Friday, August 19, 2011

Not only did I dance but I....

As we drove back in the direction we had come from, I began to wonder where the reception was going to be. The house that we had met the bride at was a tiny little house, so I knew it couldn’t be the place where the reception would be. I wondered if such a tiny village could have a restaurant. The only other Armenian wedding I had been to was at a restaurant so I figured this one would be as well.
A few minutes later we pull back into the driveway of the house that we had left. As we get out of the car, I ask my counterpart if the reception would be at this house. She looks at me and says oh no we don’t do that… Ok then what are we doing here? Oh we will eat and dance and celebrate here, she answers… So the reception is here.
The bride and groom stand at the foot of the stairs to their home that they will share with his parents and sister. The Grooms mother comes out with Levash, she places it on the grooms shoulder first and hugs him and then she goes over to her new daughter and places it on her shoulder. The groom looks over at his bride, smiling, his face lit up with happiness as his mother speaks into his brides ear.

Next we follow them as they lead us into their house. At the entrance way two plates lie on the floor, the bride and groom stomp on them together. They don’t break. They attempt it again as screams of opa ring out (Armenians say opa a lot, I guess it’s not only used by the Greeks). This time the groom’s plate is crushed but not the brides, so the third time the groom and the bride stomp the plate together and it breaks. I have no idea what it means or if it has meaning to it at all other than its just tradition.
We all pile into the family’s dining room where four large tables are laid out around the four walls of the tiny room. One side of the room is for the bride’s side, the head table the bride and groom and toast master and God parents and on the other side a table for the grooms side. The table in the back is for the Singers and the grooms friends. I sit down where I am instructed to sit by my counterpart’s mother, who I also call mama. People are rushing to try to find seats in this tiny room. As people pile in to my table, I begin to panic a bit as I realize that there won’t be room for my counterpart. We try to save her room but my counterpart being who she is, refuses to sit when others don’t have a seat. So in the end I am packed into a table with the groom’s family, only knowing my counterpart’s mom who is sitting near me and not having a single English speaker at my table. My counterpart goes over to the men’s table where her husband is sitting and they share a seat. I look over desperately, my eyes pleading with the men to tell me to come sit with them, as everyone knows, the men’s table is a lot more fun anyways, but of course they don’t as I am an unmarried women and it wouldn’t be appropriate. So life goes in Armenia. It’s not that I don’t want to sit with the women; it’s just that Armenian weddings last well into the night, and sitting a whole 10 hours at a table where no one speaks English is exhausting. I have the conversation skills to last me about an hour. My time limit at an Armenians house is always about an hour because after an hour of small talk, I simply run out of language skills and begin to feel like a child who cannot express themselves.
After everyone is seated a toast is made by the tomada, the guy whose sole purpose at the wedding is to keep everyone drinking. He makes toast after toast, and if someone else wants to make a toast they must ask him. The old women I am with hesitate to pour their drinks; they instead wait to see what I will drink. I in turn am waiting to see what they will drink, as you can never be sure what is appropriate. My mama tells me they are waiting for me, what I would like to drink. I laugh and tell her today I want cognac. She laughs too and calls over her nephew Mkirtich over to the table to poor cognac for us. If you remember from my Easter blog here: Mkirtich is the sweetest Armenian boy I have ever met and he happens to have a huge crush on me. He blushes as he approaches the table and smiles at me and tells me he is glad that I came. He pours us all a shot and we toast to the bride and grooms health and some other things that I didn’t really understand. Then the women in the groom’s family come out from the kitchen as a khorovots song is being sung. They take the skewers of meat and dance around the room with them as they bring them to the groom. This dance means it’s time to start eating.

Big trays of grilled pork are brought to each of the tables and my counterpart’s mom who pretty much acts as my mom grabs the meat first to make sure that she can grab the best piece for me. I have to say I am usually not much of a pork fan but this was the best grilled pork I had ever had. While we eat toasts are made and people are dancing. There comes a time when all of the groom’s family is asked to make a toast. The tomada goes from person to person and they say some words to the bride and groom and drink. Well when they get to my counterpart’s mother she announces that I would like to make a toast. She tells me that I have to because I am a part of the groom’s family. I look around the room and everyone is staring at me. The Tomada introduces me as the family’s American and tells them that I would like to make a toast. I beg her not to make me but she is relentless. I stand up feeling as though I am going to pass out, we are in a tiny little room with no air conditioning in the middle of summer, I start to say something like I want to thank everyone for inviting me to be here and then I froze. I had no idea what to say. I mean I don’t believe I have ever even made a toast in English, let alone Armenian… so I stand and stare and start giggling. They begin to yell to me to say something in English if I don’t know how to say it in Armenian. So I just say in English I don’t speak Armenian very well but I wish you all the happiness in the world and I quickly sit down. My counterpart translates and it’s all over. I bury my head into my Armenian mothers shoulder and she laughs at me. She asks me why I am so shy. I tell her I am not really shy, I just don’t like it when everyone is staring at me. We both kind of laugh because considering my situation it’s a bit silly, everyone is always staring at me in Armenia. Something about me just screams foreigner.
After the last of the grooms family makes a toast people begin to dance again. As I am sitting at the table I hear my name being called across the room. It’s my counterpart’s husband and Mkirtich, they are holding up their glasses to me and single for me to take a shot with them, so I take a sip of my drink. Then Mkirtich comes over and asks me to dance. I tell him that I can’t, I am not ready to dance but I will dance in a little while. He shrugs and says ok. Then another dance with food begins, this time a huge pig is lead out on a tray and once again they dance with the meat and present it to the bride and groom. I have to say I was a little bit surprised because not once did the bride and groom get up and dance nor did the bride’s family. One time they got up and walked outside, but they didn’t dance. It actually seemed to me that the bride seemed a bit sad. I asked who the people sitting near the bride were and they explained that they were people in the grooms family, his godparents and his sister. I asked why the bride’s sister was not in her wedding party and they said that she couldn’t be because she was already married. I tried to explain to them that it made me sad because American weddings are all about the bride and her friends and family surround her and her husband and she is the happiest person in the room but that Genya didn’t seem so happy and none of her friends were there. They told me that the wedding was a very small wedding and that she was from far away so her friends could not come. I realized how lucky I was to be a part of everything.

As people were eating roasted pig, the tall skinny boy in the picture above holding the pig, asked me to dance. I told him I don’t like to dance, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Mkirtich, seeing that I was uncomfortable, came over grabbed my hand and took me to the dance floor and away from the other guy. We danced a little and my counterpart joined in but as we were dancing the music changed and a Russian song came on. Everyone began to make circles, all holding hands and began some Russian folk dance. They grabbed me in as if I knew what the heck they were doing. Whatever it was, it was way too complex for me, and I think they got that because some little old women came and grabbed me by the hands. She lead me in the dance showing me what to do and soon enough I was doing some kind of Russian dancing too and actually I was having a lot of fun. She pulled me into the middle of the circle. All of the other dancers circled around us and we danced. They went one way and her and I the opposite. As we spun in circles I realized that they were all watching me but I didn’t really care because it was so much fun. Soon the dance ended and it was sweltering hot. They told me to stay and dance some more but It was just too hot so I went outside. As I was standing outside a boy came up and began to talk to me. He asked me all kinds of questions about me and why I was there and what I did and the like. Then he asked me how old I was. I told him and he shook his head no. He said I was mistaken. I looked at him like he was an idiot, how could I be mistaken for my own age. I told him that I know how old I am thank you very much, and he simply replied that It wasn’t good then because I was too old to not be married. My face must of scrunched up because my counterpart’s husband Tigran came over and told the boy that he must be on his best behavior with me and that he must be clean and stand up straight. The boy asked Tigran if he knew how old I was and Tigran told him. He asked Tigran why I am not married, at which point my counterpart came over and told him that it’s not in my culture to marry young. He started to say that no one would ever marry me, and I looked at him and told him he was stupid. Everyone began to laugh at him, and he quickly got defensive saying that he wasn’t being rude, but that if I wanted to have a family I should have one now. I told him that I am not disadvantaged that I get to travel where I want when I want, be friends with whoever I want to be friends with and do as I please so he shouldn’t feel sorry for me. He looks at my counterpart and by this time her mom is with her and the mom tells him, she just went to Bulgaria a few weeks ago, have you ever been to Bulgaria? He says no, and she says, well then don’t open your mouth, she has a good life. I feel vindicated and go back inside to dance some more.

While dancing with my counterpart I ask her about the bride and why her family doesn’t dance. She explains to me that the bride’s family will only dance the last dance with their daughter before they leave and then the rest of the night the bride will dance with the groom and his family as they will be the only ones left at the wedding. Soon the bride comes to the floor and dances with her family. Her mom has tears in her eyes, all too quickly the song is over, the bride throws her bouquet and her family leaves. The bride and groom also hand out presents to all of the single people at the wedding. Its’ a small I don’t know what that is pictured above. They also hand out chocolate and tell me I must put it under my pillow so that I will dream about the man I will marry.
The bride and groom dance some and then Ice cream is brought in and we eat it. Now my counterpart has come over and sits with me and explains things to me. We talk a little as others are dancing; only about 20 of us are still at the wedding. I look over and her cousin Mkirtich is over at the singer’s table. He whispers something into the piano player’s ear. The music changes into a slow song. My counterpart gets up and dances with her husband, as I reach for my camera to take a picture, someone grabs my hand. It is Mkirtich. He pulls me to the dance floor, leaving my camera behind. As we dance he tells me that I look very beautiful and that I am the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. He is actually really sweet about it. He also tells me that it really is too bad that we don’t speak the same language because he would like to talk to me more. I laugh and make a joke about my Armenian and he laughs too. I look around the room and his mom and sister are standing together watching us. Uh oh I think to myself. He tells me that I am a good girl in English and asks me if I understand him. I repeat it back to him in Armenian saying yes lav agchick em. He says no no, I mean I love you. I laugh at him and tell him he is a very nice boy. By this time we have been at the wedding for about 10 hours so I am pretty sure he is just intoxicated, as he is normally painfully shy. The song ends and he kisses me on my cheek, I look at my counterpart and we both laugh a little. I walk over to her and tell her that I think her cousin is in love with me. She begins to laugh and says she knows. She told me it was his birthday the previous week and he had really wanted me to go to his party but I was in Bulgaria. He soon comes over and begins to whisper in her ear. She laughs and tells him that I already know. When he leaves she tells me that he told her he likes me. I feel like I am in high school again.

The bride comes out as new music begins and the family is cleaning. She tells me to dance with her. My counterpart and I do, and my counterpart tells her that I thought she was unhappy. She laughs and assures me that she is very happy. I have to say she is the most adorable thing I have seen. Soon her husband joins us and his whole family is dancing with her and the truth is she really does look happy. That is until she is called away to help clean!!! I couldn’t believe it, so soon she has to step into her duties!!! I couldn’t imagine having to clean up after my own wedding while my husband gets to drink and dance and party with his friends!!! Oh well, I guess that is Armenian life for you. Another reason why I have so much respect for Armenian women!!

1 comment:

  1. "Not only did I dance but I...." had the time of your life, and you gave a toast and a speech, and almost fell in all you need is to find an Armenian girl from Spitak, that somehow looks like a would be bride for Mkirtich jan, tell him he will regret if he marries you after few years because of cultural incompatibility but his union and love with an Armenian girl surely to last forever. Good luck for your hunt for a bride for Mkirtich and happy matchmaking! Papik