Host Family and the Banya

Every day before and after class, I sit on the metro and think about living closer to center city. No matter how far anyone else may be from campus, I am sure I have the longest commute. Daily life as a student in St. Petersburg would be much easier if I lived in the dorms, in center city. But every day when I get home, I remember why I chose to live with a host family. I remember why I chose a difficult situation of communication and a long commute over the freedom I’ve been accustomed to in college.

There are too many great things about my host family and my хозяйка (host mom) to talk about it all. But so far, the best part of living with my host family is something I did not expect, the баня (traditional Russian bathhouse). My host family rents a private bathhouse with their friends every Saturday night. I had no idea what to expect when my host mom first mentioned it, but she told me to bring friends so that I did. Two of my friends and I set off for the баня not really knowing what to expect, though one of my friends had been to a public one in Russia before. We met my host family, entered the building and arrived at the bath.

The experience is one that I was not expecting in Russia. We began by sitting in an incredibly hot wooden room before jumping into an ice-cold bath and pouring water just as cold over our heads with a bucket. After two rounds of hot and cold we moved into a different room and sat, talked and drank tea. Then came the most interesting part. Traditionally, веники (bundles of twigs) are then used to deliver a sort of massage. This is a combination of someone using the bundles to swirl and direct the hot air in the room and then using the branches to deliver a massage. As weird as it may sound, it was very relaxing! After hours of heat, ice, and tea my muscles were relaxed, and my stuffy nose was gone. It was an experience I did not know I would have and luckily enough I have an open

By: Noah Dulski

Program: Russian Language & Area Studies, St. Petersburg

Term: Spring 2019

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