So Sunday, I was doing what any normal Kazakhstani would do, doing yoga and stretching shirtless on someone else’s property. Behind our house, there is a huge field with an orchard in front of a log cabin mansion. This would be conspicuous in the United States, so it stands out a bit here in Esik. I noticed that there were many cars and people in front of the house, which was unusual because it usually seems vacant. When a guy in a new, white Toyota Land Cruiser pulled up, I thought that he either wanted to say hi or kick me off the property. But, I should have expected what was to come, because really an invitation to lunch is the only reasonable way to deal with a strange, shirtless, foreigner doing yoga on your land.
I accepted his offer and followed thee SUV down the driveway. I didn’t see any glaring issue with the invitation, and I was told before I came here to accept (within reason) every invitation I received. I got to the house a bit startled after making eye contact on the way with a dog that was at least three times the size of a large horse, his eyes seemed to be telling me that if we met again under different circumstances, he’d have about a two second hesitation before devowering me. At first I thought that I was just going to stay for a few minutes to say hi, have chai, and try to speak a little Russian. But when I tried to leave the expansive porch that provides a gorgeous view of the village, I was told that I should stay a while longer, and that we would eat in an hour.
Okay, this isn’t so bad I thought, so I just hung out with random uncles, aunts, brothers, and nephew’s, maybe. I’m still a bit unsure about what all was said on Sunday, because our entire conversation was in Russian. But I had my little dictionary out, and was making conversation left and right with little care as to grammar or even content. I went inside the house twice, once to pee in an absurdly large and empty bathroom, and second to listen to the owner of the house play a synthesized keyboard, very strange.
The food did come after a while, and it was fascinating to see gender/religious dynamics trump class. All of the men, including the guys working at the house, sat by ourselves at a huge table on the porch while the women served us food. The food was great, the same kind of stuff that my host mother cooks for me. Which was also fascinating, that the culture and food of these ultra wealthy, was so similar to that of the middle class family who I live with. Everything was going smoothly until they asked me if I liked to drink. I tried to convey to Kyrat in my best Russian that I was down with whatever, and however that was interpreted, a bottle was called for an I found myself with a huge shot glass of vodka in front of me. The only men at the table that were drinking was me, the owner, and the old bald guy with tatooes all over his hands to my right. Immediately a toast was said, and tatooed guy and me downed our glasses, only to find them filled right back up to be thrown down in a matter of minutes. I stopped them at two, and begged pardon for my quick departure, but I didn’t leave until I was handed a bag full of delicious apples and a standing invitation to visit on Saturdays and Sundays, when the family came back to Esik from Almaty. Cool, strange, and fun.