A wise man once said....

"When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen you may learn something new." Dalai Lama

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Ban Muang Garden Progress

It's been about 8 weeks since we planted in front of our house.  Wanna had put in some pumpkin and an assortment of beans etc. They had a good start in manure and rice grass etc so we expected good results.  I had added a small irrigation system with drippers etc making it easy to irrigate. Results so far look good. It all goes to help getting the place more settled. New concrete always looks rough and raw. So add in some greenery and your on your way to making it all look so much better.

Lazy Sunday

Been a quiet week.  Seems one day just runs into the next all with a bit of a blur. Not alcohol related I can assure you!!! However at this time, my Sunday morning walking buddies are away on their 2 weeks rotational holiday so less incentive to get up and get going.
And add in the fact that this Sunday it was raining so good excuse to stay home.  Fine for me but limits being able to tell you much about the place.  What exactly did I do? Shopping next door in local supermarket.  That's a 50 meter walk!!!
Then home for lunch and relaxed. Sat about strumming my guitar and read a book. Also caught a rerun of the Lions match so all in all an OK lazy Sunday.
However all is not lost on the reporting front!  I have during the week, been walking to work most days. Its 25 minute walk and generally its cool and not to windy so no dust storms  flying debris or rubbish. I must just say that Atyrua is surprisingly clean and tidy. I was told there are very strict laws against littering.  Whatever the laws are, they are working. Very impressive.
The main road between airport and town is being spruced up for the arrival of the Kazakh President and the UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
A spokesperson for the Kazakh government, said that Mr Cameron would visit the cities of Atyrau, Astana and Almaty during his time in the country. The trip will involve meetings with British oil and gas companies as well as official talks with Mr Nazarbayev, they added. (Independent 25th June 2013)
Thinking in the office is 'Dave's visiting to secure some UK business deals. Makes sense as Kazakhstan has an abundance of oil and gas, not to mention a lot of minerals in major demand for industry.  (See footnote)  So for that I wish him luck. Hence obviously with this visit the road and siding are getting a lot of loving attention. Cleaning, painting, new pedestrian pavements, an abundance of trees planted and grass laid and watered, complete with some additional statues including some camels and deer's.  Also along the way are brightly coloured new hoardings, and nearly all the apartment blocks along the way have been given a face lift. If he wants to know what it looks like before he can take a small diversion and take a parallel road. It's amazing what a few cans of paint can achieve. Makes and place so much brighter. And obviously his visit is seen as important to all concerned.  Should not complain as it is good to see 'Dave' getting the royal treatment. Just hope it's worth it to the UK tax payer.

Wikipedia extract
Kazakhstan ranks second only to Russia among the countries of the CIS in its quantity of mineral production. It is endowed with large reserves of a wide range of metallic ores, industrial minerals, and fuels, and its metallurgical sector is a major producer of a large number of metals from domestic and imported raw materials. In 2005, its metal mining sector produced bauxite, chromite, copper, iron, lead, manganese, and zinc ores, and its metallurgical sector produced such metals as beryllium, bismuth, cadmium, copper, ferroalloys, lead, magnesium, rhenium, steel, titanium, and zinc. The country produced significant amounts of other nonferrous and industrial mineral products, such as alumina, arsenic, barite, gold, molybdenum, phosphate rock, and tungsten. The country was a large producer of mineral fuels, including coal, natural gas, oil, and uranium.[1]

Monday, 17 June 2013

Another Sunday in Atyrau.

Well the week has flown by. Time for my, by now, customary Sunday walk about and shopping town. Steven is away so we are down to just Peter and me. No problem there. Off we went at our usual 11.0 am start. Plan was a good walk, lunch and some shopping.
Easy. We walked towards town passing over one of the main bridges and then turned along the side following the river. Lovely wide walkways with over hanging trees for shade, and we had the sun shining, light breeze, with hardly anyone around. Ideal conditions for a walk. 

I’m told the locals come out in the evenings, not the middle of the day. However we did spot three old ladies enjoying their time out in the shade of a few trees and moving on came across a few swimmers and sunbathers on the river side. There was even a sort of beach to sit on. Looked sandy enough but I refrained of getting to close but would love to know the water temperature.
The walk followed by lunch and shopping was it. Then a Taxi home and an early night ready for Monday morning. That’s another Sunday gone.

Sunday, 16 June 2013


Came across this BBC video on Astana. Capital of Kazakhstan.
Nothing to do with me and thousands of miles away but in the same country. So interesting.
BBC astana-kazakhstans-21st-century-capital

The Taming Of The Shrew

Went to the theatre yesterday. William Shakespeare “The Taming Of The Shrew”. Performed by the local Kazakhstan English Language Theatre Group.  Was held in a local theatre, aptly names Palace of Culture. It was a really enjoyable evening. Completely different to anything I would normally do. Most of you know I’m not a culture buff but this was fun. We laughed and enjoyed. There was to be a big group of us but eventually only Peter and I ended up going. Think we made a  good choice. This was followed by a dinner and home. Pretty amazing being able to watch a semi professional performance of Shakespeare for 2 pounds!!!
Looking forward to their next performance.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Lovely Sunday

Another very enjoyable walk around Atyrau town this last Sunday. We must have walked a good 10 kilometers at least.
We set off from our apartment block about 10.00am determined to locate a famous windmill.  Source of this information being a chap at work. This to be followed by visiting a couple of markets. First though a trip to the “DINA” Market to look/buy a ‘Dombra”.  Local two stringed guitar type instrument. Then to have lunch and go to our other Market to buy some fruit and veg.  Also a chance to give the girls their photos I’d taken last week.
Beautiful day. Sun shining and a light wind.  And we had a small map curtsy of one of the local hotels. Off we went full of excitement.
We walked and we walked. First past the mosque, very pretty and very quiet. Told it is busy on a Fridays. Then on to the Russian Orthodox Church which was in full swing. Beautiful old building with golden tops etc. Very much a good photo opportunity.  It was busy with worshipers and assorted bystanders.  We tried to be a bit discreet but not always easy. The local beggars picked us out in seconds. So that was the end of our loose change….
On we went in a determined manner to find the famous the windmill.  Of course is might have helped if we had known or bothered to find out the Russian or Kazakh for “Windmill. But we didn’t.  “It was located by the main river bridge round a few corners a bit further along, you can’t miss it.”  That’s what Steven had been told at work by his local engineering colleague.  We had a pit stop on the way, and bought some water etc.  Then we marched on, and on, and on to the bridge.  Got to the crest of the bridge and took photos etc. But no windmill.  Nothing resembling anything approaching such an item. 
Nothing at all. Just water flowing under the bridge and us having a panoramic 360 degree view. Flat for as far as you could see. Highest thing around was the bridge we stood on. No windmill.

Before arriving at the bridge, we had passed lots of rundown old houses, new construction and an assortment of odds and ends. Empty lots, storage areas and side streets which seemed to have  n unloved appearance. I had been very taken by the interconnecting municipal gas pipelines to each house.  There seems to be a central ring main, yellow coloured, running along the roadside going from house to house.  Lots of take offs to each house or shed. Did not see any meters though I did take a good look for them. Strange, again perhaps municipal gas.  I took a few photos of these pipes as well. In fact difficult not to take a photo of a house without them in. Tends to ruin photos when you want the house of back ground. It’s always in the way…  Even the balcony photo has yellow pipe running horizontally across the middle!
Back to the windmill. We decided “Never mind there being no windmill”, and we gave up the search for another day. Off we went to Dina market which was just a few more kilometers down the road.  We found it exactly where it should be which was good!!
Outside the market, we did see some Dombra’s for sale. Bit disappointing as they were very cheap plywood things. I say cheap, that’s in quality but not the price he thought he could charge us as rich foreigners…. Stupid asking price so we very quickly lost interest he lost a possible sale. He asked so much it was not even worth starting a discussion or beginning a bargaining effort. 

As for the quality I had been hoping to see some Dumbra’s made out of solid wood. Earlier in our walk we had passed all these old housed so had assumed there would be decent seasoned wood available to make these local Dumbra’s. After all you don’t need much wood. Actually I was more that a bit disappointed. Anyway enough of those, we quickly moved on to other parts of the market, wondered round the place buying ice creams and few odds and ends. Not surprisingly with all this walking etc, my old boots needed new laces. Easy to shop and buy replacements, just point at what you want, smile and pay the lady… The pair of laces by the way were 40 pence.
We then had a rest and lunch in a local café. More of a ‘Caff’ really with basic wholesome food.  I had rice with meat already cooked in it.  Might have been horse but I think beef. Some mince rolled in cabbage leaves and topped off with iced tea,  Steven and Peter has similar fare except Peter had cracked wheat instead of rice. After our walk to get here believe you me, it tasted excellent…. Time to move on.
This time we opted to take a taxi, not walk, to the last market. Did our shopping, enjoyed a break in a coffee shop and wondered home. Again by taxi. Lovely, feet really appreciated that gesture!!
Oh yes, almost forgot to mention, I gave the ladies at the veggie market their photos. Big smiles all round. They again offered to pay but no, it was only a few dollars, and who knows we might get discount next time we buy from them….Loss leader so to speak.
Through the earlier walking we saw a lot of interesting parts to the suburbs. New construction and modern houses are going up everywhere, in between the old houses and infilling in the vacant lots.  There are quite a few old wooded houses in various states of decay. The houses in this area were never big, nor where they even in their best days extravagant just ordinary, basic. I suspect this had never a rich suburb.  Which made the small bits of ornamentation all the more fascinating.  Particularly I noticed this on what was left of the balconies, They must in earlier times looked beautiful. We came across one old building (perhaps not so old but in a sorry state, suffering badly from the extreme climates. Hence  my assumption of thinking these buildings are old.)
I ‘m guessing that after a few seasons here and everything starts to take on a deteriorated look. One house had lost a lot of plaster on the walls  exposing the ‘laft and plaster’ for all to see. All fascinating stuff.
Well today is Monday. And first thing, Steven asked his colleague at work, where was the windmill?  “under the bridge”. A windmill under the bridge.  Why didn’t we think of looking under the bridge.  We were so close up on the top the bridge. So know you know and you hear it first here.  

Windmills under bridges… No comment please.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

View on main street outside my apartment.

I know what you're thinking. 

"So a bit of grass and a few trees, very pretty."

Well you're wrong.  This is no ordinary grass nor are the trees real....


Well the grass is a kind of 'astro turf' and the trees made out of metal.

I know, got me going as well but I decided to have a closer look. You can see in the second picture the 'grass' joints... and the third photo shows the tree stump with wiring coming out for the lights... Fooled me as well. Still it looks good.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Friday Thoughts

You know I’ve written a couple of blog postings on my being in Atyrau but in them I’ve not really mentioned anything about the people.  Reason being, like anywhere else, people are different, no one is the same so like elsewhere, they are difficult to describe. That’s not a criticism just me lack of writing ability and skills. I’m no Ernest Hemmingway.  They Kazaks, mostly look European with similar physical size etc, majority have clear Asian features.  Skin colour, they vary across from milky white to dark tanned. Most have straight black hair. Few have I seen with very dark skin. Their attitudes are also difficult to understand as well, until explained.  They tend not to smile a lot unless they get to know you. Girls serving in supermarkets have the same bored faces you see in UK. Perhaps that is where they trained….?     Don’t tell me Tesco’s are coming here……!
Then again it maybe is a hangover from the Soviet days of not trusting each other so keeping to oneself or close family. No overt smiling or closeness with outsides etc. Clearly that’s changing rapidly as the Country develops.  Just takes time.  I’ve always thought immigration booths at airports a good judge of how unhappy/uninterested people can be with strangers. Best place to observe worst case mentalities in this regard.  Here as in loads of other places, no different, no smile, almost no acknowledgement as I stood in front of her. Very professional and functional, not even a good bye when I left the booth. My visa in the passport was very closely examined.  Held up to the light, bent and twisted it and then took a final look at it to see if there could be anything possibly wrong with it. Clearly it did not look authentic or genuine in anyway. Almost as if she had not seen a Kazakhstan visa before. This examination followed by a knowing frown and grunt….  No smile. Just a stamp on a page with a resounding thump. Passport was closed and held out, at which point I grabbed and off I went…. Me to, I reacted in a similar manner, I turned and walked away, I did not look back or did I smile nor did I mention the magic word “Thanks”……
I’ll digress to give an example of how different things can be. My Mother visited us in Thailand about 7 years ago. She travelled out on her own. Landed, and ten arrived at Thai Immigration. Usual in line, stamping process. Her turn came. On completion of the stamping etc, the Officer looked up at her with a big smile and wished her a Happy Birthday during her stay. She was going to be 80 years old a few days later. Quite an amazingly different approach!!  And it left everybody happy.  As I say different approach altogether.
Here men greet each other politely with smiles and handshakes and often it’s a covered hand shake (not Masonic) and a pat on the shoulder or back. We were advised to shake hands with men and just nod to the ladies. Custom. The country is the 9th biggest in the world just under half the size of Australia.  It’s big, and with only about 15 million people there is a lot of space to move around. Religion internet states about  40%+ Muslims and 405+ are Russian orthodox.  You would not know about any of this. Seems each to h is own. Bery healthy. Religious intolerance is not accepted either by law of socially. Tough people having come out the Russian system they get on with life. In fact the most common language is Russian and then most speak English.Thank God ! 
Its amazing to me where ever I go someone speaks English, market traders, shop keepers, restaurant staff etc. The Kazak language is now being taught in all schools and it will soon be mandatory to be used officially in all aspects of life. Probably in the next generation there will be major changes.  They love music and socializing particularly dancing and drinking. All like a good time.  Here we are a bunch of transient expatriate workers pumping  a lot of money into the system. The local businesses are doing well. You hear stories of the local lads not so happy with the girls being ‘poached’..  You hear stories of muggings but they seem distant. That said few of us walk around on our own at night. Even short distance, not advisable. Wiser to just grab a cab. I for one do not want ot become a Kazakhstan statistic.
I mention shops. There is everything you require, but in fairness Atyray is a small town (150,000 people) so will not support all the big modern shopping malls. But there are several good markets and shop complexes with all you require. Even down to a lot of imported stuff. Hydroponic fruit and veg form Holland, Computers etc.  So no complaints.  All good.
You know I’ve just read through what I’ve written. Does not paint the best picture which I know is unfair. But I can’t face doing a rewrite!!!!  People I meet at work and play are fine. Food is good, beer is cold.  What more do I want. I get paid and I get two weeks leave every 6 weeks. So best of everything.  I’m hoping later, Wanna will get a chance to come over and enjoy it with me. Time will tell. Now I’m on a business visa and need to get that changed over to a work permit then sort her visa out… 
I’ve added a separate page to the Blog on Kazakhstan.  Got it from one of our ‘on boarding’ course when I arrived. Has some more details and interesting facts about the place. In fact many ways Kazakhstan is an amazing place. Just hope I get to see some more of it.  Enough.
Have a good weekend.
A friend writes a blog about NE Thailand and always ends his posts with an appraisal of where he’s been, rating hotels, restaurants etc.   (If your reading this Thanks “Chang Noi   !!)  So adopting his approach in relation to this posting:-
Do I like it here?  Yes I do,  
Will I stay,  Yes I will.
For how long?  Who knows 
Any problems/down sides………Can’t speak Russian…  No chilies. No hot spices.

Monday, 3 June 2013

At Last Some Photos....... Sunday in Atyrau.........

Sunday walk about. Big plans. At last I’ve managed to remember my camera. Got up quite early, especially as I had had an evening out with a few of the guys from work. The plan we had made earlier in the week was to meet up Sunday morning outside our apartment block at 11.00, go for a walk, big lunch followed shopping. That’s three men, Peter, Steven and myself out on the town for the day. But a shopping trip all sounds a bit feminine does it not? Don’t be fooled, we have an excuse.  We’ve each got individual self contained apartments but no cook, so need to fend for ourselves. Tough life. However all is not lost.  The supermarkets are full of a good variety of food stuffs as are the local veggie markets.
Well 11.00 arrived as did the rain.  It had starting round 07.00 with loud thunder and lightning and rained ever since. It was bad enough for me to ring Peter to confirm if we were still going out. It was not torrential or so heavy but enough to make walking wet, and very unpleasant. The sidewalks are rough and lumpy at the best of time and rain only adds to the mess and hides the pot holes, making it a bit dangerous…. . The local soil is a predominantly light loamy dusty stuff which in the dry is plain dusty and slimy in the wet. In other words horrible. You either cough in the dry or slide in the wet. There are very strict rules about littering, basically you don’t do it. Not even throwing away cigarette butts, but of course the rain make puddles and the puddles got thousand and thousand of fag ends to float around the sidewalks. I’m told there are some major fines to be had if you are caught. I hate smoking anyway but this just reinforced how messy the whole habit is.
Anyway it was Sunday and no work so we decided we needed to get out. No walking, but took a taxi to a local market. Had a wonder around, first supermarket complex was still in process of opening and looked sad and bedraggled with the rain and puddles outside.  Inside the atrium was leaking as well. Not a good start to our day. On we went to another place.  I actually had no idea where I was, going from shop to shop, market to market, just continued to follow Peter and Steven. Both seemed completely at home wondering round shops and supermarkets and the veggie market.  I took a few pictures and at the veggie market the ladies selling  insisted on being in my photo. Great, got big smiles but they asked for a copy.  Even offered to give me some money for them. Needless to say I took the money and ran…. No,  only joking, I’ve got to go back next week with a couple of prints. Earn some brownie points for that.
So good morning with a long walk, even though earlier we had all complained about the rain. All this took us to the front of a lovely pizza house. Needless to say good food topped off with a cold beer.
I’ve added a few photos of the place. Not the best shots but it gives you some idea of how it all looks. Rain and damp areas do not help when taking pictures. One very interesting thing. I’ve marked up one photo which shows a yellow pipe going from one block to flats to another.  That’s is the communal gas  line.  I was also informed that hot water is delivered t each flat also by pipe line.  Very old fashioned idea. Never seen it before.
Now while all this was going on, walking, running round taking photos etc  I had been in phone contact with a guy called Mark Taylor.  So back tracking a bit.  Prior to coming out here I had been doing Internet research on the place and found his blog. From that I got in contact by email and asked about the place etc. Mark was really helpful.  So while keeping in touch we arranged to meet up. So happened he was just back in town and we got together for a couple of hours in the afternoon. All in all a good day out.....

Photos below enjoy......

Mark and Sandra  Thanks for a great afternoon.