Where and how did 2011 begin?
By the lagoon in Cairns, Australia. I was watching the beautiful colorful fireworks with my partner, good friends and thousands of other happy people. The big wide open Pacific in front of me, my skin sweaty from the humid tropical temperatures: The start into 2011 happened in paradise, in a place I had a love/hate relationship with. On the surface, Cairns and its surroundings were the most perfect place: lush scenery, green mountains, the turquoise ocean, the life-filled Great Barrier Reef, white sandy beaches. I called this place home for about six months. We lived in a house with two dogs, a pool and lovely housemates. Money was our friend, a good friend. My office was the underwater world: The ocean, with all its fascinating creatures. Every day, I said hi to my colleagues under water: big green turtles, massive Napoleon Wrasses, reef sharks, and lots of other gorgeous fish. The hate part, you wonder? The hordes of Chinese and Korean non-swimmers I had to take diving (go figure). Their breakfast making a second appearance on the floor on our boat. Wearing a uniform and following orders from the captain and the maids. The machismo in a male-dominated environment. Backwards thinking people who have hardly ever left the state of Queensland, let alone their country. The difficulty of making friends with people who hardly 'got' you and barely shared your outlook on life. Sometimes it felt very lonely. Yet, I can say: My 2011 began in paradise. And I don't ever regret a minute.