This post was actually written in Mid-December, but it got lost in the holiday posting shuffle:
Last Friday was a rather down day for me. I had an ingrown toenail. I was fighting a bad cough. All day at work, I just wanted to go home and sleep. Usually, the fact that I still have no social life here in Kazakhstan is a little disappointing, but that day I was appreciative of the fact that I could just go home, collapse in bed, and rest all weekend.
And that’s how things started. I ate dinner and then went to “nap” at about 7:30, not really expecting to wake up. I did wake up a few hours later and decided I should probably brush my teeth before actually going to bed. I emerged from my room intending to be back in bed within five minutes but my family was having chai. “Chai budesh?” they asked (will you have tea.) I’m always one for chai. “Kuneshna” (of course), and I joined them for tea.
About ten minutes into the tea drinking, some young guys show up at the house. They’re my host brother’s friends, my new host mom explains to me. She had said something about him coming to Shymkent (a city nearby here) this weekend, but I didn’t expect to see him. Anyway, about ten minutes after his friends arrived, my new host brother arrives. I’ve never met the guy since he lives in Almaty six hours away, but his mom had told him all about me. “Michael!” he exclaimed as soon as he walked in, and gave me a hearty embrace. “Do you want to go to a wedding?” he asked.
Now twenty minutes earlier I had been lying in bed, perfectly content just calling it a night. I had only actually gotten up to brush my teeth. But here was my chance to go to a Kazakh wedding, possibly one of the only party events I’ve heard about in this country. “Kuneshna.” Clothes were ironed, shoes were shined, and we were off. 11:00 and we were just leaving the house. I could tell this would be a good night.
So it’s me, my new host brother, and two of his friends. We roll up to this “restaurant” (restaurant is a relative term here; I’ll write about it later. It was a reception hall) and go upstairs. There’s a huge room full of tables and people and food and spirits. There’s a DJ, an emcee, and a video screen. Maybe like 400 people. And at the front of the room on a stage are the new bride and groom sitting at a table. We make our way up to the front and I follow my bro and his friends as we greet a couple tables of young people near the stage. Asaloms all around. We take our seats and our immediately given food to eat. “Kushi.” Oh, Kazakhstan. So I eat some cold beshbarmek. And what comes next? The vodka. Oh, Kazakhstan. I explain that I don’t really like vodka, but I’ll have some, but slowly. I take a shot with the people at the table, who have now been informed I am Michael, I am from America, and I live in town now. Most have had enough vodka to really enjoy these simple facts.
The next two hours are actually fun. I meet more people, mostly friends my host bro went to school with. Nice guys, all about my age. We dance some. We listen to toasts. I give a toast. They wanted it in English, so that’s what I did. I said some stuff in Russian and Kazakh too. We dance some more. Finally at about 2:00, the party ends. I’m happy. It’s a Friday night, and I did something. Oh, but the night is young. I pile in the back of a car with three girls while my host brother’s two friends sit in the front. Because they are such great friends with the bride and groom, we are going to the after party.
We drive around for a while (because of language stuff, I’m still not really sure why). Maybe we were trying to figure out where the after party was? All the while, the driver is telling me the girl I’m sitting next to is his girl. I tell him that I understand, but he wants to make sure I understand. I understood. His girl.
We end up at a house where most of the people I met through out the night are already there. We gather in one room around a table and hang out for a few more hours. I do take some of drinks they offer me, but I am drinking slower than most of them. They call me a girl for not finishing my shots, but that’s okay. Finally, around 5:00, I’m done. I find a space on the floor, get a sleeping mat, and I crash. But just as I’m about to doze off, my host brother and his friends tell me we’re going home. Even better. We climb back in the cars and go home. A tremendous night. Dancing. Toasts. New friends.