Chapter 3: Houston, TX Week 1

Updates updates!!

It's been a while since I last wrote anything.....


I resigned from FSC and accepted a job as a Processing Geophysicist in an Oil & Gas company CGGVeritas. Which means I have been working in KLCC in Kuala Lumpur for the past few weeks and another great news is that CGGV is sending all new hires to the States to undergo an intensive training program!

For 3 months :)

So, here I am it's already been a week I'm in USA... Hence... I have loads of stuff to recall, no worries, have them all in my handy little notepad :)

CNY I received some USD angpows from Mom and Dad, hence I do not have to change any more cash as I was carrying close to 1k notes of USD... Shhh...

Friday, 6th February: Departure.

Had already booked a cab from KLIA 2 days ago to pick me up from Ping CC's house. Cab fare is around RM67 but it's alright cos it's roughly the correct rate and comfortable too. I once asked a cab driver who was fetching me to work how much he would charge (his cab has no air-con) and he said RM70.

Anyway, reached the airport 3 hours before departure so I went searching for the others, Shifa and Jocelyn were the early ones to arrive. Alvin arrived while we were having something to eat in McD. Funny thing is... Shifa was compelled to buy extra 3 burgers from McD! She was afraid that there will not be anything halal to consume in our transit or destination. I felt sorry for her and all the Muslims out there, who could not just experience the cooking and food in a foreign country with so many things that need to be taken into consideration, such as halal food, prayers time.... hmm.

Well, total flight hours are actually around 20 hours... lol I miscalculated and actually thought it was going to be 30 hours hahahha... The itinerary goes something like this:

KUL-HKG (3 hours and a half)
HKL-LAX (12 hours)
LAX-IAH (3 hours and a half)

In the longest flight we were seated in CZ Cathay Pacific Airline... it was not very comfortable having to rest in a sitting position for almost 12 hours. I should have bought those neck rest... it felt hell-ish just thinking about that. Anyway the airline food is really not bad. They also provide toothbrush and toothpaste.

Transit in Hong Kong.

Transit in Hong Kong. I think all of us are amateur travellers. Whenever there is a transit, we tend to wait till it's like 10 minutes before boarding then only we start looking for the Gate/Terminal. Well, apparently, it's not a smart choice! Sometimes we need to take trains to reach certain gates or it's in another side of the airport.... etc.

Uhh.... Friday, 6th February late night/ Saturday 7th Feb: Touch down!

Well, I'd start the first touchdown in LAX, met up with Su Jen there!! She brought me something small but sooooo precious, an iPhone! yay! Hope that I can still use that once I'm back in Malaysia, otherwise I would still need to get another freaking phone . I badly need to change the phone that I'm currently using. It sucks so bad, there are no words to describe its achievements.
So, Su Jen also brought me a bag of winter clothing, socks, gloves, ponchos, sweaters etc. And also a pair of Timberland boots! That was around $80 but I told her that I doubt I would be using it and anyways, the company is sponsoring boots for field assignment, so no bother there.

Spent about an hour there before leaving for our next flight to Houston. I carried the duffel bag Su Jen gave me and it was damn freaking heavy! Anyway as I was passing through the customs check, I soon found out why.... My sis actually threw in 2 large bottles of body lotion and an extra two large jars of bath salt! Gosh... anyways the lotion bottles were confiscated cos we weren't allowed to bring liquid/fluid in.... Btw, my shoulder was sore for 2 days after.

Arrived in Houston at 6 in the morning, the sun was already rising when we reached there.

Wow, first impressions were the blue blue sky! And the roads are so wide! One way road has about 5 lanes... cool huh, there's loads of traffic but you don't get stuck. Another thing you will realise is that the buildings here are usually short and wide, and they are placed far apart so you kind of get the open space around, loads of parking spaces. It's all good! Anyway there is no way you can survive in Houston without a car, cos u seriously need one to travel from one place to another. To walk from a building to the next one might take you a few minutes, yes they are that far apart. Land must be cheap here...

May I gush about my hotel? It's really nice! I'm staying at the Hilton Garden Inn, which is a part of the Hilton family. The people there are so friendly (and also all around Houston), they greet you with a big smile and are sincerely warm about it.

Hotel service a big thumbs up! Everyday they clean up the room, arranges the pillow and straightens the sheets and replace all those small lotions of shampoos or whatever you took from the original place.

Lookie me iPhone there :D

Oh yea.... HUGE bed (high too) and HUGE screen..

Tired jet-lagged look... I get hungry at the weirdest times and couldnt really sleep at night. Or I wake up at intervals of 2 hours only to find it a bit hard to fall back asleep again...

My bed's telling me that I'm special!!


Su Jen's candy for me! See's candies are famous and are good...

Hotel provides Neutrogena toiletries...

So after a quick shower (after nearly 24 hours of no shower), all of us went downstairs to have breakfast. That time it was already 8.30 in the morning, cos we took nearly an hour to reach the hotel from the airport.

Breakfast! Was soooo good! I didnt take much pictures cos I was too hungry, only managed to take 1.... There was fried bacon, sausages, and some kind of meat patty, toast, muffins (choc, blueberry), croissant, juices (cranberry, orange), milk, cereal (which you can add in strawberries and blueberries and almond bits, but strawberries are not sweet at all, bit sour like the ones from Cameron) baked vegs (potatoes and capsicum), fresh fruits (grapes, orange and green honeydew and pineapples), omelettes (you can customise them, extra cheese,veg only or with bacon bits) ... I might have left some out but you get the picture, there's a lot, oh yea, they serve this every morning so yes, you get tired of the menu by the 5th day or so :)

The front view of my hotel...

And some nice flowers just outside of the hotel! It's not fair..... flowers that thrive in cold places always looks better than the tropical ones.

After the heavy breakfast, four of us (Alvin was not feeling well, so he went back to his room to sleep it off) walked around the place. We were actually staying in Chinatown, hence there were loads of Asian stuff around the place. And Chinese too. And then we stumbled upon:
Had a look at the menu, damn expensive ok... $8-9 for a meal. Siao.

Anyway, that same night we met up with the other Georisers. We were quite an international bunch with 5 of us from Malaysia, 1 Chinese, 1 Viet, 2 Mexicans, 2 French, 1 English, 4 Polish.
I shall skip all the boring details of the dinner where we were briefed on the course and go on to the next morning, Sunday.
Early breakfast and we decided to walk to Wal-mart. Mind you that nobody ever walks on the pavements of Houston, Texas. So 14 of us walking did attract some stares, and we even got lost! Well actually more like took a wrong turning... finally we did reach the darn store... It's sort of like a Malaysian Tesco or Giant. It's huge and it sells cheapo stuff la, shoes are in $10s but are not comfy and are hard.

L-R Irvin (Mexico), Uriel (Mexico), Omon (Nigeria), Shangar (Msia), Su Yin (Almighty Land), Magda (Poland), Magda (Poland) (yes there are 2 Magdalenas), Cecille (France) and bottom Kasia (Poland).
Bottom pic was taken the night after... Some of them bought some beers, local and Mexican beers. Damn huge they are... I was having a local beer called Red Dog, wasnt bad but I could not finish them :p

People are too jumbled up around lazy to name them....

This is the CGGVeritas building! As you can see there are more American flags... you see them everywhere and they are huge flags.
First day of class was pretty overwhelming, had to really study hard to know all the terms and mathematical stuffs. I was kinda pressured, cos the guy sitting beside me, Jean-Baptiste (JB) was like a genius and knows everything. Sigh.
Sad things aside, at night we went into town to have Mexican food. Oh yea, by now we all already have SUVs to drive around. 8 of us volunteered to be driver (but I wasnt one of them, although I would like too). Cars use the right lane and drivers sit on the left side of the car and when you go slow, you're supposed to stay in the right lane, when you overtake you need to get to the left lane. Yea.

Lucky for us we have 2 Mexicans with us who did the ordering and the translating.

Nachos with spicy dip

Had to drink beer cos it's cold, you know!

Spicy Jalapenos! They are basically as spicy as the small chillies that we have back home, just that they are pickled. They are not bad really :D
There goes my order, Bisteck a la Mexicana, translated basically means beef mexican style.
It doesn't look intimidating here but the portion is really large.... I shared with the Chinese girl and both of us couldn't finish it... but it's really good, has cheese on it and on the top left you can see that they have avocados, which are really soft and buttery!
L-Alvin the skinny fella of Malaysia who eats to live. And Shangar the kaki botol lol.

See I survived (part) of the jalapenos :p, proof on my plate lol.
Skip skip, Wednesday! Also the day that Scott (Downie, one of our instructors, Canadian, lives in Houston. lol) will be bringing us to go shopping! Getting warm clothes for my stay at North Dakota. Anyway wearing the correct clothing and proper layering will ensure that you are fully insulated. Normally there are 3 layers. The first layer (innermost) you will have to put on something that is tight, or at least clings to your skin to ensure that your body stays warm and it has to be polyester or wool and cannot be cotton... cos cotton absorbs moisture. 2nd layer is normally a sweatshirt of some kind, with same type of material and outer layer would be jacket...

This is the huge outdoor equipment mall which sells everything from guns to boats. Yea, you can purchase a gun so long as you have a valid driving license. If you know how to drive, you know how to shoot.

Sunset there... so pretty...
Me and my big bag of purchase! Bought 4 pairs of thick woolen socks, 3 sweatshirts, 2 khaki pants.... costs $103 me think.
Then we headed for dinner at Babin's Seafood Restaurant! Dinner was with our 2 instructors (Scott and Alain) and program manager, Francois.
Food portions, are again, huge, only managed to finish like 2 thirds of the amount. Ordered the day's special, mahi mahi fish blackened sauce ( but I think they gave me the pan-fried one) with salad and dirty rice sides.

This freaking salad is just a side.... 2 thirds into this and I'm halfway full...
This is better! My main but the fish is not all that good, the texture is a bit like chicken, but I absolutely love the dirty rice! It's slightly spicy and has bacon bits in it... loves!

The front of the CGGVeritas office, that's the lobby you see inside.

And the side of the building.

Our class here... I am sitting at the back row :(

Me and my class' brain... JB. Damn cocky but damn smart. Photo doesn't seem to do him justice lol.

My Asian counterparts and a slice of Mexican lol. That's Wen Ting at the back from China, front Melanie (Viet), Jocelyn (Msia), Shifa (Msia) and Irvin.

Driving towards Sercel, the equiment manufacturer giant... it's about 30 minutes drive away. Check out the criss-crossing highway in front...

Omon (Nigeria) , me!, and Wen Ting at the back of the car. Yes... I can see my face getting rounder...
On Thursday, after another round of shopping (bought thermal underwears), we went to Denny's which is just a walking distance from our hotel...

Guess what, shared again, with Alvin this time: Grilled chicken fillet with hash brown. The bottoms were burnt charcoal black! Geez.... served with tortillas (kind of like pita breads) and we did finish everything anyway...

Friday, last day of work and where I shall be going to my designated state to do my field assignment... North Dakota!

Firstly, final dinner in Houston: in Chinatown..

Lol. The reason? Shifa couldn't control her meat cravings and some more she cannot eat just anywhere... this was the first shop that we found to be halal.
It was really funny, having to translate some of the menus to the other angmohs. Anyway we all decided to order individual meals. I initially had a craving for fried rice, but then decided to share (order chai) with Alvin and Wen Ting. Shangar then later joined in. So 4 of us decided on bok choy, sweet & sour fish, some kind of tofu thing and dunno what else.

Some of the others went to get some beer (the restaurant doesnt serve them, not halal mah! But they do allow them to bring those in) and the cans are huge!
Note the comparison with my finger... TY if u see this I bet you will be in heaven... lol... See bottom beer to make u jealous :p

Anyway, the dishes started coming in and most of the ang mohs couldnt remember what they ordered so everything was just set in the middle on the rotating plate. We decided to share everything on the table and guess what, we ended up having like 4-5 plates of fried rice -_-

Didnt manage to finish all those fried rice lol. But the food did kind of cure bit of homesickness... good ol' Chinese stir fry... Though some of the dishes are oily!
Next up... Watford City, ND!

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