Monday, December 13, 2010
Armenian Wedding Part 2
When we arrived at the wedding site I immediately began to look at the other guests. One of the things you learn to do as a Peace Corps Volunteer is people watch. We must watch other closely so that we can learn how to act in all situations. This time I was searching desperately to see what people were wearing, which in all honesty would be one of the first things I would do at an American wedding as well. As I surveyed the group I noticed that how people dressed, depended entirely on their age and status. Married, older women wore nice dresses or pants with nice blouses, they dressed business like. The younger married women were almost all in dresses or nice jeans, while they were more done up than the older woman; they were a lot less done up than the next category, young unmarried women. This age group ranged from 16 to well me, I guess, though not many women are my age here and not married. These women were dressed out to the nines, the hair, the make-up and the dresses were all as fancy as could be. From what I am told, many women meet their husbands at weddings, so it is important for the young girls to look their best. Lastly there were the little girls. The little girls were the absolute cutest things I’ve ever seen. They looked like little pageant dolls! They wore huge poufy prom dresses and had pink rosy cheeks and curly hair, like little angels.
After taking a look around we walked into a huge dining room with about 20 large tables, all covered with food and drink. An Armenian wedding is basically the same as a party here, only bigger and with better food! After much dispute between the women, we found a suitable table to sit at and waited for the bride and groom to arrive, also very similar to an American wedding. My table was reserved for all of my neighbors. On one side of the table sat the men and the other half sat the women. As we sat the men began pouring shot glasses of cognac and vodka and wine. I was offered a glass of cognac; I quickly looked around to make sure there was coke and then accepted. Armenians drink differently than Americans do for the most part. They drink straight shots, no chasers or anything. They only drink when they toast as well. It is not well perceived if you drink and a toast hasn’t been made. I simply cannot drink straight shots, I just can’t. My host family always watches me when toasts are made so that they can laugh at the funny faces I make after taking a sip of alcohol. During PST however, I learned a small trick, when a person is making a toast, everyone is looking at him, and you can quickly pour your cognac into your glass of coke…. Well at the wedding I attempted the same thing, only this time I got caught!
“What are you doing Alyssa Jan” My host mother asked me.
“Ugh, Ugh well I like to drink my cognac with Coca cola. I can’t drink it straight it’s too strong for me” I tell her, feeling a bit like a child who was caught with their hand in a cookie jar.
“Is it tasty like that?” She asks me.
“Yes, would you like to try it?”
Yes! I mix her a small amount of coke and cognac. This is very good she tells me, and then tells the other women at the table to try it. Some of them shake their head like I am crazy, but some of them also decide to try it. It is agreed by all who try it, that it is a very good way to drink cognac. Although they tell me I am a just a little chic and soon I will learn to drink it the normal way. I doubt this!
Soon the bride and the groom enter. Flower petals are thrown on them and they begin to dance. As soon as they enter the building they dance and their wedding party dances with them. There is a mini bride and groom and they dance alongside the bride and the groom. When the bride and groom sit, the waitress comes in dancing, with a plate of kabab and khorovots in her hand. She dances in circles around the room, bringing the food close to the wedding table, but each time she approaches, the groom does not offer enough money so she dances away. Later she comes back, apparently the groom has made the right offer and soon others bring in plates of meat as well. We begin eating as toasts to the happiness and health of the new couple begin. After every toast the wedding party comes out to the dance floor and dances, then they return to their seats.
As we are sitting and eating we are told there is a very special guest in attendance. In walks the grooms brother, dressed in his Army uniform. He has been away for a year in Karabakh. The groom jumps out of his seat and hugs his brother for what seems like forever. They cry as they embrace. Soon the bride joins and the three of them dance together. For me this was the most beautiful part of the wedding. I can’t even imagine how happy I will be next November when I come home on vacation to attend my brother’s wedding. I will be in exactly the same place as this man has been, away from my family for over a year, and seeing them for the first time on the happiest days of their life. I can’t wait.
Next the bride and groom walk over to my table and make a toast. They thank me for coming to their wedding, all eyes are on me as we cling glasses. Then they continued on and made toasts to all their guests. This is defiantly something I want to steal and use at my wedding one day. How amazing that they took the time to make a toast with every single guest.
Soon the music is playing non-stop. Alyssa jan go dance, I am told. Dance with Romela. Romela is one of my best 4th form students, and also one of the shyest. Her grandmother couldn’t be happier that I am Romelas teacher and always thanks me for encouraging her daughter. I decline and Romela goes to find her classmates. I see them look at me. I know I have no choice; they come over and grab my hand. My first Armenian dance! At first I am scared, I really don’t like to dance, especially not when everyone is staring at me. As I walk to the dance floor I hear whispers of Miss Alyssa, and Americatzi. As I begin dancing with my students I forget people are watching and I begin to have fun. Armenian dancing really is a lot of fun! We dance and dance, and soon there is a small group of people around me. I am center of their stage. I laugh do a few spins and quickly pull my little girls into the middle to dance too. That was enough of a dance solo for me! When I return back to the table, everyone tells me how lovely I dance, except, they say, you only dance with your feet….
Trays of fish are brought in and we do a toast to my hykakan dancing. I am once again called out to dance by my students. Once again I oblige and have a good time. When I come back to the table a man approaches me.
You are the American?
He begins speaking to me in Russian. I tell him I only speak Armenian, and don’t know Russian.
What a lovely girl you are, he tells me, so pretty and nice. Are you having a good time at the wedding.
My face is red, men usually do not talk to unfamiliar women in this manner in Armenia. I tell him I am enjoying it very much. My whole table is silent, waiting to see what will happen. I look to my host mother for help, but she offers none.
Will you marry an Armenian boy Alyssa?
No, I will marry an American I tell him.
Armenian boys are better than Americans. We have very nice boys here. In a year from now you will see, and you will want to marry an Armenian. You will want to marry me.
I am sitting in my chair, turning redder and redder. I tell him I don’t understand him, what else could I say?
Come dance with me Alyssa Jan.
I look around, my eyes pleading for help. I thought men were not allowed to dance with unmarried women. I have no idea what I am suppose to do. Everyone is smiling at me.
I have danced already and am very tired, I tell him. Maybe I will dance more later.
You have not met my brother yet, when you meet him you will dance with him. He is younger and better looking than I am.
Again I just want to crawl under the table and hide! Ok I tell him. He laughs and laughs and talks to others at my table.
He is a bit drunk, my host brother tells me…. I laugh and soon the whole table is laughing too.
More food is brought out, at this point we have been there for 3 hours. Kufta, a beaten and then boiled meat is put on the table with a tiny bowl of lemons and butter. My host mom prepares some for me to taste. Even though I am terrified, at least it is not the boiled pigs feet on the table. I try it, it is delicious!! The best food I have had in Armenia. I eat so much that my stomach hurts, just like I would on thanksgiving. We dance one more time before the bride and groom cut the cake. I begin to fall asleep at my table, so worn out.
We eat cake and watch as the bride and groom dance once more before they leave.
All in all the wedding is about 5 hours long. Five hours of intensive dancing, eating and drinking. It was one huge happy party that I am very grateful to have been invited to.
The next day I go to the post office to pick up a package from my sister.
We heard you are a lovely dancer, the post women tell me.
My face turns red all over again, already everyone in town has talked about my dancing…. Aye Kez ban!