WRITTEN BY ERIC TWACHTMAN
Up at 7:30 – Altyn as well – she had things to get done. The table was set for breakfast, and our bedrolls were folded and stacked. The family has many bed pads: the stack was a good five feet high. We sat about waiting for Altyn. She finally made it back with her hair and make up done. Then the youngsters all began to get ready so that they could get into the Hummer Limo with a porch and go to the ‘legal wedding’ that would be at 4. This would be at the records office and would be the formal paper work that the state requires. The rest of us thought that we might attend this, as well, but it did not happen. At 5:00 we (Granny, beck, myself and Monica, Adlet’s wheel chair-bound sister) were taken to the wedding in Adlet’s car driven by an aunt.
We arrived at Hotel Kazakh at 6:00. The trip wasn’t that long – Aunt had to stop at a florist to get a huge bouquet of roses. The florist was a tad out of the way and took some time getting the arrangement. I had a little time to go into some shops nearby – but there weren’t many interesting trinkets. The rest of the time we just sat near some street vendors for some time.
The Hotel Kazakh is quite the grand affair – certainly at home in any major city – 15 stories, very nice lobby. We made our way in to the cocktail hour – wine champagne and beer. The set up was classy, right down to the piano/violin players in the corner serenading us. Sterling and Wes were already there. They had gone to Amondyk’s house then to a park for pictures, then to the state marriage license office for the official wedding. So in the eyes of the state, 30 minutes was all it took.
At 6:30 we were ushered into the reception hall – which was a very similar set up to the Astana wedding. The hall fits more people, and the there is no huge chandelier, but the tables scattered about, the stage on one side, the bridal tent opposite – it was all of a muchness. This included the one waiter per table deal. Ours was Arsen – who had studied English and relished the chance to practice.
Many of the elements of this ceremony were similar to the last – 2 MC’s (this time a male and a female); speeches by many people, dances by traditionally costumed performers; songs by traditional and modern singers; dancing by all and drinking of vodka. An addition this time was a live band dressed like urban cowboys, playing brass, synthesizer, guitar and drums.
The costumed dancers performed traditional dances and 2 can-cans. The can-cans were done in dance hall dresses to Offenbach.
Another distinctive of this ceremony was that about mid way through, fellow got up and began reading from a book. As he read, he exhorted the crowd to be quiet. (During many of the speeches, there was always a background of chitchat noise.) I got the feeling that he was saying something that made this ceremony count for more than the others. At the end of his speech, he gave the book to the couple.
As with the other two times, we were invited to speak. This time, the female MC did our translation. It turns out that she studied for several years in Ithaca, MY. Now she MC’s weddings and is host of a Kazakh TV show. We all said similar things about how happy we were to have the happy couple be happy. Sterling differed in that she read a speech that she had written before that she had had translated into Russian by her friend Paullina. She had been practicing for quite a while, and did a great job. Everyone applauded with gusto. At the end of our round of speeches, we decided to do Tee-row-tie-row as a way of connecting with an Anderson tradition. The crowd seemed to enjoy our rendition. They clapped along as we chanted.
The special act this time was a group of dancers doing choreography with trained doves. They danced for 15 minutes, with doves flying about on command. The finale was doves flying about and landing on an unfurled Kazakh flag, at which point everyone stood and sand the national anthem.
The second special act was a 6 year old doing a young Michael Jackson song (in Kazakh) – complete with glove and moon walk.
The traditional dish this time (last time it had been a sheep’s head) was a horse’s head. It was passed around for everyone to have a bit of. I had some brains. Of course, we also had to have the huge platter of sheep/horse pot roast over noodles. (Beshbarmak)
This affair last another 6 hours. (Sterling and Wes went two hours earlier-). That makes it 18 hours of wedding so far. We got back to Balkien’s apartment (Adlet’s birth mom) at about 1 AM.
We were given a ride back in a regular taxi (of which there a very few.) Everyone else that didn’t have a car did the regular Kazakh thing of hailing the random driver and offering to pay – as we had done earlier, with Nurik. This included many of the relatives that did not have cars with them in town.