Jul 28 2012

Over at Dan’s for Olympic Open…

Category: Friends,Pictures,TweetsChrisM @ 7:48 pm

Over at Dan’s for Olympic Opening Ceremony on TV http://t.co/50oCErt5

Paul, Dan, Marina And Tom

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Jul 26 2012

Borovoe Burabay

Category: Eating Out,Friends,Kazakh Driving,PicturesChrisM @ 10:48 am

Once again, here is a post that compiles a few tweets sent out recently. Justin (soon to return to Britain), DanS and I all decided on Saturday lunchtime that our last weekend together in Astana should be spent doing something other than the usual bar and club visits within the city. Dan and I had previously mulled over the idea of getting up to Borovoe, but never quite organized ourselves and committing to a date. I had hoped to visit the area since about 2007, but attempting to coordinate with Ira’s in-laws, friends, and all the planning that would have had to be in place for others to be happy meant it just has not occurred.
As this was to be a sort of farewell celebration for Justin, Dan and I decided we should probably check he would actually be interested in going before getting too excited. Luckily, he was definitely interested in seeing what life was like near, but outside of, Astana. So, after throwing together supplies (beer, snacks, sun screen, tunes for the journey and transferring my GPS and car video recorder to Dan’s car, we were ready. Dan had volunteered to drive, which was good for two reasons 1) His car is bigger, so more leg room for the passengers and 2) I could have a few drinks on the way to get into the swing of things!
A couple of friends were already at Borovoe (Burabay if you transliterate the Kazakh, instead of Russian name for the town), so we made sure we knew where they were roughly, and also remembered seeing an online flyer for an open air music night. Although the web page that had details of the bar/club had been taken down, I eventually tracked down another site that still had the details, and popped the address into the GPS. It turned out that there was a village with the same name as the area of Borovoe we were headed to, so we wasted an hour or so at the beginning of the journey heading in the wrong direction. Rather than get too annoyed, we just saw it as discovering a bit more of Kazakhstan we had not seen before!

After the police checkpoint had been passed (I know that neither I, nor any of my friends ever break the law, so I’ll frame this story as happening to the car next to us), during which we saw the car next to us have to pay a fine for not coming to a complete stop (there are normally two types of fine here in Kazakhstan, the official one normally based upon trumped versions of events, and the slightly cheaper amount which involves no paperwork and a local official suddenly having more money in his pocket that at the start of his shift), we settled down into a nice routine of driving along the superb road (probably the best condition I’ve ever come across here, 140km/hr was possible and safe!), stopping for an occasional cigarette and drink at picnic spots on the route.
Once we arrived, we attempted to meet up with our friends, but discovered they were in a different area, and heading to bed soon. We decided to head towards the open air music event, and soon found ourselves in a semi-orderly queue, with the tunes putting us in the right frame of mind for a good night out. Once inside the perimeter, we found a big bar in the middle (podium dancers making a pleasant visual distraction whilst waiting to be served), with a stage (one MC, one DJ and another dancer I think?), and a lot of people enjoying the music, the drink and ambience. This continued into Sunday, so I’ll save that for another post.

Jul 19 2012

Friends And Injuries

Category: Friends,VideosChrisM @ 7:06 am

On Tuesday evening, we invited DanS and Justin over for a meal and a bit of chill out time. With Justin due to escape Kazakhstan very soon, and Lara and the kids (as in the rest of DanS’s family) still away on a holiday, it seemed like a good time to fill up with food, talk, empty the cupboards of beer and drive and just spend a bit of time together without a bar’s sound system making conversation nigh on impossible without BSL 🙂
We decided upon burritos (I discovered that tortillas with food inside, wrapped up, can be called burritos, as not all burritos have a hard shell) as a) I wanted something tasty and b) everyone else is a lot less picky with their food. Given that we could take out pick from home cooked battered chicken, Heinz baked beans, cheese, peppers, chillis, tomatoes and of course a bit of ketchup and mayo, this seemed the easiest way for everyone to have exactly what they wanted for dinner. Justin was working late, so the rest of us ate and drank until it was time for Tim and Anna to be made ready for bed, at which point Justin arrived. Irina kindly fried up some more chicken, and we all sat round the table enjoying more food (and perhaps a little more alcohol 🙂 ).
Once the food was out of the way, the question of entertainment reared it’s head. I suggested the xbox, as it has been gathering dust for months now – Irina isn’t a gamer, and once the kids are in bed most days, if we have spare time, we try to find something we would both like to watch. Anyway, I remembered that the console wasn’t actually turning on last time I checked, so after triple checking all the connecting leads were OK, and then unplugging everything, leaving just power and the HDMI cable, there was still no activity. After applying the engineer’s touch (short sharp shock to the box), it kicked into life. We decided to use the kinect, and to play Kinect Sports after a little driving fun.
You can see a montage of our sessions below – sorry about the low quality, I am sure last year’s clips were better. I’ve cleaned the lenses since just in case. Anyway, first we have Dan and Irina – I can’t remember who won overall. Dan is VERY keen to point out he didn’t lose at the boxing mini game.

Justin and Me – This was a draw, however given that Justin hadn’t ever played this game before, I suspect any subsequent rematches would not end as flatteringly for me. Especially if the javelin game was involved (I never learn it would seem, as I once again pulled some random muscle/ligament type thing in my arm when over-exerting a virtual throw of the javelin, as I did last year)!

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Jun 28 2012

PITP2 Part 2

Category: Friends,Personal,PicturesChrisM @ 10:52 am

See here for the original Picnic In The Park II post. These photos were shot by Lara and Dan (the friends who organized this end of academic year celebration).

Jun 26 2012

Picnic In The Park II

Category: Eating Out,Friends,Personal,PicturesChrisM @ 6:38 pm

The day following the birthday party and first use of the new pool, I headed over to the Presidential Park here in Astana, as Lara (and Dan) had organized another picnic. This was to celebrate the end of the academic year (Lara runs a language school), and so teachers, pupils and parents all attended. It was in a different location to last time, and as I was driving, I can recall the entire day as well! Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and it was great to have a bit of proper shade to collapse into, after playing football for the first time since school! My left leg is still complaining about the sprinting without any warming up, and I had a killer of a headache (mild heat stroke? it was pushing 35 in the midday sun) later on, but I’m really glad I attended.

Jun 17 2012

Concert Compilation

Category: Friends,Personal,PicturesChrisM @ 9:10 pm

I’ve removed the individual tweets from the concert I attended on Friday night, and put the photos into this post, so as to not have short tweets dominating the front page of this blog.

So, it was a concert of Choral & Instrumental music, where I managed to recognise the orchestra playing the “Piano romp music from Tall Guy film” and “Gershwin’s Galaxy Chocolate melody”. I’m obviously such a classical music aficionado, me! After the orchestra, and before the choir, we had some young children playing for the audience. There were two dombra players (one is picture below), a small girl singing (very brave, not sure the song selected was the best to showcase her talents, too many difficult notes to hold), and a piano player. The concert was held at the “dog bowl”. (Sorry, I don’t know what the real name is right now, it was near the pyramid.)

Jun 05 2012

Jubilee Party In The Park

Category: Anna's Photos,Friends,Personal,Pictures,Tim's PhotosChrisM @ 8:48 am

Once again, this is a quick summary of a few tweets and photos from yesterday. I’ll also add some pictures that Lara and Marina took.
Lara organized the event, with the idea of it also being an alternative to the Queen’s Birthday Party that most of us have been attending every year here in Astana. With John and Inessa now gone from Kazakhstan, our QBP invites have not magically appeared, so Lara decided to have an alternative QBP/Jubilee celebration. We toyed with the idea of renting a yurta out by Metro, but the cost and prohibition on bringing your own food or drink (there is a cafe at the same location) meant that we held it at a park near Highvill, and then moved on to Dan & Lara’s flat afterwards. Lots of delicious food (marmite sandwiches, mini-beefburgers and some Long Island Iced Teas were my personal highlights), and we had various forms of entertainment. The bits I remember were Dan finally playing some Green Day on his guitar (and I think Paul also played on his guitar), some Dombra-playing, and a game of Which Monarch Am I?

OK, I’m publishing this post now, otherwise it will sit as a draft forever. I’ll try to remember to add a few picture titles later.

Jun 01 2012

Half For Alex

Category: Friends,VideosChrisM @ 4:22 pm

I was just going to ask you on Skype, but you’re not around right now. Probably asleep. Anyway, I’ll doubtless forget when we do cross paths online, so decided to write it here. Basically, how did the one photo per day project go? In case you need some motivation to re-start/continue it, I noticed this YouTube video and thought of you…

The other half is similar, but for anyone interested in hair growth, specifically face fuzz 🙂

I’ve gone with the whole wet shaving my entire head apart from a goatee-shaped (as mentioned to Lara recently, acually Van Dyke-shaped) area around the mouth. Which will probably last until shaving frequently gets boring, and I go back to general short fuzz everywhere again 🙂

May 26 2012

Colds, Commando & Clues

Category: Friends,PersonalChrisM @ 9:11 pm

Thanks to the friends that wished me a speedy recovery. It is only a slightly bad cold (resisting the temptation this time to use the term flu/man-flu, as I’d be in worse shape for longer if that was the case, but the muscle aches and sweats weren’t a nice intro), but given that I’ve already voluntarily said no to going out a few times, I think it must be serious enough for my brain to engage before my liver screams out “abuse me” 🙂
Anyway, it would appear that the best way to flip from feeling fine to lying on the sofa increasing Kleenex’s share-value (YOU, yes YOU, stop sniggering) is a hard gym workout when you aren’t feeling 101%. That is particularly annoying, as this was the week when I was finally going to progress to three sessions per seven days.
In other news, I recently discovered that Stephen Fry shares a fondness for something with a good friend… going commando! Don’t remember that from either of the Fry auto-biographies I’ve read. Speaking of the (for now, (donations welcome if you’re reading this)) un-named friend, he had some big news for me when we skyped recently, but I need to check if it totally public news or not before relaying it.
Anyway, just typing this out is making me wish I was doing less, so I’ll shut up for now.

Commando, Mystery And Stephen Fry

Commando, Mystery And Stephen Fry

Apr 19 2012

Agreeing With Happy Events

Category: Friends,PersonalChrisM @ 11:41 pm

On Saturday we are having a few friends over to our flat for a birthday celebration. Here in Kazakhstan, people tend not to celebrate such events prior to the actual date, and as on the 20th itself I’m going to be checking out the American Bar & Grill restaurant (located where TGI Friday was on Respublika Avenue (they are apparently both owned by the same parent company/franchise co-ordinator)) with Irina, Tim, Anna and Ira’s parents, the 21st was the next closest date when people would likely be free.
Friends who have visited on such occasions before can probably guess what will be served when we all sit down to eat – various deep fried meat products, chips (there is a real shortage of other potato based deep fried garnishes in local supermarkets right now) and baked beans. Irina was concerned that on a person’s birthday celebration, they shouldn’t be doing the cooking, but we reached an agreement where things I don’t normally cook or enjoy would be handled by her, like salad or cups of tea, where as alcohol, unhealthy but tasty food and audio/video entertainment would be sorted by me. This way, I am happy to be cooking things that I see as a treat, Irina is happy that guests won’t be floating on a sea of sunflower oil all night, and we will both be happy that the compromise reached is one agreeable to all involved.
Long Island Iced Tea
I have scoured local shops for the required ingredients to make a good few litres of Long Island Iced Tea (just need to add the lemon juice and coke (many thanks to Justin, for the heads up on a possible location for an orange liqueur)), stockpiled various chicken-themed main courses, discovered that chips are, for some reason, the only potato-based garnish that are currently stocked locally & ensured the music and video collection are up to scratch. The friends coming are a mix of ex-pats and locals, people younger than me, and a little bit older, so I’ll try and cook up a playlist that mixes up the genres enough to be to everyone’s agreement. I suspect a little Happy Hardcore & Scouse House will still slip through though. If people don’t think it is enough of a compromise, I’ll play the birthday boy card 😉

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