Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Best Ukrainian Wedding So Far: Part 1

This was my first (and therefore best) Ukrainian wedding. I knew what to expect since I'd been subjected to various relatives' wedding videos in the past. Seriously, I didn't think I'd last till the end.

Let's back up just a bit.

I arrived in early afternoon in Ternopil from Lviv. The temperature was a sobering 39 degrees. Arsen was there to meet me with his Igor-in-law (his wife's brother, Igor). We meandered around Ternopil and paid a visit to this place called Epitsentr or Epicenter. It was the biggest store I've ever seen in Ukraine, exactly like Home Depot, except with a lot more kinds of super-ugly wallpaper. All former Soviet republics dig that stuff for some reason. From there, we drove off to the Old Country, Peremyliv.

If there was ever a place that didn't deserve a sign this big, it's Peremyliv. Since my last stay, Cousin Arsen has made it a year older. It still doesn't need a sign that big.

Right after I got situated (I took over his twin sons' room, they didn't seem to mind), I went over to Cousin Ivan's house in Karashintsi. It was just a quick slog across the fields. I expected Ivas, the impending groom, to be carousing. Nope! He was actually waiting there for me while the womenfolk (Cousin Olya, her daughter, Cousin Marika, Olya's mom and several neighbors) prepared snacks for the evening's buket (boo-KET, not bucket) at fiancee Oksana's house two villages over in Verkhivtsi. In case anybody's forgotten what Ivas looks like, here he is with the family's Classic Lada:

He invited me to the buket, but I thought that I successfully sidestepped it, not knowing what a buket was in the first place and all. But no, he showed up at 10 that night to whisk me away to Verkhivtsi in the Classis Lada, which incidentally had four of his wedding party in the back. The journey was over your standard terrible village roads. But thanks to all the rain, they were also muddy. I quickly found out that the buket is where the groom formally asks the father for his daughter's hand in marriage. He also picks his corsage for the next day. These are just incidental events. It's really just an excuse to drink. And drink we did:

I can't really tell you who all these people are, but they show up again the next day. After the initial drinking, Ivas did the formal asking-thing that took the form of a poem. Of course, Oksana's dad started crying and said yes. It was quite touching, all the moreso since her mom passed away a year and a half ago. Somebody told me that Ivas and Oksana would have gotten married earlier, but for traditional Greek Catholic (more on that later) mourning rules that state that she had to wait a year. Shortly after the asking-thing came the corsage selection:

I guess he picked right. I mean, you don't win a prize for selecting the coolest corsage. Following that, it was very important to Ivas that I should have have my picture taken with him and one of the bridesmaids:

Like everywhere else, they have bridesmaids and groomsmen, but there are only two and their functions are reversed - bridesmaids accompany the groom and groomsmen go with the bride. This is to make sure that they both get to the church. The bridesmaids are pretty girls who "trick" the groom into following them and the groomsmen are given permission to muscle the bride to the ceremony if the need arises. Anyhow, here is what Ivas and Oksana look like as a couple:

Ah, young love!

After all the ceremonial stuff and drinking (Ivas touched not a drop because he was driving), we loaded back into the Classic Lada, drove over the same terrible, muddy roads and ended up at the only bar in Peremyliv, which was in former Communist times a House of Culture. There I met this hugely tall guy named Andri who had been living in Florida for the last five years. Amazingly, he spoke terrible English. I mean, five years! I hadn't spoken English for three days and I was starting to dream in Ukrainian. Ukrainian! If, God forbid, I was here for five years, I'd likely have a wider command of the local lingo. But as an aside, here's my immediate problem with Ukrainian: it's different everywhere you go. How they speak and what they say differs greatly - at least to my ears - from Lviv to Ternopil, from Ternopil to Peremyliv and so on. Words, expressions and pronunciations are completely different. What good is it learning a language that is only intelligible to you for 20 miles in all directions? And as far as I know, there is no Ukrainian version of Hochdeutsch - a unıversal dialect. That would be too easy. With Russian, there may be regional slang and expressions, but somebody in St. Petersburg talking on the phone in Russian with somebody else in Vladivostok will understand them perfectly. I'm not too sure whether someone in Uzhhorod will find their counterpart in Sumi intelligible - unless of course they're speaking Russian. That's why I stick to Russian and maybe and the very outside, Ukrussian - a clever blend of the two of my own formulation. Anyhow, Andri's English was not good.

At the former House of Culture, we drank warm beer, ate terrible pizza and had a fine time. I got in just after two. That was just the prelude. I was feeling quite unsure of my ability to endure the onslaught of merriment.

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