Sunday, 2 June 2013

An international wedding (Διεθνής γάμος)

We rarely go to weddings. I attribute this to the fact that my husband and I were older than average when we got married, so most of our friends and relatives had gotten married by the time we did. Having come from another country, I missed out on this aspect of coming of age - I never got to attend friends' weddings. Due to the times that are a-changing, people get married differently too. For instance, the open invitation to all friends and relatives as was once done in Greece is a thing of the past. People have smaller weddings now, inviting fewer people. They also get married at a relatively older age than they used to, and in many cases the traditional protocols are not followed: some marry after they have a child, while others don't marry in a church.

So it was somewhat of a nice treat to be invited to a wedding of a young woman who has been a family friend for many years. Nadia Wahab is the daughter of a mother with origins in Asia Minor, who settled in the richly historic Ptolemaida, a city in Northern Greece. Her father is a Palestinian Christian whose family is based in the occupied territories of Jerusalem. With roots in Jerusalem since Christ's time, they are honoured by being one of the first to receive the Holy Light on Easter Saturday during the church service at the Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem. Bassem met his wife while studying in Greece, following her to her home town where they have been living for the last three decades.

I met Nadia through the apartment my father left us in his inheritance. Nadia was studying in Hania and she lived in that apartment during most of that time. This was followed by her sister Natasha, and finally by her brother Taoufik. Since then, I have met her parents and grandparents, and now I got the chance to meet her husband, George, whose family derive from the Greek diaspora of Georgia. They migrated to Crete about the same time I did, joining a large number of repatriating Georgian Greeks whose ancestors had lived for many years on the coast of the Black Sea. Nadia and George met in Hania, where they are now getting married, and I suppose, they are here to stay, in continuation of the social fabric that makes up the local culture which has not changed much from the past: Hania is a predominantly Greek town, made up of Greeks from all parts of the world.

I may not have gone to many weddings in my life, but that was one my family won't forget in a while. It was more like an international event: we were joined by Nadia's family from Jerusalem, George's family and friends from Georgia, and their many local, Greek and Cretan friends. We were treated to some of the most exotic dancing that we've ever seen performed live, while the food was generic Greek, typical Cretan wedding fare.

It could be true that I have seen Nadia grow up over the years, but Nadia was always grown up from the time I met her. When the apartment caught fire due to a short-circuit in a kitchen light fitting, she didn't panic . She still remembered to switch off the electricity from the mains, and then grabbed the kitchen mat to smother the flames. Thi was all done before she called the fire brigade. Her sister Natasha told me just how glad she was that both of them were there that night. "If I were alone," Natasha said, "I would have just panicked and left. I'm sure the apartment would have burned down." It's a personality thing, I guess.

We stayed at the reception until past 1am. We would have stayed longer, had it not started raining - the wedding was held outdoors. Who would have believed it: rain in Crete in June, followed by another bout of very strong winds similar to the ones that nearly burnt our village less than a week ago...

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