Monday, August 8, 2011

Apartment Life

Today I am going to tell you something about the accommodation and general living infrastructure for us in Atyrau.


We live in an apartment, Ardager Dom.  There are single family homes available but they are not as conveniently located.  Ardager Dom is on the main street of Atyrau, right next to a small shopping mall which is trying to be upmarket, and is, for Atyrau.  It contains the supermarket, Ram Store.  So it very useful, especially when Sandra is alone, that she can walk next door to the shops.  Her apartment/flat is fairly high up.  There are three.  It faces south and the large windows and good view are the other reason Sandra has chosen to stay here.

Ardager Dom on Satpayeva St

Despite being a very large building, probably the largest in Atyrau, it has a very small and modest front entrance which has a reception desk with two or three ladies on duty and a security guard who sits in a chair by the door and handwrites lists in an official looking book.  People generally appear unfriendly to strangers, one does not look at people, smile or greet them on the street.  To do so would be considered odd, and probably indicate some mental affliction!

Ardager Dom Entrance
Next to Ardager Dom is the best hotel in town, the Renaissance, where Sandra lived for a few months and some expat.s still live.  It has a sports bar, lobby bar and restaurant, but more importantly, they also take dry cleaning in from outside expat.s.

Then next the hotel is the main mosque.  We can clearly hear the daily calls to prayer.  Right now is Ramadan so there is rather more activity at the mosque.  Several times during the day the large outside courtyard is filled with men praying on their prayer mats.

And then the final feature of this part of town is the large square which is home to the statue of
Makhambet & Issatay, Makhambet Square. There was a rebellion against the Tsar led by Isatai Taimanov and Makhambet Utemisov, which lasted from 1836 to 1838, when they were defeated.

On the other side of Ardager Dom is the shopping mall.  But more of that later. 

Below is the aerial view from Google.


We have a four room apartment with a living-room/kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms.  However it has been rearranged as a kitchen/dining/office main area, bathroom, master bedroom and sitting and everythingelse room (which is mainly used for drying clothes!

This picture was taken from the fire escape procedures diagram inside the front door so isn't very good I'm afraid.

So room by room...

The Living Room
This is the view on entering the front door.  The foreground table is where we usually eat.  The desk is where I sit a lot of the day, on the computer and where I am now!  You can see the view outside.
On the left is the new table Sandra bought to go along side the wooden table with the two chairs and make a large central table.  On the left is the TV unit with gasses and crockery storage.  Just before the kitchen cabinets is the drinking and cooking water supply which gives hot or cold water from the big bottle. The door in the centre is the front entrance.  The fridge is in the cupboard to the left.

The Kitchen Area

As you can's a bit crowded.  From left to right, drinking water, bread maker (microwave above),  toaster & kettle, induction cooker, electric cooker, new plastic draining tray (I never expected to appreciate something as ugly so much) and the sink, which abuts the cupboard containing the small fridge/freezer.
There is no dishwasher other than a house-cleaner who comes 6 days a week and cleans, washes up and puts away, makes beds etc.  She is very good, but it just wouldn't be fair to leaver her the debris of a seven person 5 course dinner (even though we have to recycle some cutlery and crockery between courses).  We wash up and lay it all to dry on towels on the tables.  We are even reusing the semi-disposable CostCo plastic plates as they are too necessary to throw out.

Spare Bedroom
Sandra had the bed taken out and the sofa moved in.  The original desk is also there and  the book and cd 
shelves Sandra brought from London.  But the main value, as can be seen, is its use for laying out the wet laundry to dry!It has really become a store room and I have never even sat in it.  There is a door to the balcony where you can see the bikes

The Balcony
Not much to say about the bike storage area, other than I consider it my enormous "yoghurt incubation tank".
The Master Bedroom  
There is a bed and the facing wall of three closets, just like the hall.  There are two bedside tables and a cest of drawers.  Sandra has lots of storage space, which I consider to be our Sonoma overflow.

The Bathroom and Hall
In the hall Sandra has three large closets (one can be seen in the left picture).  They are used for food storage, as one buys it when one sees it here, at least if it will keep.  We have lots of Coca Cola Light, and cans of tomatoes, beans, fish, jars of pickles and preserves, boxes of crackers and some dried products like milk and lentils.  The other cupboards are used for clothes and other stockpiles, such as creams, lotions and hair products from the US, and of course pantyhose!

This bathroom is at the end of the hall and quite large. You may notice the open door of a small washing machine in the top right picture.  This is a useful appliance, for although the residence does ones laundry for free, they can apparently destroy almost anything in a wash or two, so only the wealthy or very poorly dressed bother to use it.  Instead we use the small machine and dry stuff in the spare room.  It works but I have noticed that clothes do appear to dry as if they have been treated to a heavy dose of starch.  It may not be as noticeable on the finer ladies undergarments, but men's cotton briefs dry like cardboard.  This state of affairs requires me to research the laundry situation, and I am still working on the shopping experience.

That is about it with flat/apartment life except to say that breakfasts and dinners are provided in a "restaurant" next door in the Mall, called Caramel.  However, Sandra says the food is so poor that she refuses to eat it, and I have never been there.  I do plan to go though, in the interest of culinary research, which by the way, is leaving me so hungry most afternoons that I am serving dinner at 7pm!

But just in case it all looks too comfortable, you have to realise that the life expectancy of a block like this is probably only a few years.  I came back from lunch, the day after our dinner party power outage, and found two men working on the fuse box and the cooker.  As you will observe from the pictures below, behind the scenes the wiring does not fill one with confidence.  I look at the fire extinguisher and blanket in the hall with added respect!

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