On the Road

On the Road: 2002

Mattyrauia:
Random Notes

Cheers to Kris and Ana for showing me the ropes of getting around Atyrau. They helped make my recovery from my less than stellar arrival happen much quicker.
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It's not easy for a guy like me (you know: tall, thin, devilishly handsome white boy with dishwater blond hair) to blend in with the locals in this particular case. Every other day I seem to have more facial hair than every other guy in the entire country. I'm also one of only a handful of males that wears shorts. It's hot out there and I can't handle wearing jeans or khakis in the heat! That's a really strange phenomenon to me.
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Walking across the main intersections of Atyrau is like playing "Reality Frogger." You cross in fits of starts and stops, navigating through traffic that has limited traffic lights, a couple roundabouts, and traffic cops with batons to direct the flow during "rush hour."
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At last count, the Riverside was celebrating 685 days without an LTI (a Lost Time Incident).
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The busses are simple plain white (or sometimes dark green) mini vans. A placard on the dashboard tells you which route number the bus is taking.
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Ambulances are basically VW vans with a red cross emblem on them. I saw one that kept stalling out, but at least it made it to what I assume was the hospital. There were other similar vans there. Then again, maybe it was the ambulance hospital.
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The weather so far has been delightful, around the low 80s and sunny. So far, there have been only a couple rain showers, one pretty severe with lots of thunder and lightning. But they've waited for the night, while I'm either boozing or sleeping. One night there was an odd, purple haze sunset. Very cool looking. Here's to Jimi.
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The best Naan bread I've ever had was in an Indian/Chinese/Thai restaurant in Atyrau. Simply divine.
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There have been more than a few shots of Vodka and pints of Guinness/Murphy's consumed already. They do a very good pour of the Guinness here. They don't rush it; the cascade is finished before the beverage is presented to you, with just the right amount of creamy head.
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A couple pints have been in Murphy's Irish Red glasses. Having been in Cork, Ireland, the birthplace of Murphy's, just last year, it's news to me they now have an Irish Red.
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The art and history museums don't get a lot of traffic, so they turn the lights on for you when you arrive. The history museum was particularly interesting, covering everything from the nomadic lifestyle to Communist rule. There was also a bit about ecology, surprising for an entire country built around oil. I've been (kind of jokingly) told to never, ever say "GREENPEACE" if I don't want the mafia to come after me (X is run by Italians, so...).
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The basement of the main office building is used as a visitor's center to check e-mails, make phone calls, etc. Officially called the Touchdown Room, we've renamed it The Zoo. Among the guests are cockroaches, spiders, crickets, and even frogs. One particularly naughty frog was caught taking a swim in a toilet in the women's restroom.
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Bautino is an oil rig compound. From Atyrau, it's a 1-hour flight plus a 2-hour drive. There's a pitstop during the land portion of the travel during which people get to pee against a wall. There's no booze on the premises. A day trip would entail departing for the airport at 5 a.m., then departing Bautino at 4:30 p.m. I'll skip it. Even though very few people have been to Bautino, it's too much effort to simply be able to say I relieved myself against a wall while en route.
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Quite the rotation plan: People come from England, the States, Argentina, Europe, all over, to work in Atyrau. They can go on 28-day rotations wherein they work (supposedly) 28 days straight for 10-12 hours/day (lighter on Sundays) then they get the next 28 days off - and paid - to do as they wish.
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It helps to talk to people who live in the area. Before I arrived I was told the skanky Riverside Inn was not by the river and was not within walking distance of the Chagala. Both comments are incorrect. It's a stone's throw from the river, so the Scottish owners named it well (but you wouldn't realize it based on the taxi's route). And, since it is situated so close to the river, simply walking along the Ural up to the Chagala provides a nice shortcut covered in perhaps a 25-minute walk.
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Further snooping around revealed that Riverside actually has a great location. It's down the street from a football stadium/concert hall area. Think Denver's Pepsi Center/Mile High Stadium, but on a much smaller scale. The Atyrau football club has no name, they're just called "Atyrau." They held a contest to give the team a name, but it was not successful.
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I really liked the spunky girls at Riverside's reception, but the annex was unbearable for a working kid. If I was backpacking and had $98/night to blow on a room, I'd do it, but...
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World Cup Fever: Bummer about England. My Irish brethren got knocked out while I was in Amsterdam, but at least they put up a good fight. But, now that I know more about Ronaldo, I'm glad Brazil won the Cup.
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The real story of Braveheart is more compelling than the movie.
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Dimples. They are very pronounced on the faces of Kazakh girls when they smile. They're great!
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There seems to be an Egyptian heritage within the Kazakh lineage.
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They play George Michael's greatest hits CD quite a bit in the restaurant. The original version of "Miss Sarajevo," by Passengers, is much better.
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They played John Lennon's "Imagine" in the Lounge Bar one evening.
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I can't sing, but I've got soul. (Cheers to O'Neill's, 27 June 2002)
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