Yesterday, I finally got the chance to pop over to the University to take a shower. I live in a place where not everyone has running water and so the local city has lots of places to take showers. Even some of the employers in town have showers so folks can go to work early and clean up. I do have running water but there is a leak in my hot water line, so until I figure out where it is and get it fixed, I have to shower elsewhere.
The nice thing about the University is that they have a nice hot sauna that is heated off of the hot water used to heat the pool. The temperature is kept at around 175 degrees so its nice and warm. I enjoy going in when I've put conditioner in my hair so it is better absorbed and leaves my hair really nice. I can tell you, its just not quite the same as the one I get to take when I'm at work.
The ones out where I work are actually small buildings with a changing area and a room heated by a 55 gallon stove that has volcanic rocks along the top side. Next to the stove is a bucket of water although sometimes the owners have added a really nice heater so your water is heated from the burning wood.
The sauna part is nothing fancy, just the floor you lay a towel on and you sit on the towel. Someone started the fire to warm everything about a half hour before you arrive. Once there, you strip, grab a towel, cover your hair with a hat and wonder in to enjoy the hot dry air. After a bit of conversation, someone grabs a ladle and pours water all over the hot stones.
As the water hits the stones, it boils, transforming into steam that fills the room. All the sudden, you are hot and your sweat mingles with the steam in the room. Sometimes it gets so hot that you roll over to present your back, other times, you lay flat on the floor, changing from side to side so you are evenly roasted on all sides. You wait as long as you can and then run out to the changing room where you sit to cool off.
One time, I was taking a steam (that's what they call it out there) with some folks and as I ran out, one of the older ladies cried "I've been waiting for you to go out. I didn't want to be the first one!" We all laughed.
As we cool off, we drink liquids to rehydrate our bodies before we wander in again. This process gets repeated multiple times until everyone deems the temperature down low enough to wash our bodies and hair. We have big bowls or those plastic containers you wash dishes in to put our bathing water in. The first step is to wash hair and believe me you can do a good job. You wet your hair, add a bit of shampoo and work on getting the hair all nice and lathery. At this point, you squeeze as many suds from your hair as possible and then rinse.
No you do not change water yet. You scoop the suds off the top of the water and rise your hair again. You actually scoop and rinse a couple of times before you put the conditioner on. Its at this point, you use the remaining water with a bit of soap and rag to wash your body. You rinse the soap from your body with the water and then empty it out.
Once you refill the bowl, rinse the conditioner from your hair so its done and then use the water to rinse the remaining soap from your body. I usually take a third bowl to rinse hair and body one last time. Just to let you know, my hair is around butt length and it ends up quite clean. At this point, we dry off, dress, and head off for the night.
The thing about a steam is that it is that it is equivalent to a kaffeeklatch in that people talk a lot about this and that. Its a wonderful social event and it leaves you so relaxed after two to three hours that you pour yourself into bed and fall to sleep immediately.