05 July 2018
Category : Interview
FIIAPP Expatriates: José Maté
"Only seven Spaniards live in Kyrgyzstan"José Maté, on the left, in one of the activities undertaken by EU-ACT
In this interview, José Maté tells us about his life in Kyrgyzstan. The Chief Inspector of the National Police, currently coordinator of the EU-ACT project in the Central Asian area, has previous international experience, since he has two stays in Guinea Bissau and Timor.
How have you adapted to this country?
Much better than expected. Before embarking on the project I searched for information on the internet about the country, its people, culture, gastronomy… and what little information I did find did not correspond with the subsequent reality.
Undoubtedly, Central Asia in general, and Kyrgyzstan in particular, are largely unknown to Europeans, since they are not tourist or business destinations. An example of this is that there are only seven Spaniards living here. However, it is a very interesting country, practically virgin, where more than 90% of the territory is mountains, some more than seven thousand metres high, and with people who are open to foreigners and the changes they may introduce.
What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to and the easiest?
The most difficult aspect for me has been the weather, because of coming from the Canary Islands and having lived in tropical places, here we have experienced winter days with temperatures of -27ºC.
The least difficult for me has been the change in the food; in Kyrgyzstan they have a completely different variety to Europe, with delicious and economical dishes. In fact, I’ve already gained weight, but since it is so cold I cannot play sports until summer.
Is this your first experience outside of Spain?
No. I was in countries like Timor and Guinea Bissau, both poorer and with more complex idiosyncrasies. In that sense I can say that my quality of life here has been better.
What is your work like and your daily routine?
It is an interesting job but difficult to do. First I must establish relationships with a lot of project beneficiaries belonging to different ministries such as Health, Justice and Interior. Each of them has different formal requirements for cooperation, so the bureaucracy is sometimes exhausting. Then, you must design a work plan that meets their demands, but that is at the same time valid and realistic, that fits in with their needs and our possibilities.
After this, you must move forward with the proposed and agreed activities, which entails its own difficulties, since in this country only Russian is spoken and all the experts who collaborate in our activities must be European. In addition, I must monitor the results and follow-up on the activities. As you can imagine, I do not have time to do everything.
What is your relationship like with headquarters in Madrid? And with your colleagues in Kyrgyzstan?
The relationship with Madrid is daily, there are a thousand things that must be coordinated and achieved and without this understanding and support it would be impossible to carry out this project. Most of it takes place by email, which is nonetheless impersonal and formal, but because of the time difference it is the most useful.
With my colleagues here, the relationship is the simplest and easiest in the world, since I only have one colleague, Zhibek, who works at the desk opposite me. Even so, there are times when we communicate by email, especially when we want to say something urgent and the other one is talking on the phone.
How would you assess your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate in Kyrgyzstan?
It is a positive experience because it gives me the opportunity to get to know this part of the world that I did not know anything about. It is especially interesting for my daughter, who is learning Russian in her new school and also lives with people from other cultures, religions, customs or ways of thinking; being told about something is not the same as living it.
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