A couple weeks ago my Kazakh family and I traveled to Astana for my sister's wedding. It was a wonderful weekend celebrating her marriage with our new extended family. I especially enjoyed the wedding day and spending extra time with my Kazakh siblings and cousins as we went with Assel and Dosken around town to take pictures. The weekend was full of lots of eating, very little sleep, and a wonderful wedding celebration. Here is some of what I experienced:
- 20 hours there and 20 hours back on the train. Thankfully the days we traveled were fairly cool compared to the days surrounding our travel days.
- Arrival at 9:30 pm at night. Upon our arrival, we were taken to the apartments we would stay in for the weekend where we were able to shower and change. Then we went to Dosken's apartment for a welcome dinner with the in-laws. We started with salads at about midnight. I sat with the adults and got to participate in giving toasts and trying to keep up with conversation. At 2am we went outside while the table was cleared. At 2:30 we started the exchange of gifts (our family brought gifts for keeping house for Assel). Each gift was opened and shown to Dosken's female relatives (this part of the activity was only attended by the women). The men sat in the other room watching World Cup Soccer. At 3:30 we went outside again while the table was set for our meal. We ate Beshbarmak (horse and noodles) at 4am and then left for home around 5am.
- We got about 3 hours of sleep the night before the wedding (from 5:30 to 8:30 am).
- On Friday (wedding day) the cousins all gathered at one apartment to get ready for the picture taking trip. All the young relatives and friends gather and go from place to place in a limousine taking pictures before the actual wedding. With the lack of sleep the night before, everyone was pretty tired by the time we went to the restaurant at 6pm. I definitely enjoyed spending the day with my cousins.
- The wedding party lasted from 7pm until midnight. It was a fun time of singing, dancing and toasting. I had to slow dance with two male relatives (one on my side of the family and one on Dosken's side of the family) who had been toasting all night. Dancing is definitely not my favorite thing as my coordination is lacking. I am super coordinated when it comes to sports, but not so much when it comes to dancing (especially slow dancing). I guess this is something I should try to learn at some point, but generally at this point I just avoid situations where I have to slow dance. Dancing while the married person I am dancing with sings me a love song is even more awkward.
- We were able to sleep in the morning of the wedding. Then we were all taken to a cafe for another lunch hosted by Dosken's relatives. It included much of the same, dancing, singing, toasting. There was even an accordion player.
- One of my Kazakh sisters, a cousin, and I left early to explore Astana a bit. We went to an indoor mall that has been built since the last time I was there. This mall has an amusement park and a beach inside. It was pretty crazy. We also walked through the center of town and took pictures.
- Then we headed back to Dosken's apartment for one last meal before getting on the train. By then I was pretty worn out and having a hard time focusing in Kazakh anymore.
- The train back to Taraz included lots of reading and sleeping.
It was a crazy weekend, but a great celebration. I am so thankful that Assel found a husband she loves. I am thankful for my Kazakh family and the opportunity to celebrate this wedding with them. I am thankful for the extra time I had with them as we prepared and then traveled. I am so very thankful for such a great family here in Kazakhstan.