Sunday, 20 February 2011

Travel tales, and a 2nd Wedding!

I can hardly believe we’ve been back for a full week! incredible! It feels like just yesterday that I got home, (and looks like it too given the piles of washing and unpacked cases!), yet on the other hand, it feels like years ago, as this week has been so busy! This time last Saturday, I was on a train, heading up to my parents to meet my mum for her birthday! I’d been travelling for excess of 24 hours, and was way beyond tired! Oh Georgia, what wonders you gave to us! …, Well, If you’ve been reading carefully, you’ll remember that despite being married for 7 months now, Reza and I had scheduled another wedding ceremony, and that too in Georgia! (soon, we’ll doubtless break a record for the most ceremonies in the one 12-month cycle!). This one however, was more out of necessity, rather than frivolity, given our battles with Iran, the UK, and marriage registration: in short, Georgia provided us with the most straight-forward route to get the civil stuff out of the way! so, 2 weeks ago today, I boarded a late night flight to Georgia, arriving in the beautiful city of Tbilisi around 1 AM in the morning! As I breezed out of customs, my wonderful husband was there to meet me. Honestly, words don’t do any sort of justice to that moment! All the months we had been apart, the waiting, the stress, the lawyers fees, the late night calls, the loneliness, all merged in to one moment of pure peace, which, I couldn’t really enjoy because airport staff fluttered around us, and a driver from the guesthouse we were staying in was waiting to drive us home!
Our guesthouse, (which made me chuckle when I clocked the ‘formula 1 sign above it) (seriously folks, that really was the name of it), stood on a steep hill, overlooking the city! The air was clear and the landscape picture perfect! We had managed to negotiate a deal with the owners, and were staying in the only penthouse room with its own balcony and unsurpassed views of its own! My man, being the magnetic charmer and social networker that he is, had already made firm friends with all the guests and the owners of the place, we were well on our way! As I’m always way out of it after a long flight, I crashed for about 12 hours, but woke up afresh! We had a VERY late breakfast! (3 PM I think?), and then decided to take a walk around Tbilisi. We bought sweet almond pastries from a street bakery and wandered through the side streets munching. The more I tour around the caucuses, the more certain I become that we should move there for a few years. Reza is already set up in Baku, and while the infrastructure may not be all that, the beauty, cleanliness and above all, pace of life in the region is something we’ve both come to adore. I don’t quite see Reza settling here in the long term, and sadly, given current events, Iran might be off the cards for the next few years any way, Georgia and its neighbours are very much in focus! We’ve been investigating a few job possibilities and lets just say, the prospects for both of us are extremely promising, but lets see, Allah (SWT) is the best of planners! Any way, after a day of leisure, it was time to get down to business!
Prior to this trip, we spent years (well, it felt like years), researching what we’d need to do on the internet! We made endless telephone calls and bugged Georgian speaking colleagues to ring up certain offices and obtain information for us, it all seemed so simple! When we’d been out walking the previous day, we’d stumbled across an attractive old building, with massive signs for the ‘Ministry of Justice!! Bingo! All we had to do was come here, obtain a piece of paper, take it to the registration agency, and have them perform a civil ceremony for us! So, after breakfast, we wandered down to this building, like we had all the time in the world! Now, first up, neither of us had bargained for the lack of English speakers we’d find! (stupid really!), but truthfully, we’ve honestly always got by! Plus, between the 2 of us, we speak around 5 languages to reasonable degrees from fluent to intermediate, so we assumed we’d find a common means of getting the message through (wrong!). After 20 minutes of trying to convey requests to the man on the gate, he found an English speaker, who told us that while this place was labelled ‘Ministry of Justice, it wasn’t based here any longer, and we had to go to another building! He couldn’t write English, so instead wrote the Georgian address for us! All we could do, was find a taxi, chuck the slip of paper at the guy, and pray he wasn’t a terrorist and would take us to the right place! …, New Office, new chaos! …, more of the same; this time, we were at the Civil Registration Agency, but the section that deals with Electoral registration; not Civil! So, another piece of paper, another Georgian address! (ever felt like you’ve been here before?). Office 3; this time, it was the ministry of justice! (who, apparently, have no real part to play in the wedding business; we needed to visit the Civil Registration Agency!). You’ll be relieved to learn, that we reached office number 4 at 12 PM sharp, and it WAS the right place! (say Salawat!). They told us, to return that afternoon with 2 witnesses, and they’d do the business for us! The only other thing we had to do was have various documents translated and notarised (which we were able to do right outside the CRA), so all was good! We returned to our guesthouse, read namaz, ate lunch, and requested our hosts to be our witnesses! They agreed of course, but seemed embarrassed; they kept saying we should have told them before; they wanted to give us a party! (we explained that we’d already had our formal wedding in Iran etc), but it didn’t make much difference! Now, despite this ceremony not holding much spiritual/emotional importance for us, I had insisted Reza smarten up! I’d bought a new maroon outfit (just because I didn’t get to ware red at the niqah/reception), Reza brought a suit, and contrary to what we expected, our witnesses dressed to kill! They had some stuff to do that afternoon, so we didn’t get back to the CRA till around 4 PM! We feared we might have been too late to register that day, but they said it would be no problem! We first queued up in a room with various reception counters around the walls. Customers came and went, going about their own business! We were given various forms to fill in, which is pretty standard practise I suppose! They asked me if I wanted to change my surname, which I did, but then, they asked Reza if he wanted to change his! This struck us both as odd; and got us in to a rather unhelpful discussion on the Persian equivalent of my name! (those close to me who have since heard this discussion in realtime, know why it is quite so funny!), any way, our hysteria seemed to render us beyond help, and the rest of the proceedings were conducted in Georgian (presumably so that we wouldn’t have a monkeys re: what the H*** was going on!). After the form-filling, I assumed (wrong again!), that, we’d be taken to an inner room/office, where the ceremony would be performed! Oh no! the ceremony started right off, conducted across this medical style reception desk, with all in sundry looking on! From the dood who’s come to file for a divorce, to the woman who’s registering a death! No kidding! We didn’t even take our coats off! And all that dressing up? Ah: we needn’t have bothered! After a stream of Georgian, the registrar asks, “are you both certain you are doing this for love? And not any other reason?”, …, bad move! I start laughing, Reza starts laughing, and the whole thing is in pieces! In my mind, I’m wondering why 2 people, from opposite sides of the world would spend a fortune on air tickets, flying to a country where they have no routes, where neither of them speak the language, to get married in a reception office, across a desk, for any thing other than love! (plus the name business is still making me chuckle), any way, we compose ourselves and assure her of our unfaltering love! More Georgian, after some signatures and lots of stamps and other admin gestures that mean little to us, she tells us that “Under Georgian law, you are now enjoined, man and wife, forever, …, congratulate each other please!”, now, we didn’t really want a mass public display of affection in the reception queue, but our brief hug didn’t seem to do it for her! It wasn’t till we faked a full-on smooch, that she left us alone! Our witnesses greeted us, and, …, what can I say; more laughter ensued! I think it was all relief at how simple every thing had been, coupled with the unique craziness of what had just taken place! On enquiry, our witnesses told us that all Georgian civil weddings are done this way unless they are conducted in a church or wedding palace (I just wish some one had told me!). We got our papers, and on the way home, our witnesses said “we want to cook for you; we will roast a cow!” (they meant beef of course!). I should point out here, that Tbilisi boasted 1 mosque, (which appeared to be Ahmediya but we couldn’t clarify that as it was never open when we past, even at salat time!), we didn’t see any Muslims (other than the Azeri Restaurants we visited), and our hosts, (whether it was their lack of English or lack of knowledge), had no understanding of Muslims and halal food restrictions! We had expected this to be the case, and so we had brought most of our food with us, (tins, packets and instant stuff), the only things we bought there were bread, rice and fruit, (oh but we didn’t miss out on the amazing Georgian ‘Khaja Puri!). So, I’m trying to think of a diplomatic way of getting us past the ‘cow, when Reza pipes up “no no, I will cook for you, really, its tradition in Iran that the groom cooks for his guests, I really want to do it!”. I chew my lip and try not to snigger! Its cute and funny, but I’m worried as well! Now, first off; my husband is an amazing cook, (way better than me as it goes!). He cooks amazing Persian dishes, and his passion for Indian cuisine means he can even cook dosas from scratch! But that’s all back in our very well equipped kitchen at home! Here in Georgia, we have nothing; no meat, no utensils, no Iranian herbs! And he’s volunteered us, and (heck), they have just agreed! We get home and do namaz and I ask him how he’s planning to go about this! After some fighting, (OK, discussing!), we buy potatoes, and Reza makes Persian rice with my favourite potatoes Tadeeq! I prepare 2 salads; one with Aubergine and walnut, and another with olives; I flavour some natural yoghurt, and we heat up 2 trays of instant ‘korma sabzi! (OK, so it was instant, but seriously; if you are visiting your local Iranian grocer; pick up some of this stuff; for instant food, it comes pretty close to the real deal!). So we serve all of this up, and though I’ve yelled at the man for cooking a mountain, it comes in handy! When we bring it all in, our 2 witnesses have multiplied and now include, their 2 daughters, son-in-law, Granddaughter, 2 friends, and a woman who cleaned the guesthouse! We served every one, trying not to make it too obvious that we were having tiny portions to save the others! As it went, our additional guests didn’t eat much, but our witnesses got wired in, proclaiming that Reza’s rice was the best they ever had (I don’t doubt that! But they even suspected he cooked the Korma Sabzi himself! which, rightly or wrongly, we let them believe!). After dinner, we enjoyed coffee and delicious cream cakes provided by our guests. None of the assembled were drinkers (Thank God!), however we were all music lovers, and it appeared our host had been something of a rocker in his day! He got his guitar out, and began a sort-of Eric Clapton does Georgia! Rendition of some folk songs! We couldn’t exactly join in, but somewhere in the middle we just got swept away by the impromptu spontaneity of the moment! We even shared a few Iranian songs with them which they seemed to love! Honestly? I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

The rest of the week was fluid and unforgettable. We toured Tbilisi, taking in the rivers and the ancient churches and ruins that fill the city boundary. We ate well, talked allot and laughed even more, it was rather like the honeymoon we always dreamed of! In a strange way, we talked about the future in ways we never had before, either before or after marriage. Despite being married for 7 months now, I think the pressure of our uncertainty had always hung over us subconsciously, but now, with every thing in hand, we could both see an end in sight, a light, that we’d never seen before, we felt, Insha Allah, safe enough to lay foundations for a blessed future. Even when we parted last Saturday, the sadness I felt was nothing like the sadness before. I knew that we wouldn’t be apart for long, and that our time, would surely come soon.
I have to take this opportunity to thank all of our friends, family, contacts, my readers. Those who know us and those who don’t, your support on this journey has surely brought us to where we are today. We might have happiness now, but many of you know how long it has been in coming, there have been many tears over this year, but they only make the joy of success so much more sacred! We wouldn’t have an inch of what we have now, were it not for every one’s love, encouragement and support through the good and bad times, and all the duas that have been made for us, from near and far, from those we know and those we don’t! There are so many people I want to thank, but some don’t want to be named, and for privacy reasons, I don’t want to name others, so I’ll simply say, from my husband and I! Thank you, each one of you! For all that you do and that you’ve done! You all know who you are, and be assured, your love and support for us means more than you’ll ever know. We still have a very long way to go: visas, jobs, other logistics to sort out. I also have some major surgery coming up soon and we need allot of prayers for that, but surely Allah (SWT) never abandons those who try and do their utmost to be sincere in his way: and regardless of what we both want, we always pray only for that which is good for us (in both worlds), and we request all of you to do the same!
So, with our Georgian adventure safely in the bag, we continue on our way, knowing, and dreaming, of the best that is yet to come!

3 comments:

  1. Wow, what a story. You are an amazing lady. May God bless your marriage!

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  2. Salaams, Jazak Allah sisters for your very kind words! It really was an adventure and a half; but you’ll know by now its never simple with Reza and I! Insha Allah all will go well, but I owe so much to both of you, and every one who prays for us and gives us support; it is with your love and support that we find our way through; To Georgia, and beyond! So thank you again; and plz continue to remember us in your duas.

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