Ponder Du Jour

My ever-evolving plans for the future:

15 years old: Marine science / computer science / architecture 

16 years old: Environmental / civil engineering 

18 years old: Low Impact Development (LID) / renewable energy

19 years old: Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)

21 years old: Water Resources Engineering

23 years old: Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)

Greg Asner: Ecology from the air | Video on TED.com


As Asner states, technology is crucial. “Traditional” environmental engineers working with sewer pipes, wastewater, landfills (etc.) are being left behind using age-old tables and equations in handbooks. Geography and GIS technologies are improving at a rate faster than we can interpret this new data. 

Ponder Du Jour

Justin, I told you so…

Three years ago, while on exchange in Denmark, I attended an integrated water resources management class, and it was so interesting that I even decided to base by current Master’s thesis on this topic.

On the eve of the project deadline, I distinctly remember fretting about how I shouldn’t have rushed it. The graphs looked like indecipherable metropolitan metro maps, the numbers were calculated with dubious economic assumptions, and why oh why did I bury useful summary tables in the appendices?

How am I supposed to get inspired from pure BS?

Ponder Du Jour

Should the next world war be a water war… (I hope the U.S. doesn’t invade us for the Great Lakes), I wonder if the peace treaties will involve redrawing regional borders based on transboundary watersheds.

Are Ph.D.s an academic dead zone?

Why grads with a doctorate are more likely to be unemployed than master’s degree holders.

Fear not: demand remains high for engineering. I’m curious about the situation in Europe though. 

Ponder Du Jour

Interesting to realize that many non-expatriates I’ve met have never heard of the word expatriate before. The expatriate upbringing and lifestyle may have it’s problems with over-sheltered pampered kids and living-in-a-bubble-syndrome but as I look back now from a more matured and grateful perspective…

Well, honestly, it was a damn good time.

Surpassing what my parents have provided for me and my little sister will be a monumental task. I will strive to provide my children with the same opportunities (shove them into international schools and become open-minded world citizens and shit). Hard work, humility, connections, language skills, and tapping into China’s environmental job market? I am still unfamiliar with extreme adversity and hardship. We shall see. 

Ponder Du Jour

Let’s see who recognizes the Iron Ring in Guangzhou, China. I’ll make it easy and frequent the expat pubs whenever I can. 

The Convocation Celebration

Five long years at the University of Waterloo have finally come to a close. Convocation for us freshly graduated engineers was held on a cool but sunny Saturday morning in June. I shall cherish all the unforgettable once in a lifetime milestone moments with my friends, and especially with my family.

I awoke that day at 7:00 AM a little hungover from last evening’s mini reunion. I was out the door eventually, force fed myself a few bites of typical diner breakfast, downed a black coffee, and proceeded to the Physical Activity Centre (PAC) on the iXpress to pick up my gown. That was also the last time I used my WatCard to get on a GRT bus.

Short on time, I quickly changed into my formal clothes in the locker room and rushed over to join my eager peers in line backstage. We exchanged nervous handshakes and hugs and talked about our future plans with terrific optimism. Before long, the sliding doors opened at 10 AM revealing the ceremony stage as well as our seats flanked by rows and rows of proud parents. We filed out neatly, and we were all ready to be conferred with our hard-earned degrees.

Halfway through the ceremony, our row was finally called up to prepare ourselves next to the stage where we were asked to hold on to our bright red gown hoods. As the Environmental Engineering Class of 2012 was announced, we replied with an emphatic cheer and walked with pride in threes across the stage. Despite our small class size, I’m certain everyone in PAC heard our voices.

When my name was called the first thing I thought to myself was, “Good, my name was pronounced correctly.” And then I thought, “Don’t fucking trip now, Justin.” I walked purposefully towards the president of our university to shake his hand and to have my hood adorned over my shoulders. I remember thanking him non-stop, we engaged in small talk about my graduate school plans, and then he sent me off with well wishes and an inspiring smile. 

I exhaled with relief and felt a starry-eyed sense of accomplishment once I stepped off stage. I was presented with my diploma around the corner, posed for pictures, and swiftly strode back to my seat among my fellow graduates. Hands still trembling I flipped open the cover which revealed my diploma to me for the first time. That moment has been firmly ingrained into my memory. 

A few speeches later convocation was adjourned, the live band started up again, and we filed out of PAC as the University of Waterloo’s newest alumni. I was pretty giddy with excitement and dashed out to look for my dad, mom, sister, uncle, and aunt. Out in glowing sunshine we met each other’s families, and smiled for more pictures of course! It was a beautiful day for a beautiful occasion. 

Countless pints and shots later at uptown’s Huether Hotel, all the bittersweetness ended at three in the morning. With only nostalgia for company, I walked back to campus and roamed UW for a final time. Yes, including the CIVE lab. 

With distinction? They must have made a mistake because my cumulative average is 79.41, not 80.  It’s not even 79.50, so rounding up is impossible. What’s going on? 

With distinction? They must have made a mistake because my cumulative average is 79.41, not 80.  It’s not even 79.50, so rounding up is impossible. What’s going on? 


How did you like your 5 years at University of Waterloo? I'm a 1st year student living in V1.

It was a love-hate relationship. Engineering was definitely not the most leisurely university lifestyle but it really came down to what I made of it. I studied just enough to provide myself with future opportunities like exchange and graduate school. Co-op was mostly a rewarding experience. 

People say that your university years are the best of your life. For me, it’s not quite over, and for you it’s just beginning. It’s a very long coming-of-age exercise and the best part is looking back and realizing how much you’ve matured. Choose your work-play sacrifices carefully such that years from now you’ll have fond reminiscing sessions in good company.

Pardon the rambling! I didn’t mean for this to be a life lesson or anything. Good luck! V1 is a prison isn’t it? Get out of there. 

Ponder Du Jour

Priority number one: Learn how to open a beer bottle with the ring. 

Priority number two: Avoid gloating and excessive flaunting of the ring. 

Third culture traveler. Caffeine fiend. Tennis nerd. Tech addict. Wannabe photographer. Environmentalist-in-training. #CAN #CHN #DEN #BEL