Vicky Tang’s Diary
Belarus Wetlands

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August 7, 2009: Banya

Drosera We continue further along the profile and complete another three plots. We are also introduced to Drosera, a carnivorous plant. For the past few evenings, we have been enjoying banya (sauna) after our long days. In the village, every house has a banya in the back yard. It is customary for the family to enjoy banya weekly. It is similar to the western steam sauna. The girls wear chapkas to protect the hair and allow higher temperatures to be endured. Their wooden cabin has a pre-room with benches and refreshements, and the steam room. There is a wood stove in the corner, above which are hot rocks (this is where the water is thrown to create steam) and a water tank, so that one may bathe afterwards. The process of banya involves staying in the steam room for 10-15 minutes, then retiring to the pre-room to cool down and enjoy a beverage. Some of us run outside and are hosed down with cold water to increase the circulation. In winter, it is customary to roll around in the snow, or jump in a nearby lake. This practice is repeated a number of times. After the third repeat, we are patted (not whipped) with venik (bunch of birch tree twigs with leaves (the leaves ensure that there is no pain). This increases the convection and cleanses by steaming the toxins out of the body.

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