Jul 31 2012
This was an experiment with the WordPress Android app. The video is stored on my server, and it appears the 7.5Mb MP4 file is automatically cached when you load the front page. Neither is totally ideal, so I’ll probably stick to YouTube and manually creating the post. If you want to see the video, click the link below.
Continue reading “A storm in Astana”
May 31 2012
OK, so that was really just me crowbarring a Bare Naked Ladies & Rita Mcneil cover track into this post’s title, but I wanted to write about a few things that hit you when you spend some time in Kazakhstan. As you may have noticed from recent tweets, the style of driving can really leave you shell shocked if you are actually driving yourself. Even as a passenger, it is noticeable, but once you are responsible for other people’s sanity and safety, you really tend to pick up just how different people approach road journeys and safety here. Lane discipline is virtually absent, and if you are not moving forward before the green light appears, more often than not you will be honked at for slowing everyone down. Combine that with the fact that the traffic that had previously been on green at the lights will regularly drive through red lights, and you can start to understand why accidents are so frequent here. Hence the GPS device (I really must dig out that website address I promised a while back) and video camera to continuously record what is going on around our car.
Moving on swiftly before my blood pressure spikes, the weather here really does spend most of the year at one extreme or other. My YouTube upload from years ago (YT removed it due to copyright issues) mentions one of the common misconceptions about the climate here in Astana – it doesn’t snow 9 months of the year. Sure, temperatures do occasionally drop to -35/-40 degrees celsius with biting winds and snow drifts, but by March-April the snow has usually melted, and up until August/September, hot days can get very close to 35/40 degrees in the shade. This means that well designed & built houses have to include thicker walls (for insulation from the heat or cold, depending on the season), external doors open up onto normal room doors wherever the outside elements come into contact with the building, and air conditioners are not just found in offices (back in Britain, it is relatively rare, given our drizzly, not too cold, definitely not often very warm weather).
OK, I searched for quite a long time to find this particular picture, from 2006. For some reason, I was sure that you could clearly see the external door (you can), with the internal door also visible (not really). However, having found it, seen Irina in her red hat, and Karra as a kitten, I couldn’t resist re-posting it, sorry.
Back to transport for a moment, one of the best differences, for me at least, is should you not have your car with you (drinking alcohol, your partner needs it etc.) getting from point A to point B is as simple as sticking your hand out by the side of the road, and waiting for a normal citizen to stop and agreeing on a price for the journey. Certainly, you will need to know the name of the road where you want to go, foreigners will often have a higher price originally quoted, and knowing a smattering of Russian is usually required, but compared to phoning a taxi company, waiting for it to arrive, and paying (in Britain at least) silly prices, it is worth the little effort involved. By the way, learning a handful of Kazakh words/phrases will sometimes ensure a more reasonable price, and occasionally even a smile.
Speaking of smiling, whilst friends over here are more often than not true and reliable, meeting strangers at random on the street can easily lead to incorrect conclusions about locals’ mentality. If you look like a local, then you’ll just not get eye contact or happy faces very often. Look like a foreigner, and people’ll have no qualms with pointing and discussing you with their friends. Look like a little unusual, even for a foreigner (if you can’t figure out why I’d write this, I’ll assume we’ve never met 😉 ), then expect occasional instances of people simply stopping their conversation, their direction and speed of travel to stare, point and loudly discuss what a strange object has appeared in front of them. Once you grow accustomed to it, then you realise that there is normally no malice involved, and over the years, more foreign people have come to Astana, and so most locals have grown accustomed to seeing something beyond the shiny-suited businessman.
OK, I’ll stop for now, as this post has veered dangerously away from the positive vibe I was attempting to employ earlier on today.
Apr 08 2011
It seems that Britain and Kazakhstan are in sync with the weather changing (if not the actual temperatures) right now. We spoke to Dad earlier today so he could see Anna via the webcam, and discovered that the UK is also experiencing warm weather. Although Kazakhstan is not yet in t-shirt and shorts weather, nearly all ice patches have melted, and temperatures reached 17 degrees Celsius, at least in the sun. Anna did look towards the playground area hopefully at lunchtime, whilst we were walking towards the car (luckily the play equipment is all metal, I hate to think what would happen to any wooden swing sets unlucky enough to be left out in a Kazakh winter that hits minus 35C at times!), however the ground around the slides et al is still water logged – wellies and old clothes might just be OK, but we were on a mission to pick Irina up from work and enjoy a lunch eating out for once. We headed to a new Italian restaurant that I forgot to note the name of. It is in the Mega shopping centre, on the top floor. Next to the indoor man-made rock climbing area, it has replaced the fast food Big Mammas outlet. Ira’s spag bol was definitely nothing to write home about, but with few customers to speak of the service was good, and the carbonara was just right. Happy to return there (I’ll remember the name this time) and try out there pizzas next time.
Mar 18 2011
Earlier in the week (Monday?), the weather went above 0C all day, and most of the snow and ice in areas not hidden from the sun was melting or melted. I was most impressed to see a JCB like vehicle, several workmen and a couple of Kamaz trucks (to take away the ice and snow) taking the opportunity to remove what had been two or three inches of solid ice from both the pavements and road around our flat during that day. However, DanInKaz had to go and tempt fate by tweeting about the lovely weather. Tuesday onwards saw temperatures, whilst not plummet, certainly dip into the minus numbers again. Fresh snowfall, any slush not cleared turning into smooth ice sheets again and occasional biting winds have returned and made walking and driving in the city require more attention again. OK, so Spring is hopefully only a matter of weeks away now, and we’ll not need to scour the local shops for heated mattress pads, however, the next time the weather takes a turn for the better, I’ll be driving to Dan’s flat, snipping his phone line and stealing his SIM card to ensure he stays incommunicado until the seasons settle down. You’ve been warned 😉
Feb 19 2011
A friend of Ben’s uploaded this video to YouTube a couple of days ago. The slippiness could well be down to the fact that a day or so before, the weather actually got very mild, with temperatures above 0C. Some rain fell, which then sat on the road/pavements and re-froze, when Kazakh winter temperatures returned, along with a very biting wind. I’m not sure whether some of the people were “playing” in the wind, or whether they were all trying to cross from top right to bottom left of the screen, but you can see just how difficult moving around the city can be on harsh weather days.
Feb 03 2010
In just over a week we will all be heading back to Britain, to visit friends and family that haven’t seen Anna in almost nine months! We are breaking our journey to the UK by staying overnight in Istanbul, in the hope that this will allow Anna to get some proper rest and fingers crossed she will feel less grumpy on the last leg of the flight.
We still need to do all the obvious things like packing, sorting out things for the kind friend who is flat and cat sitting for us, but also things like checking the average temperatures in Istanbul for this time of year. Leaving Kazakhstan is easy – thick fur winter coat, hat, scarf, gloves and winter boots. Britain is normally relatively easy to pack for – t-shirts backed up with jumpers or shirts. However we don’t yet know what to expect in Turkey. I’ll be looking forward to wearing my comfy old trainers that are actually as wide as my feet. The winter boots were the best fit we could find over here, and stability on ice trumps slight discomfort from squashed feet! Anyway, I’m off to check a few sources for those temperatures, and check what clothing we need to set aside for the day and night in Turkey.
Dec 31 2009
I have just installed WordPress 2.9.1 RC (release candidate) as I want to continue scheduling posts, and it was also an opportunity to try out the WordPress Beta Tester plugin.
The database was backed up first (though the automatic e-mailing of this every three days isn’t yet working, I’ve noticed), and I’ll schedule the next post for a few minutes in advance to check if the issues I was previously encountering have been vanquished. I also need to find the information on resetting file ownerships in Windows 7, as I can now access Anna’s pictures on the portable hard drive when not at home. I’ll check our home PC via LogMeIn later. The evening draws on here, and Anna will need her bath soon. As she is still only 10 months old, we’re not planning to keep her up for the arrival of the New Year. The last day has seen the temperatures drop again – yesterday we saw it rise to -2C, almost enough to ruin snowmen, with some snow melting, however today fresh snow has fallen, and the temperatures was back towards -20C again. I’m glad it isn’t dropping really low once more, as the fireworks that many people let off past midnight each year are well worth standing in the snow for.
Oct 15 2009
For the first time in over half a year, we have hot water being supplied to us by the people that run our apartment blocks! When we returned from Britain back in May, we installed a water heater in the second bathroom so we could easily bathe Anna etc., but the kitchen water supply was on a different pipe, so whenever we did the washing up, we had to go and fill the washing up bowl with water from the taps in the bathroom.
No hot water (because a lot of other residents owed a LOT of money to the company (something shocking like $130,000!), and so the company couldn’t afford to buy the diesel to power the boilers) also meant no heating – not such a problem in the summer when temperatures can occasionally peak at 40 degrees centigrade, but as winter draws nearer, the electric fire re-borrowed from the in-laws wasn’t really going to cut it, in terms of keeping Anna warm, and the air conditioner unit has a nice warm air function, but can’t be used once outside temperatures are below freezing. So far the hot water coming out the taps is a little orange still, which will soon pass, and the radiators aren’t that much better than room temperature, but there is at least hope 🙂
Next Page »