Last night was another late one – time passes so quickly on this trip, we don’t notice as the hours keep rolling by, and exist on very little sleep – and the morning was a bit of a rush. We had agreed to meet at 8.20am for breakfast; at 9am we were going to start interviewing. I never skip breakfast when travelling, it’s just too interesting. You find out what people around the world start their days on; not everyone has jam on toast and an egg sunny side up. I looked around for dishes I didn’t know from home; even the familiar bread rolls tasted different to what I’m used to.
Things then picked up. Akkushtap Baktygereyeva was ready to be interviewed and I jumped at the opportunity. I spoke to a renowned poetess, who goes by the pseudonym ‘White Seagull of the Zhayiq River’. She explained it’s because seagulls are brave and tenacious hunter birds that she remembered from her childhood spent by the River Zhayiq.
I was faced by a strong, accomplished artist who was also incredibly friendly and generous with her time and knowledge, and happy to share it with me. We pored over her beautiful poems, talked about life, our mothers, and what it would mean to be given a new heart – would you still be you? At the end, we shared a typically cordial Kazakh parting, with the poetess taking my hand in hers and kissing me on the cheek.
Later that morning we were whisked off by our hosts on a tour around the city, being driven around in a red double-decker. We first stopped at the Palace of Independence and then at the Expo building, which now hosts the museum of energy, with state-of-the-art displays that got us curious and excited. We even spoke to a robot that cracked jokes in English! The last part of the programme was visiting the Astana Opera, grand and impressive, with marble floors, wall frescoes and crystal chandeliers. We walked in on a voice practice session and were treated to a mini-concert, an extraordinary performance that left us wishing we’d taken up signing when we’d had the chance.
The day finished on a flight to our next stop, Almaty.