Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas is Coming

The public trees are being erected.  These are not Christmas Trees as Christmas Trees are for people who celebrate Christmas, the 25th December.  The Kazakhs do not.  That is a normal work day.  These are New Year Trees, and just to reinforce the point I saw one being erected on the 27th December last year.  But this year they are ahead of the game.  There seem to be four strategic places for them in this part of town.  One on the square by the mosque, one on the Satpayeva/Abay roundaout. one in front of the Drama Theatre, and the forth by the river in front of a goverment office.  They are all the same, about 50 feet high and made of a tubular metal frame which they weld together in large sections, and later cut down.
Starting to build the tree by the river.

Bits of the Tree on the Square being assembled

On the Asian side of the bridge in the center of the traffic circle another large tree is assembled.
Assembling the tree on the roundabout
On the frame they hang green artificial branches and on that they mount decorations, giant candie etc.  Lights are strung around the trees fairly evenly.  Satpayeva has solid blue, the riverside has flashing blue breen and red.  

I haven't seen the others at night yet. 

All along Satpayeva Road and over the bridge the lamp posts have been adorned with lighted decorations, New Year trees and shooting stars (probably the Star of Bethlehem, but not a concept of great worth in a Muslim country).
However, it is the wiring of these lights that most impressed me, especially in the wet and snowy season.

Every lamppost had the same high quality electrical engineering work.  And as you can see there is snow melt on the ground and puddles of mud and water everywhere.  The collage below is Sandra negotiating some of the sidewalks and street crossings.  This is top quality mud.  It will not wipe off with a damp cloth.  If it gets on your clothes it stains, we use a special caustic shoe cleaner to get it off footware, and it works but doesn't leave the leather looking very healthy, imagine a shoe that has been boiled for an hour and left to dry.
Some of the puddles can be quite deep but it is best avoiding wading through them, even in rubber boots, as below the surface can lurk hidden dangers, examples of which are exposed below.
It suddenly started to get cold, the snow fell and the river begun to freeze. A day later the first of the ice fishermen were out on the river.  Parts of the river around the bridge piers were still unfrozen.  I said to Sandra that I guess they know what they are doing, but she said last year a few went through the ice so maybe not.
As the snow falls the snow clearing machinery springs into action.  Unfortunately there is not a great deal in the way of ploughs and the like, and a lot depends on manual clearing done by the same workers who sweep the roads in winter, except now they have shovels.  As they have to provide their own some are rather "improvised".
A snow plough
Men with shovels, they bring their own, and some have an artisanal finish.
The temperature dropped to below 20C and it was suddenly a lot harder to do things, like walking outside.  A couple of days I stayed in and didn't make the trek to Asia for lunch with Sandra.  

Below are some pictures I took as the winter proper started.

View from our bedroom window, morning sunrise
The snow gets piled up in heaps, I don't know if it will be removed later.
Ice round the bridge piers not properly frozen but fishermen are out already.
How does the smoke/steam go in different directions?
A not-snowy panorama from our window

A snowy panorama from our window