Do you know that feeling when you are somewhere new and strange and you can feel anonymous; the freedom that comes with feeling invisible, because you will never see those people again and so they are somehow less than real as are you?
This is what is likely to happen when you are feeling like that:
Some time ago I was invited to visit Russia. The arrangements were made in a whirlwind and we were off so quickly that I didn’t spend the time I usually do before a trip planning and learning the customs. And so you could say I was a bit unprepared for what happened next.
The place we were staying was quite rural and remote and we had been traveling three days before we reached it. I love to travel, but I hate *traveling* – you know, those times when you are only rushing from one connection to another, hoping not to get lost or miss a plane or train or boat. And it is 100 times worse in another language. I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than a hot shower and bed.
The farm hosted Americans a few times a year, and did have two simple outdoor showers, but they had to be heated well in advance of use and this was only done in the mornings for the guests. That first night, after greetings were dispensed with, we were instructed out to the banya to clean up before dinner. I swear our hosts smirked a bit as they sent us out, they were definitely having fun with us.
The washing area in the banya was much like those in Japan, and afforded no privacy. If you’re looking for a good humiliation scene, it could certainly be set in this stark wooden structure – darkened except for a few small windows still streaming in a bit of natural light. My travel companion and I washed quietly, drawing warm water from the buckets and sloughing off the days worth of grime from our trip. We didn’t talk, I think we both preferred to pretend the other wasn’t there.
Freshly scrubbed, I was escorted by the caretaker, a large Russian woman, into the sauna. The heat hit me quickly, and sapped what little energy I had left. I think it was the exhaustion that did me in. Otherwise I cannot explain how I did not die of embarrassment when she picked up a fistful of branches (it seems from a google search that they are called Veniks) and gestured me to lay face down on a long low bench.
I should have been mortified, but it was heavenly. The leaves added a denseness which kept it from stinging too terribly much and I floated away on a very nice cloud while the venik rained down again and again on my tired skin. Don’t tell anyone, but I actually asked her to strike me harder. Shhhhh. I was exhausted, I didn’t know what I was doing!
When it was over, I rose and walked out, passing the other girl as she entered for her turn. I wonder what she was thinking. If this was a proper spanking story, she would have been trembling at the thought of taking her turn in front of the strict disciplinarian, having heard the entirety of my chastisement. But this is not a story, and sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
I wonder, do you think the caretaker guessed my little secret?
If you’re interested, I found this web page about veniks. Only, I swear the woman was actually hitting me, not gently sweeping them over me like the man in the video is doing (even before I asked her to do it harder, really).