Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 27, 2012

The day didn’t start promising for Zarina’s wedding as it turned out cool and cloudy as I made my way to the Children’s Library for Forum’s second meeting of the year. Natalia had already set up in the American Corner so each teacher would have access to a computer and could follow her presentation on using the many resources the State Department offers online to English teachers worldwide.

Only about eight teachers had shown up by ten and a few more straggled in later on. We had to go back to the third floor auditorium for the PCV’s presentation on the uses of technology in the classroom and I had a chance to present an icebreaker to give the teachers a chance to get to know each other. We played “Snowball fight” in which the teachers were given a piece of paper to write three things about themselves and then tossed in the air several times. I had planned to have music for this activity, but the speakers on the laptop failed to play along. Some of the teachers must have failed to write anything for two teachers had no papers to introduce anyone else.

We then had a coffee break with Elvira providing the cookies for it. Gulnara complained the association didn’t have the funds to provide such refreshments on a monthly basis and didn’t even own an urn to supply hot water having had theirs stolen after some conference or another. I offered to contact my RELO to see if part of my allowance could be used for such purposes.

We then met for a little while to talk about the topics to be included in the pre-conference section of the CATEC 2013 event. I reiterated the need for leadership training, fundraising, use of social media and getting teachers to contribute even a minute amount to the association. I had to leave early so I could prepare to go to Zarina’s house as she wanted me there when the groom arrived at 3:00pm.

Tatar weddings must be a long-drawn out event as the both the videographer and photographer were already in the house photographing Zarina alone and with her family and bridesmaid. Then came the groom and a series of silly games had to be played during which his knowledge of the bride was tested to the limits and he and his best man had to pay money every time he failed, which happened quite often.

There was an initial toast in the house before departing for the wedding registry building and then we followed in a caravan of vehicles, including the minibus for a group of us. The videographer had to jump out of his car numerous times to film the wedding vehicle coming by, a practice I’d consider downright dangerous. The inside of the registry looked like a tawdry Las Vegas wedding chapel with plenty of plastic red roses and marble. The ceremony in itself must have taken less than fifteen minutes as the couple was read something already prepared by a government official, bowed before their parents and then started down the stairs.

I took advantage of the pauses to photograph other couples and their attendants as the place is simply a conveyor belt anointing couples every few minutes and then dispatching them downstairs for an official portrait while two employees feverishly touch them up for DVDs sold on the spot.

After a wait, we drove to Victory Park to have the couple photograph while depositing a bouquet of flowers in front of the eternal flame so as to insure their love will last forever. There were many other couples doing exactly the same while surrounded by trash being left behind by the celebrants. One of the guests commented that the littering problem was due to the fact that Kyrgyz families were too busy earning a living to teach their offspring how to behave in public. Well, that sounded so familiar somehow.

One more ride took us to the restaurant where the tables were already laden with salads, fresh fruit, flat bread, vodka, wine, juice and soft drinks. I was hungry and was delighted to see a whole fried fish set in the middle of the table. I tried one tablespoon of each salad, all of which contained lots of mayonnaise, and had two servings of fish only to discover later on that all the food on the table was considered to be appetizers. Servers started to come by with samsis, shorbot soup and then the entrée: chicken cutlet, white rice and some type of coleslaw. I didn’t eat anything else as I was already full.

The reception included an elaborate lineup of entertainment options which started with a fire breathing Kyrgyz guy who subsequently pulled out a sword and broken glass to pull some very dangerous stunts. I managed to get a short video of the performance. I looked quite doubtful when the guy pushed his face into the broken glass and then asked his assistant to stand one foot on his face and one on his chest. Gulnara reassured me that the stunt was real and required years of training.

Zarina had begged to bring my jump drive with Latin music to play during the reception, which I did, but despite repeated requests for the DJ to play it, he kept putting it off supposedly until the games were over. He did play lots of Tatar-influenced music and there were a few spirited dancers on the floor including Zarina’s uncle and some other older guests.

We had a group of Kyrgyz break dancers next and, of course, I wasn’t quite impressed since I’m used to seeing African-American teenagers turned out stunning moves in places like Philadelphia. They were followed by a dancer who, to the horror of some of the guests, had a live Python snake wrapped around her neck. Gulnara and Aigul ran away after she passed our table while I had enough wherewithal to pull out my camera and record the rest of her performance.

The master of ceremony had started out the evening quizzing people on some subject or another and handing out fake money to the winners. He now had some of the them play yet another dart game and having them perform some action like giving the bride a massage or perform a fake strip tease. That was followed by handing out the letters of the Russian alphabet to others and having them come up with words beginning with that letter. I was getting tired and a bit cranky by them.

At another point, the bride took a leave, supposedly to powder her nose, but then we were told she had been kidnapped and the guests needed to pay money to contribute to her release from her captors. I wasn’t quite sure how to play this game and just stayed out of it.

When he brought out a box full of trinkets and started an auction, apparently to recoup the fake money he had given earlier, I begged to leave and had Zarina’s friend secure a taxi for me. I had been on my feet most of the day and just needed to get some rest. I didn’t get to say goodbye to Zarina as she was in the process of cutting the wedding cake and people had to pay for each slice.

The taxi driver took directly to my front door, and I gave him a generous tip. It felt great to be back in my flat.

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