Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

A Small World

Posted by Monica Johansen on July 27, 2010

Work plays a significant role in people’s life, basically because we spend so much time at work during a lifetime. In my case, I probably spend close to 80 % of the time I am awake either at work, working from home or from a hotel room or traveling to work. The main reason I work so many hours is that life as a traveling consultant means that you spend business hours on customer site, and after business hours you have to catch up with all the emails and paper work that other people usually do when they are in the office. In addition, there is a lot of traveling time involved, especially when you cover an entire geographic region.

Hence, while others work to live I typically live to work. Sometimes, when work has been challenging, my friends tell me that I should stop caring so much because it is only a job, but I totally disagree. It is not just a job, it is my life…

Yarra River in Melbourne

Recently I made a very important change in my life. I resigned from the position I have had over the last 2.5 years, and last week I started in my new role in a new company. In a way I believe it will be the beginning of a new era in my life, although I will still be traveling and working in the Asia Pacific region. The main difference will be that the new role is APAC based, so I will spend a significant amount of time in Australia, and I will also get an opportunity to work in places I have never worked before, such as New Zealand and China. In addition, the new company is a lot smaller than other companies I have worked for over the last 8-9 years, and I am looking forward to being in a position where you have an opportunity to be more visible, having more influence and making a difference.

This week I am in Melbourne on a five days training course with my new company, and I am staying at Medina Grand Hotel in the city center, which is within walking distance from the training facilities. This morning something very funny happened. I walked to the training location, and as I was about to cross the street I heard a familiar voice saying “Hello Monica”. I turned around and discovered that a team member from my previous job was standing next to me, and we both looked at each other and laughed. It turned out that we were staying at the same hotel and he was working just a couple of blocks up the road from where I was going.

This just demonstrates how incredibly small the world really is. I keep bumping into people I know in all kinds of strange situations, such as when I met my neighbor on top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and when I was waiting for the bus on a street in Ottawa and one of my friends from Norway suddenly came walking down the street, and many years back when I was on holiday with my family in a small town in Denmark and one of my friends from school was on holiday at the exact same location.

To quote a famous movie, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”. I am very excited to see what my new job will offer with regards to seeing new places, meeting new people and experiencing new adventures. Because that is what life is really all about, isn’t it?


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More time in Oz

Posted by Monica Johansen on June 27, 2010

I am back in Australia for a couple of weeks. This week and half of the next I am working in Melbourne, and the end of next week I will spend a few days in Sydney. I have taken a couple of days off from work to have a chance to see my friends and just enjoy life as a tourist in Sydney, and I am looking very much forward to a short break from work.

Bourke Street in Melbourne

It is getting really cold in Melbourne now, and it has been raining quite a bit over the last few days. Fortunately, I was prepared, so I am doing just fine. Although it is a little bit uncomfortable wearing so heavy clothing every time I want to go outside. People keep telling me that as a Norwegian I should be use to it, but I am not. I am in fact completely acclimatized to the hot and humid weather in Southeast Asia.

It is Sunday evening already, and the weekend has been really good. I have had a look in the city, and I discovered that there is an Oxfam shop in one of the shopping arcades in Bourke Street. Oxfam is an international confederation of aid organizations working together, and Oxfam Australia runs a number of shops selling artifacts produced in third world countries. A significant part of the profit goes back to the local communities, so when you buy something from the shop you support the organization and the aid work they do to help people in third world countries.

The Oxfam shop has some really beautiful products, including jewelry, textiles, ceramics, wood work, and decorative art. I ended up buying some beautiful items from India, and since they were too large to store in my luggage I walked over to Australia Post and mailed them back to Singapore. I can’t wait to pick them up when I get home in a week’s time.

Tomorrow start a new working week, and I am looking forward to another few days working with the fun Aussies.

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Two weeks in Melbourne

Posted by Monica Johansen on April 21, 2010

I arrived in Melbourne on Sunday evening April 11, and I have been working here for the last 1.5 weeks now. It has been a while since the last time I was here, and this is the very first time I have been here on a weekend and had time to take a look around the city.

Yarra River

Melbourne is quite an interesting city. In fact, it is more European than any other city I have visited in this region, and the first time I was here it felt a little bit like walking around in Stockholm or Copenhagen. Maybe that is why I enjoy being here so much, since it reminds me of my old “home”. The city is famous for all its narrow alleys with bars and restaurants that you simply need to know about or have someone take you there in order to find them. In these alleys you will also find some amazing pieces of graffiti on the walls, which is something else Melbourne is rather famous for. A third reason why many Australians love this place is that it is probably the best place for shopping in the country. I am not a big shopper, but I find that Melbourne is perfect for shoe shopping since they have closed shoes that look good to my suit pants. In Singapore they primarily sell sandals because of the very hot climate, but even when working in South East Asia I prefer to use proper footwear in the office.

I would be lying if I told you it has been a relaxing time here. I have been very busy at work, both on customer site and catching up with tasks and responsibilities after work, and at the same time I have tried my very best to utilize the time to see my friends here. The funny thing is that although I have never actually lived in Melbourne I have more friends here than I have in Sydney and Singapore, and I suppose it says something about how open and social the Melbournians are. Don’t get me wrong, I know many lovely people in both Sydney and Singapore, but for some reason I find it easier to meet new people in Melbourne.

Shopping arcade

I have been catching up with a bunch of different people over the last 1.5 weeks. The first Monday I was here I had dinner with one of my former colleagues from Singapore who moved here just before Christmas last year. Another Singaporean colleague of mine was here all of last week, so he came with us on Monday and I also met up with him later the same week. The best thing about traveling with colleagues is that they for once have time for you after work, while in Singapore all my colleagues prefer to rush home when the business day is over. Last week I also had dinner another colleague here in Melbourne who is originally from South Africa, and he took me to one of these local pubs that can be hard to find on your own.

The weekend was great. The weather was really good and I had an opportunity to walk around in the city and take a look at places I haven’t seen before. I went down to Southbank, which is a popular area of bars, restaurants and shops built by the Yarra River riverside. On Sunday I was invited to spend the afternoon and evening at my friend Sean’s place. He and his fiancé invited me for dinner, and I had a great evening with good food and interesting conversations.

Yesterday I met up with an Australian friend that I met on holiday in Darwin and Kakadu in 2008. We haven’t seen each other since the holiday, but we have kept in touch and he and his girlfriend have asked me to come by their house when I visit Melbourne. Unfortunately, his girlfriend has temporarily moved to Alice Springs, so I didn’t get a chance to meet her, but maybe next time we will be in the same city at the same time.

I am very exited about tonight, because one of my former colleagues from London will fly in from Sydney today, and we will meet up after work. He was a very good friend of mine when I was working in the UK a few years back, and I have asked him to come and see me in Asia several times. Unfortunately, he is a very busy man, and when I was in the UK in January he was working in the US so we didn’t get a chance to meet. But tonight I am finally going to see him again, and right now I am counting the hours until the end of the business day… 🙂

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Short visit to Sydney

Posted by Monica Johansen on April 11, 2010

I am working in Melbourne for a couple of weeks, and since it was hard to find available flights directly from Singapore to Melbourne I took the opportunity to fly via Sydney and visit some of my dear friends. I didn’t have much time in my old home town, only around 30 hours, but it was enough time to bring back some good memories.

I took the overnight flight from Singapore on Friday night and arrived in Sydney early Saturday morning. The crew had problems getting the baggage out of the plane, so I was stuck at the airport for around 45 minutes just waiting for the luggage, and when my bag finally arrived I had to wait in line for another 20 minutes to get through the quarantine. Sometimes it can be a real hassle to arrive in Australia from overseas.

Darling Harbour

Anyway, my good friend Arvie picked me up at the airport, and we were back at his place around 8:30 AM. He and his wife had kindly offered me to stay at their place during my visit, not only so that I would save the hotel money but also so that we could spend more time together. I don’t sleep much on planes, so after saying hello to Arvie’s beautiful wife and daughter and chat for a little while I was starting to feel the lack of sleep and I decided to have a nap before I was in any condition to go out and enjoy the nice Sydney weather. Around noon we were all ready to go out and have a look in the city, and we started the day at Darling Harbour, which is only 5-10 minutes walk from where I used to live and a place I feel very much at home. We ended up visiting some of my favorite jewelry shops in the city where I bought some nice silver jewelry. I have a thing for silver, and although I probably have more than enough of it I tend to buy if I find something I really like.

In the evening we had dinner at one of my absolute favorite eating places in Sydney, a Thai restaurant called I Thai. I love Thai food, and the food in I Thai is in my opinion just as good as any authentic restaurant in Bangkok. I think we all ate too much, so we were quite sleepy when we got back at their house at night. Around 10 PM I realized that I hadn’t checked my email for well over 24 hours, which must be some sort of a record in my world. Hence, I had a quick look at what was going on in the cyber world before I went to bed.

Today we went to a relatively new shopping area outside of Sydney. I can’t remember the name, but the place consisted of a small network of streets with shops facing the street rather than being inside a huge mall. We didn’t have so much time since my flight to Melbourne was departing at 5 PM, but it was nice to spend some time in the sun and just walk around and have a look at people and the stuff they sold there and then find a nice place to sit down and have a mango smoothie. 🙂

Arvie and his family dropped me off at the airport at 3:30 PM, and after a delayed landing and a long wait to get my luggage (they are so much more efficient at the airport in Singapore) I am now in my hotel in Melbourne and preparing for a couple of weeks on customer site. It has been a while since the last time I was here, and – as the last time – I had forgotten all about how cold it can get in this city. I actually thought I brought enough clothes with me, but after trying to go for a walk tonight I am worried that I might have underestimated the weather.

Well, it is a good thing that Melbourne is great for shopping. I think I need to buy a warm sweater to wear in the morning on my way to work.

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Back in Sydney

Posted by Monica Johansen on November 28, 2009

I have just retuned to Singapore after a short visit to my old home town Sydney. About 12 months have passed since the last time I placed my feet in the Emerald City, and since I had to enter Australia in order to initialize my permanent residence visa I thought it was a good opportunity to fly down and catch up with some old friends. Unfortunately, I only had three days paid time off left, so I had to combine it with a public holiday in Singapore, but it so happened that Friday this week was Hari Raya Haji. Hence, I flew down on Monday night and arrived in Sydney on Tuesday morning.

The Sydney Opera House

When I arrived in Sydney the weather was rather chilly, at least compared to the 32 degrees I am used to every day. However, my friends told me that it had been up to 40 degrees just a couple of days earlier, and during the few days I was there the temperatures increased again and reached around 35. It still didn’t feel very hot though, because the humidity is nothing like in Southeast Asia, so despite the heat it is possible to breathe. But I had already forgotten how quickly the weather can change in Sydney, and for someone who is used to the same temperatures pretty much every single day all year around (like in Singapore) it was quite surprising.

It was very nice to see my friends again. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to meet everyone, but I managed to complete the most important task, i.e. get my permanent residency visa stamped in my passport. So now I can come and go as I please for the next 5 years. I was originally planning to move back to Sydney some time before the end of this year, but the situation has changed slightly, and currently I have no plans moving back in the near future. However, nothing is set in stone, and I might be back before anyone knows it.

Over the last three years I have been in Sydney in November and taken photos of the fireworks at the Sydney Opera House after the Australian Idol finale. This time I arrived two days late, so I missed out on the fireworks, but I still had a very nice time. It is fun to take photos of fireworks, and I know there is a new opportunity coming up soon here in Singapore at New Years Eve.

Now I am back in hot and humid Singapore, and it is actually good to be home even though the weekend has been a bit reduced due to loads of urgent work. It is nice to not live in a bag all the time, and it is in fact very true what they say; “There is no place like home…” 🙂

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