“Have you ever been to American wedding? Where is the Vodka, where is marinated herring?”
Well, I’ve been to a Kazakh one, and they do indeed have Vodka—and if not marinated Herring, they’ve got some sort of pickled fish. Kazakh weddings are something I’ve always wanted to see, as they are an extremely unique part of Kazakh culture. In fact, the tradition in Kazakhstan is for a new couple to have two weddings—one for the groom’s family and one for the bride’s family. The Groom’s wedding is the larger and more official of the two, but the bride’s one is nothing to laugh at—150+ people in attendance. We went to the bride’s wedding, which I think was good, because I’m not sure that we are ready for 300 plus guests and all the other ceremonies which are part of the groom’s wedding.
We arrived at the reception at about 6:30 in the evening, which was late, since we were told by Assima that it started at 6:00 PM. However, the Kazakh tradition is for all the guests to arrive several hours late. True to form, the groom’s family didn’t arrive until 8:30 and we couldn’t start until they came. When it finally started, we had to wait while the families were introduced by the master of ceremonies.
Our dinner started with a course of appetizers—and we were starving by this time. The meal started with several salads and sausage—known as Kazi, which is made from horse. Along with the Kazi, we also had horse tongue (bleh—tasted like a horse smells and I literally mean that), and pickled fish. Vodka and wine was also complimentary with the meal. As our dinner progressed, different friends and family members began to make toasts, which were punctuated by dances or small events, which was kind of hard for us to follow because the noise was so loud that our hosts couldn’t tell us what was happening. With the toasts, we took a couple of shots of Vodka along with the other members at our table who said that they were members of the police.
The main course came after an hour or so I think, and it was Beshbarmak, the traditional food of Kazakhstan—and as per traditional Kazakh style, it was made with horse. I’ve often said I was so hungry that I could eat a horse and this time it was true. It was also delicious; I prefer horse to dog any day. Mark felt that the Beshbarmak meat reminded him of pot roast and I’d say that to a certain extent I would have to agree with him. The meal was excellent and we all enjoyed it.
I really enjoyed the dinner and our wedding reception. I think that my favorite part of the night however, was when the older Kazakh women sang different traditional Kazakh folk songs for the happy couple. I really enjoyed one of them, which had been sung by one of the oldest ladies on the groom’s side. Later on, I asked Assima about that song and she told me she couldn’t find it because it probably hadn’t been recorded before. However, she did offer to introduce me to the old lady, which was an extremely enjoyable experience for me. She was extremely sweet and she sang the song again for me and I was able to record it.
The nights festivities were very pleasant and we all enjoyed ourselves immensely. Kazakh weddings are extremely fun events and you’ll all be glad to know that we’ve been invited to another one tomorrow. Jon will be sitting this one out because last time he invited Maria to it and she showed up but there wasn’t room for her at the event, so it caused kind of a rocky patch between them, so this time he’s sitting this one out and spending some quality time with his devotchka.
Lost in the Woods
I never really got around to explaining how our forest camps went and now we’ve finished up with our camps I feel I’ve let you, my faithful readers (Hi mom!) down. It’s been extremely hard because we’ve just been having so much fun. I think may have told you already what happened at the camp. But just in case I have not—we arrive at the camp at about 1000 and have breakfast, which is usually a porridge type meal, which I found fairly tasty. Usually it was made from grits like material—I could taste the corn and the texture was the same, but it was more soup. Other times it was more of a rice porridge, but I thought they were both good. A little sweet, but not overly so.
After breakfast, we usually took naps, or perhaps watch some TV—Mark brought a whole ton of TV show DVDs with us. After an hour or so, we’d do a game of mafia. Then we’d talk with the students a bit and break for lunch around 1300. Lunch was usually something with Gretchka, Jon, Mark and Eric hate the stuff, but it’s not terrible, just needs a lot of sauce. Lunch would also have a nice soup, which if it was Borsht, was probably the best Borsht I’ve had here. (Interesting side note: according to Rose, in Russian it’s just pronounced “Borsh” no T). After lunch, more of the same kind of English language games and activities such as charades, body English, “who am I?’(think that game they played in Inglorious Basterds in the bar).
We’d often break between games and just do some talking with the groups. Dinner was at 1900 which was also something with Gretchka, but no soup. After dinner on Friday, we might watch a movie or do some dancing. Around midnight or later we’d hit the sack, and the next day we’d begin our fun again at 1000.
Breakfast and up until lunch is about the same as it is on Friday. After lunch, we might do ultimate Frisbee or some other games, or if we were feeling like the weather was nice enough, we’d go down to a small beach on the river and hang out. We’d head back for tea at 1600 (or skip it if we were having a lot of fun) and then we’d head back to doing some activities together. Dinner was the same as Fridays, maybe a little different, sometimes without gretchka. Saturday night was a great night because it was our bonfire night. There’s nothing more manly than building a roaring fire and cooking out on it.
After the bonfire, we had another dance party and the students would party like it was 1999. I tended to avoid it, because students in Kazakhstan listen to some truly awful dance music. It all sounds the same and it is basically just pop music that was popular a few months ago (S&M by Rihanna, We Speak no Americano,) and some other stuff that I can’t identify, but has the same repetitive beats and messages.
Sunday was our decompression day and we’d clean up the place we stayed. We’d probably still do Mafia or another English language activity. We’d leave the place around 1400 and go back home and that was the end of our Forest camp days. They were always a lot of fun and I’m very sorry to say that our summer camp is done and that soon we’ll be heading back to our homes. I love Kazakhstan, I love her people, and I will always love coming back here.