London & Kazakhstan - Oct, 2004

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I made a brief visit to our London office and a more extended, and exhausting, stay working at our headquarters in Atyrau, Kazakhstan..

The hotel room in London and the view through the window (not many people figure out how to get it open that
far, but it really helps to keep the room cool).  That's the Tower bridge, and the Tower of London is off to the right
somewhere off the picture.  I like visiting the Tower of London.  The Beefeaters show such relish in describing
the blood and gore of the various executions, and the crown jewels are pretty impressive.

This interesting statue is on the riverside right outside the hotel.

Some sort of sailing vessel under power on the Thames.  It was moored right next to the hotel and got off
while I was waiting for the water taxi, from which this picture was taken.  The water taxis are big hydroplanes
-- when they open them up they go lickety-split and make virtually no wake.

This is what Air Astana did to my carryon in transit to Kazakhstan.  They made me check it even though there
was plenty of bin space in business class -- then mangled it in some sort of machinery, perhaps the conveyer belt. 
I was not a happy camper about this.

Landscape around the transport hotel area.  The area is much like Montana plains, which makes sense because they are both mid-continent
and about the same latitude.  Big sky and very dry.  In October pleasantly cool -- 50's perhaps.

The transit hotel where I stayed.  Basic but liveable.

Looking up and down a typical street near the office in Atyrau.

Another street scene and the office.  Not many people have cars here, so there are lots of little shops sort of like convenience stores in the buildings.
I didn't see the office very many times in the daylight, since I got generally there before dawn and left around dusk.

The Ural River, boundary between Asia (on the left) and Europe.  Felt pretty much the same in Asia.

A little indoor-outdoor bar/restaurant, but it was too cool to eat outside.  I ate there and the food was fine -- and cheap.  There are more expensive
restaurants around that are more geared to visitors, for example in the Hotel Atyrau, which is across the street from the office.

A word about coming home.  I dwell on this because I am, as I write this, seriously jetlagged and exhausted.  The trip starts when the bus leaves
from the transit hotel at 5 AM (7 PM at home).  Actually, the airport is a few hundred yards from the hotel, so many people, myself included,
shoulder our bags and trek over about 4:30 AM to get a jump on the line. There's a long layover in Amsterdam, then the plane arrives home
at 7:20 PM, but it's often early.  Figuring some time to get through customs and home via taxi, that's a solid 26 hours in transit.  Somewhat disconcertingly,
almost all of it is in daylight.  Not as arduous as the trip home from Nigeria, which I recall as being more like 35 hours, but pretty tough anyway. 
That ten hour time difference is not easy, either.  But there is one huge benefit to counter all this ... at the end you get to sleep in your own bed. 
You never know what a pleasure that is until you do one of these trips. 

It's always good to come home.

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