Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Painting, Planting and Repairing Season

I left Atyrau in March just as winter was receeding.  In fact my last week was the first week that it had got above freezing.  There was still solid ice on the roads and the Ural was frozen, but Spring was clearly just around the corner. 

The ice and snow along with temperatures as low as -25C (-13F) are harsh on the roads and buildings.  By the end of the winter one could see the damage to Ardager. Slabs of the outside walls had fallen off as well as a couple of windows.  The repairs were makeshift at best...the holes had been bricked in.
Outside the tiles had chipped and broken, with no attempts at repairs.
Similarly, one could see the toll taken by the winter weather on the roads and side-walks, a toll not lessened by typically poor cold weather construction.
The article linked here, , gives some insight into the construction difficulties.

Anyway, summer is upon us and repairs and painting are under way.  Though I haven't seen any work being done on Ardager yet.  

There are rumours that the venture is wanting people to move out of some of the more expensive apartments and consolidate in some new facilities, called Isker.  Isker looks like some of the best buildings yet, but unfortunately they are in in what might graciously be called an up and coming area, though just exactly when it will Up and Come is not clear.  Meantime, Ardager is crumbling away so people who are hoping to stay there may see it disappearing around their feet, literally!

The footbridge that I blogged about a few months ago has been painted.  As I watched a few men going about the painting job with small brushes and an even smaller roller it brought home just how differently things are done here.  

It strikes me that one of the big differences between the way that professionals go about doing a job, and the way that amateurs approach the task is the time the professionals take before and after the actual "doing" to deal with the details.

For example, professional chef will set up the Mise en Place before starting to cook and will wipe and clean as he goes along, the professional programmer plans and codes and then TESTS before saying the job is done.  The professional painter or decorator spends a long time putting down dust sheets and taping to protect the areas to be left unpainted, and then cleans up carefully afterwards.  A few men moved onto the footbridge with a bucket of water, a cloth, a step ladder, a roller and a couple of paint brushes.  One man  did the washing and the others followed with the paint.  I don't think they used any cloths to protect the floor, and they didn't tape the glass in the railings with obvious results.  The paintwork is a little haphazard.
And the granite floor and steps did not go unscathed.
But the steps below are evidence that there is clear improvement.

Painted on one side
The main Satpaeva Bridge across the Ural is also being painted.  I didn't see the grey undercoat being applied but watched with interest as they put on the finishing coart with a spray gun.  It was fairly straightforward as the man doing it (and there was just one man as far as I could tell) stood on the footpath and aimed the spraygun at the rails and over the river.  But how I wondered was he going to do the other side?  Everything was half finished. 

The next day I was walking back from lunch and the lone painter was working on the railings with his spray gun.  He was a wiry little man with his head completely swaddled in a scarf, not the thin cheesecloth that most street workers wrap their heads with but a thick woollen cloth that made his head unusually large.  He wore tatty ragged clothes and in particular a pair of half denim pants.  They were "half" not because they only came halfway down his legs, like capris, but "half" because he had one long leg and the other leg was missing from mid thigh.  Not only was it a strange sight but an ineffective garment.  This was because the technique used to paint the water-side of the railings is to lean over the rail and aim the spray gun back bridgewards.  Correct! that means that he was spraying towards himself, so the pantless leg was dark suntanned brown on the back but finely sprayed and hairy on the front, a sort of black stuccoed knee and shin.

This meant that the sidewalk got a light paining as well.
 There is a place at the start of the bridge where the tree tops brush the rails.  Obviously this would not be a suitable place to use the spray gun so for the moment remains unpainted.  I expect they will be back with a brush at some point.
Yesterday there was a man on the bridge with the spray kit, though he wasn't the poor half self painted backside rail painter.  I snuck a picture of him having his lunch break.

The repair work has also been going on around Marriott as you can see from the before and after pictures below.  The bricks at the bottom of the footbridge (top) steps have been re-laid though the edging is a bit rough, the big hole in the ground in front of the front door (middle) that emerged due to some broken pipe in November has been filled in and the pavement found the front entrance (bottom) has been replaced.  
And then there is the planting, the pots that were piled with snow and being pushed around by the earth movers that were used to clear the snow, have been repositioned and replanted.  There must be hundreds of these plantpost all over Atyrau, all filled with plants and all watered by hand from water trucks.  It is an amazing effort to pretty-up the streets.  
Likewise traffic circles/roundabouts and islands have been planted.  The view below over the bridge taken from the famous footbridge shows the transformation from winter to summer.
But summer brings with it leaves on trees, and this also makes a big difference to how much more appealing the city looks.  
You may be able to see that the temperature on the top picture taken on February 13 was -12C, and the bottom picture on a wet July 4 was +28C.

Side-walk laying work is also picking up.  These past three summers have seen miles of side-walks laid.  It is now possible to walk round most of the major city streets on proper side-walks, not too much of a benefit in summer, but in the winter and mud season a real godsend.
I notice too that many of the lamp posts have been re-badged and of course the trees have new white paint on them.
So we seem to be well on our way into Summer here in Atyrau.  All that remains is for Sandra to get her bike serviced and she can join the cyclists on their Saturday morning desert rides.  Unfortunately I will have to head back to California soon, and wont be able to join them!

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