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Why Algerian Abdel loves boiled sheep’s head and does not like borsch

Abdelhak Benyagoob came to Frunze city as far back as in 1988, when being a soldier. He came from Algeria, the city of Oran. He came to Kyrgyzstan having received a scholarship of an international program.

Since childhood, he dreamed of becoming a pilot, working in civil aviation. But the political regime in Algeria did not allow his dream to come true. After several years of study, he was told that a young man could only become a flight attendant.

«I am from an ordinary large family with ten children. There are only the poor and the rich in Algeria. If you are not rich, you can not make your way in life. My father insisted that I go to the army and be able to fulfill my dream of flying,» Abdel told.

— What were your impressions of Kyrgyzstan when you first arrived in the country?

— The army immediately recognized my potential. I was one of the top 20 pilots, was the third among the snipers and the second soldier in the troop. A year later, I was sent to Frunze city. In October 1988, we came to Moscow at night. Nobody met us. An attendant arrived only in the afternoon and took us to Biryulevo. We did not know the language and walked one after another. There was −2 Celsius outside and we wrapped ourselves in hoods. Now, I can wear shorts in such a weather.

We were transported from Frunze to Tokmak town. We drove through some desert. The bypass road was not asphalted then. Many guys wanted to immediately write a request to return to Algeria.

We were taken to Tokmak market in the morning. Where did we get? We did not understand anything at all. The Dungans, Uzbeks ... We decided that we had come to China. There were a few Kyrgyz. The first we experienced was a shock.

We learned Russian six hours a day. There were no other subjects. We were taught so to even have dreams in Russian. We talked about everything — love, sex, joked, but only in Russian. There were translators, but they did not answer us.

The most difficult thing was to talk with children. They laughed at us that we did not understand some words, tried to explain to us their meaning.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Russian army sent us to Syzran. Then a civil war broke out in Algeria.

I had a girlfriend Oksana, who later became my wife. I understood that I would not rise above the captain if I marry a foreigner, but I left the army for her sake.

— Why did you decide to stay in Kyrgyzstan?

— At first, I went to France. I wanted to continue my study and take Oksana with me. But it did not work without money and contacts. I got a job in a company that needed a person with knowledge of Russian to work in Central Asia. At the interview, I said that no candidate, except me, would suit them.

I got this job, and returned to Kyrgyzstan again. The company built a high-voltage line in Issyk-Kul region. I worked there for 8 months and again had to look for a work, a friend from St. Petersburg helped me. Having learned the logistics, I started working for his company. Later, I myself opened a shipping company.

Now I see no reason to work with the CIS. The company is temporarily put on hold. Once I transported a yurt with a tandyr from Naryn to Ecuador. We also delivered sugar from Colombia to St. Petersburg. At least it was indicated in the waybill. I was in Kyrgyzstan and could not check whether it was sugar or cocaine.

— How has the republic changed during this time?

— It has become much better, but the trees and shrubs have disappeared. Previously, Bishkek was compared to Kiev, it was second in the USSR. There is a lot of concrete and cars on the streets now. There are beautiful houses, mansions, but the city is overloaded. What was the air here before ...It’s quite different now.

There are many opportunities in Kyrgyzstan; it gave me a lot. I even obtained Kyrgyz citizenship. I want to help the republic to develop.

— What has surprised you when you met with the local population?

— We were taken as spies. I did not feel discrimination. But if you go to a bar or cafe on Sovietskaya — Bokonbaev Streets or to a disco on Panfilov Street, be ready. If a bottle flies, either run or hit. The foreigners were considered as rich people in the Soviet Union.

Now everyone understands that we are not the spies.

We are treated more kindly, but not by everybody. I have one example. We were getting ready for the wedding of our daughter and ordered a party in a cafe. I got a call from a brother from Algeria, and I walked away to talk to him. The conversation was in Arabic. A local man tried to catch me, because I am an Arab. But I’m an Algerian. Such people are the shame of Kyrgyzstan.

— What in Kyrgyzstan reminds you of your homeland?

— I was born on the sea, so I like Issyk-Kul. I have my own house there. I spend five months a year on the lake. I like mountains, I like skiing.

I liked the south of the republic: food, very tasty lepeshkas (flatbread).

— What national dishes do you like? And what are you afraid to even try?

— Since I am a Muslim, I can eat sheep’s head and eyes but under one condition: if I have cooked it by myself. I can eat a little of kazy, not much.

I do not like gulchatai. I do not like the look of the dough. My mother is Spanish. I’m used to Spanish or French cuisine, freshly cooked dishes. My Russian wife cooked borsch for three days. I could not eat it, but I feel bad about throwing away the food.

— What do you miss here?

— Artichokes. I even brought seeds and tried to grow them, but failed. This is a very healthy product. Previously, I constantly asked for the cauliflower in the market. I persuaded the Dungans to cultivate it. There are a lot of it now. Apparently, now I need to persuade them to grow artichokes.

There is also no zucchini. I like to add it to couscous. I can not also find turnip. Men want to have children, but do not know that turnip is useful in this regard.

Seasonings are sold very nicely in the markets, but they are stored in a wrong way. Their flavor disappears. Sometimes, I pass by a cafe and can understand whether shashlik is fresh or not by its smell.

— What would you like to change in Kyrgyzstan?

— It is necessary to restore historical places. Sometimes, restoration costs more than construction of a new building. But future generations should know that this is the house of Chingiz Aitmatov or Rosa Otunbayeva.

I had lived in Georgia for a long time. They know how to preserve history. Archaeological exhibits were found there during the construction of the metro. The subway line was changed, and the history was preserved.

Ala-Too Square in Bishkek was blocked in the evening. What for? What is valuable there? The historical museum ... restoration is still in progress. We used to go there dressed up, and not wearing shorts and flip-flops. Something remained near the City Administration, but the buildings are not preserved. Historical places, not modern architecture, cause admiration.

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