June 8, 2013
Fairly early this morning, smoke began rising from the banya. I was feeling disgusting. Not only was I hungover from the previous day’s shenanigans, but I was utterly filthy. My hair was greasy and slick, my pits were sweaty and stinky, and then there was the whole period catastrophe… smoke from the banya was a welcome relief. Surely it meant that I would be able to cleanse myself. Surely.
But first Rakhat had to do laundry, using the water heated by the wood burning furnace of the banya. I was as excited about washing my clothes as I was about the possible opportunity to wash my body. Hand-washing clothes is back-breaking work. I had only a few items to clean, and my back muscles were smarting by the time I was through. Poor Rakhat had to do the washing for five people, plus sheets and such. It took her something like eight hours. I cannot even imagine how her back must feel.
Around 3pm I went for a walk. Other than doing my laundry, I hadn’t done much with my day. I should have been planning lessons or making copies of handouts or something, but I was just hungover enough to cause inaction. By 3pm I realized that I really needed to clear my head, and I figured a nice walk in the fresh air would do me good.
I had a pleasant walk. At one point I heard the familiar strains of Gangnam Style thumping from out of a passing yard. I caught a quick glimpse of middle-aged and elderly locals dancing in the courtyard, then quickly scurried past to avoid getting sucked in. Several groups of kids stopped me along my way to ask me to photograph them so that I could then show them the resulting photo on my camera’s view screen. Two girls got one of their friends to take a picture of them with me.
I wandered around the western edge of the village, attempting to photograph the elusive hoopoe. If I’d had my long lens, I would’ve been successful, but as it was I merely snapped more blurred shots. I also took several photos of the village’s new (and only) mosque, built with Saudi money. Oh, Saudi philanthropists, if you really want to help these people, you’d fix their broken wells and get them running water! Ahh well.
My walk got me out of the passive funk that I’d been in all day. Instead of waiting to be summoned to the smoking banya, I asked when it would be available. And I was told that as there was very little water coming out of the well – and as Rakhat needed to finish the laundry – it really depended on whether or not there would be enough water available once the laundry was finished.
I could have cried. Instead I went inside and wrote in my journal and got busy planning lessons. I may have sulked a bit. Around 9:30 I was told that the banya was available. Thank the gods! Clean at last, clean at last, clean at last! Thank god almighty I’m clean at last!
For those of you who don’t know what a banya is, it is essentially a steam-sauna powered by a wood-burning (or trash burning, or dried cow-pat burning) stove to heat the water, and gravity to allow the hot and cold water to flow out of a spigot and into a bucket when needed. You collect hot and cold water in buckets and mix them to the ideal temperature. You then bathe out of these buckets while relaxing in the hot steam sauna. It’s really quite a lovely experience – if only it didn’t occur at a rate of about once a week or so!