Prekhodit V Gosti (Coming as a Guest)

In my two visits to Russia, the concept of "coming as a guest" is the essence of building relationships. There's no pretensions or preparations necessary for the event. The humble kitchen with its stools and tiny table, bare floors and walls allows a glimpse into the unvarnished, undaunted Russian Soul.

To enjoy coming as a guest, just be yourself, maybe bring some sweets or a drink to share. The tea is poured from a kettle, brewed strong, then diluted with hot water. Add honey, milk, and some sweet cookies.

The conversation comes naturally when hearts are warmed by the tea on a late Winter's night. Most Russians that I've known haven't had the money to go out to the movies or a restaurant. Why let a dark room or mouths filled with food get in the way of conversation and just BEING with each other? Coming as a guest means coming as you are.

Friendships are forged when one comes as a guest. Like Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea, after the third cup, you're family. When I went to the house of Elena, I could tell that she was a kindred spirit. She is the best friend of my host teacher, Tatiana. I warmed up to her quickly, too. We all would get together two more times in my remaining time in Korablino.

There is something about coming as a guest in Russia that builds relationships based on sharing nothing more than who you are as a person. With nothing to conceal in a bare kitchen, there's nothing to unravel a friendship's future with false pretenses.

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