My Time Working as a Translator in Almaty, Kazakhstan

In December 1999, just a few months after graduating from the University of Bradford with an MA in Interpreting and Translation, I got a job with Ernst & Young in Almaty, Kazakhstan as a translator in the tax department. It was an incredible experience in all sorts of ways. I spent almost two years there and it was a fantastic experience.

The tax department was a fantastic place to work and I made friends there that I’m still in touch with today. That’s me at the front in the blue shirt.

I as a rookie translator with the tax team at EY in Almaty during my first week. I’d go back in a heartbeat!


You can take a bus up to Medeo, which is an old Olympic ice rink in the mountains. It’s a spectacular location!

Up the hill from where my apartment was. Steep climb!

Charyn Canyon

One day in April 2001 we took a trip with work colleagues to visit the amazing Charyn Canyon. It was a fantastic day out and I highly recommend that you visit this place if you get the chance. Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor went down into the canyon on the motorcycles on their travel show The Long Way Round.


Then there was Chymbulak, a ski resort up in the Alatau mountains. Many EY folk went up at weekends skiing. I went once on a retreat, although I don’t ski — I spent time playing guitar and taking saunas!

These two girls were the best and I miss them both dearly

Here’s me singing in the ski chalet. Good times!

Big Almaty Lake

Beyond Chymbulak was Big Almaty Lake and the Cosmostantsia. Five of us took a drive up there, first of all stopping at a trout farm at Turgen to catch some lunch, then all the way up beyond the snow line.

Tien Shan Astronomical Observatory, Ile-Alatau National Park, Assy Plateau

On the way to Big Almaty Lake

I love this image – the Lada Niva was a great motor

Leaving do

One of the partners left in May 2000 and we had a leaving do up in the mountains, with shashlyk, guitar, a fire. It was superb.


Singing the Leaving Song we Wrote for Reece



View from my apartment

It was soon time to go. During my time in Almaty I’d got engaged to my girl in Scotland and she was working in Luxembourg. She did consider moving to Almaty, but the climate wasn’t quite right for her. She came to visit in summer when it was 40C. Winters could get down to -30C. It was a crazy climate. It was a very enriching experience for me and I get very nostalgic when I think about it. Being a Russian speaker meant I could integrate well and my Russian became completely fluent while I was there. It’s not like that any more – it’s been 10 years since I quit translating and I stopped speaking Russian well a few years after moving to Luxembourg.

The Kazakh people are amazing and I miss them all from the office. The two gals I showed you at the ski resort in Chymbulak came to our wedding in Scotland, which was extra special. Here are some of the people I love and miss…

Me in the office

Me in my office space

Graeme, Lyakka and Dinara

Graeme, an Aussie partner and a guy I spent a lot of time with, along with two tax auditors, Lyazzat and Dinara


My good friend Yerzhan.


Reece was my immediate boss, one of the tax partners, from the eastern seaboard of the USA if I remember correctly. He was a fine piano player and a top bloke.


Lena was Reece’s secretary and she and I shared an office. She was an utter darling and I owe so much of my Russian fluency to her. She was a bit of a chatterbox! Standing on the right with Graeme is Belinda, another Aussie. She came a bit after me and we got on great.


Nick was yet another Aussie. This is us at a Burns supper of all things. I’m forever grateful to him for his gift of Neil Young’s Silver and Gold and Mark Knopfler’s Sailing to Philadelphia, still two of my favourites.

We played Risk A LOT. This is us playing at Mike’s place (far left). These are some of my happiest memories. ‘Fortune favours the brave!’

This is me and Dilya the night before I left. She was such a good friend.

Okay, so a horrible photo of me, but I have to include it because I loved Zoya so much. I talked to her a lot and she helped me through a lot of things. I really miss her.

Alyona was Anzhelika’s bestie and I loved her a lot. She was often at the Risk table and the laughs we used to have were treasure. This is on my last night in Almaty.

It’s been a real journey going through these photos and putting them into a timeline. If you’ve read along, I thank you. I was inspired to do it after reading a post by @elly-fly.

I left Kazakhstan for the last time in May 2001 and moved to a small village in Luxembourg where I spent the next 7 years. That’s a story for another time!