Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Happy Constitution Day, Norway!

Posted by Monica Johansen on May 17, 2011

May 17 in Norway

We are in May already, and today is an important day both in Singapore and in Norway. Singapore and many other Asian countries are celebrating Vesak Day, a Buddhist holiday sometimes informally called “Buddha’s Birthday”.  In Norway they are celebrating their national day or Constitution Day, and pretty much the entire nation dress up for a gigantic party in every city and town in the country. Many Norwegians prefer to wear the national costume, the “bunad”, and outfit based on traditional folk garments from the 18th and 19th centuries.

I don’t get to celebrate Vesak Day and the Norwegian Constitution Day this year because I am working in Australia. After finishing in Canberra I traveled to Sydney where I have spent the last 7 days, and today I will jump on a plane up to Brisbane for 10 days before I can head home to Asia. I am starting to get tired of living in a suitcase, but I guess the alternative – being stuck in one place for months and months – is not very appealing to me.

Anyway, I hope all my fellow Singaporeans and Norwegians enjoy the holiday! 🙂

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Chinese Year of the Rabbit

Posted by Monica Johansen on February 5, 2011

On Thursday, February 3, the world entered the lunar year of the rabbit according to Chinese astrology. The year of the Rabbit is traditionally associated with home and family, artistic pursuits, diplomacy, and keeping the peace, and it is considered a year in which you can catch your breath and calm your nerves.

Lunar Year 2011

It remains to see if the Chinese are correct, but for those who are interested, here are some predictions for the Year of the Rabbit 2011: http://www.moonslipper.com/chinese.html

Chinese New Year is a public holiday in most of the Southeast Asian countries in addition to China, but since I am working in Australia this week and the next I don’t have a chance take time off and celebrate the New Year. The thing about working in different countries is that you have to adjust to the local holidays in the country you happen to be working in at the moment. Sometimes it means that you lose a holiday, and other times it means that you gain one. All in all, I don’t really care as long as I am having a great time wherever I am located.

Happy New Lunar Year (or Gong Xi Fa Chai)! 🙂

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Happy National Day, Norway!

Posted by Monica Johansen on May 17, 2010

Today is a very important day for Norwegians around the world. May 17 is our constitution day, and the day where pretty much everyone in Norway – young and old – goes out to spend the day with their fellow citizens.

The children's parade in Oslo

The main events are the children’s parades, which are organized by schools in every city and town around the country. In the capital, Oslo, the parade passes by the royal castle where the king and queen greet the cheering participants, i.e. children, parents and teachers. The children’s parade in Oslo starts in the morning and ends around mid day. In the afternoon there is another parade that many people like to watch, the “russ” parade. The “russ” are all the teenagers who are about to finish the last year of high school, and around May 17 they dress up in red or blue jumpsuits depending on which school they graduate from.  The “russ’ parade is quite fun to watch because some of the teenagers put on funny costumes and there is always a competition on who as the most original outfit.

 Norwegians overseas sometimes organize their own little local parade where they often dress up in the national costume, the “bunad”. However, the “bunad” is designed for the cold Norwegian climate, which means that it is made of wool and other warm fabrics so that people are able to wear it outside without freezing to death. Hence, it is not really suitable for the hot and humid weather in Southeast Asia.

I am not going to celebrate here in Singapore because it is just another busy working day for me, but I hope all my fellow countrymen have a great national day!

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A Great Weekend

Posted by Monica Johansen on May 4, 2010

I left India late on Friday night and arrived back in Singapore early on Saturday morning. The very first thing I did was to SMS my English friend Paul who happened to be in Singapore for the weekend. We met up around lunch time and pretty much spent the entire day doing sightseeing, walking around in the city and talking.

Sentosa Island

Paul used to be one of my colleagues and best friends in the UK, and although we did spend a few hours together in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago we still had so much to talk about. Having him around made me realize how much I miss my old team mates in the UK. The funny thing about being alone for a long time is that you tend to get used to it after a while, but when you suddenly have company again you understand how lonely you have been.

On Sunday we went out to Sentosa Island, which is a theme-park-like recreation island just south of the Singapore city centre. The island is connected to the main island (yes, Singapore is an island) via a bridge, and it take only about 15 minutes by taxi to reach the island from my home. Popular attractions include the Carlsberg Sky Tower, Butterfly Park, Insect Kingdom and Underwater World in addition to two golf courses and the new Universal Studios Singapore. I am not exactly a beach babe, and I get bored when I try to sunbathe, but the island is quite beautiful and we took some nice photos on the beach.

Paul and I spent most of the day on Sentosa before we headed back to the city for dinner in the afternoon. We both had work to prepare for the coming week, so we separated around 8:30 PM to spend the rest of the evening in front of a computer. Monday morning I had to fly to Melbourne and Paul headed back to the UK in the evening. I have no idea when we will meet again, but I hope it doesn’t take 3.5 years like the last time.

Well, I am back in Melbourne for a few days, and the weather here is freezing cold. However, this time I was clever enough to bring a warm winter jacket and a couple of woolen sweaters, so I am prepared. I am here only to Thursday night, but I am meeting up with a friend tomorrow after work. Apart from that this week is mainly filled with loads of work.

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Welcome Year of the Tiger

Posted by Monica Johansen on February 17, 2010

As you may have heard of, the Chinese follow the Lunar Calendar in addition to the western Solar Calendar that most of you are probably familiar with. The Lunar system is based on the moon phases, while the Solar system is based on the earth’s path relatively the sun, and the Chinese calendar actually combines the lunar and solar systems together.

Chinese New Year 2010

Basically, the Year and Day cycles use the solar system. In addition, there are two different Month cycles in the Chinese calendar. One uses the lunar system and the other uses the solar system. In the lunar system of Month, the new moon day is the first day of a lunar month. The length of a lunar month is the length of time between two new moon days. The name of a lunar Month is taken from the solar system, and the Chinese solar months are not like the months of a modern calendar. The Chinese calendar divides the year into 24 solar segments according to the sun positions on the tropical zodiac (similar to western astrology).

The Chinese Zodiac is a scheme that relates each year to an animal and its reputed attributes, according to a 12-year cycle. It is quite popular in several East Asian countries besides China and Taiwan. The zodiac signs represent twelve different types of personalities, and the animals assigned to these personalities are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster,  Dog and Pig.

Sunday February 14 was the first day in the Year of the Tiger, 2010. In Chinese culture the tiger is a symbol of dignity, ferocity, sternness, courage and protection, and the image of a tiger is often seen on clothing or in the home to ward off any semblance of harm and assure safekeeping. In China, the tiger is considered the king of all beasts and it represents powerful energy. Further, the tiger is associated with Tsai Shen Yeh, the Chinese God of Wealth, and this God is usually seen sitting on a tiger in Asian art.

Chinese New Year is the most important celebration for the Chinese, and in some countries the entire week is a public holiday. Singapore has a shorter celebration with only two weekdays off, and Monday and Tuesday were public holidays this week. Unfortunately, I was not able to take any time off since I was working in India. However, I arrived safely back in my home town this morning, and I am looking very much forward to a few days in familiar environments.

Gong Xi Fa Chai! 🙂

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