Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sandra's New Apartment: Goodbye Ardager, Hello Marriott

About a ten days before I arrived in Atyrau, Sandra received a phone call from “Housing” asking if she was interested in an apartment in the Marriott.  The Marriott built a 21 storey housing block about six years ago, officially comprised of Executive Apartments.  It is really a cross between apartments and an hotel, with a gym, very small lobby store and a restaurtant.  The build quality is about as good as it gets here in Atyrau.
The Marriott is the big tower on the right, Agip (ENI) main office is on the left

Unfortunately the building was fully utilized by Agip and some of the other oil companies and was not available for Shell.  However, as Agip’s involvement changes and some of the other oil companies have pulled people out of Atyrau, apartments have become available, and Sandra (who is pretty high on the entitlement list) was offered a two bedroom corner apartment on one of the top floors with river views.  She moved in three days later, less than a week before I arrived.  In fact when I arrived she had managed to unpack quite a lot of things but there was still more to do.  We have since made some progress.  Let me take you up for a look around.

So you may not be very impressed by a picture of the inside of an elevator, but to us here his is a thing of beauty!  There are two of them and they go up and down with reliable monotony, which is all that one needs to hear about an elevator.  However these have the added benefits of not smelling of anything obnoxious, being regularly cleaned, so devoid of sticky patches on the walls and floors, and even requiring key passes to make them go.

It's the little things that make a difference!

Water color is not always appealing
Unlike Sandra's last apartment (they are called flats here actually) this is purpose built and not a converted office block.  This means that it has some useful features like plug sockets where they are needed, in Ardager there seemed to be about one socket per room, so if any of you need about two dozen extension cables with socket blocks on them, as we seem to have quite a surplus... European and US?  The plug sockets also seem to stay in the wall, this is a novelty; in Ardager, sometimes when pulling a plug out, the socket came with it.  Another useful feature is closets, proper built in ones and not free standing afterthoughts.  We also have water that stays a constant temperature thus making the morning shower less of a "jump in-jump out" exercise routine.  Though, just as in the old place, the color of the water can be a bit off putting when cleaning ones teeth.

We do appreciate the windows being low enough to actually be able to sit and look out of them.  In Ardager, if one was lucky enough to have a large window (and Sandra was) it was so high that one had to stand up or sit right next to it on a dining chair to get to see the view, if one had a view (which again, Sandra did).  Sandra has made her priorities for housing - location, light and views.  Some people do prefer or need to have more space and so live in purpose-built terraced houses in a couple of small gated communities.  The largest of these is River Club which is be still being expanded.  

River Club (pictures taken in August)
So when we step through Sandra's front door we have a door and a small closet for coats, no coat-stand any more.  The closet had a safe in it which was unfortunately so high that Sandra had to have some steps in there to reach it, but they came and moved it onto a lower shelf in another closet.  This type of service is not be scoffed at. 

And we look straight into the living room, and out of it again through the window at the far end.  There was a dining table with 4 chairs in the area just as one entered but we moved it to the far end so we can dine with a view, though it may be more that we dine as a view, we are not sure if people can see in.  We are assuming they cannot though this may be giving the CEO of AGIP (in the building opposite) a rather more intimate insight into our life style than either we or he wants or needs.

The Sitting Room

In the background of the top pictures you can see that we look out over is the Satpaeva Bridge and the Ural River.  As we are almost on the river (about 200m) we are actually in Europe looking over Asia.  (I will take you on a brief walk to Asia in another blog.)  There is not much to say about the pictures, all the furniture is provided though Sandra brought a few choice pieces from the UK (mostly IKEA, but the leather chair here is a freebie from Harrods, that we got when we bought our London furniture).

The other rooms all come off the hall.  You can see the kitchen in the bottom left picture of the above collage and on the left below.

Kitchen, hallway and guest bathroom (Mark's Bathroom).
The kitchen has been reasonably well equipped.  In Ardager it was fitted out so that the occupant could boil an egg (not eat it, just boil it!).  It meant we had to buy or bring quite a lot of equipment (pots, pans, knives, crockery, cutlery\silverware, and other bits and pieces- induction hob, bread-maker and so on...).  Now we have to store a lot of this, or perhaps give back the Marriott stuff.  We are still trying to decide.

There were two bedrooms.  We have taken an high level strategic decision and assumed that we are not going to get many visitors.  Though we are surprised that so many people first said they would come and visit and now appear to have changed their minds.  Anyhow, this has resulted in us having the bed removed from the second bedroom, and installing instead one of our two owned tables (we had to buy those for Ardager as they had planned for occupants to eat their eggs alone at a very small table).  We also put the IKEA desk and bookcase there, and moved the credenza to the bed headboard side as the headboard appears to be a permanent fixture...quite literally wired in with four lights mounted on it.

This has now become my study.  I could call it a den, as I don't do studying here, but the TV is disconnected (socket's on the other side of the room) and there is no comfortable chair.  It really is more my "trap" because I get caught here on the web just like a fly, unable to pull itself away.  

As you can see I even have a table and two chairs for my meetings, which are so unlikely to occur that I think I might have to ask Sandra if she would mind coming in and discussing "objectives", or perhaps I could risk offering to do a performance review!  But as you can see, the view is great.

And so to bed.  The master bedroom with its own bathroom is on the corner of the building with the best views.  I don't know why it isn't the living room, maybe just the spite of the architects, or perhaps we will freeze in winter and bake in summer, now in the fall, all we know is it fluctuates a lot in temperature, and we have suspicions about the apparently aluminum lined drapes/curtains.
Bed, Bath and Beyond (ie the views)

Each room had a desk and an office chair.  We had the desks taken away, but we have three office chairs in our bedroom so we can use them for bigger dinner parties.  

In the top right picture you can see the lit red and green signs showing date/time and temperature on the AGIP building.  This makes a bedside clock unnecessary as we get a clear view from the bed (we sleep with the drapes open).  The only problem is that I got up at 1.11 the other night, and then got up again after what I thought was a few hours sleep and it was still 1.11, so one has to be careful about whether it is the time or date.

Last but not least we have a gym.  Located on the 21st floor, this has great views on three sides of the building, as well as very good equipment and a sauna.

However, we do not have to go to the gym to get good views.  We have virtually the same views.  Facing east we get especially good sunrises, possibly helped by the smog from a couple of refineries.

In conclusion I am going to experiment with some video footage of a conducted tour of the apartment.

Through the front door and into the living room

Looking back from the living room window

A look around the office

The Master bedroom

Back up the hallway

The Ural River views

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