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Andrea Bagnoli: I rushed into Bishkek on motorbike

Andrea Bagnoli is a new Country Director of the UN World Food Program (WFP). He was born in Italy and worked in Mozambique, Haiti, Zimbabwe and Tajikistan. He has been living in Kyrgyzstan since August 2017.

— Before my last appointment, I worked in Tajikistan, therefore, considering the geographical proximity of the countries, I decided to move to Kyrgyzstan on my own. Rather, I did not even come, but rushed into the city on a powerful motorbike.

Without waiting for the loading and unloading by a courier company, I got on my bike and drove more than 1,000 km along Dushanbe-Osh-Bishkek highway. I think this is a good way to get acquainted with the region.

I explored the Pamirs riding my bike, and my next goal is a bicycle tour around Issyk-Kul Lake.

Jokes aside, I have over 17 years of experience in emergencies — I started in Mozambique, worked in Haiti at WFP headquarters, where I headed the department for training and response to emergencies.

— What surprised you in Kyrgyzstan?

I was impressed by the openness of the people and their frankness, the opportunity to freely discuss any topic, including politics.

Andrea Bagnoli

I was also struck by geographical contrasts and the diversity of the landscape of Bishkek. On the one hand, there is such an urban context, a modern city, on the other — a pastoral landscape, because the city is surrounded by the mountains always covered with snow! An amazing combination — just move away from the city and you will immediately find yourself in a completely different environment. I think I will still have many discoveries while travelling around the country.

— What in Bishkek reminds you of your hometown?

— I can say at once, these are culinary traditions! Do you know what unites us? Passion for noodles! It is spaghetti in Italy and kesme — in Kyrgyzstan. In Italy, we cook different types of pasta, in Kyrgyzstan — lagman and beshbarmak. As you can see, there is a very strong connection between Italy and Kyrgyzstan.

I thought for a long time that it were Italians who invented pasta, but then I had to admit that noodles are of the Asian origin. Thanks to Marco Polo for uniting Asia and Europe.

— What do you miss living far away from home?

— I miss the sea, my native city in Italy is on the sea. But I’m still lucky: although there is no sea nearby, but there is a salty lake (almost like a sea) — you can swim and admire the mountains.

— What is your favorite place in Bishkek?

— This is certainly Molodaya Gvardiya Boulevard — a very green place! It is my favorite place for jogging — usually, I go out of the house and run along the boulevard to Dolphin swimming pool, and in the evening, I walk from work along the boulevard.

I like to watch the real life — young people chatting on a bench, families, walking with children. This is a live, real place.

Andrea Bagnoli

I also like the urban architecture — a mix of Soviet style, very rational, and modern trends.

— What do you like in the national cuisine?

— I like boorsoks, especially just taken out of a kazan with kaimak — I can not stop eating them. I also really like lagman in all its kinds!

— And what are you afraid to even try?

— The question is not that I’m afraid to try. I’m curious and open to everything new. The question is whether I will like it.

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

— As I have already said, this is the openness of people. It is also a variety — cultural, ethnic, political, many different opinions, and, of course, unity — there are a lot of nationalities, cultural traditions in Kyrgyzstan. It enriches, charges with good energy. It is felt that the country is on the rise.

— And what disappointed you?

— It is difficult to ride a bike in the city. I want all the road users to obey the traffic rules and show more respect for pedestrians.

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