TCO Employee Visit to San Francisco Bay Area & Houston

Prior to the Chevron Facilities Engineering (FE) Conference and CPDEP Forum in Houston the week of September 24th, seven TCO employees will visit San Francisco for tours of Chevron facilities.  The plan is for the TCO employees to arrive no later than Monday September 17th, with the Chevron tours scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.  This posting is intended to share relevant information with the TCO employees to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.

Arrival at San Francisco Airport

Remember to bring a sweatshirt or light coat with you – San Francisco is typically cool in the summer and you may wish you had a coat once you get outside.  After you deplane you will go through US customs, followed by pickup of your luggage.  You will then be directed to exit out into the International Terminal.

Check with Aissaule regarding arranging a shuttle from the Airport to the hotel in Berkeley if several people arrive at the same time.  One of the popular shuttle services is Supper Shuttle –

Another option to get to the Berkely Hotel is to take BART (see link below for maps and schedules).  The BART station at the airport is in the International Terminal (I use BART to get to / from the airport for all my rotation travel).  Once you retrieve your luggage you will empty out into the International Terminal greeting area.  Turn to your right and walk about 100 meters and take the escalator (on your right) up to the next floor – you should see signs for BART.   There are also some elevators on your left if you have a lot of luggage.  Once on the next floor exit off the escalator with a short right into the larger terminal, then turn left and wraparound and you are at the entrance to the airport BART station.  If you need to use the restroom there are some straight ahead just before you make the left into the BART station.  You purchase BART tickets at machines on either your right or left – suggest you use credit cards.  Believe the trains leave about every 15 minutes.

On BART you will go through San Francisco, underneath the Bay, and then travel into Oakland.  You will need to get off the BART train and transfer at 12th Street / Civic Center BART station in Oakland (this is the station immediately after the West Oakland station).  You want to catch the Richmond Train (not Fremont or Castro Valley) – there will be signs but believe you will need to go downstairs to get on the Richmond line.  Once downstairs catch the Richmond train and then get off at the Downtown Berkeley Bart station (4 stops later).  Follow the exit sign to “Shattuck Avenue / Allston Way”  – the Berkeley Shattuck Plaza is across the street on the corner / to the right when you walk up the stairs to the street.

San Francisco Airport to Berkeley Hotel

Berekely is about 30 miles from the San Francisco Airport.  If you take a shuttle you will travel north and pass through the city of San Francisco.  After traversing downtown San Francisco you will travel across the Bay Bridge (not the Golden Gate Bridge) to the Oakland / Berkeley area (also know as the “East Bay”).  On your left you may be able to see Alcatrz (island) where a famous prison was located (it is now a national park and visited by many).

If you take BART you will see none of this as the subway travels underground through Downtown SF and also under the Bay.

You will be staying in the Berkeley Shattuck Plaza Hotel – here is a link to this hotel.

This hotel was selected as it is strategically located between Richmond Refinery, San Ramon Headquarters, and San Francisco.  You will be picked up / dropped off each day by shuttle van for your Chevron and Sightseeing tours (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) but in the event you would like to visit San Francisco on your own you can use the local subway which is named the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system.

 BART Maps and Train Schedules

USA Trip Schedule (will update as individual tour plans finalize – the overall plan is final)


Day Activity Comments


Monday Travel from Atyrau to San Francisco Travel Day


Monday Check in to Hotel Shattuck Plaza in Berkeley, CA See link to Hotel above


Tuesday Recovery Day No group plan – free day for individuals to rest and sightsee


Wednesday Field Trip to Richmond Refinery (all day) Pick-up at Hotel at 7:30 am.


Wednesday Group Dinner San Francisco?


Thursday Field Trip to Richmond Technical Center to meet ETC Materials Specialists (morning) Pick-up at Hotel at 7:30 am.


Thursday Field Trip to San Ramon HQ (afternoon) Plan is to eat lunch at Chevron Park in San Ramon; we will be meeting some people from Project Resources Company (PRC) and some Upstream Executives.


Thursday Group Dinner Evans Home in Orinda, CA


Friday Sightseeing Tour Muir Woods and Napa Valley; pick up at Hotel at 9 am


Saturday Rest Day Break between Tours and Travel to Houston – no group plan – free day for individuals to rest and sightsee


Sunday Check out of Hotel Shattuck Plaza in Berkeley, CA  


Sunday Travel from San Francisco to Houston Travel Day


Sunday Check in to Waterway Marriott Hotel in The Woodlands, TX See link to Hotel below


Sunday FE Conference Icebreaker Starts at 5 pm?


Monday FE Conference (all day)  


Tuesday Learning Day (FE Conference / CPDEP Forum) (all day)  


Wednesday CPDEP Forum (all day)  


Thursday CPDEP Forum (all day)  


Friday Field Trip to ETC Machinery Center or Power Center (morning) Shuttle from hotel departs at 7 am; have tours scheduled with ETC beginning at 8 am.


Friday Rest Afternoon No group plan – free afternoon for individuals to rest and sightsee


Saturday Check out of Waterway Marrriott Hotel in The Woodlands, TX  


Saturday Travel from Houston to Atyrau Travel Day


Sunday Arrival in Atyrau Travel Day

Sights to See in San Francisco

Here is the fun stuff.  Following is a list of things to do in San Francisco – you should probably do some web searches or get your hands on a tour book but here are my thoughts on places to see / things to do:

  1. Golden Gate Bridge: – you can walk across this iconic structure; it has great views of the City (that’s what us locals call San Francisco), the Bay (San Francisco Bay), and the Pacific Ocean.  Visiting in late September usually means good weather – hopefully we will catch one of the great days.  Most likely we will go to dinner in San Francisco as a group after the Richmond Refinery tour.  If we do this we will drive from Richmond into San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge and will stop at the Vista Point at the north end of the bride for pictures.
  2. Fisherman’s Wharf: – This is a very popular tourist area – there is a picturesque harbor with working boats where you can go out fishing (it’s a full day event if you want to do this – be careful if you get seasick).  There are food stands, shops for souvenirs, restarurants, etc.  Be a bit careful here as there are a lot of tourists and pickpockets that like to sneak up on you.  Fisherman’s Wharf basically runs from Pier 39 to Aquatic Park.  Beyond Aquatic Park (going west towards the Golden Gate Bridge) is Fort Mason, the Marina Green, the Presidio – you can walk through each area and ultimately walk right up to the Bridge.
  3. Pier 39: – this is one of the main attractions of Fisherman’s Wharf area.  People enjoy watching the Sea Lions lounge on some floating docks right next to the pier – they bark and nip at each other.  There are lots of them during winter but there is usually some year-round.  At the back end of the pier they have some free entertainment, usually magic or a comedian (though they do pass the hat around).
  4. Ferry Building: – This is located right below the Bay Bridge and at the beginning of Market Street (the main downtown street) and The Embarcadero (the road the travels along the San Francisco coastline from the Ferry Building to Fisherman’s Wharf).  Within the last 10 years they have refurbished the Ferry Building and they have lots of small food shops and some days (Tuesdays and Saturdays?) an outdoor Farmer’s Market (where local farmers come and setup tables, selling their products).  The Ferry Building is about a block from the Embarcadero BART station – you can travel over from Berkeley via BART, walk over to the Ferry Building, and then follow The Embarcadero around to the west, which will take you to Fisherman’s Wharf (about a 20 minute walk).  This is a very popular walk, highly recommend it.
  5. Union Square: – this is the prime shopping district in San Francisco, right next to Downtown.  If you want to go here directly on BART you should get off Powell and Market Street (the station is named Powell Streets).  This puts you at the intersection of Market Street, 4th Street and Powell.  Powell is where one of the Cable Car lines terminates.  Across the street on Market is where Nordstrom (my wife’s favorite), Bloomingdales and many other stores are located.  To get to Union Square you walk two blocks up Powell Street to Geary St – lots of shops are in this area including Macys (my favorite).
  6. TIX Bay Area is walk-up box office selling half-price and full price theater tickets on the day of performance and full-price tickets in advance to select events. It is located in Union Square – the pavilion is on Powell Street between Geary and Post.  Hours are 10 am to 6 pm.  If you want to go to a show that night you should go there early to get the best available seats.
  7. Cable Cars: – these are historic transportation but not cheap – believe a ride now costs ($10) – when I lived in SF in the 80s the cost was $1.  These cars have been in service for over a 100 years – there are two main lines.  Most tourists catch the car at Powell and Market and go to Fisherman’s Wharf, via either the Powell-Mason line or the Powell-Hyde line.  If you take the Powell-Hyde line look across the street and you will see the Buena Vista, one of my all time favorite San Francisco Bars (they are famous for Irish Wiskey which is coffee, sugar, wiskey and cream).  The other cable car line goes up and down California Street – it is less crowded but not as picturesque.  You can catch this cable car at Market and California Street, about a block away from the Ferry Building.  If you have time you can also visit the Cable Car Meseum at 1201 Mason Street –
  8. Yerba Buena Gardens: – this is an urban park not to far from Union Square, south of Market Street.  Surrounding streets are Mission, Third, Howard and Fourth.  This park is built on top of the Moscone Convention Center – I come over here and wander around with my kids – there is a pretty good food court in the Metreon Building, plus a multi-plex Movie Theatre.  The park is really two square blocks – the second block is across Howard Street to the south.  If you like museums the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ( is right across from the park, on Third Street, between Mission and Howard.
  9. The Presidio: OR  This is a national park that was a military base for years, dating back to 1776.  It was transferred to the Park Service in the mid-90s; the last 10 years they have been recovering habitat and getting rid of the old military buildings.  You walk through it from Fort Mason / Marina Green to the Golden Gate Bridge.  The area you are walking through is also known as Crissy Field – when this was a military installation they used to land planes along the shoreline here – this stopped about 40 years ago, and recently they have turned the habit back into marshes, ect. which is was before the city was formed..
  10. Golden Gate Park: – this is a famous park, very large, over 1000 acres in size.  My memory is it is 3-1/2 miles (almost 6 kilometers) long and 4 large blocks wide.  It starts in the Haight Ashbury district (famous for the Hippies) and goes west to the Pacific Ocean.  Lots of things to do in the park – might be fun to rent a bicycle and ride around (you can rent at either Avenue Cyclery at 756 Stanyan Street or inside the park at Stwo Lake Boathouse) – would be most of a day if you wanted to do this.  Places to see are the Conservatory of Flowers, the M.H de Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciencs (includes an Aquarium and other science stuff), and Japanese Tea Garden.  I used to live near this park, great place to walk, jog or ride bikes.
  11. Alcatraz: – this island used to be a federal prison, from 1933 to 1963.  It is in the middle of the Bay and had a reputation as a prison you could never escape from (because you would have to swim through the cold bay waters with the potential for sharks – though I believe the sharks are typically in the Pacific Ocean, not the Bay).  This is a very popular tourist attraction – not sure the history translates well to those who did not grow up in the USA.  If you want to go you should order your tickets before you arrive in San Francisco – recommend you catch the first Ferry if you can.  The Ferry dock is right next to Pier 39 on the way to Fisherman’s Wharf.
  12. Angel Island: – a state park that is also in San Francisco Bay.  It is a much larger island, has some history, and great for walks or bike rides.  If you do this definately plan on a full day.
  13. Coit Tower / Filbert Street Steps: – this is a great vista point that is you can see from your walk along the Embarcadero, from the Ferry Building to Fisherman’s Wharf.  It might be worth a detour or visit – great views and some history about the City.  One neat way to get there is to walk up the Filbert Street steps – these are some connected walkways that go through the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood (Coit Tower sits on the top of Telegraph Hill).

Here is what I recommend for a full day outing – take BART over from Berkeley and get off at the Embarcadero station.  Walk down Market Street (just a block or two) and browse through the Ferry Building and the Farmer’s Market.  Then walk from the Ferry Building (looking at the Ferry Building you turn left) along the Embarcadero to Pier 39, and then onto Fisherman’s Wharf (this is about a 30 minute walk – the center of Fisherman’s Wharf is about another 10-15 minute walk past Pier 39).  You might like to take a slight detour and check out the Musee Mechanique  ( which  is a museum of mechanically operated musical instruments and antique arcade machines (it’s free but costs some change to play the games).  Continue past Fisherman’s Wharf, through Aquatic Park (you will see a large grassy area on your left and one of the cable car roundabout – there is a little cove on your right – you pass though some outside stadium seating on your left – sometimes people are sitting around playing music) and when you reach the cresent shaped pier (also known as Aquatic Pier) turn left and climb the steep hill into Fort Mason.  At the top of the hill you will see some steps on your right, walk down and then turn left, follow the road around to the large grassy area, knowns as the Marina Green (the Marina Green is about another 20 minute walk from Aquatic Park).  You can walk along the path on the bay side of the Marina Green then it will take you back to the roadway where you walk by the marina (docked sail boats) on your right.  Keep walking until you come to another field (usually there are people hanging out, maybe playing vollyball), and turn right and walk towards the bay (probably another 30 minute walk).  Here you will find a walkway that takes you alongside the bay all the way to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge (takes you through the Presidio) – It’s about 1-1/2 miles from this point.  One way walk from the Ferry Building to the Bridge is about 5 miles, lots of things to do, to see and eat along the way.  Remember to bring a sweater or sweatshirt / coat and your camera.  It can be quite windy along the Bay so you might also want a hat or scarf.

Here is the link to Trip Advisor that Aniya provided by email:

Sights to See Outside San Francisco

  1. Muir Woods: – for those who want to go on the group sightseeing tour on Friday 21 September we will visit here in the morning.  This is a famous state park, just north of San Francisco, with very tall redwood trees.  It is named after a famous naturalist, John Muir, who helped save the remaining redwood forests in Northern California as well as Yosemite.
  2. Napa Valley: our plan is to go to the Napa Valley for sightseeing and wine tasting.  Exact wineries we will visit still to be determined.  There are lots of options – here is a link to the tourist site Aniya put in an email:
  3. Monterey: – there is an excellent aquarium in Monterey which is about 2 hours south of San Francisco – need a car to get there but if you are in the Bay Area for a couple days this may be a worthwhile visit.
  4. Stinson Beach: – north of San Francisco (about 20 miles) is an excellent beach that locals and tourists go to – just adding to the things to see list in case you are a beach person.  Northern California beaches do not have the same vibe as those in Southern California – but this one is special.  Be aware that the water here is quite cold – you will not see many swimmers.
  5. Point Reyes: – another national park that is north of San Francisco.  We like to go up here for hiking and oysters.
  6. Yosemite: – the most famous national park in California.  It is over 3 hours from the Bay Area by car.  If you are spending more than a few days in Northern California this is well worth the visit.

Returning to San Francisco Airport

We will sort out how everyone gets to the airport after you are in the Bay Area – believe everyone is taking the same flight to Houston.

Arriving in Houston

The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel is about 20 miles from the Houston Intercontenintal Airport (the aiport is north of downtown Houston).  We will take a shuttle together from the airport to the hotel – WILL UPDATE WHEN ARRANGMENTS HAVE BEEN FINALIZED.

Here is a link to the Houston Hotel where the conference is / where we are staying:


Global Manufacturing Engineers – My Upcoming Summer in Kazakhstan

This post, which I intend to periodically update over the next 6 weeks or so, is primarily intended for the six Designs Engineers from Global Manufacturing (Refining) who have accepted two-rotation loan assignments to support our SGP/SGI Turnaround that occurs in August 2012.  You are welcome to share this with your family and friends so they realize you are not going on some exoctic boondoogle, but instead will be helping out at a “far away” facility that has many similiarities to the one you work in right now.

Preparation for your Rotations

You must complete and pass a medical examination, submit both Visa and RoK Letter of Invitations, and complete a TCO badge request before you can travel to Tengiz.  As you know, this information was provided in your Job Offer Letter (JOT) and follow-up communicatin which is handled by our Expat Counsler.  We have traded numerous emails about this subject – send me another email if you have any further questions.  There are also Expat and Tax orientations you should complete before your first rotation – all this in emails you have received.

Within the “Post Acceptance Outreach” email you received from the Expat Counselor, after you accepted your job offer, you received a document titled “Tengizchevroil Visitor Arrival Guide.”  Please read this guide – the following is intended to supplement this guide and provide additional information to help you in your initial travel.

Travel Arrangements

Make two sets of round trip reservations from your originating airport to Atyrau, Kazakhstan.  The first leg ends in Amsterdam (AMS) and the second leg goes from AMS to Atyrua, Kazakhstan (GUW).  You are allowed to book the travel via business class.  Many people use KLM to get to Amsterdam as this is their primary hub – KLM is a partner with Delta.  But you can fly other airlines as well – you just need to get to Amsterdam by about 10 am in the morning.

There is an Air Astana flight that departs from AMS to GUW every day (at least Monday through Friday) at 12:20 pm.  This is the flight we all take to get in, so you need to make your reservations ASAP to get a seat on this flight (they are expected to fill up around the turnaround time).

Use Carlson Wagonlit travel in Kazakhstan.  I sent you separate information via email regarding making two separate reservations for this rotation.

You are allowed $150 for incidentals associated with the travel; will be paid in your paycheck – you do not need to keep receipts for this incidental costs (i.e, taxi to / from originating airport, miscellaneous meals, etc.).

Getting to Atyrau, Kazakhstan

Once you have done this trip a few times you will know the ropes; but since you will only make two trips over here the following is intended to smooth the way and minimize your stress while you get in and out of Tengiz.

If you have more than one bag check it all the way through to Atyrau (airport code GUW).  You are allowed one carry on; most people have a carryon and a backpack that they can take on both the international flight (from your originating airport to Amsterdam) and the flight from Amsterdam to Atyrau.

Amsterdam Tips

When you arrive in Amsterdam go to Tansfer Station T-5 (also known as the Menzies Transit desk) to get checked in for your Air Astana flight to Atyrau, Kazakhstan.  T-4 / T-5 are at the beginning of the D gates (Concourse D).  There are two “halves” to T-4 / T-5; the T-4 front desk is for KLM transfers and the T-5 back desk is for the regional airlines, Air Astana being one of them.  You may have already been ticketed all the way through but it is a good idea to check here to make sure you are on the flight to Atyrau.  (I always need to check in as they do not issue my boarding pass for Air Astana in San Francisco but have heard that others have recieved this boarding pass at their originating airport).

Once you are checked into your flight to Atyrau you can go relax in one of the airline lounges – since you are in business class you get this perk.  When you check in at the Air Astana desk they will write you a pass for the Menzies lounge.  If you travel on KLM (which I do) you are allowed to go use their lounge, which I prefer.  You just need to show the KLM lounge front desk your boarding pass for the flight you took into Amsterdam (hang on to it) – they may ask to see your next flight boarding pass but just tell them you have heard their lounge is better.  The KLM Crown Lounge (52) and the Menzies (Air Astana) Lounge (26 I think) are near the Departures 1 Area, down a long corridor from the D gates.

Here is a link to the Schiphol Amsterdam Airport website:

The layover is typically longer on your trip in then on your trip out (at least it is for me).  Now is the time to shop for a few trinkets that you can bring back to your family.  There are no gift shops in Tengiz; not much in Atyrau either.  Anyway, you have a couple hour layover so may enjoy using the time to browse around the Schiphol airport.

Tip from Alex Delia: if you use the KLM lounge you are allowed to take a shower during your layover.  Once you into the KLM lounge go immediately to the desks behind the front desk, and ask to be put on the waiting list for a shower.   You may need to wait an hour or so but you eventually you will be called and given access to a private shower room.  Alex says this is definately the way to go.

The KLM lounge also has WiFi available – the code is on a placard on one of the back desks.  You will see many people hanging out with their laptops and other electronics throughout the lounge.  If any of your electronics are running low on juice this is the time to recharge them.  Remember, you need a European adaptor to plug in your electronics – suggest you pick up a pair at Radio Shack.

And Now to Kazakhstan

As mentioned in travel arrangements you will catch a flight from Amsterdam to Atyrau, departs at 12:20 pm and arrives about 8:30 pm local time.  Flight is about 4-1/2 hours.  While on this flight you will be given a “Migration Card” to fill out.  It is a small white form that is the size of your passport.  DO NOT LOSE THIS CARD as you need it to get out of Kazakhstan.  Here are instructions on how to fill out:

  1. Upper right where it says “No.”: enter your USA Passport Number
  2. Surname: enter your last name
  3. Given names: enter your first name
  4. Purpose of visit: enter “Work”
  5. Inviting person (organization): enter “TCO”
  6. Signature: self-explanatory

Arrival in Atyrau

This is a small airport; you get off the 767 onto the runway and take a bus to the terminal which is about a 2 minute ride away (you can see the terminal, they don’t let you walk due to safety concerns).   You will enter the airport along with the rest of the crowd, and que up for Passport Control / Customs.  People all rush off this bus and quickly get in line.  For your FIRST trip in do not rush, as you will need to get your Visa before you can go through the Passport Control line.  When you enter the terminal the Visa desk is immediately to your right – you will probably have to wait a few minutes before anyone will come over and issue you Visas.  You need to give them your Passport, your completed Visa application, TCO Letter of Invitation, passport photos, and your Migration Card.  Be patient, it might take a while.

Once you have your Visa you get in line to go through Passport Control / Customs (where everyone else lined up when they entered the terminal).  By the time you get your Visa the line should be down and it should take a few minutes to get through Customs.  There is a camera at the top of the wall behind the Customs agent – you need to look straight into it as they will take your picture.  The agents do not talk much, just slide them all your paperwork and look up at the camera.  On the other side of the Customs booths is the small baggage area.  You grab your luggage and then go through a luggage scanning area.  You do not need to take off belts or shoes, they are just looking for “contraband” or luxuries you may be bringing into the country to sell.  You may be pulled aside and have your baggage searched.  Please note that if you bring a laptop or Ipad with you they may ask for proof that you own it, and that you are not bringing it into the country to sell.  It is recommended that you bring a copy of your purchase receipt to show the Customs Agent in case you are asked.

I have heard that some people have been searched and questioned about any prescription medicine they are bringing in; again they are concerned about contraband or stuff that people can sell.  The suggestion is to put anything you need in non-labeled containers, or label it as vitamins, allergy medicine, etc.

Please note that the Atyrau airport has free Wi-Fi; if you have electronics that are Wi-Fi compatible then you can connect here.  Please note there is no Wi-Fi at the ATH or in Tengiz – this is the last time you can connect for the rest of your rotation, at least through Wi-Fi.  I use my Iphone to send a quick email to my family letting them know I have arrived safely in Atyrau.

Exiting the Airport / Spending the Night at the Atyrau Transit Hotel (ATH)

The ATH, which is owned by TCO is about a quarter mile from the Atyrau Airport.  Once you leave the luggage area you walk through the waiting area – there is a TCO “Greeter” with a clipboard who will check your name off confirming you have arrived.  This person can direct you to where the TCO bus is that will take you to ATH.  Your first time in I suggest you take the bus so you get a sense of who the other TCO people are but you are welcome to walk if you prefer.  The ATH is across the street and at the end of the road on your left.

You will need to show your Chevron smart badge to enter ATH – if you take the bus it will stop and a guard will get on and scan the badges of all the passengers.  Make sure you have your badge in your carryon.  As you enter the ATH complex you see three buildings going from left to right: the far left building are offices, the middle building is the hotel including the Arrival Hall, and the right building is the canteen.  Go into the middle building, up to the desk, and they will assign you a room for the evening.  Depending upon how crowded the ATH is you will either get your own room or have to share a room.  All the rooms have two beds but if it is not too full you each will be assigned your own room.  Specifically ask to be placed in the C Block – this is typically where management is located an you normally do not need to share a room.

Check at the Arrival Hall desk when dinner is served; you can at least get a sandwich and some fruit before you go to bed.  There is not much to the ATH – it is where all the rotators stay, on their way in and out of Tengiz.  You will be getting in around 9 pm so recommend trying to get some sleep – you can check out the city of Atyrau on your way out at the end of your first rotation.  Before you go to bed you can request a guest office to get on a TCO computer and check either work or personal email; you might want to do this so you can send an email home letting you know you have arrived.  For those of us here on a permanent assignment we do our turnover with our back-to-back (b2) in these guest offices.  Since you have no b2b you can just go to bed (some of us stay up until 2 am getting our turnover completed). 

I understand you can use a telephone in the Arrival Hall to make a short call home letting them know you are safe (I have not done this, use email instead).  Check at the Arrival Hall desk.  If they ask for a charge code use the Designs Engineering cost center, 20115.  You may also need this number to get food in the ATH canteen.

You are 10 hours ahead of Pascagoula, and 12 hours ahead of El Segundo and Richmond.

Travel to Tengiz

The next morning you get up and go back to the Atyrau Airport for your flight to Tengiz.  When you check in at the Arrival Hall desk ask about the time of the flight the next morning (there should be a placard at the describes the Dash 8 flight departure) – they will tell you when you need to be in the Arrival hall and then you will take a bus back to the Airport.  I recommend meeting in the Arrival Hall, and not walking to the Airport, because in case the flight is delayed they will announce this in the Arrival Hall, not at the Airport.  You also need to drop off your luggage in the ATH Luggage Room near the Arrival Hall as you are not allowed carryon luggage on the flight to Tengiz like you can on the commercial flights.  All the luggage is taken by train/bus to Tengiz – it arrives late that afternoon.

You will take a TCO prop plane from Atyrau to Tengiz – it is called the “Dash 8” and it is a 35 seater commuter plane (The Tengizchevroil Visitor Arrival Guide refer to this plane as the DHC 8).  Just follow the crowd as you go back through the Airport, go into a waiting area, and then take the bus out to the Dash 8 jet.  The flight from Atyrau to Tengiz takes about 40 minutes.

You will arrive at the TCO airfield which is adjacent to the TCO Village (TCOV) where we have offices and some residences.  You walk out of the airfield and to a waiting bus which will take you to Crew Change Hall in Shanyrak Village (SV) for you to check in and get your residence room assignment.  We will have someone from Designs Engineering (DE) to greet you at the Airfield on your first trip in and make sure we get you situated.  The DE contact will make sure you get checked into your room and then take you over to TCOV to the DE offices. 

Depending upon timing you should be going to lunch about this time; your DE contact will make sure you don’t go hungry.  You should meet the DE Supervisor (Labeeb will be on-rotation for everyone’s first arrival except the last person), the DE Admin Assistants and the DE SGP/SGI Lead Engineer.  After you have said your hellos we will probably take you out to the North Contract Compound (NCC) where the 2012 SGP/SGI Turnaround team is located.  From this point on we will integrate you with the team; you will be safely here and no longer need this blog.

For your reference, TCOV used to also be the residence location for most of management / technical groups here in Tengiz but they were all moved to Shanyrak Village (SV) in 2007 where you will be staying.  TCOV is where the primary Designs Engineering offices are located (in TCOV Building B6).  It is approximately a 15 minute walk between SV and TCOV, though there are buses that run between the two on a routine basis. 

Once you get to the DE offices in TCOV, please remember to give your Passport (which has the RoK Visa inside) and your Migration card to the FE Admin Assistant.  They will scan this information and then forward to the TCO Visa Services group.  This supercedes the information in the Tengizchevroil Visitor Arrival Guide, Immigration, item 5 (indicates you should contact the TCO Visa Department the next day).

In the TCOV DE offices you can also access computers and telephones, allowing you to call home as needed.

What to Bring

  1. Chevron Smart Badge
  2. Passport, Visa Application, Letter of Invitation, Passport photos
  3. Emergency Contact List
  4. Clothing for a week (jeans and casual shirts are fine; bring t-shirts too to wear under your Nomex).
  5. Electronics including European adaptors
  6. Backpack
  7. Water bottle if you like (it will be blazing hot in August)
  8. Mosquito spray
  9. Sunglasses
  10. PPE including work boots (we will provide hard hat, H2S monitor, safety glasses, etc. but please bring your safety boots and Nomex) – suggest you pack and send this as checked baggage your first rotation in.
  11. Toiletries / Prescriptions
  12. Swim suit (if you like to swim for exercise)
  13. Workout clothes (if you like to workout)

 SV Tips

Your laundry is done for you – 3 times per week.  You leave it outside your residence room door in a net bag (provided) around 5 am, with a laundry list check off sheet describing contents.  Your laundry is cleaned and returned that day.  You do not need to bring any more than a week’s worth of clothing due to this service.  They will launder and press any shirts you leave outside the door with a hanger.  Your towels and bedding are changed once per week; if you want the towels laundered more frequently just put in your laundry bag.

Your room will be located in one of the SV Modules or Domes.  We all them Domes but in reality the Dome is in the center and each of the residence wings are spokes from the Dome.  These are two story residence wings, filled with either double or single rooms.  Each of the SV domes (there are 5, numbered sequentially) has a canteen where you get your breakfast and lunch.  Wouldn’t worry about this too much – the DE representative will take you to your dome, get you to your room and then give you a quick tour so you know your way around.

Each Dome has a small market for sundries (ranging from snacks to shampoo) in case your forgot something.  Each Dome also has a small gym for working, and some general areas where you can play pool and get an alcoholic beverage.  Regarding alcohol, I recommend against it as you will be working 12+ hours every day, probably thoughout the turnaround.  There is a strict TCO policy that you can not have any alcohol in your system when you begin your shift; if this occurs you will be sent back to the States immediately.

Boring but Effective Diet

I have now settled on a boring but effective diet:

  1. Breakfast: Go Lean cereal, with skim milk.  Sometimes a cup of yogurt.  Usually an apple too.
  2. Lunch: stir fried vegetables and chicken (no rice). Sometimes a piece of bread.
  3. Dinner: cold salad with either chicken or tuna (no salad dressing).  Sometimes a cup of soup and a roll.

And how do I make it happen?

On the way to work I stop by the SV Dome 3 canteen and pick up two yogurts and two apples (one badge swipe).  I could get oranges (but currently have a few in my work refrigerator), or orange juice.  The other options at breakfast are powdered eggs (found out that had a few instances of salmonella due to fresh eggs and therefore fresh eggs are now banned in Tengiz), sausage patties, bacon, and rice porridge (pass).  I eat at my desk when I get in – if no meetings will call home about this time since it is the highest likelihood of catching people at home.

For lunch I go to the TCOV canteen, usually with a couple Lead Engineers and Senior Engineers.  They have a stir fry counter (Wok Place) where they have vegetables (carrots, onions, cabbage, bell peppers, green beans, and corn), rice or spaghetti, and meat (beef, chicken or pork).  Concluded the healthiest approach is the vegetables with chicken only.  They cook it on a grill, little bit of oil, fry the vegetables, add the chicken and some soy sauce, and there you go.  It is done by two cooks and there is always a line, sometimes you must wait for fifteen minutes – but it is worth it.  The alternatives are a food line where they typically have three entrees (beef, chicken, and vegetarian), with a starch (potatoes, pasta or rice – many times all three) and a vegetable (usually from a can like pureed carrots or spinach).  You can also get dessert, usually slices of cake or pie.

If I get hungry during the day I eat one of the extra yogurts or apples that I picked up in the morning and then put in my office refrigerator.

For dinner I stop on my way back to my room in the Dome 3 canteen.  They have a take-out line where you can get cold salad.  It varies a little but they always have shredded carrots.  Some days they have peas, corn, bell peppers, shredded cabbage, beets, and tomatoes.  Then they have protein such as bacon, sausages, chicken and tuna.  I get all the vegetables (except beets) and either chicken or tuna.  I take it back to my room and eat at my computer table while I check email and download the SF Chronicle to my Kindle.  I may try to call home (on the weekends) but sometimes just browse the Yahoo Sports web site and then read in bed.

I do not keep any food in my room refrigerator, only water.  I do keep chocolate in there when I first arrive but then bring it to work.  I share the chocolate at our bi-weekly (every two weeks) safety meeting.  To date I have resisted eating any.  By not having any food in my room, and no alcohol allowed, I have avoided the snacking habits I have developed at home.

So that’s it, boring but effective.  I expect to do this most every day while in Tengiz (once in a while the line at the Wok Place is too long and instead will go through the food line and get chicken and vegtables).   Believe I will lose at least another 5 pounds during this hitch, plus the 15 I have already lost from vacation and the first hitch.  Yesterday I weighed myself at the pool and came in at 108 kg.  On the way to my end of school year goal of 95 kilos.

Stray Cats ….. at TCOV

On my walk to work I see several stray cats – they live underneath an old building (no longer in use) in the TCOV area where I work.  This building is located near the canteen and I see different people leaving leftovers out for the cats around lunch time (the only time the TCOV canteen is open).  The last two days I walked to work very early in the morning, and therefore there were few people out at the same time.  One of the cats came up to me, thinking that I would give it food.  It was one of the kittens – there are five, look to be about 4 months now – let me touch him (or her).  He followed me a bit, and darted around my legs.  Made me think of our cat – I would enjoy having a pet here but who takes care of it while you are on rotation (even if this was allowed)?  When I get a chance maybe I will take and post some pictures.   Anyway, I enjoy the stray cats – look for them to and from work (shows how desperate I am for entertainment) every day.  Is this interesting Claudia?

Friendly Stray Cat

You can pet me

School Year Predictions

Sitting around the dinner table after the first day of school we discussed predictions for the upcoming school year.  Zack predicted he would graduate from High School.  Grant predicted he would play Lacrosse and Claudia predicted she would be in two plays at Orinda Intermediate School.  I told them they were missing the  point – predictions are guesses of what would happen, not things we plan to make happen.  I guess it is a subtle point as you can make an effort to have your predictions come true.  We ended up deciding to predict our heights and weights at the end of the school year.


Current Height = 6′ 4-1/4″ / Predicted Height = 6′ 4-3/4″

Current Weight = 162 lbs / Predicted Weight = 166 lbs


Current Height = 5′ 8-1/2″ / Predicted Height = 5′ 11″

Current Weight = 118 lbs / Predicted Weight = 125 lbs


Current Height = 4′ 11″ / Predicted Height = 5′ 2″

Current Weight = 85 lbs / Predicted Weight = 97 lbs


Current Height = 5′ 0″ / Predicted Height = 5′ 2″

Current Weight = 70 lbs / Predicted Weight = 78 lbs


Refused to participate


Current Weight = 240 lbs / Predicted Weight 210 lbs

Message to Friends (email sent 17 July 2011)


I have been in Tengiz Kazakhstan for about 2-1/2 weeks, have 17 days to go (traveling home on August 4th). I took an internal transfer with Chevron because 1) was bored with my previous job in the Refinery, 2) could not get promoted staying in the Richmond Refinery, and 3) Karen and I decided that since I work ~ 60 hours week I might as well work a few more hours, and then get a break from work. This position is what is called a 28 / 28 rotation where you work for 28 days straight and then are off for the same amount. You have to travel on your off time – essentially will be off 25 days straight with no work responsibility.

Attached are copies of emails I sent my family over the last two weeks. I have added a few photos to the last document – these are NOT vacation pictures. I am still adjusting to both Kazakhstan and a rotation type job (work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day except Sunday where we work 6). The prize is getting to spend the time at home for 3+ weeks at a time (six times per year) without any work responsibilities. This first rotation (or hitch) required me to spend 5 weeks in Kazakhstan – in the future each rotation is 4 weeks. I will be home in Orinda for most of August, heading back here on August 30th (takes two days to get here).

I am unable to Skype but have spoken with Karen and the kids every day by phone, usually twice a day. Tengiz time is 12 hours different from West Coast daylight savings time. So when I am eating dinner I check in with them while they are getting out of bed; and before I go to work I try to catch them while they are sitting down to dinner.

If you want to see where I am physically located try google maps – enter TCOV (Tengizchevroil Village Kazakhstan). TCOV is where people working here used to live and work – we now live in Shanyrak Village (SV) which is just north of TCOV. If you look north of TCOV you will see SV, round silver buildings with red spokes. The red spokes are the living quarters – the silver domes are the common areas. Our offices are still in TCOV – I have a “corner” office with a view of train tracks. The actual oil processing facilities (where all the money is made) are about 20 kilometers south of SV (follow the yellow road south).

This just in – Karen broke her foot Friday night – if anyone would like to check in on her and the family it would be greatly appreciated. When I spoke to her this Sunday morning (her Saturday evening) she was in good spirits – I believe it was the pain medicine kicking in.

Drop me a note – would love to hear from you.


Attached to this email were three documents: these documents were copy/pasted to create the next three postings.

Message to Extended Family (email on 17 July 2011)

Hello Nieces, Nephews, Brother-in-Law and Father-in-Law,

All my love to you and your children. I have heard how Carson has some medical issues – I am wishing mightly that it all works out.

Sorry that I have not included you on my emails to my immediate family, have copied Robin and Joanie. Zack, Grant, Andrew and Claudia seem to be handling my absence well – it helps that it is summer and they have various activities / camps as well as some downtime to hang out. May be different when they are all in school – we will find out soon enough.

I will be home from August 4th (should land at around noon tiime but expect to be pretty tired as I leave Kazakhstan at 6 am that day (meaning 6 pm August 3rd your time)). I believe Lauren, Jamie and Rose are coming down that weekend and the following week – please let us know so we can plan the August Birthday Bash. Grant returns from a sleep away camp on Friday August 5th afternoon – then leaves the next morning to go to Las Vegas / Sedona with Cooper, Bruce and Dick. I believe Grant returns on Monday August 15th. So if we want to include Grant we need to do it the evening of August 5th – does that work? OK if it does not, maybe the following weekend? Would Tina/Kevin, Lauren/Jamie, and Ali please reply to this message so we can make some plans – Zack is very busy this summer so we need to tie him down too. Really looking forward to seeing you.

Below is a note I sent to a wide group of friends. In some ways this place feels like a well run prison – you badge in and out everywhere, including to get food; you take the bus everywhere you go; not allowed to drive a car; no town nearby to visit. But it is not bad, very safe, people are friendly though not much chance to socialize since we are working all the time. I don’t mind the work, enjoy meeting new people, but really look forward to getting home.

See you soon,

Uncle Marc

Attached to this email were three documents: these docuements were copy/pasted to create the next three postings.

More Thoughts on Tengiz (email sent to Family on 15 July 2011)

Hi everyone – here are some notes from the last week.

8 July

Differences in Tengiz:

The date starts with the day instead of the month:

  •  8 July, 2011 instead of July 8, 2011
  •  Tengiz = 8/7/11
  •  USA = 7/8/11
  • The wall calendars start with Monday instead of Sunday.  The Outlook calendars are set-up the same way.
  • It is Coca-Cola Light, not Diet Coke.

Company meetings are different, must be much more patient. Larger meetings have a translator participating. The Kazak nationals speak at a very low volume, in Russian. The translator speaks quietly as well. Combine this with the air conditioners at full blast because it is soo hot – I can hear and understand very little at the meetings (so far).

This assignment is not very social. We work long hours – minimum is 6 am to 6 pm; many people work another hour or so on either end of the day. Thare not many good places to meet socially – a small bar but it you don’t drink …. It is so hot outside no one is out at picnic tables hanging out. There are also few Expats here, probably less than 20% of the total workforce, most seem to keep to themselves. Looks like everyone is counting the days until they go home.

Long trains, about 100 cars, go by my office window several times a day. They honk (sound the train horn) a number of times as there is a road crossing not too far from our building. Kinda of annoying. But it is the sound of money – these are rail cars filled with crude oil taking it to market.

The processing plants are a 30 minute bus ride from the offices we work in. Going to a one hour meeting out at the plant takes ~ 2-1/2 hours because you must walk to the bus stop (about a 7 minute walk); after the meeting you have to walk back to the place that dropped you off. You can schedule a taxi but there are a limited number and you must schedule at least the day before. The advantage of taking a taxi is they wait for you and you can be driven back to the office immediately after the meeting, even if the meeting runs long.

It has been very hot here, almost a week now with temperatures breaking 110 F each day. Right now it is 7 pm and the temperature is 115 F. This morning, at 6 am, it was a balmy 84 F. Two days ago it was 99 F at 6 am. There are also a lot of mosquitoes but they don’t seem so bad the last couple days – maybe they can’t survive the heat. Each room (offices and residential rooms) have an individual air conditioner. They also have large outdoor common AC units for the common areas in buildings. I heard that they overheat at 40 C (~105 F) and shutdown. Well it has easily broken 105 F every day since I arrived. I run the air conditioner full blast in my room whenever I am in there; about 3 am in the morning it gets cool enough for me to get under the blanket (but I don’t turn off the air conditioner).

I have a computer in my office and in my room. I check my yahoo email usually twice a day. Please send me notes telling me what you are doing – I miss you. After dinner I read in my room. I still have a couple magazines that I have not read, plus books on my Kindle. I think I have at least two books left on my kindle after this one.

Working here is very routine driven – get up every morning about 5 am; get out of my room about 5:35 – stop by the canteen to pickup breakfast to go (two eggs made like an omelet without anything in them, yogurt and fruit (options are oranges and apples. I then either walk to the office or take the bus – takes about the same amount of time – in around 5:55 am. People take an hour break somewhere between 11:30 am and 1 pm – some people take the whole hour, some do not. Most people go to a canteen that is in TCOV – same type of food like at SV. Then people work until 6 pm, many people stay until 6:30 or so. Then you go back to SV, get dinner (which I grab) and eat in my room, check email and call home, read for a while, and try to turn in by 9 pm. And then do it all again. In just two weeks I have found that the days run together – need to check the calendar at least twice per day to know what day it is (and figure out how many days until I get to go home).

My office is on the second floor, on the left (in the first picture). My office is bigger than my living quarters – has two windows and two air conditioning units!

10 July

Went swimming today with Jon Drogin – he showed me the ropes. Many things here have very specific steps that must be followed – not sure if it is the USSR influence or the way it has always been. Anyway, you go into the pool building and there is a receptionist. You badge in through an IN card reader and leave your badge on the desk. You then go over to some benches, take off your shoes and socks, and put on your sandals – everyone leaves their shoes under the benches (two rows facing each other. You then go back to the desk and the receptionist gives you a towel and a locker key, connected to a wrist band. You go into the locker room, change and then take a shower before you can go into the pool. After your shower you exit through the corridor to the pool, leave your sandals along a wall, step through a small foot basin, and then exit to the pool. After swimming you take another shower, get dressed and then return your key to the receptionist. You go over to the bench, dry your feet and put your shoes on. Then you drop your towel in a dirty towel bin, pick up your badge from the receptionist (she has it out for you) and then swipe it across the OUT card reader.

I swam 20 pool lengths (I guess that is 10 laps) – Jon says this is a ½ kilometer. The first four I swam up and back, then stopped. After that I had to stop and rest after each length. My heart rate got up there, about 120 when I checked. Jon swam 66 lengths or 1 mile; wonder how many months (if ever) it will take me to make that distance in one visit?

14 July

My department had a safety meeting this afternoon – we have 117 people in the group but only half at one time. Thursdays are a common day for people to leave / arrive for their rotation. At the safety meeting I met 10 people I have never met before. I led a diversity moment where I told my group I wanted to learn about them, and have them learn a little about each other. I shared that diversity is many times thought to be gender, or color of your skin. I said another part of diversity is what type of family you come from, big or small, and what number you are in the birth order. So I asked everyone to stand up – then said if anyone was an only child they should sit down (two people did. Then it continued; if you had one sibling you sat down next, two siblings next, and so on.. Four people in the group had seven siblings – wow. Then we started over – asked everyone to stand up again – if you had no children, you sat down. This continued, one child, sit down, two children, etc. Half the group had children – myself and one other person had four children, everyone else had less. Anyway, it was a good ice breaker. We also had some food brought in and socialized a bit at the end of the meeting. We hold this meeting every two weeks. That is because different positions rotate in and out every week. I believe everyone rotates on a Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday – that way you get four weekends at home.

We have two translators for my group; they can translate to/from Russian. At the safety meeting one person gave a safety talk about “Heat Stress” – very relevant topic as last week it broke 115 F for several days (it has cooled down in the last couple days to the high 80s. The person who gave the presentation spoke Russian, and there were two screens – one showed the presentation in Russian and the other in English. Over 80% of my group speak Russian as their native language – only us Expats speak only English. I was better today about not saying too much, making it easier for the translator.

I swam again today at lunch – plan to swim on both Saturday and Sunday. I got it up to 15 laps – maybe I will get up to 66 laps eventually. The pool is about a 3 minute walk from my office – really can’t beat that. You can tell I’m not from around here as I wear the baggy Hawaiian print shorts – everyone else wears the tight speedo types (some of them should really not be wearing them. It’s not very crowded – maybe a dozen people at most. Water temperature is fine – very good stress reliever.


Initial Impressions of Tengiz (email sent to Family on 3 July 2011)

Good Morning (though it is soon to be Good Night here).

It’s now about 8:45 pm here on Sunday July 3rd – have been in Tengiz 3 days, arriving on Friday July 1st.  Have had three days of turnover with my back-to-back Labeeb and I’m tired.  I ran into someone and mentioned I was a bit tired and he said “drinking out of a firehose will do that to you” implying that all the talking and reviewing documents as part of the turnover process was like that – I guess I agree.

My initial impressions of Tengiz are it is big, and I have not even visited the plant yet.  Some work friends I know told me I would do a lot of walking but I did not quite understand – now I do.  Here in Tengiz, we live in Sanyrak Village (SV) and work at TCO (Tengizchevroil) offices.  It takes about 15 – 20 minutes to walk between my room in SV to my office in TCO (my office is at the far end of the TCO complex).  Takes me 5+ minutes to get from my room to the SV gate, another 5 minutes to go from SV to TCO, and another 5+ minutes to get from the TCO gate to my office.  I think I go a little faster in the morning – walking back tonight was slower as the temperature was still over 100 F (At 7:30 pm it is 104 F, believe the high today was 109 F).  The days seem longer here – It was still light at 9 pm yesterday.

SV is a large complex that houses about 3000 people.  I believe everyone who works here in Tengiz is on a rotation schedule and therefore live on-site in SV during their rotation or hitch.  There are five dome complexes – believe dome 1 is slightly smaller than domes 2 through 5.  In each dome complex there is a large central building (the dome) with 15 buildings connected in a spoke pattern (except dome 1 which has 13 spoke buildings).  Each of the spoke buildings has two floors, with about 20 rooms per floor.  Each room has its’ own bathroom, a pair of closets/cabinets, a mini-fridge, a small TV (17”?) that sits on the fridge, a small work desk with chair, a bed, a night stand, and another chair.   Each room also has an individual AC/heating unit.  My guess is the room is about 150 square feet, including the bathroom.

The dome of each complex has a large cafeteria – the one I live in has two buffet lines; one for people who eat in the cafeteria and another for people who want to get their food to go, to eat in their rooms or their offices.  There is also a recreation area with pool tables, ping pong tables, and chairs for hanging out / socializing.  There is a small bar, and a work out room – looked like about 20 people could work out at one time.  I believe each dome is pretty similar but have not checked them all out.

In addition to the five dome complexes there is a big administration building, for the organization that runs the village, a movie theater (I went there for training, it holds about 250 people), a large swimming pool (6 – 8 lanes, guessing 25 meters long), several tennis courts and BBQ areas scattered around.  I’m sure it is at least a one mile perimeter around SV, maybe larger.  They finished building SV in 2009.

Previous to 2009 people lived and worked in the TCO office complex.  We still use the office buildings but all the living quarter buildings have been closed and are no longer in use.  Apparently these living quarter buildings had shared bathrooms and were not in good shape – people complained about the heat and cold during the various seasons.  TCO also has a cafeteria that is well attended at lunch (I do not think it is open for breakfast or dinner).  Not sure yet what the people who work at the plant do for lunch, possibly bring a prepared box lunch.  There is also a swimming pool at TCO office area – have not yet checked it out but it looks smaller.  My guess is < 1000 people work at TCO offices; the others work in the plants (24/7 operation so there are two shifts every day), plus all the maintenance and field contractors we use to run the place.

My group, Designs Engineering, works in building B6.  We have the top floor where about 60 people work.  We also have a group of about 10 – 15 that is involved in a big turnaround next year and they are located in another building – have not yet visited this building.  Designs Engineering currently has 117 people, but only half of them are on-site at any one-time.  Almost everyone has a back-to-back or partner, though a couple back-to-back positions are vacant.  The group is made up of Chevron employees, TCO (Kazak national employees) and contractors.  All the Chevron people are what is called Expats, short for Expatriates, meaning they live in another country, primarily US or England (though we do have one from Vancouver Canada).  All the TCO employees are Kazak citizens, and the contractors are a mix of Kazak citizens, Russians, and Expats.

The jobs here at Tengizchevroil are very good for Kazak citizens; they pay well and are good working conditions.  The Kazak government, which is 25% partner in TCO (Chevron is 50% and ExxonMobil is 25%) requires a high percentage of Kazak citizens to be employed by TCO.  I thought I heard someone say that for all employees 80% are Kazak, with 70% of the supervisors Kazak citizens.  In Designs Engineering we have a goal of increasing the number of TCO or Kazak employees in supervisor positions.   My group has 5 supervisor positions, the Designs Engineering Supervisor (my position) and the four Lead Engineer positions that report to my position.  Each position has two people so there are a total of 10 supervisor employees in the group.  This is currently made up of 9 Expats (8 Chevron and 1 contractor) and 1 TCO.  The goal over the next two years is to change this to 5 Expats (all Chevron) and 5 TCO.

Additionally, we currently have 18 Expats working in the group, which is a combination of Chevron and contractor employees.  We have a goal of reducing the Expat count by 2 each year; we have not yet reduced our count of Expats in 2011.  At 2 per year it will take until 2020 until the entire group is Kazaks (I will definately be home by then).

Last night we had a group BBQ.  The Designs Supervisor typically hosts this get-together once each rotation to thank people for their efforts, recognize people, and give a chance for folks to socialize as a large group.  In addition to food there is some beer but my back-to-back only buys 60 beers because he does not want anyone to get drunk and belligerent, at least not via a company sponsored event.  It seemed to go well – it started around 6:30 pm and I left at 9 pm.  We found out this morning that everyone left by 9:30 pm as the mosquitoes were out with a vengeance.  In the middle of the BBQ my back-to-back Labeeb and I spoke a few words.  Most of the Kazak employees speak Russian so we have a staff translator in Designs Engineering.  It was very interesting to speak with a group and have it translated.  I did OK but I have to make sure I only say two or three sentences at a time or the translator cannot keep up.  I gave them a little background about me, told them I was married with 4 children (shared your names and ages) and closed with I looked forward to working with them.  It is a bit unsettling to look out at this group of ~50 people (not everyone attends) and realize over half of them do not understand what I am saying, need it translated.  I also struggle with their names and accents, so mostly I said Hi, my name is Marc and shook their hands (I didn’t get to all 50 but definitely over half).  With regards to names, our Admin Assistant’s name is Gaukhar Urazbekova – her first name is pronounced GowHar; believe her surname sounds like it is spelled but have been afraid to try it.  Here are some other interesting names of people in my group: Saltanat Umbitallna, Yerbol Bekey, Dossan Adilov, Bakhyt Kurmanov and Sabyrzhan Menlibekov.  I am going to have to get a cheat sheet from Gaukhar (who speaks Russian and English) on how to pronounce everyone’s names.

I am going to close with I miss you all very much; I have 4 days down (including the lost travel day on Tuesday) and 31 to go (though I will spend almost all of the 32nd day on August 4th getting home).

Love Dad

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.