Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

Archive for the ‘Oceania’ Category

Sunny Brisbane

Posted by Monica Johansen on May 24, 2011

I have started on my fourth and final week in Australia before I finally can head home to Singapore and stop living in a suitcase for a short while. I am currently in Brisbane, and I have been here since Tuesday afternoon last week.

Brisbane River

I have been in this city once before, in fact the weekend when Kevin Rudd won the election in November 2007. I remember this because Brisbane is Rudd’s home town and the entire city was celebrating when he won. Unfortunately, Rudd’s career didn’t end well, but that is another story.

Anyway, I didn’t spend a lot of time in the city back then since I was more interested in visiting Australia Zoo (north of Brisbane) and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (south of Brisbane). However, this weekend I had an opportunity to take a closer look at the city center and the areas along the river encircling the CBD. Brisbane is quite a nice city. Located in Queensland, it is the third largest city in Australia, and the winters are nice and mild due to the northern location.

There are in fact quite a few things to see and do in Brisbane, but I didn’t plan my visit very well and unfortunately the weather on the weekend wasn’t too good either. However, if you are interested you can find more information here.

Right now I am just looking forward to getting home after a very long and exhausting journey, so I will save the sightseeing for my next visit, which by the way will be already next month.


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Weekend in the Australian Capital

Posted by Monica Johansen on May 8, 2011

I am back in Australia for work, and this time I am visiting the Australian capital. Now, a lot of foreigners usually guess either Sydney or Melbourne when they are asked which city is the capital of Australia, but in fact the capital is Canberra, which is a city located in the mountains between Sydney and Melbourne.

Autumn in Canberra

The story of why Canberra is the capital is actually a bit funny. Basically, many years back when the Aussies were deciding which city should be the capital, Australia’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, were rivals and the citizens were unable to come to an agreement. In the end, they made a compromise, and it was decided that the nation’s capital should be situated between the two cities. Hence, the city of Canberra was built for the single purpose of it becoming the national capital, and land for the Australian Capital Territory (originally Federal Territory of Australia) was purchased from New South Wales for that purpose.

I have already been here for a week, and I am staying until Tuesday evening when I am heading to Sydney to work on another project for a few days. This weekend the weather has been fantastic, and I have spent a lot of time outdoors enjoying the fresh and cool air and the lovely autumn colors. Canberra is a relatively small city, and I believe the population is still below 400,000 people. Hence, you can easily walk between the common attractions such as the Parliament building and the Australian War Memorial. It is also quite nice along Lake Burley Griffin, the lake separating the Government area from the main city center.

It is Sunday afternoon, and the weekend will soon come to an end. Hence, it is time to prepare for a new week of challenges.

Posted in Australia, Oceania, Travel | 1 Comment »

The Land of the Long White Cloud

Posted by Monica Johansen on March 12, 2011

My long lasting dream has finally come true!

Six years ago I had the great pleasure of visiting one of the most wonderful countries in the world, New Zealand, or Aotearoa (meaning “The land of the long white cloud”) as it is called in the native language Maori. Ever since I was there I have dreamed of going back to this amazing country, and this week I finally had the opportunity when a project came up in the New Zealand capital, Wellington.

New Zealand nature

The last time I was in New Zealand I was on holiday for three weeks, and my companion and I drove from Auckland down to the south island and back up again. Hence, we got to see a great portion of these beautiful islands. This time I am here for work, so I haven’t had a chance to see much, but nevertheless, I have enjoyed every second of my visit.

So what is so great about New Zealand? Well, first of all the islands have amazing nature and a range of different types of landscapes. For instance, in the north you will find nature similar to the tropical nature in Australia, with miles and miles of beaches, azure water, palm trees and pleasant climate, while in the south you will find mountains and fjord more similar to Norway, and the climate is more similar to northern Europe. As a biologist I find the nature in New Zealand very interesting. There are no native large carnivores, hence the development of strange flightless bird species like the kiwi. Apparently, New Zealand has more species of flightless birds (including the kiwis, several species of penguins, and the takahe) than any other country.

Outside Auckland, New Zealand

Another thing I love about New Zealand is the presence of the indigenous Maori culture. The origin of the Maori people has been traced to the islands of Eastern Polynesia, and apparently their journey to New Zealand occurred in a number of epic canoe voyages over a significant period of time. Typical aspects of the Maori culture include art, legend, tattoo (moko), performances (notably kapa haka), customs, hospitality and community. Since the early 1980s Maori culture has undergone a renaissance in New Zealand, and today communities are trying to keep the native language alive.

I would also like to mention the Kiwi people (as people from New Zealand prefer to call themselves). I have travelled to and worked in many countries around the world, and I think that you would have to look a very long time to find friendlier people than the Kiwis. For instance, in New Zealand I have experienced hospitality that I have never experienced any other place, such as strangers allowing you to stay at their place when you can’t find a vacant motel room and taxi drivers who will drive you for free to save you from the rain. There is something very different with the kiwis, they are very polite and trusting, and they have a most pleasant nature.

Today I have to fly back to Singapore via Sydney, and it breaks my heart to leave this wonderful place. I really hope it doesn’t take another six years before I am back here again.

Posted in New Zealand, Oceania, Travel | Leave a Comment »

So Far So Good

Posted by Monica Johansen on February 3, 2011

It is February already, and I have been on the road quite a bit so far this year. I spent the first couple of weeks of 2011 in Singapore, before I headed to San Francisco and Portland for a week of company conference and APAC team meetings. I had an absolute awesome time in the US, and I finally met my American colleagues that I have talked to on the phone and email several times, and now I can finally put faces to the names.

Albert Park Lake at sunset

The global consulting team is an awesome bunch of people, and I actually feel very lucky to be part of the group, although I am still the only consultant in APAC. I tried to spend as much time as possible with the guys while I was in Portland, but as usual I was struggling with the time difference, and I just wasn’t able to stay up late and hang out with everyone. I was a bit sad when it was time to leave in the end of the week, but all good things must eventually come to an end, and hopefully I will see everyone again next year.

This week I am working in Melbourne, and I am staying here until Wednesday night when I fly to Sydney for a few days. The area I am staying in is called St. Kilda, and it is a very nice suburb just outside of Melbourne city center. From the customer office I can see Albert Park Lake and all the way out to the ocean. My hotel is located just across the street from the lake, and I had a walk around the lake when I arrive on Sunday. The weather has been really nice here, with sunshine most of the time, and on Tuesday the temperatures reached 39 degrees. Now it has dropped a bit, but the sun is still shining and the wind is mild, so I am loving it.

This weekend a friend of mine is picking me up on Saturday morning, and we are driving down to the Great Ocean Road. I have never been there before, but it is one of the main tourist attractions in the state of Victoria, and I am excited to finally see it. I just hope the weather doesn’t change too much. The cyclone Yasi hit Queensland last night and caused some serious damage, and it is heading southwest so we might see some rain and stormy weather down here, unfortunately.

Well, you can’t do much about the weather, so I am hoping for the best and packing a sweater and – the most important thing – my digital SLR camera for the weekend. 🙂

Posted in America, Australia, Oceania, Travel, USA | Leave a Comment »

Bye Bye Year 2010

Posted by Monica Johansen on December 31, 2010

So at last year 2010 has come to an end, and looking back at the last 12 months I can’t say it hasn’t been an interesting year.

I started the year working on a project in the Philippines, before I went back to Europe for the first time in 3.5 years. It was of course a stupid time to go to the UK and Norway, considering that it was pretty much the coldest time of the year, but I didn’t really have a choice since I went for a job interview and everything was paid for by the potential new employer. Nevertheless, it was great to be back in old neighborhoods and seeing old friends again, although it was a rather traumatic experience having to endure minus 15 degrees Celsius.

Taj Mahal in India

After my Europe visit I went straight to Dubai and from there to India. I had never been to the Middle East earlier, so that was a new and interesting destination. India was also a great experience, and I finally got to see one of the most fantastic wonders of the world, the gorgeous Taj Mahal in Agra. I spent quite a few weeks in India during the first quarter of 2010, and I also headed over to Nepal and Kathmandu for a long weekend, which was another new destination for me.

In the second quarter, from April to July, I spent a lot of time in Melbourne in Australia, and I had a great time visiting friends and enjoying the Australian hospitality. It was very cold in July, which of course is the middle of the winter, but it is actually nice to be able to wear jeans, boots and coats every now and then.

In July I started a new and interesting chapter of my life when I accepted a position in a much smaller company than the ones I had been working for over the last nine years. I knew it was going to be challenging to be the only consultant in APAC and trying to implement new processes and procedures for a team who had been doing things their own way for quite some time, and I must admit that it turned out to be even more challenging than I anticipated. However, as time goes by and people get used to new situations, everything will eventually fall into place and life will become easier.

The Sydney Opera House

During the third quarter of 2010 I finally went back to visit the US, and due to a cancelled plane I had the opportunity to spend a day in San Francisco in addition to spending time in Portland and Seattle. Hence, I could add three new cities to my list. I had a fantastic time in the US, not just because of the friendly Americans but also because I spent a week with my new manager and good old friend from the UK.

It was hard to go back to Asia after two great weeks in the US, but it was in fact even harder after my manager sent me to the UK for two weeks of training and job shadowing a little later this year. The days in London and Birmingham were fantastic, and I met a lot of nice people. I also went over to Oslo again for the weekend, and I had a blast with my old friends.

I am finally ending this year in the Emerald City, Sydney, where I have been working for four weeks and spent the last week of the year on holiday to catch up with friends and enjoy the great Australian climate. All in all it has been a really good year despite some work challenges and frustrations. I can only hope that next year will be as good or maybe even better.

Happy New Year! 🙂

Posted in Australia, Oceania, Travel | Leave a Comment »