Wednesday, December 23

Last days in Geneva

Our time living in Geneva has come to an end. We are going to Suva, Fiji, where I have a new job with the ESCAP Pacific Operations Centre. I will be writing about life in Suva at our new blog:

Our last days in Geneva were extremely hectic, with our things being shipped off, farewells to attend, last minute work to get through, the car to sell and the apartment to clean. Phew! Now it's all over and we are making our way towards the next adventure.

Reflecting on our time in Geneva, there are many happy memories. It has been a real journey of discovery. I have learned so much about the world, about statistics and about the mechanics of the UN. I leave Geneva with a sense of achievement and with excitement about the new adventures that life in the Pacific will bring.

I also feel a sense of sadness as we said goodbye to a number of close friends and colleagues who have made our time in Geneva really special. We will miss them, but thankfully the internet makes communication so easy, even despite the almost 12 hour time difference between Suva and Europe.

As we undertake our 36 hour journey to Adelaide, I am looking forward to spending a couple of weeks with family and friends before heading off to Fiji.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

Sunday, September 13

Holidaying in Croatia

A four day long weekend provided the perfect excuse to take some time off and spend a week in Croatia, chasing the summer sun. My Dad is visiting at the moment, so the three of us headed off together last Saturday. It was the first time that any of us had ever visited Croatia. The Dalmatian coastline is spectacular. We rented a terrific house in the hills above Makarska, a popular tourist town about an hour from Split and two hours from Dubrovnik.

MakarskaWe spent the week taking day trips (Dubrovnik and the nearby islands), heading down the hill for a swim at the beach, lounging about on the terrace, reading, playing cards and watching the sunset.

One of the highlights for me was our short drive to the nearby Biokovo National Park. I was expecting us to just park the car and go for a short hike in the pine forest, but when we arrived, we found the park consists of the highest mountain road in Croatia: 23kms of terrifyingly narrow, steep road that took us up to the 1,762m mountain peak. It was an incredible drive and I was grateful to complete it without scratching the hire car. In some places, the two-way road was barely wide enough for one car! Well, that may be exaggerating, but it was a challenging and exciting drive. This video of cyclists making the downhill run gives an impression.

Overall, I really enjoyed the holiday in Croatia, but for a region that relies upon tourism, they could a better job of some things. The food was disappointing and the tourist information was either non-existent or overwhelming. We wanted to buy a nice momento, but struggled to find anything beyond rows and rows of tourist trash markets. However, the people were lovely and the weather was gorgeous. If you like watersports and don't mind pebbly beaches, it is a very affordable and worthwhile holiday destination.

Sunday, August 30

Trip around South Africa

This year's International Statistical Institute (ISI) conference was held in Durban, South Africa, which gave us the perfect excuse to visit this interesting country.

After the conference finished on Saturday, we headed off on a tour of South Africa on the Sunday morning. We were only 5 people in our tour group: our good friend and colleague, Petteri; a young newlywed couple from Malta; and us. Our guide was Thabo, a terrific and talkative South African man from Soweto, just outside of Johannesburg. Together we had an excellent time and saw something new and interesting every day.

Our tour group (L-R): Jess, Petteri, Krista, Kris and Peter

Day 1: Durban to Santa Lucia via Shakaland, a Zulu cultural village


Sunset in Santa Lucia

Day 2: Santa Lucia cruise and drive to Swaziland

Crossing the border into Swaziland

Day 3: Drive through Swaziland and into Kruger National Park

At the southern gate of the Kruger National Park

Day 4: Safari in Kruger and BBQ in our rest camp

Our huts at Pretoriaskop rest camp

The safari started out a little chilly at 6:30am

Then the animals started to appear....

Day 5: Visiting natural wonders and staying in the quaint mining town of Pilgrim's Rest

Jess at Blyde River Canyon

The Three Rondweles

Our hotel at Pilgrim's Rest

Buying a beer at the bar

Day 6: Drive through Johannesburg and visit to Soweto

We took a detour on our planned itinerary to visit the hometown of our guide, Thabo. He grew up in Soweto (name derived from South West Township), the township that was built for segregated groups during apartheid. It is home to around 65% of Johannesburg's residents, probably about 7 million people.
This, our last day in South Africa, was one of the highlights of the tour. We visited Nelson Mandela's house (8115 Orlando East), the 1976 uprising musuem and the house of Thabo's mother and family.

Sunday, July 19

Warsaw, Poland

My work has given me the opportunity to visit many countries over the last few years and 2009 has been no exception. So far this year I've been to Ghana, Portugal, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Poland and Kyrgyzstan. Likely destinations in the next six months are Tajikistan, South Africa, Kazakhstan and Macedonia.

After a busy three day meeting, I had a weekend to explore Warsaw with Peter and a friend from work. Quite a nice city with an amazing new "old town".

The flower markets just down the road from our hotel were a daily treat of colour and perfume.

Warsaw was completely destroyed during WWII. The old town (see the buildings behind this group of musicians who were just wandering the streets) was rebuilt to look the same, based on photos and whatever records could be found.

An apt location for an art exhibition about tolerance.

Sunday, June 7

Lisbon in March

I had to travel to Lisbon for a meeting in March, accompanied by my favourite bag carrier, Peter. While I was working hard, Peter was touring the Portuguese countryside. He went to some picturesque towns north of Lisbon and even enjoyed a stroll on the beach. In the evenings we dined out together, including a lovely dinner with my colleagues and a few Fado singers.

View across the countryside

Peter and the Atlantic Ocean

Jess and her boss at the Portuguese National Institute of Statistics
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Weekend visit to Tunis

We visited Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, back in February of this year. It was our first trip to North Africa. We stayed in the centre and spent Saturday afternoon exploring the Medina. Not much shopping, but Peter got a nice haircut for about AUD$5. On the Sunday we took the train out to Carthage and explored the ancient ruins.

Peter drinking the very sweet mint tea of Tunis

The Champs Elysees of Tunis

Jess exploring the ruins at Carthage
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