Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Amanda and Oleg 's Celebration

"When the flower want to oxygen and nutrition, I will help you too much" 

The last weekend of September, I took a long weekend and hopped a train to Kharkiv to attend the Ukrainian marriage ceremony of my dear friends Amanda and Oleg. I say 'marriage ceremony' because it wasn't a full wedding in the traditional sense but a celebration with Oleg's family and local friends before they leave for America. The real, official, big day is Alaska around Thanksgiving. Yah! 

The above, bad translated line came from a nifty craft Amanda and I found while grocery shopping at a mega supermarket for the party. My mind exploded over and over as I wandered through imported goods that I have longed for (ranch dressing, tortillas, lettuce) and local baked breads filled with glazed onions or covered in chocolate whip. The pint sized toy created the needed comic relief to my very achy brain. From the moment I stepped off the train and Amanda put me in her car (her car!) to the drive through at McDonalds (the drive through!), to her apartment with AC, washing machine, and movie selection, playing with Bella her dog (her dog!), to sight seeing, mega mall shopping (nothing I can afford), I was in shock. I ate burritos for 4 meals in a 3 days. (burritos! amazing!) She spoiled me to the nth percentage. We watched our odd purchase hold water for her plant life and continued to laugh at the phrasing on the package. 

But the more I thought I about these words, I more I realized they mean more than just humor. They mean, when you need help (oxygen, laughter, a bed) I will help you. I will help you so much, it's too much. The weekend at Amanda's helped me too much. I just love her. We spend a few days together in Kyiv this summer but before July, we had been apart for 2.5 years. I think it helped her a lot too. Someone to shop with, craft with, show her wedding dress to, watch chic flics with. 
We did all that we could.  

We enjoyed each other's company, told old stories to new friends, and prepared for the party. The maid of honor and best man, Yana and Kostiya, arrived in their traditional outfits with Oleg. Amanda and I transformed from American ladies to true Ukrainian beauties. A short drive across town in her car (her car!) to the private house we booked on the property of a fabulous restaurant. Their photo session took place all over the restaurant's property: at the pond, the outdoor tables, our dinner house while Oleg's family and other guests arrived. Ukrainian's thoughts on photography, what makes an interesting photo, and posing for photos is quite different than my own opinion so that was interesting. Hilarious to watch Oleg think of how he would lean across bushes down wind from me so he could look more mysterious. Annoying that Kostiya demanded a photo of him for every photo of the bride. (I put a stop to that behavior) Thrilling to watch Amanda's turn her American and Ukrainian smiles on and off according to who she was standing with. Yana's perfected 'sitting in the grass with food and flowers about me' was exactly that. It wasn't a massive gathering but every single person that attended love and care about Amanda and Oleg. It was wonderful to meet so many new people - especially those who had already heard of me but couldn't figure out what nationality I was and listen to three language combining in the air. I have photographed many weddings before and it's always a joy to observe people in their most joyous hour. This celebration was no different. Amanda sparkled. Her contentment in her dress, her man,  and her life was obvious. I have never seen my friend SO HAPPY. Oleg looked strong, handsome, and confident. Their guests beamed like the sunset that was our background. A few of the women, myself included, opened cried in sight of their love.  

Our evening continued as dinner time arrived. We were served a three course dinner of at least 20 different dishes and watched a chef light fire to our main dish (with black lights). Several people shared well wishes and gave gifts. Three different preachers (all named Vitaly) shared scriptures and stories of Amanda and Oleg. Music played. Everyone joked about Oleg's chubby baby photos and Amanda's energetic fishing skills in the slideshow. Personally, I jumped for joy at the sight of the leftovers, knowing I would right know with such delicious food surrounding me. 

Another day of meeting people, sight seeing, and eating too much goodness took up our time. I got to raid Amanda's closet since she is packing to move back to Alaska soon so I came home with three large bags of new clothes for myself and two friends. I also raided Amanda's closet when she left Kentucky to move to Ukraine. Everything does come full circle. Getting back to my room and bed was a great relief for my feet but was a difficult transition from such company and grandeur. Luckily, Kharkiv isn't that far away. I can easily visit my new friends there again.  

Enjoy party photos below! 

The lovely couple 

Wedding Party 

A small amount of payback for his 'assistance'. 

Ukrainian Smiles 
                                            This a photo the Oleg designed. 

This is a photo I designed.

Neither one is bad. Just different. 

Oleg's Family 

Add caption

Oleg, Amanda, and his son, Dima 

Holding fancy bread ain't no thing! 

This is Natsha and her husband.
She is about five foot nothing and he is six foot something.
Their traditional outfits were the best of the crew.
They placed applications in a lottery to get green cards. Their application got picked!
If everything goes well, they will live in Alaska (actually move in with Amanda and Oleg)
by next summer! 

The traditional 'Karavai' bread to be blessed, kissed, and eaten.  

These two images may need to be explained. 

Image 1: Amanda and I have a series of photos with willow trees that we began in 2009 in Kentucky. Then Ukraine. Next, Alaska. Pure American Silly. 

Image 2: Our best brick face. Ever. Pure Ukrainian Serious. We do eat borsch and we like it. 

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