Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day

Christmas day in Banda Aceh.

Go to the beach and swim.

The famous mosque which was in all the press photos right after the tsunami (see small photo below).

Photo by the Associated Press

It was the only standing building in the whole area. Everything was wiped out, only foundations were left. Today, you can see all the new trees that were planted after the tsunami.

Here Brad takes pictures of the palm trees that oddly were able to live when everything else was ripped out of the ground when the 15 foot wave slammed into the coast here. In the distance, you can see the red roofs of the Turkish Red Crescent’s houses. The Turkish Red Crescent spent a lot more money on each house than other NGO’s, but they were able to get them built faster. I haven’t been able to see their designs to know how it was built. Would be interesting.

Brad's "two hour wait" wood fired pizza.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Taking too long to rebuild?

The BBC did a report on how it's taking too long to rebuild all the houses for the victims of the Dec. 2004 Tsunami.

The UN tsunami envoy, who happens to be former President Bill Clinton, was here in Banda Aceh a little over a week ago, says:

"Only 30 to 35% of the people have been put back into permanent housing,"
"We have to do better than that."

Johan Schaar of the Int'l Red Cross puts it well saying:
"We said a few weeks after the tsunami that for us this was at least a five year effort. Anyone who talked about this being completed in two or three years was totally unrealistic"

Miloon Kothari of the United Nations says:
"It should really not take this long to build permanent housing. I do not accept the explanation that it is going to take four to five years, in some cases, seven. I'm an architect I know how long it takes to build a house."

Over 140,000 houses in Aceh alone? It takes more than two years. We're trying to build safer homes, we are going up against corruption, contractors taking the money and leaving, property rights, lack of skilled builders. The list goes on. Has he tried to build mass housing in a developing country before?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Seven dead in Sumatra earthquake (BBC)

An earthquake has struck Indonesia's Sumatra island, killing at least seven people and wounding around 100 others.

Hundreds of homes were also reported to have been destroyed when the 5.7 magnitude quake hit just before dawn.

Frightened people fled their homes as a series of aftershocks followed the quake, which was felt in northern and western parts of the island.

Half an hour earlier, a 5.8 magnitude quake struck north of Sumatra, in the Indian Ocean south-west of Banda Aceh.

No tsunami warning was issued on this occasion, officials said.

However, villages were reported to have been cut off as the earthquake triggered landslides, hampering rescue operations.

The region was worst hit when a 9.1 magnitude earthquake off the Sumatran coast in December 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people around the Indian Ocean.

Monday, December 18, 2006

5.8 and 5.5 Earthquakes in Banda Aceh

a simacast of my email:

I'll go ahead and write about this since people in the States are already hearing about it, and before I even got to the office! There were two "moderately" sized earthquakes late last night / early this morning here in Banda Aceh, I was dazed and confused, but I was sleeping then wakened by the jolting. I sat up on my bed and my heart paused. I was trying to decide if I should run out of the house, since it's made out of masonry, but it didn't. I sat there like I was stoned (I really wasn't). At work, Elizabeth has drilled it into my head that all the masonry in the gable was going to come crashing down on me. So during the quake, I was looking at the ceiling waiting to see bricks come crashing through, but they didn't. The oscillations slowed
down then sped back up. it was quit long, reminded me of the Loma Prieta quake. it must have lasted between 15 to 20 seconds. my housemate opened his door and yelled out "What the f--k?!" The good'o Sunda Fault. The epicentre was about 45 miles away, off the west coast.

Details of the EQ from the USGS

location of epicentre

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Back in Singapore

I just arrived in Singapore for three days. I'm doing a Visa run. Interesting, as I was waiting in the taxi queue in the arrivals hall at the airport, I was staring mindlessly (it's midnight) at the backpack of the guy standing in front of me and noticed his id tag had a San Jose address on it. So I said, "sorry, I couldn't help to notice that you’re from San Jose -- I grew up there" he replied "yeah, I just moved there from Houston, you still live there?" "no, I just moved to Banda Aceh, Indonesia" "woeh!" must be a programmer, anyways, it was kind of cool meeting someone from my hometown.

God I forgot how clean this town is, even the Pan-Island Expressway from the airport to the city centre was a park like setting. Spotless, perfectly manicured hedges, big leafy shady trees.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Paul holds up the disgusting fruit.

As requested, I'm posting this email:

So Paul and I walked all over town on Sunday, he just flew in from London and wanted to see the town. At one point we stopped at a fruit stand and he bought a fruit called a durian he wanted me to try. he's lived in Jakarta before and had it. (you can also find this fruit in thailand, malayisa and singapore) So of course being me, I said yes. After buying it he opened it and there were these big seeds with what looked like snot hanging off of it, and that's the part you eat. It smelled horrible!! Like rotting flesh! It had the most rancid smell ever! Then I tried it and almost gagged!! soooo sick!! I like most foods, but this is just wrong! But Paul loved it, and ate the rest of it with a big smile. Just watching him almost made me throw up all over the sidewalk and pass out in the gutter. And on top of it, it's a pretty costly fruit. Can cost up to $6 for each in some places, even thought we got it for a dollar.

one of the sellers shows me the fruit again!

Bottom line, THE most disgusting fruit EVER!!!

Wilkipedia says...

"The English novelist Anthony Burgess famously said that dining on durian is like eating vanilla custard in a latrine. Travel and food writer Richard Sterling says: '... its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock.'"

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New pad

I'm moving out of the Mercy Corps' guesthouse and into a real house! This friend at Mercy Corps told me about an ad posted on the "bulai" storefront window for a room for rent. So I went over and called the number and talked to this guy who works for the UN and was moving out before the end of his lease and needed someone to take it over.

It's an A/C'ed room with its own western bathroom, even with a shower (no mandi). the backyard has a small patio and lawn, great for chilling out in. The guy (Nick) sounded like a big drinker... well... he messed up his liver from drinking too much less than a year ago -- those Canadians. And best of all, comes with a housekeeper. I kind of feel guilty, this is all new to me, but having a housekeeper is standard here.

The other guy living there, Brad also works for UNDP and is from Denver. The landlords live next door watch over the house while we are gone. I just signed the papers, I move in on the 28th.

house warming party?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

1st day back

We gave up, for the time being at least. Elizabeth text'ed my phone while I was strolling through Little India telling me just to get on the next flight to Medan and on to Banda Aceh and get the "tourist visa on arrival". Which is only good for 30 days. Yep, got to leave the country and come back with in the next month. This visa problem is so annoying.

I was able to fly out of Singapore the next morning and even worked out my connecting Medan-Banda Aceh flight that same day. As the plane descended over Banda Aceh and poked below the clouds, it was apparent that we were in the wet season. A different landscape than it was back in August. The rice paddy fields were full of water; everything was green and dark clouds hanging over the mountains flashing with lightning.

Build Change's driver picked me up at the airport and drove me straight to the office where Cici and Elizabeth came out and greeted me. We then walked over to where I'm staying. It's the guesthouse for Mercy Corp. which is just down the street from the office. It's alright, it's clean — I have the whole mezzanine to myself, but it's a little stuffy. I still have to look for a place for long term, I understand I can only be here for a month.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I just arrived in Singapore. I wasn't able to find a hotel room before leaving San Francisco, and I still can't now. It's three in the morning and I'm stuck at the airport looking online for a room. Something must be going on, how is every f'ing hotel booked full?

Thursday, November 09, 2006


So... I was going to get my visa from the San Francisco consulate, like I did in July. But now they are no longer allowed to issue them. At least the special visa I need. I have to get it from the LA consulate, but it'd take too much time, 3 to 5 days. I leave in two. So, we decided I should go ahead and fly to Singapore, which is on the way to Banda Aceh, and stay a few days and try to get the visa from the Indonesian Embassy there. Lets hope it works!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sold my Car

woohoo! cash in hand!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Last Day of Work

Just had my last day at DASSE. doesn't feel like it. feels like I'm just on vacation.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bon Voyage / Farewell Party Photos

Yes, I'm wearing a pink tie, pink is the new black.

Albert, and yes we are happy to have beers.

Joycelyn, you're always so huggable.

Ann, why is Mary trying to lick your hair? Damn it Mary, you need to stop that disgusting habit.

Gokhan, 80% of the work, 80%!


Svetlana, sorry I said "sorry". sorry ;)

Lisa, are you sure I can't sell you on the idea of a Republic of California? How about a Republic of San Jose?

Joan, whoa there!

Heinz, soooo how's that structural engineering stuff at R&C going? yeeeeeaaaah.

Shane, ArcE rules! MatLab rules! SAP2000 Rules! not.

Makesha, we still don't hang out enough! Jackass!

Bryan; dude, why are you so tall? I know they are not treating you well in Oakland. You should have never left the "city".

Ray, is that beer on your shirt? looks like somebody has been drinking too much.

Albert, it's been 12 years! We were just young padawans back then! Dude, I still want my Top Gun hat back! or step up! ha!

Maureen, yes I am the same age as you.

Mary and Guian

Dave, so what the hell is a "faux mohawk"? and stop staring at me all the time, then laugh.

gooooood! (in the voice of Palpatine)

This would be a good photo, if it was in focus! I bet Mary took it.


Jen and Shane

James, "you can be my cameraman any day"

Karen, gossip is always for sale ;)

Tracy, it'll turn out real good. And keep on backpacking!

Mary! enough said.

Clay, I can see it, I can see it, you will free yourself from the chains


Jaching, "baby! you alright in there?!"

Katy, I'm going to give you a nametag with my name on it :)


Joy, so you're moving to SoCal? shame on you! Just don't ever call Orange County, the O.C.!

Joycelyn, I have no idea what's going on here.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Lassen Peak

Summited Lassen Peak up in northeastern California this past weekend!

What the hell were the scientists thinking when they designed that weather station or whatever it is that's on the top?!?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Back to Banda Aceh

Heading back to Banda Aceh. I was just hired for a six month contract to continue where I left off in August. I just quit my job here in San Francisco. Details to follow...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Manhattan, New York City

Spent the weekend with an old "friend" in New York City. Man, I love New York!

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge

Melissa and the Manhattan Bridge

Downtown Manhattan

Me at Columbia University

About to fall off

Melissa at Columbia

Magnolia's Bakery! (see SNL skit)

World Trade Center Site

Avenue Q, the best show ever!

Melissa's "apartment"

Entering the subway

Melissa map reading, but wait, she lives here. hmmm....

Inside her apartment in the Upper East Side

Me and George Washington Bridge

Melissa at the Cloisters

Bar hopping in Lower East Side

Catching the 2 train

Heading back to San Francisco