18 January 2014
An Armenian wedding in Paris
His gaze seemed to be fixated on me. I couldn’t see his eyes behind his thick light-reflecting glasses, his face tucked in a pointed hood. A shiver ran down my spine. It’s as if I were experiencing a remake of the excellent film The Name of the Rose (based on Umberto Eco’s eponymous book) with Sean Connery, in which evil monks plot, mysterious deaths happen and peasant girls are burned at the stake (yummy). It was perhaps the bulky face of the priest, the absence of any perceivable movement on his face or body, or his hands tightly clasped in a prayer posture. In any case, I was glad to be seated on the very last row of that small Armenian church.
I had attended a Coptic wedding a few years ago. This time, I was invited to another Christian Orthodox wedding, that of a friend from my university days. I have to be honest: expecting to have to sit through a two-hour long mass didn’t enchant me, in particular when orthodoxy in that case also means discourses on a completely old-fashioned patriarchal view of married life.
It luckily ended this time in “just” forty-five minutes, although the priest talked, chanted rather, mostly in Armenian – except for the few sentences in French, the ones which I’d preferred not to have heard. Oh well, I did have my camera with me – and the good thing about having a professional-grade telephoto lens is that I looked like one of the official photographers (there were already two, plus a videographer). So I looked around at what I could shoot – discreetly nonetheless, using the “quiet” mode of my camera (which effectively slows down the capture of pictures and “separates” the noise). I obviously couldn’t miss the photogenic priests.
Between mass and the cocktail, I had time to kill. The Google office wasn’t far and I was wearing one of my best suits, one I had not worn in years since I work at Google, ahem, where, well, you know, it’s shorts and flip-flops in Summer, if you see what I mean. So I thought, “hey, why don’t I take some ‘selfies’ in the office’s very nice ballroom?”. It actually didn’t prove that easy to calibrate my camera and ensure proper focus but it was fun to try.
The evening was spent at the bucolic Museum of Carnival Arts, in the nicely renovated Bercy Village area at the far east of Paris where I had never set foot in. I particularly like that photo separated diagonally across, with the guests in the dark on the right side and the illuminated walls of the museum on the left. An antique carousel was slowly rotating in the middle of the cocktail area. An artist was sitting in a corner, scissors in hand, creating paper profile silhouettes of guests in a matter of three minutes at most – impressive. And later on, dancers rejoiced us with demonstrations of traditional Armenian dances.
One further originality of this wedding consisted in the pieces of paper given to each guest on which three questions were asked, some of the questions being different on each sheet. They revolved around advice guests could give to the newly-wed. Among the questions I had was: “what baby names do you recommend?”. Knowing my passion for Google and my legendary (bad) humour, I couldn’t resist making a pun considering the Armenian undertones of the wedding: Googlessian and Androidjian were therefore my best suggestions – they sound pretty cool, don’t you think?!
Teaser: in my next post, we’ll be back in Borneo, no longer talking about kingfishers (http://goo.gl/8ICQbr) but about another species which sadly only has two thousand members remaining. Can you guess which one?