Sunday, February 28, 2016

... but there's a secondary argument

... there is such a thing as too polluted.  We have days here where the pollution may not be China-bad (although we'd never know, there's no monitors in the city) but bad enough to see and to smell and to require any time outdoors kept to the bare minimum.

Shout out to the air purifiers and the Wii.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

No such thing as too cold

There is a Russian saying "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." Between four years in St Petersburg and two in Astana, we have acclimatized to the cold.  Washington DC school and government closings are a source of humor while overseas and frustration when home.

For those who don't fully understand, here is an example from yesterday.  In the courtyard of our apartment complex exists an enormous snow mound, with peaks and valleys, with the highest points  being 10-15 feet high. The kids wanted to play on it.  It was about -8 Celsius, or about 17 Fahrenheit.  We stayed out for about one and a half hours.  At one point, I watched two men walk outside a cafe to smoke and talk. They were out for about 20 minutes.  No coat, no hat, no scarf, no gloves.  One man even had his sleeves rolled up.

Now that's what I'm talking about!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day

We are the least romantic people in the world. Our Valentine's Day began with cold cereal and my gift to the family - not making them come with me to the market while I buy the weeks' fruit and vegetables.  The kids made a million hearts and put them up around the house, so at least we're festive. After lunch and naps, though, I took Zoltan ice skating at Alau, and Terry took Alex cross country skiing in Pyramid Park.  Now homemade soup is bubbling on the stove, and the fresh rustic bread is cooling on the rack.  This is the life!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The new Barys arena

Oh, new hockey arena!  I want so badly to love you unconditionally. Let's face it, compared to the ghetto dump of the old arena, your building is hands down an improvement. Sufficient lighting, cleanliness ... even separate waste receptacles for recycling and garbage. The arena is lovely, the seating offers much better views of the ice and the action than the old arena. Nice touch that the goals light up when a puck goes in, it helps avoid confusion. The food services seemed to be the same not-great food but in larger, cleaner facilities. I can't really complain, though, as two hot dogs, two juice boxes, a Snickers bar, tea, water, and a soda cost about $7-8. Serving the tea in insulated paper cups is certainly an improvement from the plastic Dixie cups that melted and spilled from the boiling water. I'm not in love with the three men's restrooms for every one women's but in truth the line was one of the shortest at a sporting event anywhere so maybe they did do their research on that one. The bouncy castle is another nice touch, and we sent the kids in when the game was over while we waited for the crowd to die down so we could get our car and go home.

And that's the thing. When you build a brand new building from scratch in the middle of the steppe, relatively far from most other things and with acres of empty land all around ... how the hell do you not build a parking lot? In case you didn't notice, there is no metro, tram, El, or other train-type public transit in this city, and the buses aren't exactly the most numerous or convenient. How do you expect people to get to the games?  Shunting us off to the parking lot of the football (soccer) arena across the four lane divided road, which itself has insufficient parking, is not a welcoming experience and may play some small role in the number of empty seats. Not to mention the absurd volume of traffic trying to get to the game - given the distance and the time it took to get there, we could have just as easily walked.