Nov 05 2013

Halloween Pics

Category: Eating Out,Friends,Personal,PicturesChrisM @ 2:42 am

Again, this post has been created to amalgamate a couple of posts (I also need to check my phone for pictures that didn’t get instagrammed/checked-in with foursquare) that were created at Halloween.
Friday night a friend was DJing at a local restaurant, so we met up at SegaFredo first, then moved across to the restaurant next door (part of the Park Inn), and then apparently moved onto Goal Keeper. No photos of the last place, but I do appear to have lost my shirt (with a bit of cash and my decent headphones) along the way…

Earning my DJ assistant status (free entry 🙂 ) helping Craig Vapour set up. Good tunes, bizarre cocktails. instagram.com/p/gLhyjBHJYs/

Tracing Sockets And Dials

Tracing Sockets And Dials



Halloween GoGo dancers at Park Inn instagram.com/p/gLhUrPHJX6/

Grooving To Their Own Rhythm

Grooving To Their Own Rhythm



Waited For The Room To Clear

Waited For The Room To Clear

Saturday saw a Talking Club (the one I run every couple of weeks for InterHouse) Halloween-themed event. The actual discussion part at the beginning was a lot quieter than normal; I think the only light source being candles meant people felt comfortable not volunteering as much as normal to speak. However the students (we had a few new ones, the age range was about 7-21 I think) seemed to get more into the swing of it with the actual “party” section. With a little less than 24 hours warning (with no materials or spare cash) that costumes were hoped for, I decided to 1) Finally get around to shaving my head properly again 2) Remove all ear rings and superfluous rings 3) Wear smart trousers for once, and hey presto, Breaking Bad’s Walter White was decided upon. It would have easier for the students to guess this if more than one actually watched Breaking Bad, but there you go 🙂 Interhouse’s teachers really put a lot of effort into decorating the classroom (all the pictures involved my phone’s flash – the was spookily lit with candles), laying out sweets & treats, and finding appropriate scary music to play in the background. I was happy to judge some of the games, but the idea of participating in those that required coordination, in the dark, encouraged me to take a back seat!

Bobbing For Apples With No Water

Bobbing For Apples With No Water


Handing Out Of Prizes

Handing Out Of Prizes


Eventually English Was Dropped In Favour Of Russian

Eventually English Was Dropped In Favour Of Russian


Walter White

Walter White



Oct 20 2013

Ear Worm Getting Ready To Attach/Burrow…

Category: Friends,Kazakhstan,Personal,VideosChrisM @ 10:58 pm

Following on in the vein of e-dubble, Game Theory, 360, Bassnectar’s remix of Ellie Goudling’s Lights, Gotye, Dubstep Snowman, Butch Clancy’s dubstep remix of Foster The People’s Pumped Up Kicks, Dub FX, pretty much anything by Rap News, the song Speakerbox – I Like That and video (Perfect Day), Ewan Dobson, United We Rise, Groovy Dancing Girl’s moves to Daft Punk and Greyson Chance’s rendition of Paparazzi, here we have this year’s current contender for “I like this, but could my brain please stop rendering it quite so often at random please?” award…



Craig Vapour’s own words regarding this track…

This song was written for my dear friends Dauren and Kuralay who got married in September 2013. (That’s them chatting in the middle of the track, too!)

Whilst drum & bass feature heavily in the sets I’ve had the pleasure to experience so far, Craig’s production of the track above will, I hope, encourage you to check out his other tracks at SoundCloud, no matter what your usual aural tastes might be.

I’m going to try and embed all the other videos I linked to because, a) I know most people will be too lazy to click the links and b) I’d really like to have them all in one post for when I want to play them. Which reminds me, I need some sort of unique phrase here that means I can search for, and find, this post easily in the future. Ah… apparently “ear worm” has not yet been used on this blog. That will do.

If you’re reading this on the front page of this site, click the link below to see the rest of this post (and therefore the actual videos)…

Continue reading “Ear Worm Getting Ready To Attach/Burrow…”


Jul 03 2013

Possibly (?) the last Wednesday Club for a while….

Category: Friends,Pictures,TweetsChrisM @ 10:53 pm

Possibly (?) the last Wednesday Club for a while. Good to say hi and bye. instagram.com/p/bT6oCJHJQH/

Chokoladnitza Wednesday Club


Mar 07 2013

Sydney

Category: Friends,Personal,PicturesChrisM @ 9:05 pm

Wow, the gap between spending in time in Australia and writing about it is starting to show. I’ll have to try and get myself in the same frame of mind to recall what happened.
First evening and next morning spent recovering from the long and mildly stressful journey. Got down to looking into a few IT based problems, and then meeting a couple of Alex and Mat’s friends.
More lovely cooking from Mat on the balcony, kangaroo steaks, and ameal or two out.
With Mat’s work schedule, I wasn’t going to have a lot of time in Brisbane (we had originally planned a chilled out road trip to get up to Brisbane, where the majority of our friends live), so I booked a flight for the Friday of next week, and then wandered around Alex’s local area, meeting more friends and popping down to a beach and a couple of beauty spots.

Sydney (Somewhere) Rocks

Sydney (Somewhere) Rocks

We also decided I should try and fit in the stereotypical tourist sights in Sydney, so caught a ferry from Manly to Sydney proper. Along the way, we saw Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Being so close, and not wanting to miss out on the iconic building, we walked on over and took a few photos, before moving on into the city. After grabbing a few souvenirs for people in Astana, we grabbed a drink and headed home.

Someone Else's (Much Better) Photo Of Sydney Harbour Bridge - WikiMedia

Someone Else’s (Much Better) Photo Of Sydney Harbour Bridge – WikiMedia

Alex Comes Out Of Her Shell

Alex Comes Out Of Her Shell

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Self Administered Vulcan Mind Meld Fails To Engage

Self Administered Vulcan Mind Meld Fails To Engage

It didn’t take long for me to see why Alex was happy staying in Australia, but Irina had already warned me that any attempts to see Australia as a “compromise” between staying in Astana and moving back to Britain would fall on deaf ears. Whilst enjoying my time in Sydney, I was also looking forward to Brisbane, where the rest of the British friends lived. To be continued…


Feb 18 2013

Abu Dhabi – Almost Australia!

Category: Friends,Personal,PicturesChrisM @ 8:55 pm

So, where was I? Arriving in Abu Dhabi, having left Astana on Monday 22nd of October, early morning, to Almaty. See the last post for details on why the flight to China that night, didn’t have me on board. Anyway, the next day I was on an Etihad plane, very happy to finally be getting closer to Australia. Except Abu Dhabi is actually a bit East of Almaty, so I was going in the wrong direction, and the ticket price bought a tear to my eye. I just have to hope my earnings are enough this year to pay off Irina’s credit card quickly. I think I had about 10 hours to kill in Abu Dhabi airport, which wasn’t as boring or sleep inducing as I’d feared it would be. I had not been to the airport since 2005, when it was a just a few duty free shops and nothing to occupy your mind. After a McDonalds on arrival (it had been a long time since I had been in one 🙂 ), walking around the different terminals and eventually a Burger King (no bacon available, strangely enough), I found a bar next to a smoking room, so spent the rest of my time having some chips with a few Long Island Iced Teas, whilst reading another book. On to the next flight with no problems, barring some mid-air engine problems, I was now a mere 14 or so hours from meeting up with Alex and Mat!

Shot The Next Week, But Too Funky To Not Post Now!

Shot The Next Week, But Too Funky To Not Post Now!

Once the plane landed in Sydney, it was somehow the 25th of October, and once I convinced the Customs official that I wasn’t bringing in any food, drink or plant matter (they had my mini-suitcase on a table, I was sure they would open it up and I would have to explain I thought the limit was still 200 cigarettes (the limit is 50!), but I must have looked like I wasn’t the sort of person to bring in alien plants, so I walked out into the public area of the airport. Knowing that I would be getting twitchy from the lack of internet soon, I headed over to Vodafone’s counter and purchased an Australian Pay As You Go SIM card, re-jiggled the placement of SIMs in three different phones and grabbed a quick drink. In no time at all, Mat and Alex arrived, and after squealing and hugs (we’ll just pretend that was only Alex and not me as well 😉 ) we jumped in their Ute (an Australian term (meaning a utility vehicle with a flat tray at the back) I quickly grew to love) and even managed to get out of the airport grounds before the slightly obscene parking charges kicked in.

Not from my trip!

After so many months in Central Asia, it was great to be in a more friendly environment, where the driving wasn’t manic, people smiled at complete strangers, and I was going to finally get to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in years. We got back to Mat and Alex’s flat, and after a Kangaroo burger cooked on the barbecue sitting on the balcony, I finally started to unwind after four days of travelling and not much sleep. I’ll leave the details of Sydney, and Brisbane (I arrived there November 2nd I think?) for another post.


Jan 23 2013

Getting To Australia

Category: Friends,Personal,PicturesChrisM @ 8:44 pm

Today is three months since I set out from Astana to see friends in Almaty and Australia. Given that four pages of this blog are currently taken up with random and short tweets, I’ve decided to finally get this site back in order.

So, hoping that my memory from October is still vaguely functioning, this is what happened…

I left Astana, which felt very strange, as this would be the longest I had ever been away from Anna and Tim since they were born. Although just under three weeks in Australia meeting friends (some I’d not seen in more than five years!) definitely put a smile on my face, being apart from Ira and the kids for so long was not something I relished. Arriving in Almaty, I met up with DaveG first, discovered that the hotels there over-charge for beers just as much as Astana’s do, then moved on into Almaty’s centre (? I think… my geographical knowledge of Kazakhstan’s old capital is transcribable onto a stamp) where we met with Paulo. After bidding farewell to Paulo, Dave and I eventually headed to the airport. He happened to flying elsewhere around the same time, so it gave us a chance to catch up a bit more.
I should probably point out that I had (as far as I was concerned) planned this whole journey (I left myself in our friends’ hands once in Australia) down to a tee. Memories of my first ever solo trip abroad in 2001 (to get married), which resulted in missed flights, nowhere to sleep and nervous breakdown-nearing goof-ups meant that I ensured that every stage of the long journey to Sydney was double checked, with spare batteries, phones, SIM cards, books and procedures (Australian visa etc) followed. Or so I thought…
Anyway, to skip back a little first, my route from Kazakhstan to Australia involved two stops in China. Although I have not been there before, a search online allayed my initial fears that the two airports would be totally orientated to internal flights and Chinese citizens, and it even appeared that both (Guangzhou and Urumqi) had signs in English. My budget was really quite limited, and given that this route cost a good £150 – £200 less than other alternatives, I had jumped at it. Although I wouldn’t be able to save up the airfare and spending money in time to congratulate Seb and Jordie immediately following their wedding, it was at least feasible for me to get there in 2012! I had checked from forum posts and anything else Google threw my way that transit visas were a mere formality that were applied for and granted when you actually landed in China. So, returning to my trip, I rolled up to passport control (having checked in online, printed my boarding pass & no luggage to check (all clothing, leads and gadgets were crammed into hand luggage, a safari/photogapher style body warmer and the multitude of pockets in my “travelling” jeans)) with what turned out to be far too much confidence and general chilled-ness. After 5 minutes the army style uniformed officer enquired as to where my Chinese visa was. I attempted to explain to him that I didn’t require one before travel, and that the Chinese system processed travellers like me once we’d arrived. Another agonizing 10 minutes passed. I was sent to the check-in desk, but despite a little bit of WTF is going on, I felt sure that once I was dealing with a Southern China Airlines representative, this whole misunderstanding would be sorted out and I’d be on my way once more…
No. Not at all. It turns out that if you are British or American (though other “Westerners” apparently wouldn’t have this issue, some sort of tit for tat type politics?), and travelling through two airports in China, one of which is NOT Beijing, that you should indeed apply to a Chinese consulate beforehand to be allowed to travel! My plans were falling apart in front of me, and after the troubles I had with Fly24 and their appalling communication processes, I knew there would be 0% chance of a refund (on a non-refundable ticket), after what was after all, a fault on my part entirely. With two hours before my flight, and a Chinese consulate that was understandably shut at that time in the evening, I was left with one last ditch attempt to get to Australia that day… attempt to smooth over any potential regulation issues in a local manner. Much to my surprise, one of the few times where I really hoped a donation to the airport workers’ tea and biscuit fund was turned down!
So, I’m now just about ready to smack myself in the face for not checking what was required in my exact circumstances, fall to the floor and start wailing or, TBH, deck the next person who gave me any trouble. After demolishing a third of a pack of Parliament, I phoned Paulo and asked if I might be able to crash at his over night, while I try and sort replacement tickets and contact various people expecting me to leave/arrive from their country soon. Very kindly he and Mika said it would be no problem, so I walked out to the taxi rank. Having already checked (I was planning to stop overnight with Paulo on the way back from Australia to split the journey a little) what a fair price was, and not being in the mood for any crap, I spurned the first dozen or so offers of a taxi ride that were quoted at six times the normal price. One driver was particularly persistent, so when he asked what I was actually prepared to pay, I told him. He only asked for another £1.50 on top of that, so I jumped in his car, and I was very grateful that he didn’t object to nicotine addicts sparking up in his car.
Made it to Paulo’s place (I’d not visited his home since he moved from Astana), and was met with surprise that $100 fee didn’t manage to get me to China and then my internet searching began in earnest. I was constrained by my original travel dates, as once returned from Australia, I only had a couple of days before our whole family moved to Britain for six weeks, with the flights long since booked. The cheapest option I could find was via Abu Dhabi, an airport I had vague memories of, from a Dubai trip about ten years ago. Having checked with Irina that I could use her credit card and pay back this second air fare to her in 2013, I booked everything, and told AlexC when I would actually make it to Sydney.

2012 Kazakhstan to Australia Route(s)

2012 Kazakhstan to Australia Route(s)

Taking a quick photo the next morning (see just below), I spent some time walking around Almaty with Paulo as he didn’t have any work until the afternoon. Strangely enough, I hadn’t slept brilliantly, so had already finished one of the books purchased for consumption during the journey (see below again).

Almaty. Not Australia. Not even China!

Almaty. Not Australia. Not even China!

Airport/Plane Reading

Airport/Plane Reading

I’ll leave this post now, as it seems quite text heavy, so let’s just jump to me getting to Abu Dhabi, and I’ll try and write some more soon!


Dec 14 2012

Oasis Amongst The Dunes?

Category: Friends,PersonalChrisM @ 8:23 am

Almost eight weeks without a proper post! I could offer various excuses, so I probably will… Though, as anyone dedicated/bored enough to read the tide of tweets will know, I’ve been quite busy hopping from Astana > Almaty > Abu Dhabi > Sydney > Brisbane > Abu Dhabi > Almaty > Astana > Kiev > London > Evesham > Swansea and Evesham again tomorrow, so sometime I will definitely need to grab all the media and any memories left of the trip and put them up in proper post form here. The Australia trip was solo, whilst since returning to Astana, I’ve been back with my family again 🙂

Anyway, excuses over, seeing all those friends within a short amount of time was great, and I hope one day to return to Brisbane and Sydney, maybe with Irina, Anna and Tim! There are a lot of tweets here that I want to strip out and combine into a few posts, though it may have to wait until after New Year, once we are settled back in Astana. I have spent some time here in Britain sorting family PCs and other tech, which is always so much easier to do when actually sat at the keyboard, rather than logging in remotely or relaying fault tracing instructions down the phone! I use a variety of tools (CCleaner, MSE, Malwarebytes, the registry editor etc. to fix problems and clean up reg errors etc., but sometimes I think I should look at a combined package that I could ask people to run when they encounter problems, and hopefully nip a few problems in the bud before they get to me 🙂 I need to find the time to sit down and see how the different applications approach problems, and see what is most suitable for family and friends.

Cookie Monster Delete Cookies?

Although none of our local friends have bought over a laptop in need of attention (as seems to happen most years), John’s PC has now finally arrived home. It has been in and out of a local PC shop since before we arrived in the UK, and has apparently had almost all of it’s components replaced by now! Previously it was completely cutting out after a random amount of hours. I checked logs, made sure Blue Screen of Death messages were enabled (though the PC died each time, not rebooted, so I didn’t have much faith this would help), left temperature, fan speed and voltage sensors’ output logged continuously, but nothing looked likely as an obvious culprit, especially without the usual 0xC8002400 type BSoD error codes. Whatever the fault was, I’m really hoping it is sorted now, as I’d like to leave John’s PC in a useful state before leaving. I need to go and check on the PC’s progress and head to bed, as we are driving to Evesham tomorrow, so I’ll finish this post off, and try and commit to sorting out the old tweet posts and missing images very soon.


Aug 11 2012

Saturday Yurt Pictures

Category: Eating Out,Friends,Personal,Pictures,VideosChrisM @ 10:48 pm

On Saturday, Irina’s Mum had her birthday celebration at a yurt near the Kaz Munai Gas building, on top of a restaurant. I’ve compiled the tweets into one post to tidy up the blog once more. I tried out the panorama mode on my phone’s camera, and shot a quick test video as well (I wanted to compare it to the old Touch Pro2’s videos. Igor, Natalya, Losha, Balzhan, Ildar, Dr Natalya, Sveta, Aunty Sasha and the Petropavlovsk side of Irina’s family all attended, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. The service was good, and as each party has a yurt to themselves, we were able to keep the air con on for a while to prevent anyone from passing out in the heat 🙂

After a few toasts, those who aren’t playing outside are in this video…

After a few toasts, those who aren't playing outside are... on Twitpic


Aug 01 2012

Astana Based English Teachers Take Note

Category: Friends,Kazakhstan,PersonalChrisM @ 7:40 pm

A friend (who is temporarily back in Britain, watching some Olympic events, having coached the Kazakh team for one particular discipline) passed on a request (” hi Chris I have been asked about the job below and thought you might know someone? How are you? They are looking for an EFL/ESL teacher, who is a native speaker and has experience working with little (pre- school) children for a private kindergarten (here in Astana) with a salary of $4000″) for someone (a native English speaker) based in Astana, who is available to teach English to children. Although I have experience teaching kids around the age British children would be taking their GCSE exams, I think my youngest ever pupil was a very talented 9 year old whose linguistic skills made teaching English very, very easy.
This reminded me that someone else (via the Expat Blog social network) had recently sent a related message (“Hey SilentlyScreaming! (My online nickname in many locations) I was wondering if you, or someone you know would be interested in teaching English at a language center in Astana starting September 2012. I would really appreciate any help. Thank you, (name withheld) “), asking if I would be interested in teaching more lessons.

British Library

See my previous “Seb Married And Other Australia-Related Info” post for more details, but I can not currently commit to more teaching work (unlike many primary school teachers back in the UK, who predict problems with Grammer school tests (see this article)) starting before the beginning of 2013. So, for any of the lurking blog readers who frequent this site, reading posts, but rarely if ever leaving a comment, if you want to earn some money, have experience teaching English, especially to pre-school age children, please leave a comment, send me an e-mail, or wave violently at me should you see me on the street!


Aug 01 2012

Seb Married And Other Australia-Related Info

Category: Friends,Personal,PicturesChrisM @ 5:26 pm

Seb and Joanne got married last week. A few readers might be asking “who” or “yawn!” already, but for reasons about to become apparent, this happy event is very important to me. You could not ask for a better friend than Seb. We met many moons ago and quickly discovered not only a shared enjoyment of clubbing until you drop, but also quite a few similar philosophies on life.
Oh before I forget, I still don’t know whether Joanne prefers to be called Joanne, Jo Jo, Jordie or even Joanna, as we haven’t yet met in real life, and her facebook timeline has all four used!
Anyway, back to Seb for now… Through the years we stayed pretty close, even when I moved to Kazakhstan, and we tried to meet up in real life (vs online) whenever we were in the same country. Seb eventually moved out to Australia, following in the footsteps of his brother (Con), AlexC and George. Later on Pip also escaped Britain to spend some time over there. All this time I have wanted to go and visit them, but never had the budget or justification for going solo. Well now I have both. This blog has been a better income source than the last couple of years (all the other sites pay a few digital bills, but have become too neglected to do much else), and Seb getting married obviously means there is a new major player in his life that I have yet to meet. So, if all goes well (Australian tourist visa approval), I should be heading to Sydney (to see AlexC and “her” Mat) and Brisbane (to see Seb, Joanne, Con and Pip) this October.
Although I wanted to get over there as soon as possible, attempting to fit in with Kazakh commitments, friend’s free-time and (pretty steep!) budget constraints mean that 25th of October to 14th November I will be away from Astana. The actual trip will be an experience in itself, as the cheapest (by about £300 !) route is to hop around a couple of Chinese airports (via Almaty) before arriving in Sydney. The route starts from Almaty, meaning I am looking at about 44 hours between leaving our flat here in Astana, and arriving at Alex and Mat’s place. Irina and I have made sure my passport has enough months left in it (just) to satisfy any picky immigration officials, that I will be in Astana for Tim’s first birthday, and there is even a (small) chance we will be able to get to Britain (as a family) for our winter trip before Dad’s birthday in mid-November. It depends on which days the cheapest Kazakhstan>UK flights are, and might mean just one or two days between me arriving in Kazakhstan and returning to the airport, but fingers crossed!
Right, on to the photos. The last three are taken from facebook, however please note that the first six are all subject to copyright. I have deliberately used low resolutions of the originals, and linked each image to the company that took the wedding photos. Please click any of these six photos to be taken to the proper page containing a lot more photos of the event. It took place in a rain forest, with the bare minimum of participants, meaning the day was all about just the happy couples’ feelings for each other, and didn’t require years of planning, or months of wages!

Locale For Seb And Jordie's Wedding

Locale For Seb And Jordie’s Wedding

Look Of Love

Look Of Love


Song Of Hugs

Song Of Hugs

Reflection (Of A Screen)

Reflection (Of A Screen)

Post-Nuptial Moment

Post-Nuptial Moment

Depth Of Field

Depth Of Field

Treehouse Wedding Venue

Treehouse Wedding Venue

More Truthful Than A Suit

More Truthful Than A Suit

Likely Lads & Lasses

Likely Lads & Lasses



That last photo has Mat, AlexC, Con, Seb and Joanne in it. If for any reason one of them would prefer not to be out in general public in this post, leave a comment/msg me and I’ll obscure your face 🙂


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