Many, many apologies to all those who have wondered where the hell I’ve been. After days of trying everything I could think of to no avail, my technical problems suddenly resolved themselves and everything is now back to normal. I still have no idea what happened.
So, what have I had to say for myself during the outage? Firstly, I never got round to posting this picture of a section of the market opposite my apartment burning fiercly one night late in December.
This must have been pretty harsh on the stall owners who would have lost their livelihoods so close to New Year. Sadly it isn’t very surprising either. I went into that building a week or so before and, like in most of these types of markets, I saw heaters, freezers, fridges, and other electrical equipment plugged into overloaded multi-sockets which were probably made in China and don’t conform to any kind of standard. Last year we had a major fire in a similarly arranged marketplace, which turned out to be electrical. Perhaps the Russian government would be better directing its inspectors’ attention towards genuine electrical and fire hazards rather than forcing only western companies to make sure all employees undergo electrical training in order to operate a kettle or laptop, and sending them on useless “fire safety” courses.
So, 2007 came to an end with a roaring blaze, I bought a seven-foot tree to furnish our living room, and I had some time to reflect on the year gone by. I feel a little bad about saying this, partly because others’ found the last 12 months rough going and partly because I don’t want to tempt fate, but 2007 was probably the best year of my life. Everything seemed to go well. My job and career took off in this wild corner of Russia, and I developed the essential contacts for the future which had escaped me completely in the middle east, not to mention gain an awful lot of experience. My marriage to Yulia turned out to be lots of fun, both our social lives took on the characteristics of a student freshers’ week, and we managed to get three tropical holidays in the sunshine plus one or two trips to Moscow and St. Petersburg thrown in. I found that I have some excellent friends in Sakhalin, many of whom I will surely stay in touch with long after they or I have left, and they have made my time here such enormous fun. I’ve rarely been bored, having found myself joining in on mountain bike rides, hill-walks, snowmobile trips, and – more usually – marathon drinking sessions ending in daylight at 7am. In summary, if 2008 and every subsequent year can be as good as 2007, I will happily die at 50. Actually, better make that 60. Or 70. Anyway, I feel extremely lucky. Unfortunately with my not going back to the UK last year I didn’t get to see some exceptionally good friends of mine, plus I haven’t seen any of my family since our wedding day, but this was a price I always knew I’d have to pay.
Anyway, enough of that: here are some pictures taken over the New Year holidays.
2008 is already shaping up to start with a bang. Next week I am due to go to Angarsk, Siberia to look at a pipeline, where yesterday’s temperature was -55C. Now that should be fun. I will be spending a day in Irkutsk though, which I’m looking forward to. The first two weeks of February we are going on holiday to Vietnam, which I’ve heard is warmer than Angarsk. After that, I am hoping to go to Kazan’ on business, probably spending a few days in Moscow on the way through. In early March there is a good chance I will have to go to Kazakhstan for a week, then late March is likely to feature a trip to Houston.
As usual, I’ll take my camera along with me and keep you all posted. Oh, I amost forgot! There is one more photo which was taken over the holidays, filed under “Don’t Ask”.