Eine Einladung

On Friday Rukiye invited the class to her wedding reception. It was a bit tricky to piece together with the language issues, but I think she was married in Turkey but is having the reception in Innsbruck. Lauriane from class (hope I am spelling your name correctly L!) and I, both displaced Moms in need of excitement, decided to venture out for a bit. It was certainly an interesting cultural experience. Lauriane’s partner was out of town so we brought her sweet 4-month old baby girl, Juar Jua. (Now I’m pretty sure I am not spelling that correctly, so I’ll fix it up on Monday. All fixed up. Jua, I believe, is an African word for the Sun. How beautiful. Lauriane also calls her by her middle French name, Lizon, which is also très belle.)

We arrived at about 5:30 to a big hall that reminded me of a Winnipeg social (1), complete with pretzels and pop on the table, minus the alcohol of course. It looked like we were the only non-Turkish people in the hall of about 300. There was a band playing what I guess was contemporary Turkish music.

At 6:30 Rukiye and her husband arrived. Friends and family held up rose-garlanded arches and there were sparklers lining their path. Rukiye’s dress was a strapless white traditional cut with a full, multi-tiered skirt. She looked stunningly beautiful. When she walked in she had a red sheer scarf or veil covering her entire head and face. When the couple arrived at the stage, the veil was lifted with great cheers and then the couple kissed and started the first dance.

I particularly noted how the women danced to the faster music. I would have had no idea how to negotiate dancing to the strong, regular Turkish beat (Lauriane and I kept joking about asking each other if we wanted to dance. As if I would subject my very North American self into all this ceremony!), but noticed that all the women moved similarly. It is a fairly contained dance, with slight movements of shoulders, hips and feet, small isolated movements of the ribcage, in perfect rhythm to the music. Very self confident and suggestive and leave-you-wanting-more rather than overt.

Her friend and another of our classmates, Canan, was what I would call her maid-of-honour, but I’m not sure exactly how this plays out in the Turkish tradition. She was also gorgeous in an satin red dress with her thick black hair twisted up.

We decided to leave around 7:30 to get Jua home for her bottle and bed. (Lauriane has what must be the world’s best baby. She sleeps 12 hours a night without waking, naps during the day and hardly ever cries. I’m not jealous. No. No envy here. Hmph.) So I’m afraid I can’t report on the remainder of the evening. I know that after the dancing there was a gift presentation, but I’m not sure of the rest. If I’m ever invited to such an event again, I’ll have to brave the rest of the evening.

I’m sure Rukiye will never read this (I don’t think she speaks any English), but I am so grateful for the invitation. Living in another country certainly puts you in the path of the unexpected. I’m glad we came.

(1) Ahh, the Winnipeg Social…or I guess I should say the Manitoba Social, as the tradition certainly extends beyond city boundaries. With no Wikipedia entry, I found an accurate and amusing definition on a blog for my non-Prairie readers:

A local tradition that [probably came] originally from Manitoba’s large Polish/Ukrainian immigrant community, a social is when the friends and family of a to-be-married couple (or a sports team, or a Ukrainian dance troupe, or a singles group or whatever like-minded group of people) rent a hall (often in a community centre, a curling club, or a church basement) and throw a [party.]

They rent a social hall for 100-300 people (most Catholic church basements/bingo halls or community clubs will accommodate) , where they hire a D.J. to spin CDs or records, get a one-night-only liquor license from the provincial government, and throw a party (or, to be more accurate, a thrown-together one-night-only bar) as a fund-raiser. Around midnight, a bread-and-cold-cuts buffet is put out (food must be served as one of the conditions of the liquor license).

People sell social tickets ahead of time to their coworkers, friends and relatives, and whoever else wants to go out dancing and drinking on a Friday or Saturday night. You can often get a really bizarre/interesting mix of people you know (uncles and cousins and aunts) and complete strangers who heard about the social second- or even third-hand and buy tickets at the door, if there are any left.

The music is always a real mix too… not just contemporary pop/rock stuff either. We may have a snowball dance to start (especially if it was a singles social), and a couple of spot dances during the evening to give away door prizes. The music ranges from the latest dance pop and country two-step to waltzes, polkas, and the schottise (butterfly)… everything from conga lines to the macarena (in my opinion, the only dance that straight people do better than queer people). I have fond memories of one particular Transcona social where the conga line went in and out of the men’s and women’s washrooms, outside the social hall, around the block, and back inside again.

That is a great description that sure brings back visions of trekking out on freezing Winnipeg nights in tight jeans and asymmetrically cropped hair. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Rilke, whoever you are.

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