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Co-director of Confucius Institute Ma Lei jokingly calls himself Kyrgyz

Co-director of the Confucius Institute in Kyrgyzstan Ma Lei has been living and working in Bishkek for 7 years already. At first, he gave lectures at this institute and in the last three years he has been Co-director of the International Institution. He is fluent in the Kyrgyz language.

Ma Lei shared with 24.kg news agency his impressions about our country and its residents.

— What surprises you in Bishkek?

— When I first arrived in Bishkek, I was struck by large trees. No matter what street I walked along, tall trees grew everywhere throughout the city. You will not see it in my native Urumqi (PRC). The people are also very friendly to each other here.

— What in Bishkek reminds you of your hometown?

Maybe, Madina market, especially catering facilities located there, cuisine...

Ma Lei

— What do you miss in Kyrgyzstan?

— You know, if you mean things, goods, then Kyrgyzstan has everything what China has. There are no problems with that. I miss only my family. They are in Urumqi now.

— Do you already have a favorite place in the capital or in Kyrgyzstan?

— In general, I like the city. It is clean, green. It should be noted that Bishkek is clean in terms of ecology. I like Navat cafe and there is one café near the Osh market where beshbarmak is cooked. It is delicious and is served according to Kyrgyz traditions. As for the regions, well, Issyk-Kul Lake is very beautiful. I’ve been almost everywhere in the country, even in Osh many times.

— What do you like in the national cuisine?

— Beshbarmak. At first it was a little difficult to get used to it, because it is fatty. Now I got used to it, I eat it with pleasure. I also like gyuro-lagman.

— Are there any dishes that you would not even dare to taste?

— No, there are not any. But one dish really surprised me.

Once, in a café, I was served a large plate with a lot of meat on it. There was a bakery in the form of a yurt in the middle. There was also meat inside the yurt. It was the most unforgettable dish I have ever eaten in Kyrgyzstan.

Ma Lei

— What has fascinated you in close acquaintance with the local population?

— Friendliness. I have noticed that many foreigners in Kyrgyzstan do not speak the Kyrgyz language. When I speak Kyrgyz, people are always surprised. Just yesterday I took a taxi and got into conversation with the driver. And after a while he looked at me through the mirror and asked: «Baike, what is your nationality?» I said that I am a Chinese.

«Are you a Chinese Kyrgyz?» — he asked.

«No. I’m a real Chinese!»

And then the driver confessed that he saw a foreigner who so fluently speaks Kyrgyz language for the first time, and asked to take a selfie with me.

In Osh market, when I start talking in Kyrgyz, the sellers are surprised. Therefore, I jokingly call myself Kyrgyz. People always ask where I have learned Kyrgyz.

Ma Lei

I also like the local tradition of respecting the elders.

— And what disappointed you in close acquaintance with the local population?

— Behavior of the drunken people. I do not like when drunken men pester me on the streets and offer to drink a cup of tea and vodka together with them… They are not aggressive, they just pester me with endless talks and offerings to drink.

«Dosum, chai ischebiz, arak ischebiz (Friend, lets' drink a cup of tea, vodka),« — that’s what the drunk men say to me.

— Are there things that you do not like and would like to change?

— Yes, there are two of them. The first is roads. After all, every day we go to work. It would be nice if they were expanded. There are a lot of cars in the city, but the size of the roads remains the same. The second is the state of buildings of the universities.

I have noticed that the Kyrgyz people traditionally tend to get higher education, they all strive for knowledge. There are many educational institutions in Bishkek. But if I say that the buildings of universities, lecture halls are in good condition, I will tell a lie. Even the lecture halls lack furniture, visual materials.

Ma Lei