ATH is Just Like Camping, But Less Dirt (email sent to Family on 30 June 2011)

Hello everyone,

I arrived in Atyrau, Kazakhstan last night around 8:30 pm – my work friend Jon Drogin, who used to work with me in Richmond, met me at the airport and guided me through the system.  From the airport we walked over the Atyrau Transit Hotel (ATH) which is bascially a group of buildings with a reception area, canteen, and a bunch of rooms – I would give it a 1/2 star.  I stay at the ATH for one night each time I arrive and for one night each time I depart.

I spent the night in a two cot room, with a cabinet, tiny TV and air conditioner.  Because I am overlapping this first trip with my back-to-back I did not have to spend the night with anyone – not sure yet if I will have to spend the night with him next time I get here.  The bathrooms and showers were down the hall – only had to go twice (can you believe it?).  In the future, since I am “upper management” I will get a room in the C block, where each room has it’s own bathroom – because I was new this designation apparently fell through the crack.  It smelled a bit (Mom definitely would have noticed) but it was clean.

There is a canteen, where I picked up a sandwich last night and had breakfast this morning.  I had a hash brown, two pieces of bacon, a bowl of fruit and a bowl of granola.  Their fruit appears to be out of a can except for the apples (remember, apples are from Kazakhstan) and the granola wasn’t particularly crunchy, though it did have some raisens.  They say you either gain weight (because all the food is very fatty / greasy) or lose weight (because you don’t eat) – I hope to achieve the later.

I am exactly 12 hours offset from you now – can visualize everyone at dinner.  I would love to call and visit but can’t call out from the ATH guest room where I am using the computer.  Once I get to Tengiz I should be able to call you – will try to reach you tomorrow morning (which will be your Friday night).

One thing I did not realize is I need an international charging adapter for my electronics (ipad, kindle, and cell phone).  All the outlets here use a round two prong connection.  Not sure how it works in Tengiz but am sure I can get an adapter there – will just need to get one to travel with (had to borrow one in Amsterdam).

The flight from San Francisco to Amsterdam was excellent.  There were 35 seats in first class, all were full.  I was served two meals and several beverages / snacks.  The dinner included a lobster / crab appetizer plus dessert.  In the morning they handed out water, OJ and smoothies.  I think all you kids would really have enjoyed first class – but at $9,000 a ticket it should be good.  Maybe with enough frequent flier miles we can all go somewhere in first class.

The flight to Atyrau wasn’t bad – not nearly as nice as the KLM flight but lots of leg room and no one sitting next to me.  I was able to sleep – they did not wake me for a meal and I woke up and they had put a blanket on me.  I got about 6 hours sleep last night, woke up several times but feel pretty good.  Will see how I am around mid-afternoon.

That’s all I got – miss each and everyone of you.