Having whined profusely about the winter in my last blog I would like tell you my favorite part of winter; the banya. The banya is a building where people bathe. Volunteers and I have also adapted this noun into a verb. For example; I banya-ed today. This is a much used word in my vocabulary.
If you recollect, in my last blog I mentioned that I had to bundle up just to go to the bathroom so bathing isn’t really an option in my apartment. But one still has to bathe so I go to banya once a week. There are two grades of banya; public and private.
The public banyas cost about $1 for an hour. The process is a simple one, what you do is you gather up all your supplies (i.e. shampoo, soap, razors, flip flops, ect.,) go to the banya, change and then go into a giant room where you grab a bucket, wait in line with other naked women to fill your bucket up and then you find a spot along the wall and start bucket bathing. The first time at the banya was intimidating to say the least, but I have come to love those steamy rooms! I usually go with other volunteers and we make a day of banya-ing and a girls day out. Its better than a day at a spa!
Then there are the private banyas, these can range in price any where between $2 and $20. The nicest banya I have ever been in was with my NGO. This place was amazing! The first room you enter is the place where you change, I remember meeting my NGO there for the first time and thinking “well I’ll probably never do this with my in co-workers in the states!” The changing rooms led into two rooms, one a dining room where there was fried rice, chicken and vodka waiting to be eaten, and the second room the shower room where my entire NGO was standing completely naked. On my first banya with my NGO, I remember meeting this scene with hesitation but I quickly realized that I really didn’t have any other choice but to drop my towel and join the party!
Once I walked into the bathing room, I saw there was a forth room which was like a sauna. One thing that I hadn’t mentioned was by the time I arrived at the banya my co-workers had already been there for about 4 hours. They had made a whole afternoon of it, I’ve never been able to last more than an hour in a banya! After I got over my initial shock and started to relax, I got all uncomfortable again because my director offered to scub the dead skin off my back with her loofa… there is nothing that can prepare somebody for that!
After that point, the evening became a whole lot easier and I even managed to have fun. That night I was dropped off at home with a tummy full of fried rice, very clean and a different view of my NGO.
8 years ago