On the Road

On the Road: 2002

To Serve Man?
11 July 2002

The past couple days have been scorchers with temperatures reaching around 45 degrees centigrade (about 115 fahrenheit, using the formula 2C + 25).

Tuesday evening, the air conditioning went kaput in the server room and things started to overheat. The temperature was around 55 C (135 F). Phenomenal. They had to shut off the server and the entire network was down. No e-mail, no Internet.

The plan at one point was to get a portable AC unit and cool down the computer room, which was described to me as a dusty place with an open window for ventilation. The new building should offer a genuine facility for this million dollar equipment. In this case, though, it took about 36 hours before the server was restored. Yesterday was not a very productive day. I guess this would qualify as a "lost time incident." Similar problems apparently occur every summer.
Here's the food arrangement in Atyrau:
The Chagala provides full buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For a kid who, back home, usually skips breakfast, has a crap lunch, and dines on a spaghetti and hot dog mix for dinner, this is Heaven. I actually had to skip a couple meals out here simply because there was no more room for food! It's like being back in Libby Hall on the Boulder campus, pigging out while people come and go. Except now the food is quite well done.

From a certain point of view, this is a great set up. However, any meals outside the hotel are not reimbursed. That leaves some people sleeping, working, and eating every single meal all in one building. For those so lamely inclined, there is no reason to leave the friendly confines of the Chagala. For others of us, that's madness defined. I found it rewarding to balance out the meals with a few outside "the compound" - that's how you see the normal life of the area.

After all that food, I'm convinced I've actually gained weight out here - even with my evening walks along the river, featuring the a capella vocals of the Mosque Man at 9:50. Perhaps I should find the old man with a scale sitting on the sidewalk off Lenin Street. For a small fee, I could weigh myself and confirm my suspicions. It's no biggie, though; I'm sure a week of backpacking around Zooropa will shed that newfound baggage.

Here's another fringe benny: The Chagala does your laundry for you, with X paying the bill. One girl is convinced they shrink the clothes. I'm convinced the clothes are fine; it's the body's expansion that makes for the tighter fit.

But I do have my own suspicions. I can't help but think there's a nefarious plot afoot to fatten me up and serve me to the gods. Then, when I arrive at customs, they'll say something like, "You weighed x when you came in. Now you weigh x + y. You must lose weight. We must cut something off." Of course, this will all be spoken in Russian and I'll have no idea what they're saying.
Local brewskies:
Nomad: Microbrew at the Cabana/Nomad Restaurant. (Where, by the way, they played "Zoo Station," my theme song for this period of my life. The tune's not played often, so I was delighted when they plugged Actung Baby! into their stereo system, complete with impressive speakers and HDTV. Yeah. HDTV.) The Cabana is probably the most spacious Mexican restaurant I've ever been in. It's very nicely done, with tables on two floors. Pool tables are also on the second floor while a portion of the main floor doubles as a dance floor.
Tien Shien: The national brew.

An international committee of ex-pats formed the late night brew crew Tuesday: English, Irish, South African, Kazakhstani, Dutch, an American woman celebrating her 58th birthday, and an American kid in shorts and a Corona T-shirt. If I had known Wednesday would be spent puttzing around without a network to work on, I'd have moved on to the disco with those soaking up their last night in Atyrau. The vast majority of the project's team was returning to The Hague on Wednesday. Instead, I acted responsibly and returned "home" at 2:45 in the morning.
I take off for The Hague tomorrow. After three weeks in Atyrau, it's quite a surprise to have feelings that I'll miss the place. It's been an eye-opener. It's been good. And, if all goes according to plan, I'll be back for one more week after next week. For the next couple weeks, it sounds like I'll be bouncing around between play and work; between Zooropa and The Hague and Atyrau...
As it stands:
13-16 July - four-day weekend to play in Zooropa
17-18 July - back in The Hague for more training prep
19-26 July - Atyrau Round II
27 July -? - Uhhh... Dunno.

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