Sunday, October 21, 2007

I'm glad I crashed the wedding

Ok so since I last wrote I've sliced and diced my legs on a short stroll in the hills, met a kebab seller called Borat and then watched the film of the same name after dinner with a Kazakh couple, and I've camped in the middle of a farm yard (which meant chasing away sheep, goats, horses and cows at one time or another). But I've made it safely to Turkestan home to one of the most beautiful buildings in Central Asia (when it isn't being renovated). And so I headed down to the masuleum yesterday evening to take a few photos. And of course being a Sunday all the wedding parties of the day headed down there as well to have their photos taken. It must have been wedding party number 3 where I met a young Kazakh I'll call Jack (for that's what he called himself). It started off with the standard "What's your name?" and "Where are you from?" but quickly , and rather surprisingly moved on to come on get in the photos. Why Jack seemed determined to ruin his friends wedding pictures by including a sweating, unshaven westerner dressed in last years Chinese fashions I couldn't work out but I'll try to send a couple later to give a fuller flavour. It should have stopped there but somehow it didn't. Suddenly I was being whisked away in a rather full car following, passing, or sometimes swerving round the wedding limo. We were off for more photos at the edge of town and then some toasts to the bride and groom. I was not exempt and as a resident of England (which it appears is a small town in America) was expected to come up with something particularly impressive. Needless to say, I failed. But despite this I was extended I rather informal invite to what I thought was the wedding reception. This was a not particularly ordered dance/dinner/toasting session. It was blazingly hot and I soon added a little more sweat to my already impressive appearance. How the bridal party managed not to passout in their full outfits I can only guess. It turned out that Jack was a bit of a show off and as his guest I was expected perhaps to dance in the rather impressive helicopter/whirling dervish manner that he had patented. Sadly I more closely resembled someones aging uncle failing completely to move his limbs in time with the music being played or indeed any music ever played.

And still it could have ended here. I was close to the hotel and it was as yet a reasonable hour. But no, Jack asked if I had any plans and before I could answer "yes lots" I was bundled into an even more tightly packed car and driven to who knows where. Well it was Jack's house actually and we were stopping for him to change into his favourite dancing outfit. As I had nothing to change into (my dancing outfit remained Chinese T-shirt and shorts, flip flops and a very dirty hat) I simply made do with a spray of Jack's aftershave. The preparation was infact for the formal reception. Hundreds of people were coming, all dressed to the nines. I had a feeking I might stand out a little.

And I wasn't wrong. There were about three hundred people in the hall including two offical video guys. The 4 strong bridal party were on a raised platform at the end of the hall and I was placed on the table next to them. It seemed a friendly enough group and as Jack was doing the rounds with everyone in the room I got to know them a bit better. The one dark cloud was that even this early into the evening I was able to work out that I had the town vodka monster on my table. This of course meant a succession of toasts to whatever he could think of (not that it mattered as Andriy the American couldn't understand a word of it). I did my best to delay the inevitable be eating what ever I could (except for the sheeps head which I politely declined), but the fact that I was drinking Russian cognac only added to my difficulties. This stuff is lethal. Now there were a few gaps as everyone in the room has to go to the back of the room, meant the MC and perform for the crowd. Most people made some sort of toast to the couple (I presume) but some old ladies in headscarves would sing songs and I'm sure there were a couple of comedians out there as well. Even I was called forward, I can't remember what I said but as the only two people that probably would have understood it were blind drunk it didn't really matter. I hope I didn't ruin the video though. The night became a bit more blurry as I ended up finishing the cognac, visited the kitchen for vodka shots and then hit the dance floor with a very energetic grandmother who certainly showed she hadn't forgotten how to move. There's not much else to remember, maybe the communal squat toilets or perhaps the shouts of americanski wherever I went. But to sum up all I can say is that everyone should try a Kazakh wedding reception.... but probably only once.

This was originally written on 03 September 2007. It is from my summer trip from Beijing to Birmingham.


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