WRITTEN BY ERIC TWACHTMAN
Today is the day of the ‘Koudalouk’ – or party to mark the joining of the 2 families. It will be at Amondyk and Shamshat’s house. Because it is being held there, Balkien and her side of the family (the ones we have been staying with) are not invited. That includes Batir, Monika and Tolkyn, Adlet’s siblings. All of them seemed to take it instride. When Amondyk married Shamshat, Balkien moved to the #2 spot. She still gets taken care of, but her status is decidedly second place.
We took a little while getting up and about today – last night being rather late. Balkien made some ‘hangover’ soup. Apparently if you have a soup with a bone in the bowl and fat on top, it’s good for having tied one on. Buribay and Batir had another way of being hung over – a hair of the dog. The tradition here is that as long as you don’t pour your own drink that it will be good for you. They both didn’t pour several drinks for themselves.
We got to Amondyk’s house at 1:00 PM. It’s high in the hills in a gated community. Sort of a Kazakh Windsong. The house is 4 stories high with marble stairs with a pool out back with a mosaic for the floor.
Altyn and Adlet were greeted by several babushkas throwing candy. As we picked it up, we got good luck.
The entry way is marble floored, and leads into a sunken living room where the huge TV is. A DJ was set up in there. We took off our shoes and went up the two stairs into the dining room. It was set with 2 tables with settings for 35. The tables were laden with many of the 1st course foods that we had come to expect: fruit, nuts, salads, etc. The format was also similar. The DJ and the speeches and the traditional songs also followed a similar script – although in a more intimate setting.
After about 2 hours, we got to get up for a bit of a break. We could get a tour of the house or hang out or go out to the pool. Granny went for a tour. I went up to the balcony for a sit down. It was not long, though, until some speakers were brought up and the music was cranking and all were expected to dance. Shamshat’s sister started dancing and I was compelled to dance as well. So I danced. At the end, vodka was poured and I was compelled to have a shot. I had avoided it for so long that it seemed a pity to give in now, but at this close setting, I had little choice. I took one, As soon as it was in my mouth, someone shoved a cherry tomato in my mouth. I swallowed with reluctance.
Then more dancing, and more vodka. This time, though I made as though I had to go to the bathroom, so I could spit the vodka and tomato out. I came out and sat in the living room. Not two minutes passed before one of the ladies came by and saw me sitting (intolerable) and hustled me out to the pool. I stopped by the kitchen on the way out and marveled at the 3 foot diameter noodle that was being prepared for the bishpolmok (the horse/sheep pot roast). We could not linger over noodles, though. It was out to the pool with the men Amondyk, Zholgoz and others were out there enjoying the day. Amondyk invited me to swim. I begged off, signaling that I had no bathing suit. No problem for Amondyk – he simply dropped his pants and swam in his boxers. I went to the gazebo for a rest with the guys. Within seconds, a bottle was produced and drinking and toasts ensued. I once again was induced to drink several shots (I was able to off load one under the ruse of having to take a photo of the far side of the house).
One of the men – we called him Mr. Kaz – kept calling me Mr. Amerika. Then he would loudly (and ever more drunkenly) say Viva Barack Obama – Viva Arnold Schwarzenegger! He never seemed to tire of it.
On my way back from the side of the house, I noticed that where we would have a BBQ pit, they had a shaslik grill and a bishpolmok pit. The cauldron for the bishpolmok was huge. I also stopped in the house and got my shot glass and filled it with water – just in case there was to be another toast.
All that cleverness for nothing. I went out to the pool area – avoiding the gazebo – and saw that Amondyk was joined in skivvy swimming by Zholgoz, a fellow named Mahmoud, and by Mr., Kaz. They insisted on a toast. I drank up. Too quickly and willing – I suppose, because Zholgoz spotted the water a mile off. Vodka was poured, and for the third time I was induced to down a shot. That was more alcohol than I had consumed in my life heretofore. After this, all got dressed and we went back inside for the rest of the festivities.
This was the beshbarmak session – so the platter was passed around and more speeches and songs were made. At about 5:30, we made ready to go to a restaurant. We had just finished what could only be termed as gobs of food, and we are off to a restaurant!
We made our way out to the cars and went to get in the van, when Shamshat whisked in and seated several others in our van. Mom, Beck and I were put in Amondyk’s Lexus limo – complete with reclining, air-conditioned back seats.
The restaurant was wedding themed. There was a large garden with a centerpiece of a boulder with two hand prints on it. The luck couple would accrue even more luck by placing their hands on it.
The garden was lovely, flowers and shrubs and much topiary – spider, alligators, people, yurts, etc. Our party was on a covered porch. The tables were covered with the salads and fruits that we had seen at every other party – including the one we had just left not 30 minutes ago. The MC was the same one as at the house. He started up with music and speeches and dancing.
We got up for our last hurrah and we each gave it our best. Then we ended with a rousing version of ’20 froggies, to much applause. Mr. Kaz was there, as loud as ever. At one point I decided that Shamshat needed to dance (to return the favor) so I grabbed her and headed off to the dance floor. She was a good sport.
Once again, Altyn and Adlet were only there as translators – normally they would not have come to this part. This was for families to bond and had little to do with them. The evening wound down at about 9:30 or so. At the end, we Amerikanskis were given gifts – Lint was given a traditional Kazakh velour robe and hat (as was I) – Wes was given a hat. Barb was given a bolt of cloth, Beck a bracelet, Sterl a silk shawl. The MC sang a good-bye song and we made our way – after many sincere farewells – to the van.
We gave Zholgoz and his wife Rosa a lift to their hotel and went back to Balkien’s apartment. The whole gang was up and excited to see the gifts that we had gotten. We talked for a while, and then started to pack for our 3:30 AM wake up call. Fitting in all the new swag was a bit of a challenge.
At around 11:30 Aigul’s mom called and said that she had some last minute gifts, and could Beck come by her hotel? So off Beck went and came back with more stuff. Bracelets and shirts, etc. It seems that hospitality dictates that guests who have traveled far get gifts.
Finally to bed at midnight.