Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Taking a Steam

When I first came to Alaska back in 2010, I found myself in an odd situation. One night, I was invited over to "steam" at a local woman's house. I had no background information about what a "steam" might entail, with the exception of my own very limited experiences in the sauna at my local gym. I happily accepted though because I'd spent the summer filthy and covered in fish guts. Upon arriving at the local woman's house, I was greeted with what can only be described as an outdoor shanty full of naked women. It was a surprise, to say the least.

After that first fateful steam, I slowly learned the inner working of "taking a steam" and what it means in Alaskan culture - particularly the culture in rural Alaska. You see, in rural Alaska it is extremely common for people to have a steam bath outside of their home. The building that it is in is typically a wooden structure, almost looking like a work shed. The steam baths are heated by some sort of stove (wood, gas, etc) and on the inside they look similar to a very rustic sauna.

Cody and I have been lucky this year because our good friends, Al and Sue, have a steam in their house. We frequently go over there for dinner and drinks, and then take a steam (just the two of us - Cody and I) after dinner. We take our towels, shampoo, soap, and all of our other bath essentials with us. The steam ends up serving as a way for us to get clean, which is the normal use for steams out here in the bush. Most of my students have steams outside their homes, and quite a few of them prefer to steam instead of taking baths/showers. After getting to spend so much time "taking a steam" this year, I can totally see the appeal. There's just something so incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating about washing with a bowl of warm water, in a hot box lined with aromatic cedar logs. It's a true Alaskan experience.

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in rural Alaska and someone invites you over for a steam - you have to try it!

Your turn...What do you think about "taking a steam"? 
Currently listening to...Misty Mountain Hop - Led Zeppelin 

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