“Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change color and fall from the trees.” — David Letterman
September 17th, 2015, a few minutes before 4:00 pm — we can hardly breathe. It is hot and stuffy in here. I am rolling up my sleeves in front of the mirror and wash my face. We are ready to go. Balázs and I step out of the bathroom and set out towards the lobby on the fourth floor. The venue is Building R on our campus. As we get closer, the indistinct noise of a small crowd fades in. We catch sight of Era, greet her, and the three of us settle down on a desk by the wall. The place is jam-packed with people. There are only a few untaken seats. We are waiting for our turn, perplexed.
It is time. Margit Szesztay announces the TAKE FIVE club and calls our names. I grab the packet of freshly printed flyers and take it to the “stage”. We are in the spotlight. Dozens of freshmen, graduate students and teachers are staring at us curiously. Here we go. The presentation doesn’t take off seamlessly, but that is only how we feel. The audience seems to resonate with us. They respond with laughter to every little joke. Before we finish up, I address the freshmen and encourage them to join us today for our fall season opening. “Thank you very much for your attention.” A round of applause ensues.
A couple of students run to us for flyers and ask about the club enthusiastically. A girl and a boy appear. They would come with us and check out the club, they say. While we are waiting to move on to CD-FŰ, I strike up a conversation with them. Dorina and Dani are both first-year teacher trainees of the freshly reintroduced undivided program. I tell them not to worry about the uninteresting introductory courses. The best is yet to come.
6:00 pm — after having woven our way through the jungle of narrow streets, we arrive at CD-FŰ. The ever-delightful manager lady welcomes us with a smile. I fish the stack of flyers out of my backpack and walk up to her. I feel the bonds between TAKE FIVE and CD-FŰ are becoming stronger. They have shared our event first time since we moved here. We have put their logo on the flyer. She is grateful, and so are we. I hand her about fifteen pieces and she places them on the counter.
There is no crowd today. I count thirteen participants, including the three of us. I am holding the first color envelope in my hand. The topic is “Good intentions”. After a few minutes it turns out to be somewhat philosophical, not easily tangible. Nevertheless, the groups are eagerly discussing it, sometimes going off on a tangent. I decide to bring one more topic in, to resolve the tightening philosophical atmosphere. “Cursive writing is obsolete, or is it?” says the description. This will do, I think.
Around 8:00 pm — we are smack dab in the middle of the game. The groups are inventing funny university courses, such as “How to be cool I.” Three more guests arrive and sit down at the farthest table. To my great surprise, James Leavey walks in. He used to be my language practice teacher in the first year. I have been expecting him for a while. He spots the beers behind us and decides to join. On the way to the bar we discuss the problem of quantity. In Hungary, a glass of beer is the small one. A pint of beer is more, but in many countries it is not the same amount as a korsó here. It is not a challenge to bridge the cultural gap, though: he orders a glass of Soproni, in Hungarian.
The fall season of 2015 is in full swing now. I kindly remind everyone to pester us with topic ideas as the black cylinder hat is getting more and more hollow. Contribute to this new season with your precious thoughts and get ready for the upcoming session! The forecast says there is an impending swarm of freshmen arriving on Thursday, 6:00 pm. Besides them, we are missing a few old dogs. Are you joining us next time?
We have gone a long way to becoming what we are today. The club that once had a hard time collecting five visitors for an ill-organized session is now expecting teachers from ELTE to join for the summer sessions and check out the fruit of our hard work. This post is here to present a few forthcoming changes and to break some delightful news to our faithful visitors.
First and foremost, we are honored to announce that a spirited young lady, Era, has joined the organizer group. We have long been in dire need of someone as, unfortunately, the two ladies who have been serving the club devotedly will no longer have the time to do so. Era began to attend club meetings a few months ago, and she fell right in love with it. We are looking forward to the refreshing collaboration.
The need for a new organizer has been reinforced by the fact that since the end of the exam period we have gained some popularity among ELTE teachers as well. One month ago Margit Szesztay, a teacher from the Department of English Language Pedagogy, paid a short visit to see what a club session looked like. Despite the noise and unpleasant climate, the genuine TAKE FIVE spirit managed to get across to her. She offered us a wondrous opportunity: the organizers are going to advertise the club in front of a huge crowd of freshmen on 17 September. What is more, we are planning to return with the fall season on that very day.
One of the most remarkable changes of this year is the newly introduced Summer Sessions series. We used to go on vacation during summers, but near the end of the last season, quite a number of people expressed their disappointment when we started to distribute goodbye kisses. We chewed on it for a few weeks and eventually decided to respond to the call. However, our definite intention was to make it look different from the regular fall and spring seasons, and for that reason we looked for new places where at least a ray of sunlight crept in through the windows.
The first place we tried was a café and bar called Kelet near Szent Gellért square, but as it turned out, they did not have air conditioning, and we could hardly breathe during the three-hour session. Apart from that, both the staff and the variety were fantastic, so we may even consider returning on a colder Thursday evening. As a plan B we booked a few tables at B-terv Café just a few steps from the corner of Király street and Nagykörút. Everyone seemed to like it. Besides the quality draft beers, they offer hot sandwiches too, which saved a few lives last week. The next session will be organized there.
On a more general note, the club is thriving and enjoying the summer. Launching the summer season has turned out to be the right choice since we are witnessing a growing number of attendees week by week. Chances are that the campaign in September will make matters “worse”, so we need to pull up our socks. Until then we will keep introducing new games, such as the “mock definitions” or the “funny superheroes” game we played last time. Please keep in mind that we would not like to use the Topic Hat until the fall season. Instead, we are bringing three new topics that you have sent us for the summer special.
As lieutenant Columbo would say, “just one more thing”: a funky idea struck us a few weeks ago and we are asking you to participate. The plan is as follows: we put down a list of questions like “What was your favorite topic?” or “What do you enjoy most about the club?”… or “What’s so strange about Balázs?”, and we make a couple of two-minute long videos with anyone who would be happy to answer them. This would serve as yet another campaign to ensure that we get flooded by an unbearable sum of new people in the upcoming season.
Stay up to date with our Facebook page. See you next Thursday!
With summer coming up and the TAKE FIVE season ending, it was clearly fate’s intervention that we ran into two of the organizers as they had just finished a class. Luckily, they had some time on their hands before the next one, so we decided to ask them a few questions about the past, present, and future of the club.
INTERVIEWER: So, how did the spring season of 2015 go? Was it any different from the previous seasons?
ZSOMBOR: It was much more than we’d expected. You know, we have a genuine formula that we use every time we gather. There is a more or less thought-provoking or amusing “warm-up question” which is there to get the ball rolling, like If you had a chance to go on a beach holiday with a famous person, who would it be and why? Afterwards, we fan out the tiny envelopes which contain all the topics with short descriptions and debate questions. For this season we introduced a “summary” part, which means that after the small groups have finished discussing the topics (two or three, depending on their popularity), one speaker is elected in each group. They sit down next to each other, give a brief summary of their discussion to the “audience”, and that usually gives rise to short debates. It depends on the topics, of course. The “What is art?” topic led us to tricky grounds…
INTERVIEWER: There is a game near the end of every meeting, is that right?
ZSOMBOR: Oh, yeah, the game. I have a feeling that everyone is looking forward to that from the moment they walk in. There is a selection of games we alternate throughout the season. If I remember correctly, the games we played in the spring were Alibi, Taboo, Last Letter, and a game we simply call “Nóra’s game” as she was the one who recommended it years ago. It always seems to work because it relies on the guests’ creativity. They all have to come up with a few words which, then, all go into a hat. And… I’m not gonna tell you more. Join us next time and see for yourself! (laughs) Oh, and I played two rounds of chess with Antal, but that’s another story. I hope I’ll have a chance in the summer to make up for that last time.
INTERVIEWER: The readers may also be interested in how the TAKE FIVE club has come to be what it is today.
ZSOMBOR: That’s quite an uninteresting story. I was walking around on Margaret Island in the summer of 2011, and I came across a sign on a post that read “conversation club”. They offered four languages. I became interested right away. For some reason, however, I couldn’t attend the weekly sessions, but as I kept thinking about it, something struck me. I posed myself the question: If you are studying to be a teacher and you already give lessons, why don’t you found your own club? I chewed on it for a while and then decided to give it a shot. Nothing to lose, I thought.
INTERVIEWER: Watching these old photos, the club looked very different. Is it just the photos?
ZSOMBOR: No, it was indeed very different. First, we started out in an empty room of an art gallery in the 5th district. The topics weren’t well organized, to say the least. Sometimes we just picked a slip of paper with “old music vs. modern music” on it, and tried to discuss it. It didn’t really work out. The topics seemed like those sloppy oral tasks from your language exam book. Although the special TAKE FIVE atmosphere came to life in the very first year, it wasn’t quite enough. I decided to raise the stakes, so to speak. I assembled a group of three organizers, including myself, and we began to work hard. We beefed up our Facebook page, created an independent website, and spent a great deal of time collecting topics. This was in 2013, I guess.
INTERVIEWER: Balázs, where do you come into the picture? Were you part of that first organizer group?
BALÁZS: No, I wasn’t part of the organizers at first. I believe I started attending the club in … now let’s see, I’m always in trouble when I’m asked this because I honestly don’t remember (laughs). I think I first attended in the spring season of 2013. I was good friends with Fanni by then, and she suggested I check out the club. Needless to say, it was love at first sight, and I don’t recall that I missed many occasions. I was a regular club member at first, and then in (turns to Zsombor), yeah in the beginning of 2014 I became an organizer. Zsombor hasn’t turned me out yet (laughs), so I suppose I’ll stay on board.
INTERVIEWER: Although all of you were insistent on going on holiday, rumor has it that you have planted the seeds for a summer season. Would you mind telling us a few words about that?
BALÁZS: Yeah, we’re glad you asked. We are proud to say that the rumors are true, and special TAKE FIVE summer sessions will, most likely, be held. It seems that enough people are interested, which is always lovely to see. There will be a few changes, though. First of all, these sessions will be primarily run by me, as I can’t expect the others to take on this responsibility in the summer.
INTERVIEWER: And what about the structure of the club meetings?
BALÁZS: No major changes there. The warm-up question stays, followed by discussion in small groups, and then the game. The only thing that’s different is that we’re going to give the guests a bit more freedom in the choice of topics. They may bring articles that they find interesting, or just an idea, as long as they prepare a few thought-provoking questions as well. Or, occasionally, there won’t be any topics, but they will have to come up with something together, like a sales pitch for whacky summertime inventions. We actually tried this game once this season, and it’s a lot of fun.
ZSOMBOR (laughs): What was your crazy idea? A concrete inflatable mattress?
BALÁZS: No, mine was the palinka-based suntan lotion!
INTERVIEWER: It sounds like a hilarious game! Also, it must require quite a high level of language proficiency. What is the minimum level that you recommend for the visitors?
BALÁZS: We have guests ranging from A2 level [elementary language level] to C2, and I’ve never seen anyone snicker at another’s mistake or incorrect word use. Instead, they listen and nod encouragingly, which is fantastic to see. The most important thing for us is that the general TAKE FIVE spirit is maintained; a fun, inclusive group of people, where you only need to speak as much as you want to, and you don’t have to be afraid of people ridiculing you for your language skills.
INTERVIEWER: And what about the venue? I understand that lately you have been in a teahouse/pub, which is underground.
BALÁZS: Yeah, it’s a great place, but since it’s going to be summer, we will look for something outdoors. We haven’t actually decided on a place, but it will be all in the first event, we will keep everyone informed. So don’t forget to check our Facebook page!
Photos by Orsi Kutas
It’s been nearly a month since we last posted on the blog. We have good news and good news. Which do you want to hear first? OK. Our beloved place seems to remain open for the upcoming season, so nothing will change in that regard. We are on the way to book a table for every second Thursday. The first session will be on September 18th, at 6:00 pm. Keep an eye out for the Facebook event!
A few significant changes are also in the pipeline. Let us introduce the concept of “topic hat”, which practically means that for every season to come there will be a long list of topics – preferably 12-15 on both local and worldwide issues. Every time we meet, we draw two or three topics from the hat randomly, crossing them out from the list.
This way we can handle the topics much more flexibly, not to mention that more people may become interested in the club sessions due to the diversity of the topics covered. We will prepare a brief vocabulary list, too, that will include the most important words for the given discussion. But wait, there’s more to it! You have a chance to recommend any topic in the world by writing a few lines about it and attaching some background information for us. We read it and decide whether it could work for a club meeting; if so, we simply drop it into the hat. Feel free to contribute to the list.
Besides the all-time favorites, we are planning to bring in a couple of very entertaining games, such as finding the most amusing and banal wikiHow entries on everyday activities and see if we could actually do them without instructions. You can expect immense fun!
Just so that you know, a part of the club’s money will be spent on Facebook advertising, which happens to be the most effective way nowadays. We have also set aside money for a new game called Last Letter. We were to purchase it during the summer, but it’s unfortunately out of stock in Hungary. Finally, as you might have seen in our Summer Course account, we have completed the Story Cubes set with the third (orange) box.
Get in the mood with the first TAKE FIVE music selection, and check out the previous posts on the blog. See you next week at CD-FŰ!
After a long winter break, we are beginning the new season at a different place. We launched the club in the fall of 2011, and we have enjoyed the hospitality of FISE ever since. The time has come to move on, for mainly financial and convenience reasons.
The new venue is a teahouse and bar called CDFŰ Kultúrpince, one of the most fantastic places of the sort I have ever been to. There are separate rooms where people gather to play board games (or organize language clubs), and bigger areas with lots of tables. The menu is diverse: teas, coffees, soft and alcoholic drinks, snacks, and even a small selection of tasty dishes. You can smell the grilled chicken being prepared while snuggling on the couch, all this flavored with great music playing in the background.
The little group of organizers met a few times in the past two weeks to size up the place, collect new topics and make all the important decisions. Now we are ready to plunge into the rapid stream of the spring season. The website has been fully updated. You can find the new topics under ** SCHEDULE **, and also check out the Contact section for the new address.
See you on February 27th!
“December 27th—The desperate fight against the cruel storm had been going on for an hour or so. Our attempts to keep the sail up were in vain. The gusts were tossing us from side to side. Fanni discovered a tiny leak at the bottom of the run-down wooden boat. That was to be our death sentence. The Lord, however, showed mercy to us and a piece of land appeared through the mist. As the storm was taking us in the right direction, we soon stranded on the island. To our astonishment, a set of exquisitely arranged weapons was awaiting us. After a heated debate, we agreed to take five clubs and finally set off to explore the unknown.”
This excerpt was taken from our travel diary, which we think serves as a perfect explanation for our two and a half month long silence. However plausible it seems, we understand if you don’t believe it. Fine… it never actually happened. We just felt miserable for not posting anything for such a long time. We nonetheless hope it didn’t fail to entertain you.
There are countless points to be covered in our agenda. First and foremost, we are proud to announce that Balázs has officially become an organizer of the club. The first effect of this thoughtful move has manifested as an abrupt extension of The organizers page. Another piece of good news: the spring season is going to last longer (10 meetings hopefully), as we don’t seem to care about the exam period any more – increasing deviance of young university students.
Here’s an incomplete list of the topics to be discussed in the upcoming season:
- In what way the spread of e-books will affect our reading habits?
- Is it feasible / appropriate to criminalize homelessness?
- Do you look at Internet piracy as a serious crime?
- What do you think about reality shows?
Of course you will be able to find everything in order under ** SCHEDULE ** within a reasonably short period of time. May the stars guide you!
We have been planning to make a loud comeback on February 27th, but you can expect greater changes in the life of the club than ever before. So, brace yourselves! In order to satisfy your intellectual hunger in your impatient anticipation, let us present to you an absolute gem of the TAKE FIVE folk poetry.