Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sweating to the soap suds

Yesterday I straddled the back of a snow-go and made the 8-12 minute journey to Nunap where I visited friends, watched Harry Potter 4, had some amazing pizza, and went to the maqi.

What is a maqi, you ask?
The maqi is like a sauna. Lots of steam, high temps, and shampoo.
In the tundra, where running water is not a common household commodity, the people have their own way of bathing.

It begins with a steam. Stoke up the fire, pore on the boiling water.
Warm up from the frigid climate and sweat.

After that you lather up with soap and shampoo and rinse off with bowl of cool water.

Saturday night I went into my first miqa. The prospect of stripping naked and sitting in a small hut in the middle of the village with a few friends was a bit daunting.
Not to mention the common transmission of boils from sitting without the comforting protection of a towel.

I pushed the tummy twisting aside and went for it.
And I learned three things from this experience.
1. I am not nearly as self conscious as I had thought.
2. The western world might have easier methods of bathing, but the Yupik people have a much more relaxing one.
3. Getting dressed while standing on a layer of snow is not a pleasing experience.

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