There is just something strange, and oftentimes wonderful, about this country. Last night I went to a Kyrgyz wedding celebration during which I danced several times. Somehow my limb flailing resulted in me winning a vase. I was going to try and connect my winning something, as a direct result of my dance skills, to some sort of life lesson. Something along the lines of no fear just dance or you only live once, but just isn’t connecting with me right now. Instead of that I think I will just talk about the wedding itself and how in the hell I won a vase.
First a little bit of background
Kyrgyz parties are generally fairly large affairs that can range from family only to everyone and their best friend’s mother. Even party’s which are family only may often be upwards of 50-100 people. A Kyrgyz wedding is an extension of the Kyrgyz attitude toward parties. Where a traditional party may last upwards of six or seven hours a wedding is an all night affair. The setting and arrangements may change from family to family, but there are always constants.
First of all there will be more food than you can comfortably shake a stick at. This food will be served over the course of the entire party, meaning the final dish is sometimes not served until the party is nearing its end. Celebrations will often times (though religious reasons may preclude alcohol from being served) include alcohol, which will consist mainly of vodka and more vodka. The same can be said for weddings only more so. Nearly anyone and everyone who chooses to imbibe will, at some point, be required to give a toast. This is another reason why Kyrgyz wedding parties go on for so long. It takes a long time for a hundred or more guests to make a toast.
Interspersed amongst this eating, drinking, and toasting there is likely to be dancing. Which is how yours truly managed to walk away with a fancy vase. At some fancier weddings there may be set dance performances, or a master of ceremonies who makes sure that everything runs smoothly. Dancing serves as a break from eating and drinking. A way for people to stretch their legs, and burn off the first four courses. It is a pattern that works and is a lot of fun.
In the Land of Bread and Meat
Last night’s wedding party was extremely fancy, especially by Kyrgyz standards. I forget the name of the café, but last night the main room seated more than five hundred guests. Ethan (fellow PCV and site mate) and I headed to the reception at about seven, which was right on time considering the party officially started at six. Before I go any farther I should mention that Kyrgyz parties, and Kyrgyz events in general, nearly always start an hour or two later then originally scheduled. All things considered the party got underway fairly early by Kyrgyz standards.
I have already mentioned that they party was a fancy one, but I don’t think that quite does it justice. The room where the party was held was essentially a giant ballroom that has to be expensive to rent even by American standards. Aside from an open dance area the room was wall-to-wall tables. All of them with fancy tablecloths and silverware. When I walked in the tables were already loaded down with food. A trait that would persist for the rest of the night, and which would then be transferred to the guests.
Speaking of food let me regale you with a list of the various dishes that were served throughout the night. To start everyone off there were loaves of bread just waiting to be broken. Caviar served on top of Pringles chips (surprisingly good) that was surrounded by two types of cured fish. Fruit wise there were slices of kiwi, pineapple, and oranges. There were several different kinds of salads, all of which contained meat. To tide you over between mouthfuls there was also a selection of dried fruits and nuts. That’s not including the fully cooked chicken and fish, which were ringing the table, just waiting to be eaten at a future point. It was a lot of food, and that’s without even mentioning the drinks or candy.
Six courses, two dance breaks, and one vase later I found myself sitting back down while the older women around the put the leftovers away. Picture a gang of elderly pirates divvying up the spoils of celebration. In the interim, between the initial serving and the final divvying, was much dancing. A Kyrgyz dance is a wonderful thing to behold, and the fact that they happen several hours into the celebration only heightens the level of enjoyment.
And it is with this that we come to the vase of the story. I do not know how I won a vase. All I know is that when I walked out on to that dance floor I was suddenly amongst my people. Amidst the swirling beats of Russian pop there was not rhythmic individual to be found.
During training trainers, as well as older volunteers, will tell you that a large part of being a successful volunteer is successful integration. If that is true then the rest of my service is going to be awesome, and even if it isn’t well I will always have my big glittery vase (complete with plastic diamonds). Here is to hoping it is though, because I would love to go the more Kyrgyz weddings.
Wherein I gaze back into the glittery past. .
I have no earthly idea what I am going to do with this vase. Maybe I will wait for the right moment to give it to my family.
. My grab bag was a big hit with the family. Do not ever forget your grab bag, when coming from a Kyrgyz party.
. Maybe I’ll fill it with chocolate, and keep my addiction hidden in plain site. My supply might give out eventually, but I have every confidence in my scrounging abilities.