Russian Tea

I’m a language nerd.  So I guess it’s pretty appropriate that I’m studying TESOL.  I love learning a new language and am currently really enjoying learning how to teach language.  In the TESOL program here at Penn, I am finding that a lot of things I have experienced as a language learner actually have names and have been studied.  It’s so cool to finally be able to put a name to my experiences!  An example of this is how speakers develop identities in the languages that they speak.  This is a phenomenon that I can first remember experiencing during my junior year abroad in Russia.  Each time I switched to English, French, or Russian, I felt as though it was a different part of me coming out to speak the language.  It wasn’t as though one of my language identities was better than the other; they are just different.  And I love experiencing each part of myself that way.

Me in Moscow in 2008.

Something else I remember learning about myself and foreign language during college is that if you don’t use it, you lose it.  But once you start back up, it is kind of like riding a bike.  A lot of the words will come back to you and with enough practice, you can get back into the groove and rhythm of the language.

It has been awhile since I have had the chance to use my Russian, so I decided to check out the Slavic Department on campus to see if they hosted any sort of Russian conversation hour.  Turns out, they do!  Every Tuesday from 4:30 to 5:30 (sometimes later) in Williams Hall, there is a tea that you can attend.

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I was super nervous the first time I went.  I wasn’t sure they were going to let me in because I’m in GSE and not in the School of Arts & Sciences (SAS), but I was so wrong.  I was welcomed with open arms!  And since there is a range of speakers there (first semester students to people born and raised in Russia who are completely fluent), you can speak at whatever level.  Admittedly, my Russian was super rusty when I showed up, but I have been going for about two months now and my speaking is slowly getting back up to what it used to be.  I think that by the end of the semester, I should be in pretty good shape!

Because it is called Русский Чай (which means Russian Tea), we drink lots of black Russian tea.  Something I remember learning during my time in Russia is that the Russians could really give the Brits a run for their money with the amount of tea they drink.  Regardless, it’s a good coffee substitute for all you tea drinkers out there.  They brew a really strong pot of it, and then you can dilute it with hot water out of the samovar that they have.

Our samovar.
Our samovar.

Also, there are tons of Russian snacks – cookies, candy, and more!  Surprisingly, you can find all this in Philadelphia.  There is a large Russian/Eastern European/Central Asian community that lives in the northeastern part of the city.  I plan on venturing out there one day to see what they have to offer.

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It’s a little blurry, but you get the idea. Yummy Russian snacks!

We also play all sorts of games while we’re there to help with learning the language.  Yesterday, we played Scattegories in Russian, which was hard but also a lot of fun!  A few weeks ago, we played a popular Russian card game called Durak.  I also saw some people playing chess (another big Russian pastime) when I was leaving yesterday.  And you can see that there are plenty of other game options based on the picture at the top of this post.

I am so incredibly happy that I found Russian Tea.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, you can find lots of different foreign language conversation hours at the Graduate Student Center, but there currently is not one for Russian.  If you speak a language that you don’t see a chat for, don’t be afraid to reach out to the department here to see if they hold any sort of conversation hour!  I’m really glad that I did.


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