It has only been two weeks since the English clubs have begun but I already feel like so much has happened. In every club the students are so curious as to what America is like, so I’m going with the flow and using the reoccurring theme of comparing Kyrgyz traditions with American lifestyle. For example one day we compared Kyrgyz wedding traditions to American wedding traditions and I gave them new vocabulary like “bride”, “groom” and “engagement”. These clubs have also been a great resource into the community for me; for example last Monday while we were describing our weekends I found out that the airport was a great place to go running- who would have thought! Also through these English clubs I have met some really awesome students including two young women who extended invitations to birthday parties and weddings to me. I gladly accepted both, so this last Tuesday I attended the 17th birthday of one young lady and the following day I attended the wedding of different young woman’s sister!
The day of the birthday party I jumped onto the marshuka after work with the birthday girl’s sister and went to their apartment. The prior week she had mentioned that she had never tried pizza and she asked if I could make it for her someday (I get the impression that the Kyrgyz view hamburgers and pizza as America’s national dishes) so I decided a homemade pizza would be an awesome birthday present! When we arrived, the sister and I went straight to work. I began making the pizza dough and she started preparing the rest of the dinner. I always get nervous when I prepare food for people because I know -a little too well- how quickly a meal can go downhill, but when I pulled the pizza out of the oven I was happy to find the cheese had melted beautifully and the crust didn’t have a single burnt spot on it. Also in my favor, since these girls had never had pizza before there was no benchmark to meet. It went over pretty well too; the birthday girl went back for seconds and thirds. With the pizza they also served their national dish; plov (which is fried rice with vegetables), fresh salads, fruit and cake. As dinner continued a few more of her friends came by, and her older brother also joined in with his young family. It was so flattering to be invited into someone house to share a celebration with them.
The following day was the wedding, so I left work a little early and took a taxi to a little village about 40 minutes out of the city where the wedding was. When I arrived my friend was still running around the house catering to guests so I was ushered into the house by her family and told to sit at a the foot of the feast and to eat. For special occasions, like a wedding, the Kyrgyz will set up a meal on a beautifully embroidered sheet on the floor, all the guests will sit on long cushions and enjoy the meal cross-legged without chairs or tables. They are also very hospitable in the sense that they won't let their guest leave hungry so through out your stay in a Kyrgyz household they will insist that you should eat. Its pretty funny, I could have a mouth full of food or bringing a fork to my mouth and the Kyrgyz will still be telling me to eat as if I hadn’t taken a bite of food all day!
For most of the morning guests were just eating and chatting waiting for the groom’s arrival and eventually, a little past noon, the groom and his party made their grand entrance. You could hear them before they had even turned onto the street because they were honking their horns announcing their arrival. When they pulled up to the gates the first person to jump out of the car was the wedding singer with his accordion who was singing Kyrgyz songs at the top of his lungs. The rest of the party was right behind him and jumped out of the car already dancing and singing along. They were greeted with trays of bread, candy and vodka and then ushered into a yurt that had been build especially for this wedding where there was a feast awaiting them. After they had eaten, it was time to retrieve the bride from the house but in order to do this the whole groom party had to enter the home singing and dancing. The bride this whole time had been waiting patiently in the house dressed in her beautiful white gown, comparable to a western wedding dress, with her brides maid at her side the whole day. After quite the serenade, the groom finally made it into the house and was able to kiss his new wife. Afterwards the family said prayers and gave the new couple their blessings and began feasting again. While enjoying probably their third or fourth meal of the day (it was only 2 pm) the groom and his party were presented with baskets of food, drink and a freshly slaughtered sheep that he was required to buy, the two parties squabbled and bargained over prices but eventually the groom paid for the food.
But the party was still not over, before going to the café where the wedding would continue the whole party jumped into their cars and drove to a local monument where they all had their pictures taken with the newly married couple. Finally we all arrived at the restaurant where we were presented with more food, music and dancing. I swear I have never seen so much hip swinging, pelvis thrusting or arm flailing in my life; the dancing was phenomenal!!! By the time it was all said and done I had been at the wedding for almost 14 hours, I was exhausted!!!
For the rest of the week I kept a low profile and continued with the English clubs and working around Jalal Abad until Friday when I went down to Osh for a Halloween party that a local club was putting together. Almost twenty other volunteers attended as well, all in costume, and for the last time that week I danced the night away!
8 years ago