Saturday, June 19, 2010

Toy, Part Deux

An Azeri Wedding, Part Deux

So my host family has been talking about the wedding (Azeri translation: toy) of their youngest daughter since I got to site in December. At first they said it would be in February, then moved the date back to April, then I was told a very vague “summer”. I figured theday would eventually come, because I had seen long engagements before, but wasn’t sure if I would actually still be here for the day. Well, the day finally came, and I was fully a part of the celebrations.

My month of June was supposed to be a rest period, a time where I wasn’t going to do any clubs and concentrate on what needs I need to fulfill in my community. Well, many things have fallen into my lap as of late and June has become a whirlwind month with no day left unplanned. It was that big guy in the sky (Babe Ruth?) who intervened on my behalf because when I went guesting at my family’s house in late May that they told me the wedding would be on the 10th of June, the only few days I actually had off this month, and it was because my softball team dissolved (the kids thought it was too hot to play). So, I was able to fully celebrate this time with my family, Azeri-style.

The first thing when it comes to weddings is that a ton of preparation goes into them, even though the date isn’t usually set until about three-two weeks before the event. No one leaves Goranboy very often, so people are expected to be around, so no future notice is really needed. Anyways, after giving me the date, my family asked me to help prepare the meal with them and other family. I already knew this was coming, because earlier in the year, I had made pizza for them and they wanted me to make mini-pizzas for the wedding. So, they day before the wedding, I show up to my host family’s house at 4p.m. (once again, too hot out to do anything before that time) and sit and drink tea. Little by little, people start showing up in droves. Turns out, cooking with “family” with them and 50 of their closest friends and neighbors. I knew most of them, but with the rest I faced the familiar “Who is the English girl?”, “Why are you in Azerbaijan?”, “Why don’t you earn a salary?” or the ever-present “When are YOU getting married?” All the xanims offered to cater my wedding as I was drinking tea with them. As we got started, people laughed at my peeling skills (peeling a cucumber with a knife is a lot harder than with a peeler, try it!) and then laughed harder at all my picture taking. We sat around for a few hours chatting and prepping, boiling and chopping until they brought in the big guns. My host father paraded in a herd of sheep and a baby cow to the fenced in part of our back yard. I knew what that meant. My family had bought live animals to kill and butcher for the wedding. I got to witness from start to finish the cow and sheep cooking process. It was pretty interesting and not all that disgusting, and man does baby cow taste good after you kebab it.

By that point my work there was done. I had been made fun of enough to really call it a night, plus it was starting to get dark and I don’t like to be out walking the streets at night. So I went home with empty promises of lots of dancing the next day. By day break (10 a.m.) I went back over to my host family’s house and grabbed all the stuff there I had left the night before. I am NOTORIOUS for leaving stuff behind at my house, and therefore I got made fun of a little bit more as I asked for my battery charger and water bottle back. No one was home besides my host mom and 12 of her closest friends (my three sisters were in the big city of Ganja getting their hair and make-up done), talking about my host sister’s wedding night. As much as I wanted in on this conversation (I think having the run s with a squat toilet would be better) I had to go get ready for the big day. Kate and I got ready together, meaning it took 15 minutes for dress and make-up another 10 for hair, and headed off to the one big restaurant in town that’s only for weddings.

Now, Kate and I have an agreement not to dance at weddings. We both suck at Azeri-style dancing and get embarrassed when all the ladies laugh at us for not knowing how. Honestly, they have been doing it their whole lives, yours truly has been to exactly three Azeri toys. How the heck am I supposed to catch on so quickly?? Anyways, if people ask us to dance, it is easier if we both say no, then no one can tell us that the other is better, and people compare us less. However, this was my host sister’s wedding, so I warned Kate about the dangers she was about to face. I HAD to dance the family dance (there is a song specifically for the family to dance to) and I was forced to dance with all the neighbors. There was no choice in the matter, I was afraid of being shunned if I didn’t dance. Kate took advantage of the lack of attention and once we took our traditional wedding picture (seen below), she slipped her way out the door two hours after the start of the wedding. In Azerbaijan, this was almost dine-and-dash, and to me, it felt like betrayal, even though I would have done the same exact thing. I guess I was just jealous that she had the idea before me. So I was stuck there until the end, dancing. Anyways, this is the first time I had stayed to the end of a wedding (4 hours) and at the end they serve plov, the national rice dish of Azerbaijan. The waiters brought it out with flaming batons and the whole spectacle was pretty interesting, Las Vegas-style.

After the wedding, I tagged along back to my host family’s house. I knew it would be another long affair, but the promise of more of the delicious food I helped make lured me to the after party. I just have no self control when it comes to kete and kebab! YUM! There was so much dancing at this thing my feet hurt for days later. I should’ve known the Azeri’s get down into the late hours. I ended up dancing a lot with my other host sister’s husband who was one of the only men I knew at the party. He was kind enough to teach me a few steps, and I got really good in the end. He knew a little English, and all I heard after each dance was “Victory!” as he put up his middle and index finger in a “v” sign. It seemed so funny to me, I didn’t know what the victory was. Was it that I was starting to learn the steps of the dances pretty well or that we made it through another song without me stepping on his foot? Could be both! We did henna, which you are supposed to write the initial of your sweetheart on your hand. My host sister wrote my own initial on my hand. I am not quite sure what that means, but I think it was appropriate.

In the end, it was a really fun wedding because I knew the people who were there and knew the person getting married and actually got down with my bad self, as the saying goes. I learned all the work that goes into these things, and it actually reminded me of my own sister Lisa’s wedding and all the work that we did for that event. I was less of a girly girl at Lisa’s wedding, not helping with flower arrangements or making chocolates with my mom and sister Jessica, but being the girl who went and got the pizza for the bridesmaids as we were getting ready (my role always involves me eating food, huh?). I got girly in this event, cooking with the older ladies, but in the end took pictures more than I did chop carrots. I guess I am just not cut for the finer parts of wedding preparation. What I got out of this whole event? I am going to leave my own wedding to a planner and just dance my ass off when the music starts.