing vegetation around the camp lacerated his own leg with a bush knife (what the hell is a cook doing that?!); while performing a lifting operation, the crane boom hit the roof of a building (WTF?!); uninterrupted power supply switch that ensures seamless power supply to the process control and safety systems found in the 'off' position for an extended period of time (another WTF?!). Luckily I don't need to go out to the plant that often (nor am I interested at all in improving how the plant is running, unlike my back-to-back) and in this way I am less exposed to these potential disasters. This place is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode and it seriously needs a major incident or fatality in order to wake everybody up. The scary thing is I am starting to feel that even if that happened, everyone will still carry on with their lackadaisical business-as-usual attitude. I think as long as the fat cats on top still get their massive salaries, there will not be major improvements on site at my level. I am afraid that is the modus operandi of all major companies nowadays—no one cares for their employees and what really happens at the bottom rung of the ladder anymore (my company is a prime example). Christmas gifts have also been given to employees only on site—it's a freaking battery-operated lantern so thank goodness I am not missing much!

I don't know if it was the heavy rain or the fact that the generators were being worked on but there was a blackout last night (unplanned) at about 8pm. It was a tad too early to sleep but I guess with a blackout in camp where there is already very little you can do after work, the only option is to go to bed. I took a peek outside and it was eerily-pitch black (because of the remote location). The only light came from the huge constantly-burning flare at the refinery about 1 km away. And this morning, there was a planned power outage in the office for half an hour or so. Luckily I have a laptop so I could continue working. Food wise, papadums were served in the mess today. It seems that they serve them only once every four weeks as I also only had it once in my previous rotation. It is so yummy and I wonder why they don't have that more often (I'd choose to load myself with calories from that over dessert any day). Also, the internet connection went down again today due to a downed link from here to Port Moresby. This happens VERY frequently and it affects the entire business. I wonder if they factor this loss in productivity every time that happens into their budget plans and site performance statistics. It is because of this unreliable network that I have given up on the local SIM card I bought back in September. It was chewing up credit (which is not cheap for a place like PNG) without actually providing any connection and it expires so quickly! It's not long more before I get on that early morning flight leaving this home away from home. Let me start thinking of what my first outside meal at the airport would be (the meal is reimbursable)—this always makes me feel super excited. It's too bad there is such a limited food variety on offer at Cairns International Airport. Also it's been raining quite heavily in the late afternoon these few days, I wonder if it is the monsoon season again (I can never figure out when exactly this monsoon season is).

The network went down again today!^$#%^#*(@*! Anyway, I must have slept wrong last night as I woke up this morning with a sore back on my right side as if I have pulled a muscle. Fortunately I am done with weights and it is only cardio I have to do until I leave for my break. Thank goodness for the fact that you can freeze your Fitness First gym membership back home and pay only $8 every fortnight. Too bad you can only freeze it six times a year (I will try to "negotiate" out of this restriction and threaten to leave Fitness First if they can't make an exception for me as a last resort). The Christmas program is out and looks like there is carols by candlelight tomorrow night at the indoor stadium (known as "Iagidome" because the camp is called "Iagifu Ridge Camp") and a day service on Christmas Day at the same location. I know I am not missing anything. If my contract were to be extended beyond 2015 then I will be able to experience Christmas in camp next year. Actually the contract has already been non-formally extended for three months as I was originally due out September 2015. If everything is as per the contract, my last working day in PNG will be 25-Nov next year. We shall see. Tonight will be spent packing up my room. It is a pain to always have to lock everything up in the cupboard before departure as I share the room with my back-to-back. I am coming back with check-in luggage for my next rotation as I need to travel to the faraway site and therefore would need a suitcase. This means that I can bring to PNG a lot of supplies like bottles (a few of each) of mouthwash, body wash, foot powder and snacks as these are not on sale here (well snacks and powder are but they are not cheap for PNG standards). I can't bring these in if I only had my hand luggage due to fluid-volume restrictions. Also there will not be enough space in my backpack. Once my luggage is packed, the room and office are cleaned up, my mailbox is tidied and the detailed handover document is drafted for my back-to-back (I don't like to do it over the phone unlike him), there will be nothing more to do for this rotation. Oh, and they started serving Christmas dinner tonight.

I am now all packed and ready to go and this will be a short entry as I need to make it to the shuttle bus that doesn't wait for any one and it would be a major pain if I were to miss it. The bus leaves the camp at 5am sharp and my flight leaving Moro departs at 6.30am and lands in Carins at 9.30am. If all goes well without delay, my connecting flight home will fly out at 12.30pm and I will be at the Melbourne Airport at 5.50pm. With this darn daylight savings, I will not be able to make it home in time before boo leaves for work. Therefore I will try my best to stay up tonight so I can give him big hugs and kisses the moment he enters the door. Hopefully I can stay awake as my body clock would still be in PNG mode ie. awake at 4.30 - 5.30am and asleep by 8.30 - 9pm! Ah... the things we do for love. Hehe. OK, gotta end this last diary entry now.

So there you have it, my life in the remote Southern Highlands province of PNG for a full four-week hitch, I hope it is as you've expected and that you have enjoyed reading as much I did sharing. On Christmas eve, I get to fly home unlike my back-to-back who is also going to lose Chinese New Year too (hor hor hor)—how lucky am I?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dear diary (part 3)

We have soldiered on to week 3, and here is what Papua New Guinea did to me.

After hearing so many good things about the made-to-order breakfast omelette, I decided to try it today and honestly it's not great—it was dry and there was really nothing inside except maybe a little bit of cheese and spring onions. Oh well it is back to the muesli-fruit mix I have every morning (I don't have breakfast back home and I have to force myself to eat something as I do weights in the mid-morning). Also, have I told you there is a moth invasion in the camp and it is not a sudden but everyday thing? There are moths EVERYWHERE, alive or dead and I hate it when one gets into my room and I fail to chase it away (some are huge but many of them are very pretty and exotic)! By the way the meeting in Brisbane has been cancelled and I no longer have to worry that I don't have any office-friendly clothes with me. Lesson learnt: unless you want to take your heavy uniform with you back home (because you have nothing else to wear for these meetings), prepare yourself with a set of business attire in case you need to stop by Brisbane for meetings on the way home. Anyway I finally finished tidying up the mess my back-to-back left me (my 12-hour work days paid off indeed)! Now I can move on to the next phase of that huge task ie. to load in the alarm changes into the application after the meeting to approve these changes have been conducted tomorrow (there was already a successfully pre-meeting so this one tomorrow is just a formality). Since it is only a token meeting, there is actually no real problem if I load in the alarm changes before they are formally-approved. An expert on this application has come on site today for one week (I don't really need him as I am familiar with the software but he has been requested by my back-to-back who knows nothing about it). The bad thing is that I have to chaperone him for two days until the actual person that is supposed to do it comes on site. This is how I will see this positively—I will just use this as an excuse to not do work!

Finally the day has come for the all-important job to get approved and then I can start on executing all the changes. All the required documentation is ready and I am raring to go. It has been great being able to use the system administrator license to access the application and not have to share it with Brisbane HQ. The best thing is I don't ever need to worry that I get kicked out by the system administrator because he is so lazy he hardly does any work (and hence doesn't really need to utilise that license)! Absolute win win! Now I know how much better life can be when you see the glass half-full. The token meeting held to seek approval of these changes sadly didn't happen today though the Production Superintendent was too busy and it was postponed to tomorrow. The visitor that I have been chaperoning all day behaved well and we had some good technical discussions. Because I don't drive, my work is already tied to the shuttle bus schedule and now I have another shadow that I must take care of, and this is making me quite unhappy. This was why I did my cardio at 5 am for the first time today so that I could get gym out of the way as early as possible and free myself to be restricted by other things. It looks like he is going to stay with me for another day tomorrow before I can hand him over to his rightful caretaker. That being said, morning cardio is always a  refreshing thing as it energises you for the rest of the day—I think I should do it more often, especially when the mess is serving nuts at dinner again. When that happens, I would smuggle a little bit each night and snack on them as I watch TV. I am sure this is preventing me from losing more weight but snacking is life! I do so much exercise because I have this habit of snacking, which definitely makes camp life more bearable. The cashews are so well-roasted—once I start I simply can't stop!

The gaudy Christmas decorations were put up in the office overnight (pictures at the bottom of the post) which gave me a rude shock when I entered the building this morning. Real tacky that's what it is. But hey this is PNG and you are in a camp, you can't really expect top-notch anything. I heard that the Christmas dinner in camp is spectacular—too bad I can't stay to enjoy that. Haha! Anyway the back-to-back of my site boss has finally arrived and being new on site, I can see everyone (especially that grumpy old man) trying to influence him to their own way of thinking. This doesn't bother me a single bit as I don't play politics at work—never has and never will. Hmm... it seems my travel request to the faraway site for my next rotation hasn't been approved yet—I better push the new boss so that it gets approved before the end of my current hitch. Oh, which reminds me—I think I need to buy a new luggage seeing that I am now travelling quite a bit and the ones back home are really old and not working very well. I wonder if I should really invest in a good durable (ie. expensive) one as I am quite sick of crappy suitcases failing me in my time of need. Work-wise, I have been spending quite a bit of time troubleshooting a piece of software that isn't working correctly with the application's expert (ie. the visitor I am still babysitting because no one wants to do it) and even he could not explain some of those anomalies. I guess we'd be devoting even more time and effort fixing those bugs before I can finally execute all those alarm changes. And..... that meeting finally took place and the alarm changes have finally been approved. This means that I can officially move to the next phase of uploading the changes and that the execution of these changes is just a matter of days away! Hopefully with that I will earn a nice spot in my site boss' good books, like how I have already managed to impress the project manager (ie. my Brisbane boss)—he sent an email: "just a quick note to say that I was impressed with the level of detail that went into preparing for the MoC – thanks for your efforts" and he cc'ed my site boss. FUCK YEAH!

Crap! There is a karaoke competition held in camp on 31-Dec!!! I would so win this contest! If only I am not on break then... I hope the social committee brings this back again some time (not on the 31-Dec again as I would miss that too since my contract would most likely not be extended beyond 2015). Sigh. I even have a song in mind already if I were able to join. Anyway the good news is my travel request to the faraway site for three weeks in my next rotation has been approved by my new site boss. By the way, I just noticed he is quite hot! He has a very good posture and a chiselled built (he is one of the rare ones who look good in unflattering safety gear) as well as a cute face—miles apart from his fat and old back-to-back. I am going to enjoy "working under" my new boss. Hehe. Talking about my contract ending in December 2015, I am seriously reconsidering moving with boo to London (I know he is desperately trying to move there), which is sort of a continuation of our original plan to relocate to UK. I will re-establish communication with the London Process Manager about September 2015 and sound him out. If they are still in need of people, I will start applying for my work visa whilst in PNG so that I can move straight to London in January 2016. A lot of people have encouraged me to just quit my job in Australia and look for a new job there since there is plenty of work in that region. That was exactly what I did when I moved from Singapore to Sydney in June 2008 but now I am older, wiser and certainly more jaded and risk-averse, I am not sure I am that comfortable with going through that all over again!

The door to my room was found open when I woke up in the morning again! I must really ensure that it is firmly closed every night now and not just assume it will be! Luckily everything in room is still there but I might not be this lucky next time. And talking about luck, how lucky must I be to encounter the muster alarm when I am working out in the gym just next to the muster location? At first I thought it was just a siren test that went wrong and didn't leave the gym. I did speed up my workout (and hastily finished it) when I discovered that people are beginning to muster as they walked past the gym. I then got changed just in time to be one of the last people to reach the muster location. I was sweating like crazy when I arrived and I only told one person where I actually was so as not to get into trouble. It was just a drill as I expected. In the meantime, the application expert I have been taking care of has, with my help, uncovered lots and lots of errors in the way the system has been configured which caused a lot of background problems that no one knew about but are very serious issues. We are still working at correcting these faults, which must be done before I could actually properly execute those alarm changes that took so long to get approved. Haven't I told you it was all fun and games in PNG? Also, because of a useless training that I have to attend back in camp, I missed the Sunday barbecue on site. That's not a big deal though because I have already attended quite a few of them so far. Because of the budget cuts, the barbecue menu is shrinking so I guess I am increasingly missing less. Anyway there is always a problem at these barbecues when everyone has to cut through meat using plastic utensils as there isn't any metallic ones on site.

The made-to-order grilled menu in the mess has been removed until further notice and I think this was because of some kitchen equipment malfunction. I was told by the head of the kitchen that there are many pieces of equipment there on the brink of breaking down and there are no stocked spare parts in the warehouse. In my opinion having the kitchen working and in order is much more important than having the plant operational because if you can't feed the workers well, they will not be able to perform their day-to-day jobs well either. So it is really strange why this camp doesn't attach as much significance to kitchen equipment as compared to plant equipment. Well, I think I will survive without my grilled fish dinner... for now. Looks like the bugs in the application required to execute my alarm changes are growing as we dig deeper and deeper into the system. I think at some point we have got to stop correcting faults and start using the application in its imperfect state and as  long as the key components are working fine we should just proceed. At this rate, I will never be able to finish this work before I leave on Christmas eve and that worries me a lot. as I have already promised my boss that I am able to deliver this work within my current rotation. Who knows what kind of grief I'd be given when I return in January with the alarm changes still unexecuted (I know my back-to-back will definitely leave that for me to complete as he lacks the expertise to do the job properly). I guess I still have some days before the end of my hitch to improve the situation but time is ticking away fast. On an unrelated note, there has been a hostage situation in downtown Sydney and I have been following the news closely on TV. This world is getting more and more dangerous and it seems that there is nowhere on this planet that is safe anymore.

The laziest and most unmotivated person I need to work with has left for yet another week-long training and then he would be off for his break after that. I really don't know why he doesn't need to do any actual work at all! The thing is that control systems always appear as a black box to people not in the know (and that is most people). So people who are doing control modifications can easily fool others to believe what they are doing require a lot of work. This lazy person is fooling others that way all the time and because I have some background on what he's doing, I can see through that irksome behaviour. When I was told that the meetings I will be chairing in my next rotation won't involve him, I was so freaking happy but I just discovered that he will actually be in those meetings after all (because the original attendees I arranged know even less than him)! But there is still a chance of that not happening because of logistical problems. Fingers and toes all doubly-crossed. Even if I manage to not have him on my team, I am still going to be stuck with that not only lazy but also grumpy old man who is so hard to talk to and work with. Today, he came into my room and asked me when I need him to finish all his action items as he thought that what I was doing could be delayed by his overdue actions. I clarified by saying those alarm issues he had been left to deal with were not part of the work that I'm doing right now. He also accused me "jokingly" that I have lost interest in the project (as I have not been pushing him to meet his deadlines as much as I did in my previous hitch) without knowing that I have been focussing on the most important part of the project ie. the execution of all identified changes, or the thing that bosses can use to show their bosses that the project is progressing. This grumpy old man is not my boss and I couldn't care less what he thinks for I know my work had already impressed the people that matter. Also, today is the visitor's last day on site (I am finally free!) and I have finished loading in all the alarm changes (an amazing feat). However I can only execute these changes on Friday due to a crew-change in the Production Team. I am almost at the end of the road now... I just have to push on!

The past seven days have been hectic and draining and I hope that my last week on site would be less stressful—one can always hope. See you in a week!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dear diary (part 2)

OK, now I got your attention. I figured all text and no picture makes a tough read so there you go, a grainy snap of me working out in the gym in the Papua New Guinean camp that I am currently living in. So let's now proceed to what happened during week 2 of my second full rotation here.

I was informed that both the photo books I bought and spent a lot of time in my last break designing the layout of have arrived. I finally have a book with all the best pictures from my past photo shoots. This is a no-holds-barred publication, with no censorship. Full frontal glory at its best (some shots of me being more than a little aroused even, if you know what I mean). I can't wait to hold the books in my hands and gawk at how amazing I look (hehe)! Workwise, I am still chipping away at getting the documentation in shape to execute all the alarm changes that have been identified so far. It is a massive task especially when those changes have not been identified by me (ie. I lack the proper background) and the way the changes were summarised was done quite haphazardly leaving a lot of loose ends to sort out. That is what you get when things are done by people without the necessary skills. I will still work my eleven or so hour days and re-evaluate this closer to the deadline to see if I need to work overtime. Well at least I can avoid the dreadful meetings for the rest of my rotation, which is a win in my books. Because I cancelled those meetings that I fought so hard to organise, the grumpy old man came over twice in my office to "jokingly" say things like "your credibility is now zero", "hope you've learnt your lesson not to be so dogmatic" and "welcome to how the company works"—I guess he was unhappy how I forced him to change his schedules around those meetings. Whatever. This is just a job buddy, I am not going to stress myself over it. On the gym front, it looks like the faulty treadmill has been fixed. I worked out topless the whole time the cleaner was cleaning the gym so I guess toplessness is not something they object to. I shall continue then to work out topless during off-peak hours when the gym is empty.

The weather here is getting warmer and less rainy but because of the high elevation, the temperature is still maintained at about 25 degrees. It can get up to 30 or so in the day and down to 20 at night but it is not humid up so high (I am so glad I am not at sea level). PNG is in the Southern Hemisphere and so it should be hottest in the coming month. I had to go on site today to verify that an application bug has been fixed. I hate going on site because I don't drive and I need to depend on the very unreliable shuttle bus. I wasted twenty minutes or so waiting for the bus going to and from site today and that was time that will never be regained. However with the bug now fixed, I don't foresee the need to go on site again and finally I can concentrate on the enormous clean-up task at hand without any more interruptions! Just when I was happily working away in isolation, my boss came into my office and asked if I had enough to do. WTF. He just gave me a massive task and now this question? I think what he really wanted was to find out if I was encountering any obstacles that would prevent the deadline from being met so that he could help remove them. I told him I was fine—he is very concerned with this job as finishing it is his KPI. So I guess by successfully completing it I am making him look good and hopefully that will put me in his good books. But I am starting to get quite worried that I might not be able to meet the deadline so I have decided to wake up an hour earlier to work ie. I will be officially working twelve full hours per day. Hope with gym on top of that, I will still be left standing at the end of the day Wish me luck!

So there I was in the office, at work and buzzing away like a bee at 5am in the morning, that's a first. Hopefully this will work towards meeting that ambitious deadline. I need something desperately to prove myself and show everyone else that I am valuable enough to consider either retaining for other projects or maybe even hire as an employee of the company. Lots of contractors here hope that they can successfully jump over because of a higher salary, job security (so to speak, compared to say an engineering consultancy firm which I am working for), a good 4-on/4-off roster and perks like shares and bonus pay-outs. Fingers crossed. The day flew past quickly and I was totally in the zone throughout. When I am feeling like that I do not spend time chatting over lunch and I become very anti-social. This is me being productive and efficient so if people have an issue with that—tough! By the way, another of my Jetstar flight itinerary has changed and this is the price to pay for buying budget air tickets and booking flights too early. First the timing was changed for my flights with boo to visit the in-laws and today I was informed that there was a date change for the flight with my mum from Singapore to Melbourne! Seats had to be reconfirmed, which was a hassle. Looks like I will be spending a day more in Singapore in March and my mum will be spending a day less in Melbourne—it's not a huge change when you think of it. The cardio session before dinner tonight really hit the spot in relieving some of the tension built up throughout the day. Even though I was pretty drained by the time I finished work, I was still well enough to hit the gym so I guess I am all cut out for full twelve-hour days after all (we shall see after a few days of this).

Got called onto site at the end of yesterday to follow up on an action item I created. Well it's better to tie up all these loose ends earlier than later but this meant that the uninterrupted focus on my most important task had to be broken. I got into the swing of things yesterday so I went straight back into it smoothly after the disruption. I just hope that there will be no more of such disturbances! If that's any consolation, the test went largely ok although we missed a few things but for now I am fairly satisfied. I was actually a little surprised they read my action item list and decided to organise the test to close that item out. Looks like the system is finally showing signs of working. Still working away tackling this massive task which is proving to be more arduous than expected. You see there is a limited number of licenses (in fact there is only one) needed to access some applications necessary to  get this work done and people on site have to share this single license with the Brisbane HQ. People from the HQ think they have the sole right to use the license and they become nasty when I log on and kick them out. In actual fact, we have equal right regarding this. That irritating HQ person thinks I can access the applications another way but he doesn't know that that workstation is locked and I will NOT resort to begging people to help me unlock the door in order for me to work. This is getting preposterous. The funny thing is I accidentally pressed "ignore" when this guy's chat message came in most likely to whinge a second time. Maybe I sub-consciously did click that. Well, I am not going to go back and ask him what I missed. Anyway work frustrations aside, there is always dinner to look forward to. It's cocktail prawns night but somehow the locals don't like seafood too much. This is surprising as a lot of them are very poor and even the basic things like rice, stir-fried meat and vegetables served at the mess are luxury to them I was told.

Just realised I had two new blog comments awaiting moderation. They are from two of my most loyal fans—it's always nice to hear from them. Here's a shout-out to Chris and Michael—keep your comments coming! To make the day even nicer, it is Saturday today and I get to work in the weekend! Sounds strangely positive? It is not. Although you tend to lose track of which day it is and weekends no longer matter, there is a huge advantage of working in the weekends for me right now—I don't have people from the Brisbane HQ fighting with me to use that sole license! Even now in my second rotation, I sometimes forget that these people don't work in the weekends and get unnecessarily upset when they don't respond to emails. Other than work, everything else is pretty much the same. By the way, there is laundry service here that returns your clean clothes by 4pm. They use industrial-grade washing machines that really don't offer much protection to fabric so I use it mainly for uniforms. They also mark clothes with the room number to ensure that they get returned to the right people and they do it on the inside labels. Well I sent in my pyjamas for washing but it had a black label so they wrote my room number on the fabric itself on the inside and I am not happy about that. Also they sometimes lose clothing items. I have lost a company shirt and a pair of socks in my last rotation and just a few days ago, I lost another shirt. They do however turn up several days later sometimes so we shall see if they do, like how they did during my last hitch. Oh, and I met the first person doing weights today at the gym during off-peak hours but I didn't interact much with him as I am extremely anti-social when I am working out.

Looks like I am flying out of PNG a day earlier but that is because that grumpy old man and I have to meet both our back-to-backs plus some HQ people in the Brisbane office to get alignment on a very important issue (hence the need for a face-to-face meeting where every one is present). This means that I would also have to stay in Brisbane for one night. The date and time I arrive back home remains the same though. It has been more a year since I last stepped foot in Brisbane and I know it wouldn't have changed much—I wonder if I could organise a photo shoot with a photographer for that night... Meanwhile in the office, the work I am doing requires a lot of focus as it involves a lot of spotting and correcting mistakes and inconsistencies left by my back-to-back. Because I am in charge of implementing all the changes identified by him via a computer application, the input has to be perfect with no mistakes and what I got from him to work with was FAR from that. As a result of this focus, I get so drained and mentally exhausted by dinner time. Staring blankly at space while eating alone in a quiet corner in the mess sounds sad and unwholesome but it is actually quite soothing after a long day. Fortunately that tiring work is very solitary which is GREAT (I hate having to interact with people and worse still begging them for help)! Boo told me to cut back on gym so that I don't get too spent but I will never do that. As long I keep up with my vitamin-intake and healthy-eating, I think I will be fine. It is easy to eat well while in camp because there are so many healthy choices available. My favourite is the broccoli salad and fruit cocktail.

I have been dreaming a lot lately and these dreams seem to be unrelated to what happens during the day and I don't know why this is occurring. Last night I was watching a documentary debunking alien abduction and this is what I learnt. You see, our brain switches off motor control during the active-dreaming phase of our sleep so that we won't act on our dreams and hurt ourselves. This "override" is reset when we wake but sometimes this doesn't happen and people find themselves awake but unable to move. That could be why they start to think they are being abducted and controlled by aliens. Call it a coincidence, I woke up the next morning to find the door to my room opened! That never happened before and I remember locking my door before I went to bed!!! It sends a chill down my spine even now when I think about it. On a totally different subject, there is a very hot daddy who practically lives in the gym here. He is in charge of security and used to be in the army. His body is AWESOME! People tell me he used to be fat, which makes his sexy build even more amazing. He offers free personal training sessions to people and I didn't think much of it at first as he could just be really passionate about fitness. But I just heard that he is asking for payment from some and now it all makes sense. He is trying to build up his customer base by giving free sessions at first so that he can eventually charge them. Well he better not let the managers know this because he is using company facilities to moonlight and I am sure that is not acceptable. In the meantime, I will continue to perve at him. Hey there isn't much else to look at in the camp!

So at the end of the second week, I can finally start to look forward to the beginning of the end. Ision and I are going to visit his parents for five days during my upcoming break and I am so looking forward to relaxing and doing absolutely nothing! Watch out for week number three in exactly seven days.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dear diary (part 1)

Last month I was banned from posting on Facebook for 30 days most likely due to pubic hair in this picture I posted a long time ago. It seems that Facebook's "community standards" on nudity are totally inconsistent because this other picture that was also reported actually passed the censorship test even though it featured BOTH pubic hair and the shadow of my penis. Whatever. It is not worth getting angry over this anymore—you just have to live with it and move on.

This ban means that I have lost Facebook as a diary-writing tool. However there is still my blog and I am going to make full use of that. You see, I have not written daily diary entries since I was in the army and I figured it is fun to relive that experience of documenting my life in this most traditional way, without pictures, videos, likes and links. Being here in Papua New Guinea is very much like living in an army camp anyway so it is the perfect setting for this exercise.

My second full rotation in PNG started on 26th November 2014 and within these four weeks I shall jot down the more eventful things that happen everyday and with that, you will get to see exactly what takes place in the course of my work for an entire rotation. To keep each post to a reasonable length, I shall send one per week ie. each post will contain seven entries. Who says diaries are meant to be kept private?

Felt rather miserable in the morning when I had to leave my boo. The journey to PNG was smooth and the weather was again kind enough for the transit point to not be at Port Moresby (normally it is at Moro, which is far safer than Port Moresby, contrary to what the locals think). Actually it would be an eye-opener to at least see a little bit of Port Moresby (ie. only the airport). Went straight to gym upon reaching camp before even unpacking, that is my dedication to maintaining good health and keeping in shape. Dinner was as I remembered it and the made-to-order grilled barramundi was excellent as usual. After dinner was unpacking and then it was the routine CNN and BBC news segments before bed. Didn't get to sleep that well even though I was already sleepy at an earlier-than-usual bedtime. This is normal for the first few nights for every rotation.

Went through my back-to-back's handover list which has become more detailed than his last one. I hope it was because he saw that mine to him was so detailed that he felt the need to up his game. Made a rough work plan for the rest of my rotation (still requires a few phone calls to get things fully-organised). Managed to send a procedure I drafted (sent for review in my last rotation) for approval, which is a good accomplishment. I had no interactions with the grumpy lazy old man sitting in the office next to mine, someone whom I am supposed to be working the most closely with. He didn't come talk to me as well so why do I have to make the first move? I think for now, my decision to interact with him only if work necessitates it is the right one (if you don't already know, he is ultra hard to work with and talk to). My boss on site was super busy as usual and I didn't have a chance to touch base with him properly and I will try again tomorrow. One treadmill was down at gym so I had to use the cross-trainer which I didn't like. All other treadmills were occupied as I went to the gym slightly later than usual (note to self: always be there at 5.30pm to avoid this). Made some new friends over dinner (everyone has different rotation cycles so you are bound to meet new people every time) and chatted till the mess closed. Then I bumped into two really friendly locals and chatted with them for close to an hour. Seems like I am not that anti-social after all. Because of the increased time spent on chatting, bedtime was a bit later than usual but fortunately I slept much better than last night.

Continued to get things organised for the rest of my rotation and refreshed my memory of the agenda of the upcoming meetings that I am facilitating. My main job here is to facilitate meetings and making sure people attend as well as close-out any action items post-meetings that they have been assigned. The bulk of the work comes from preparing for these meetings (background work, familiarising with the process, preparation of essential documentation, etc) and the bulk of the pain comes from begging unmotivated and lazy-arsed people to attend meetings and ensuring that they do their jobs even though I am not their manager. To make matters worse, everyone has multiple email addresses here (ie. super confusing) and as a result, the meetings I have tried so hard to organise in the last rotation might not be actually sent to the required attendees. I must rectify this problem as soon as possible. On the social front, things are looking better. I had a great chat with the manager of the kitchen and camp services over lunch (it's always important to be in the good books of someone taking care of you) and I also came out to a new-found friend over dinner when he asked about my wedding ring (he really shares a lot of his private life so I felt compelled to share as well eg. he told me after having talked to me only twice that his wife went through psychotherapy recently). It is so much more enjoyable and interesting to talk to people unrelated to your field of work (you don't have to be alert and keep up appearances as much for fear that you might seem to be a professional threat to them).

Went on site (my first time this rotation) and held a successful meeting and I feel so relieved that I am at least getting somewhere. Every meeting I chair is a challenge and I see every single completed one as a major victory even though this is supposed to be part of my day-to-day job. Had my first lunch on site for this rotation. The packed meals for the operators are always so bad that many people travel all the way back to camp to have lunch in the mess. I have too much to do on site today so I have decided to give the mess lunch a miss. Also received a "nasty" surprise from my site boss when he gave me a very ambitious target for a piece of major work. I used inverted commas for the word nasty because he has endorsed the dedication of my full attention on this work, which will mean that I will not have to deal with unmotivated expats so much. So this is actually a blessing in disguise because I would very much rather do this difficult task than to have to work with these people. Actually from today's meeting, I could see a slight improvement in working relationships so perhaps people just had to get more used to me and my working style and things would be fine. Anyway now with this new work focus, I hope the minutes and hours will just fly by and before you know it I am packing to leave this place.

Organised a recurring weekly meeting that will take place at a location that needs a plane or helicopter to get to for my next rotation (takes more than 6 hours to travel by car). I need to discuss with my boss if I can just stay there for the required 3 weeks so that I minimise the number of times I get on these chartered flights thereby reducing the chances of getting killed in a metallic casing due to no fault of mine. Although the odds are low but because the consequences of the accident is so severe, I need to take the necessary measures to mitigate the risk. Anyway I am about to embark on a huge task within this project and I need to send out a meeting invite to draft a plan to achieve the Christmas target of this task. I have so much to cover in this meeting that I am going to send out yet another very long email (containing the very wordy meeting agenda). I think people here must be sick of (or at least not used to) my long emails. However these people are also not familiar with the importance of proper documentation and traceability so they don't really have a case if they are irritated by my lengthy emails. Sigh, the agony of being detailed. By the way, people here always lament that the reason why things fall apart on site is because of a lack of attention to details. Oh the irony. Had three pieces of made-to-order grilled tuna steaks for dinnernow I know there is such a thing as fish-overload. Called home for the first time this rotation and it was so nice to speak to booI didn't even care that the grumpy old man next door was able to overhear the mushy conversation (the office walls are paper thin)!

Had my first weights session in the gym. Because I go to the gym at an off-peak time during office hours (and have a shorter lunch break), I cannot have long sessions ie. I have to spread my two-day workout over four days per week. Looks like this new routine is effective as I seemed to have lost a little weight AND bulked up slightly (a potent combination) based on what I observed in my last rotation. I am careful though not to be seen in gym gear in the camp during office hours (I only change in the gym) although theoretically there is really nothing wrong with what I am doing as I get my work done. The gym is empty during office hours and so I can work out topless which is against the rules but I look too good in the mirror without clothes to not do this (hehe)! Flights have been confirmed for my next rotation. I end my current rotation on Christmas Eve and I end my next rotation on Chinese New Year Eve. How nice. I am going back to Singapore for Chinese New Year next year for two weeks and then bringing my mum back to Melbourne for another two weeks and I am so looking forward to that. It is World AIDS Day today and many people were decked out in a red T-shirt with Pidgin (local language) on it that says something about HIV testing (I think). It's funny that only the locals were wearing it (not the expats). Felt really tired tonight and I think that's because of my workload building up (due to that new task with the impossible Christmas deadline). I finally spoke with my boss today and he is still very adamant that that show must go on. I also managed to convince him that my back-to-back should focus on identifying the changes required (which necessitates those meetings that I hate to organise) and I should concentrate on executing those changes and he bought in to that! I hope that will mean that I don't need to do those dreadful meetings anymore (the boss is so hands-off that he gives me a lot of leeway to plan and direct the project)! He also added that I do a lot of things way better than my back-to-back (and vice versa due to both of us having different skill sets). Interestingly, he said that the lazy expats "must go" and "things must change around here". Hope they all get fired or replaced–one can always hope.

The procedure I drafted in my last rotation has been sent to be issued for use! This is a major milestone for me. I am also starting to get friendly with the head IT technician here, which is actually one of the most useful things to do. I also discovered a way to fix the faulty treadmill but I will not reveal this to people so that I can conveniently use it when the other two are occupied. In this way, as long as the cat is still in the bag, I will always have a treadmill reserved just for me. Hopefully the maintenance department doesn't put a lock tag around it to say that it is faulty and should not be used. On the work front, I conducted an impressive meeting with attendees from site and the Brisbane HQ. My site boss was really happy with the meeting outcome which means that he was very happy with my performance. I also managed to get my boss' endorsement to cancel all other stupid meetings and focus on this huge task at hand which just got the go-ahead after this successful meeting. Looks like I will be swamped from now all the way to the end of my rotation. Over dinner, I don't know what came over me but I actually went over-chatty with a new female process engineer on site and might also have come across as too negative. I have heard that she's coming on site since a long time ago and finally she is here, I guess I just got too excited. I am still baffled over why I behaved this way as there is really no reason to be so friendly to a stranger. If I see her not initiating future conversations with me when we cross paths, I will know that's because I scared her away. Oh well.

Stay tuned for my next post for more insight into yet another of my "fun-filled" week in PNG!