The other evening I was treated by my counterpart with the relaxing past time of going to the banya. Although this was not a Russian style of banya with wet steam, it was a very interesting experience for me. Normally I have used private house banyas and gone in alone, but it is common for the banya to be used as a gathering place to socialize.
I believe that American women tend to pride themselves in having progressive thoughts in terms of gender equality, feminism, and the role of a modern woman in the modern world. What I witnessed was that these women, almost all of them were local teachers, sharing a space where there was no judgement or shyness. We sweated in the hot sauna without any clothing on, drank tea and ate fruit with chocolate in the kitchen area, and shared stories about what was happening in our lives. Such a liberating feeling to be around strange women but have a safe space to accept your skin. While doing this with colleagues in the US would probably result in some sort of punishment or scandal, it is a very common and normal aspect of being in this part of the world. Weekly, sometimes daily, there are cultural elements that block me or force me to compromise something in an uncomfortable sort of way, however, this time I was able to be open to the situation and understand that women around the world are so similar, lovely.
Peace Corps Blog.
click above to play a traditional Kazakh song that I really like called the Karajorga. It is very popular and there is a traditional dance that is performed with it as well.
March 8, 2011 -
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