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Day 7 of 60 – Summer 2018

Up in the wee small hours to catch flight to Frankfurt as the next part of my holiday travels begin. Sitting in the lounge at Frankfurt (love a lounge) watching the planes land, the airport trains pass and eating frankfurters!

Sun is shining but cloud of varying shades of grey around.

Heading back into terminal B to catch flight to Edinburgh means going through security. Today it is relatively busy not helped by peoples inability to read signs and follow instructions meaning queues are slow moving. Everyone there must have gone through some security checks prior to entering terminal B yet there are still questions asked about liquids, electronics and the like. People are swigging from water bottles whilst others are called back to account for their lack of foresight. Felt like I was in one of those airport security documentaries.

Georgia, June 2018

5 days in and around Tbilisi:

Does George or Nino know the number for the fire brigade?

Best fed stray dogs

Sulphur baths 24/7

Iranians on boats

Mushrooms housing everything

Social balconies

Trouser legs for concerts

Pheasants or deer: cooked or healed

Amber or black wine

Homegrown communist dictator

Jazz with the duduki

Lunch with Georgians and 300 year old cookery book

Royal family in waiting

Don’t smile: we’re Georgian

Not St George but Greek meaning land: geo

Unique alphabet dating to 5th Century

Deda and Mama

Rustaveli and Chavchav…

Caught in the middle

I wish you victory

Silk route hub

Iberia…and Iberia

Day 6 of 60 – Summer 2018

24 hours in Astana!

Touch down back in Astana to a blood red sunrise. To sleep or not to sleep is a key question. A three hour flight does not give enough time to compensate for a nights loss of sleep so off to bed for a few hours.

A hot and windy day with clouds building. A few shopping errands, couple of loads of washing and then the repack. Need to think about clothes for Balkan’s too where it will be hot. Got a few new things in a great boutique very similar to Oasis in Dubai. Great for warm weather, no crush and will dry quickly so tick boxes for 3 weeks of travel.

Day 5 of 60 – Summer 2018

Last day in Tbilisi…for now. Rang the chains three times to make sure I come back!

A lot of rain last night with a few flashes of lightening and rumbles of thunder so garden is a bit damp. Got back last night before heavens opened after long day of travel and evening of chilled jazz.

This morning is cool, damp and overcast with forecast of more rain to come…or maybe not!

A visit to the museum first thing after breakfast. Have read about a permanent exhibition about life under Soviet Union rule and homegrown communist icon Stalin.

Lunch with local education figure to talk about schools and English curriculum in an international context.

Perhaps a bit of shopping later as a couple of interesting local boutiques noticed and need exploring!

Day 3 of 60 – Summer 2018

Another glorious day in Tbilisi. Walking tour booked for midday so tea in the garden, breakfast on way to the museum then meet our guide.

So, Museum was closed (world over Monday is a day of rest for museums) so headed for Tourist Information for ideas in where to go tomorrow…not helpful! Off into the old town to find helpful tour operators…tour booked to the mountains tomorrow.

Day 1 of 60 – Summer 2018

Today I awake in a country that I know almost nothing about.

I am in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. I know the weather will be gloriously warm and that there is a threat of rain and thunder (related to the gloriously warm). I know that we are between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea and that it took 3 hours and 35 minutes from Astana. I have heard that there are lots of monasteries perching precariously on hilltops and lots of churches. I do know that Georgian food is delicious (particularly the katchapuri – cheesy bread).

So first trip today is to the Georgian Orthodox Churches equivalent to the Vatican.

Let’s see what else I know as the day goes by…

Whales and WW1 – what’s the link?

I have been reading Ranulph Fiennes fascinating book, Cold – somewhat appropriate mid way through a Kazakh winter. Amongst the many parts of his adventures that made me go ‘wow’ there were also many thing I didn’t know about. One of these things was the link between whales and WW1. Ranulph had been talking about the development of the whaling industry over time and the impact it had had on the wildlife and the humans involved.

“During the First World War, when humans turned on themselves the same destructive energies that they had once directed at the whales, the demand for Antarctic whales increased. It was the first ‘modern’ war, and the large-scale use of artillery bombs stoked the world demand for glycerine, the derived primarily from whale oil, to make explosives.”

The glycerine was a by-product of the soap industry – the soap having been made from whale oil. The glycerine was combined with nitric acid creates a liquid explosive that makes a very Big Bang. It was also used in the making of cordite that, in 1889 replaced gunpowder giving a less corrosive bang for guns.

Whale oil also proved a very effective lubricant for rifles and other military machine being non-corrosive and it’s ability to keep liquid even in low temperatures. It was used to allow jute fibres to be spun and then used to make the sandbags for trench warfare. The oil proved an effective treatment for trench foot. It was used as fuel in trench stoves. Whale grease was used by the first pilots to protect their faces.

On the home-front, whale oil was used to make margerine when the supply of fats and butter became in short supply.


How cold is cold?

On this, the coldest day so far this Astana winter I started to wonder about cold, why do we have three different scales to measure it?

Daniel Gabriel Farenheit, created the temperature scale named after him in 1724. The scale is now defined by two fixed points: freezing of water at 32F and boiling water at 212F. Today, in the majority of countries this scale has been replaced by the Celsius scale – except for the US!

Celsius or centigrade? Before being renamed in 1948 to honour Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius who created this temperature scale in 1742, the unit was called centigrade from the Latin centum meaning 100 and gradus, steps. This scale is now based on 0C for the freezing point of water and 100C for the boiling point of water – originally it was the other way round.

The Kelvin scale is named after William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin a Belfast born and Glasgow educated engineer and physician. His search for an ‘infinite cold’ at the end of the 18th century lead to the absolute scale with the kelvin being the unit of temperature measurement in science.  The Kelvin and Celsius scales are used together in science and engineering – temperatures given in degrees Celsius and intervals given in kelvins. Absolute zero 0K is -273C – where all things freeze!


Toothpaste freezes at -60C…

There are two certainties in life

This evening I had the pleasure of listening to Shirish and Ruweida Soni speak at a meeting of the International Rotary Club of Astana. Shirish is in the last month of his four year long appointment as the South African Ambassador to Kazakhstan and gave a truly inspirational talk about his life growing up in a divided country. He spoke of his time supporting the underground ANC movement and of his fight to regain his spirit after his arrest and months of solitary confinement and torture. Though the support and encouragement of Ruweida he was able to rebuild physical and mentally despite doctors lack of hope. He also talked of what could have been a life ending experience of when he and his wife, awoke at gunpoint as their home was burgled by the very people he had almost given his life to for their right to freedom. Here he was the support for Ruweida nursing her back to health after this devastating experience.

Shirish, a Hindu and his wife Ruweida, a muslim have been married for many years and have united their families through their love and respect for each others religion. Shirish shared how he had been lost for words when had had first asked Ruweida on a date and, certain that he would never find anyone as beautiful and wonderful, asked her to marry him on their second date: they were married ten short days after they had that first date. Now with two grandchildren and another on the way they have come through some very challenging times yet their love and admiration for each other is evident in a room full of strangers.

Both Shirish and Ruweida are both passionate about meditation and a follower of the visionary Ravi Shankar. He encouraged all of us to make sure that at least once a week we make ourselves a VIP – taking time to sit quietly, relax, recharge and take care of own wellbeing. He had at the beginning of his talk said that he would share a tool with us. This tool was about how by taking care of ourselves we would then be in a better place to take care of others. He highlighted the eight areas that he and his wife see as the key areas of their lives they work on to ensure they have synergy:

Spiritual, Mental Health, Physical Health, Career, Finance, Charity, Recreation, Family

All are interlinked and whatever goal you may have, to achieve it fully all eight areas will be involved. Here I am at the start of a new chapter in my life that focuses heavily on my career but I will need to ensure that I do take some time for myself to preserve my spiritual and mental health and make time to exercise for my physical health. As I build a new life here in the city that is my home for at least the next couple of years I need to build a new extended family through different activities for recreation whilst maintaining my close family. Finance is necessary to do enable me to do all of the above to a certain extent but it will be my time that I will give to charity. More valuable than money, time is giving of you personally. Sharing your experiences, supporting others and being involved in making connections to make life that little bit better than it was before.

Shirish refers to the butterfly effect – when we make changes in even a small way to our lives and that of others who know what the repercussions and ongoing effects could go.

There are only two certainties in life: we will all die sometime and everything changes!