я люблю тебя тоже, I Love You Too!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a special celebration for those of us who are studying the Russian language, along with several Russian speaking people who are learning English.  We all have the same teacher, a delightful woman who is a native speaker from a city in the Ural Mountains and an excellent instructor.  A couple named Irina and Misha issued the invitation and generously offered their home for the occasion. My Russian is sketchy and I was a little nervous so I practiced some common phrases ahead of time…………..”I am very happy to meet you,” “Thank you,” “You’re welcome,” ” You have a beautiful house,” “I speak only a little Russian.”  They had gone to a great amount of work, preparing a variety of Russian dishes and we ate the delicious food until we were stuffed. Then we went in another room and to lively Eastern European music, had a lot of fun awkwardly trying to replicate the Russian folk dances they demonstrated. They sang us Russian songs, a woman in our class played the guitar and we sang a few John Denver songs for them and then we sat down for dessert and got stuffed with wonderful food all over again. When I was growing up, I was taught to fear Russians. I was told that they were a heartless and cold people, who were likely to invade and would treat all of us badly if they did. I can say that I have never in my life been treated with such hospitality, warmth and welcome as I experienced last Saturday. Home for the people there had been a variety of places in Eastern Europe: Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Russia, among them. Bound together by the language common in the previous USSR, they had come together in an ESL class and became good friends.  These Russian speakers were laughers, dancers, singers, huggers, kissers, marvelous cooks and incredible hosts. It was the warmest culture with whom I have ever interacted and have been privileged to spend time.  When it came time for us to leave, more than one of the women kissed me and held me in a wonderfully long and tight embrace, smiling warmly as she told me, “я люблю тебя,” and I was able to answer very honestly, “I love you too.”

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