Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Fine Tuesday *New pics added*

Well it’s still raining on a daily basis here with only a one-day break of sunlight over the last two and a half weeks. Sure enough that day of clear skies happened to be the wedding day of Ian’s host sister. I was lucky enough to be invited to the wedding, which I was really excited about because I have gotten to know the bride and her family, plus this would be the first Uzbek wedding that I had seen. In addition to the wedding that fine Tuesday, America’s presidential election was taking place and a local university was hosting a watch party and a discussion session about American politics. Now I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about politics but I saw a trip down to Osh as an opportunity to help out other volunteers and have an exciting cultural experience.

The morning of the wedding I arrived at the bride’s house to find the whole compound transformed. They had remodeled the interior of the house, painted the outside and had set up hundreds of chairs and tables for the guests. The house was flooded with family and friends who were all feasting and celebrating the new marriage and in the foreground was a group of musicians playing traditional Uzbek music just about as loud as they could. I am quite sure that everyone in the center of Osh that morning knew that Nilafar was getting married. Eventually the groom and his party arrived and the toasts began. It was quite a process giving a toast, after each guest gave their congratulations to the groom they would have to dance in front of everyone while other guests and the groom would give them money which would eventually go into the hands of the wedding musicians. About half an hour into the toasting Ian and I were sitting admiring the festivities when I heard our names called out and immediately everyone turn to look at us. It doesn’t matter how many times it happens, every time I get called up to give a toast my heart freezes with fear. At that point there is only one thing to do, so we got up and gave our toast and did our best to mimic Uzbek dancing…it was not pretty! But to our surprise we survived and the next person was called up to give their toast. After about an hour of toasts the groom went down stairs with his party to retrieve the bride and much like in Kyrgyz weddings everyone piled into cars and went to a local monument to take pictures with the bride and groom. The chosen monument of Osh was a memorial site right next to the largest statue of Lenin in all of Central Asia- yeah, it’s a big deal! Followed by the photo fest the whole party moved on the a restaurant where the celebration would continue.

Once there we were greeted with music and food yet again. The band picked up immediately and the toasts continued. Ian and I were called up once again but this time we had a five minute warning and had a moment to prepare ourselves. At the last minute Ian had the brilliant idea of doing some very basic swing dance steps rather than butchering the traditional Uzbek dances. So we both gave toasts wishing happiness and love for the new couple and then twirled and swung around the dance floor for a while. When we got back to our seats we were both shaking with the adrenalin from dancing in front of hundreds of people but despite my horrible coordination will still received complements for the rest of the evening on our dancing! Around eleven o’clock the party started to wind down and we all jumped onto a rented marshuka and made our way back home. As I had been told, Uzbek weddings and Kyrgyz weddings are very similar with one major difference; at Uzbek weddings there not a drop of alcohol to be found! As a result there were no drunks trying to pull us out onto the dance floor or forcing vodka down our throats, so to be honest I didn’t mind at all!!!

The next day was the election party. The American Corner, where the election party was taking place, received CNN so we watched the polls come in live. It was around 11 am when the west coast was finally called, congratulations Obama! The whole afternoon went really well; there were three embassy employees that came down from Bishkek with pamphlets which explained the election process and who the candidates were. The volunteers gave great presentations on the Electoral College, the importance of voting and any other questions that the students had about America’s election process.

Since then it has rained and then rained some more. Yesterday I received a package from my parents which was full of books, cooking supplies and other things that I could not find here! I never thought I would get so excited about measuring spoons and a yoga magazine--but I did! Thanks you guys- you made my month!

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