Our final day in Almaty started with editorial meetings. Having gathered material from our interviews with the authors over the past week, we now had to discuss our approach to their works and how it would all work in practice. Editing work was due to begin in 3 days. There was a lot to cover and we set aside several hours that morning to go over everything – our style guide, reference books, methods of working, everything we needed in order to keep the project on schedule.
The meeting was broken up by lunch, which our hosts had arranged in a restaurant renowned for its camel products. We tasted fermented camel milk (a smoothly delicious drink) and camel dumplings served in a broth, accompanied by a selection of fresh salads. It was a very pleasant restaurant with attentive staff and a fantastic selection of dishes, as well as a shop selling camel-related items, but we couldn’t stay long, we still had a lot of ground to cover in our afternoon meetings. And we couldn’t dally, because in the evening we were going to the opera.
The opera in Almaty is hosted in a beautiful theatre, built in 1934, and we had excellent seats that afforded an uninterrupted view of the stage. The story was a famous folk ballad of lovers being torn apart by jealousy and betrayal, narrated to us by our attentive hosts. It was beautifully staged and arranged and we enjoyed it a lot.
Our last stop that day was a restaurant that served excellent shashlik and had a dancefloor for those wanting to dance off their dinner. We were only one among many parties who celebrated birthdays and other events, and before long we also took to the floor to show off our dance moves.
The DJ played an eclectic mix of songs, good for big and small, so that even children would join in with their parents. It was a perfect send-off that kept us dancing past midnight, until finally, having conceded that some of us had to pack for an early flight that same morning, we bid the bar and our wonderful hosts goodnight and goodbye, wishing that we would see each other again in this fantastic, versatile and welcoming country.