Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Summer... ish.

Well, at least summer TIME is here, even if the weather isn't reminiscent of what I consider summer time weather. Two nights ago the temp went down to 1 degree Celsius (about 34 in Fahrenheit). The days are warming up, but in Astana, you always need a jacket and pants, as you might turn a corner and be blasted with high winds from some random corridor that's concentrating light gusts of wind into some type of game show air cannon that will literally wipe the sunglasses off your face (yes it happened to me twice). So it can get pretty chilly in the shade.

One of the CAT graders outside the workshop.
Pretty cool to be working with this type of equipment.
It's been a while since my last post, more like almost two months. Work is still pretty boring in my view. I'm basically updating reports, creating material vouchers, and inspecting machines. Kinda like a slave, with benefits. But all in all, I realized that I don't even care. I'm planning on moving to New York to live with my sister at the end of my contract in February, so I'm elevating that future situation to reward status for myself, as I complete my penance of acquiring the elusive "work experience" that is so unnecessarily necessary to even have an employer consider throwing your resume right in the trash. Learning Russian has slowed down for me quite a bit, as I'm usually pressed for time either at or outside of work.

Atop one of our buildings, watching some welders work on a
new base for a derrick crane we're moving.
While on top of one of the towers on the site, I was looking out across Astana and realized I have the most amazing unobstructed view of this city that anyone might ever wish to have, and I guess that's something to be thankful for. Maybe when I think back to my time here I'll at least have the memory of the amazing view. So I got that going for me....

In the past few weeks I've tried to stay busy on my days off, and even sometimes on nights where I have to be at work the next day, but even when work is slow, being hungover at work is the worst, so I pretty much stopped going out on Friday, especially to the bar. I did go to see a ballet at the ballet house here in Astana, and that was a new experience for me. There was a classical ballet component with a stringed orchestra, then an intermission followed by a new-age type of interpretive dance performance, without the orchestra. They even had a section of dance to Pink Floyd's "Great gig in the sky", which I absolutely loved.

I also got a chance to go skateboarding one Sunday, although this entire city is filled with shitty pavers and even shittier asphalt, so it's not exactly skateboard friendly. However, there is supposedly a skate park somewhere that I have yet to find. I was able to find some nice granite flat ground with a few 3 stair gaps near the opera house and also near the Bayterek monument park. I even ran into a few skater kids that spoke pretty good English and they were super stoked to meet a "real skater" from the US, even though I'm really bad at skating nowadays and get slightly out of breath just walking up a few short flights of stairs.

More recently, I've been planning on when to go to the 2017 Expo here in Astana, which is starting June 10th and ends sometime in September. There's a show I'm going to on my birthday called "Beatles go Baroque" an orchestral performance of some 20 songs, along with a video component. Also there's a few concerts during the expo. Some artists include Britney Spears, Limp Bizkit, Chris Brown, and the one I'm going to, 30 Seconds To Mars. There's also a few weeks where the Cirque du Soliel company will be performing, so I'd like to catch that also.

It's somewhat funny in my opinion to see how much hustle and bustle there is around the city in the week leading up to the expo opening. Here in Astana the work ethic on my job site is comical at best, but is still miles ahead of the local workers' motivation to complete municipal or private projects on time. So, there's two new 'roads' that lead directly to the expo that are individually on either side of the area where I work. Since February, when I moved here up until about 4 days ago both roads were a sad excuse for a dirt road. Boulders of concrete scrap with re-bar spiraling out of them like crooked defunct branches of some wicked gnarled graveyard willow with no leaves. Heaps of dirt and rubble haphazardly piled at the discretion of the excavator operator, lined by barricades that have been moved by pedestrians to suit their needs of travelling a path that is two or three yards shorter, or perhaps to keep their shoes cleaner than by walking an alternate path.

Now, with 2 days until the expo officially opens, the excavators are running day and night, workers are digging on Sunday evenings, paving machines are being unloaded off of trailers, cobblestone pavers are being laid, streetlamps are being wired. Still, only one of the roads is paved, while the other remains as a slurry of mud and rocks, due to recent rainfall. I'm almost sure the opening day will consist of  a series of "Wet Paint, Do Not Touch" signs, daisy-chained along barricades preventing unsuspecting pedestrians from stepping into wet concrete.

In other news, I've moved to a new apartment, still very close to work. I couldn't stand living in the other apartment anymore. Coming home to a constant construction symphony of hammer drills, saws, and banging was getting old, fast. Not to mention the ventilation system would sometimes route secondhand smoke INTO the apartment. The elevators were often either out of service, turned off, or held up by construction workers lading trash debris into them, unknowingly exceeding the maximum safe weight limit, rendering them useless to residents, and probably unsafe. Clouds of dust from sanding and drywall would settle just outside my doorway, conveniently allowing me to track them into the apt.

But that's over now.

The building I'm in is a still new, but not under constant construction. It's actually got a BED! Well, the bed frame was alright, however, the mattress left something to be desired. Lets just say I would be more comfortable sleeping on a slab of granite. So I also recently purchased a nice memory foam mattress, because I would wake up with INSANE neck and back pain from the mattress. I even slept on the floor one night and it was better than the bed. So now my sleep has improved greatly. I still am waking up at 5 or 6 a.m. automatically, but the neck and back pain is gone.

The new apt is a bit more expensive, about $30/month, which is no big deal, as it comes with the utilities included, and internet as well.

I'm REALLY looking forward to the month of July because I'm travelling to Dubai for company training on the 7th-15th, then going to Spain on the 20th-31st. So the whole month will be pretty much travel! Gonna be tons of fun.

Until next time,
Auf wiedersehen.

View with the Bayterek monument in the background.

Some food I cooked in the new apt.
Rice w/ green lentils, mushrooms w/ garlic & thyme, and some toasted pine nuts.
Yeah I guess you can still eat pretty good even in Kazakhstan!
Went back to Shashlikoff with Iyad for a meat mountain and a few beers.

A panoramic view from the top. Not sure how this will show up on the blog, but you get the idea.

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