Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Russian Bath

So first of all I’d like to apologize that this blog has taken me so long to write but I’ve been submersed in reading the Hunger Game series of books (which if you have not read, you need to! They are amazing) and for the last 3 or 4 days I have been doing nothing but reading those books. My host sister thinks I’m crazy but, like I told her “Ksenia, I’ve been reading them for days now I want to find out how they end!” you should have seen her face when I laughed/cried/was sad from a book. I don’t think she gets as in to books as I do. Oh well enough about Hunger Games and on to a short update on my life, then the main event my “Russian bath”

So we will start with school I guess, its still boring. I know that I keep saying this but honestly, it is. Jenia and me most days just sit at a table and blankly stare at the chalk board while the teacher lectures the class and they take notes. In fact the last few days (since we started reading the books) we have been taking our books to school and reading them during class. I know, we are bad exchange students because listening to Russian is the only way we will learn, but hey it is helping to pass the time and that was only for a few days. So all of this last week my school has been having shortened days. Each class was 30 minutes instead of 45 because the school is cold. The city of Uglich had not yet turned on the heat in that part of town. I will never understand this but hey, its Russia! They actually did turn on the heat on Friday but the school was still freezing so we had short days! And hey we definitely are not complaining about having short days rather then our normal 5/6-hour days.

In my home/family life the major (and this is MAJOR) event that happened was…. Bum bum bum bum… the city finally TURNED ON THE HEAT!!! I was talking to my Italian host sister on Skype on Tuesday and I was telling her about how cold it was and how the city still hadn’t turned on the heat and went over to feel the register thingy (its like the old ones we have in the USA, they are metal have water in them and are like against the wall about 3 feet tall) and it was warm!! I was so happy I about screamed!! Oh there was another good thing that happened as well! I finally got the box that my real mommy sent me from the USA! It took exactly 3 weeks to get to me so I guess Russia is slower then Italy was when it comes to mail! Oh well! Other then that everything in my home life is good, my host family and I are getting along really well which is nice!

My Russian, well I’d love to be able to say that I understand everything that is going on around me but in all honesty, I cant. Russian is a VERY difficult language; probably more difficult then I thought it was going to be when I chose Russia! It is starting to come along I mean I can definitely understand and say A LOT more then I could when I got here but still its difficult to communicate and I still give that blank “I have no idea what you’re talking about” stare to people a lot when people talk to me. My Russian lessons with Jenia are starting to get better now that we are going faster but I still wish that I could speak Russian fluently after just 2 months but I know that that is not an option so I’m trying as hard as I can. Hopefully it’ll click soon!
I also had an AFS orientation in Yaroslavl that consisted of an “international dinner” which I brought chocolate chip cookies to (because I mean honestly, what’s REALLY American?) and some talking in a classroom about how AFS works, how we are doing, what our support system is and all of that. Nothing that we didn’t already know or hadn’t heard in a million different orientations before but it was nice to see all of the other kids that we had not seen in over a month. But honestly I didn’t really remember most of them OOPS. They did tell us one exciting thing though That we would have to option to go to Krasnodar Russia with AFS in November for about a week! I’m very excited about that!

So now on to the main event: my experience with a “Russian bath.” So my host family and I went to Yaroslavl (for my orientation) and we stayed the night at my host mothers boyfriends house. Well after my international dinner we went back to his house and they started to talk to me about “a bath” with “really hot water” I was really confused because honestly I wasn’t planning on taking a shower there (we were only staying for 1 night) and I always take hot water showers so they just kept telling me “okay you will see”.

Then they gave me some old sweat pants to change in to and they told me to take off all of my make up, jewelry and my clothe s and to put on the sweats. I was very confused because honestly, Russians DO NOT leave the house with sweat pants on but hey, I didn’t know what I was doing or what was going on so I just did what they told me to do and changed.

Then we were we all started going outside, it was cold, I didn’t want to go outside but I had to because that’s what they told me to do. We all went out to this little wooden house that was out side of the apartment and it was HOT in there and that’s when I started to connect the dots. It was a type of sauna! So my host mom’s boyfriend leaves and my host mom and sister start to strip. Not wanting to make the already awkward situation any more awkward I started to get undressed to. I’ve never been one for nudity so luckily we all wrapped up in towels after that and then we went through another little room that was a little warmer and then a third room that was REALLY hot. It had some benches and some wooden stove that was producing A LOT of heat.

So we all sat down and I started to understand more of what was going on and why we were actually there! We all sat in there for a while about 15 minutes before we needed a break because it was so hot! So we rested for a while in the first room and when we went back in my host mom had a little cup with her. She offered it to my host sister and me and when I asked what it was she simply said, “honey”. That just confused me even more! Why on earth did she have a cup full of honey? Then her and my host sister both started to rub the honey on their arms and legs, so that’s what I did to. Honey? I mean really? Why rub honey on your body its sticky and yucky but they seemed to think it was a good idea so I went along with it.

Then my host mom and sister went out and my host mom came back in with this branch that had a bunch of leaves on it. It smelled good and it was wet with hot water. Then she told me to lay down on the bench and guess what!! She started hitting my body with that bundle of leaves! All that was going through my head was “oh man how on earth am I going to explain this to people with out sounding like a complete psycho!” well after my host mom did this to me she showed me how to wash off all of the honey with this bucket of hot water and a sponge and then she started to “beat” my host sister with the leaves while I washed off! Then when my host mom came out I told her I was done and she’s like “okay its time to rinse off” and she got this other bucket of water and dumped it on me. I SCREAMED! It was ICE cold water and I had been sooooo hot since I was in that room and she dumped cold water on me! Then my host sister washed off and we got dressed and so went my experience with a “Russian bath”

I was so confused the entire time this was happening but this is apparently a Russian tradition! They kept asking me if I liked it afterward “Kendra did you like it?” and honestly the only response that I could come up with was “well it was definitely an experience!” its not that I didn’t like it but it was just so different and I wasn’t expecting to do that while I was in Yaroslavl or even while I was in Russia!

I hope that you all had a good laugh while reading because I most certainly did while it was happening, I honestly could not believe it was happening while it was happening but hey “it is Russia” !

Love and miss you all!


  1. You stole my cookie idea! I did it first and you copied me!

  2. hahahaha That was a great story!
    The Finns do the branch bashy thing too :P

  3. Love the bath story. I get it now how confusing an experience like this is when you don't know how or why or what's next. It'll be interesting what a second or third "bath" feels like . . . You're a great sport!
    About school . . . Instead of staring blankly or reading in English, can you take notes on isolated words you understand . . try to guess the main idea . . I get the frustration and boredom. I'm thinking the lecture style is like what you encountered in Italy?
    Enjoy! Keep that sense of humor and sense of adventure. I'll bet your Russian is coming along better than you think. Tough to only be able to communicate on the level of a two year old, no?
    Loving your blog!