Lazy Letter: Sauna On Vapa
The alarm woke us up for the swimming pool. Wore my swimsuit before I made breakfast. The plan was to swim for about two hours, so we had to eat well and gather up a decent amount of energy; swimming calls for it. Ah, how I miss the hunger that comes after a swimming session while you get dressed in the lockers room! Couldn’t wait for the salami sandwiches with sliced tomatoes and mayo that they used to sell in the pools when we were little. The sandwiches weren’t actually any good, but oh, impossible not to enjoy every bite with that starving stomach.
I was following the map on our way to the pool. Tried to figure out the highways, where the downtown was and which road would take up where. It can be too complicated sometimes, all these freeways that connect one neighborhood to another. Tunnels and bridges and two-floor expressways. Some of these highways were built when I was still living here, but they’ve grown out control in the past seven years. Some roads connect west to east, Vaid explained, and others north to south. The wall of mountains covering the north all the way to the valleys and the deserts in the southside. Vaid just gave me the best description of the traffic system.
Sahan has been to this pool before, and he said that the facility includes a dry sauna, as well as a jacuzzi and a steam room. I’m now officially and utterly obsessed with the dry sauna, I don’t care about the rest. I do crave for sitting in a room with wooden benches and walls from time to time, to sweat out my mind and melt down to the bones. I even had a dream about it the other night. Although it was more like a nightmare; the sauna was cold! I’d missed it. The sauna had become an inseparable part of my life for a while, remember? Twice a week, that was heaven. Just downstairs in our basement; I couldn’t ask for more.
I plotted out my routine in the pool. Well, it was an activity planned for the three of us, but, you know the kind of religious values my country is ruled upon, and how men and women are not allowed to do most of the social activities together. We couldn’t really be in the pool together, but we didn’t let the limits and barriers keep us away from our plan. Guys would swim in the men’s section and I would in the ladies’. Our effort is what counts in the end!
The water felt slightly cold at first, and it would take a few seconds to get used to it. Or one round of slow and controlled breaststroke to warm up the muscle tissues. Appreciated the water, the well-known notion of a calm sail. Felt relieved for being detached from a solid surface; now float. Held my breath and swam underwater to touch the floor, to feel the pressure in my ears, and to see the blue. Gray clouds blocked out the sun all of a sudden, and the water surrounding me turned dark, a very dark blue. I pushed myself to the surface to see if anything was up, or if something had happened to my eyes underwater. I heard the raindrops on the frosted glass roof. At some point, the rain turned into a harsh hail, and it was loud. I couldn’t really express my excitement with anyone, and I had to keep it with me; my friends were swimming next door.
I kept my eyes on the clock. We said we’d meet outside by one thirty. Made sure I was sticking to my plan, and I had enough time left for the sauna. Thirty to forty minutes would be about enough; that’s how I’m used to.
Entered the wooden room. Pretty warm, it could’ve been hotter. It was an electric sauna, just like the one they had in Haihatus. A woman was lying in a corner. She was relaxing, and so I sat without a sound. She sat up after a minute, opened her eyes and smiled. I smiled back. She said it was all very comforting, and that she was enjoying it a lot. I agreed. It had been missed. Although, a bucket of water with a big ladle was lacking. I could massage my back with some vihta, but that wasn’t a must. Regardless, the whole sauna experience would be dull without them. I think I wrote to you before about Finnish traditions, and how they’re passionately in love with their sauna. I’d learned the original way of doing it. And so I tried to explain them to the woman sitting in the room with me. No, she said to me as I told her we needed to throw water on the hot rocks to rise up the temperature. That wouldn’t work, she said strongly. She said she’d been to many other pools around, and none of them put a bucket of water and a ladle in their sauna. The steam would ruin the woods and the benches if you throw water on the rocks, she said.
The woods would be fine, I told her, it’s just one splash or two. You need water to make the room hotter, and keep adding more if it’s not still hot enough for you. You’re supposed to feel the beads of sweat run down your back, arms and your chest, and the back of your thighs sometimes. That’s how you get rid of all the tension and poison in your body. And then, you step outside in the cold after a few minutes. Finns might jump into the lake if they have one close by, or they might stand in the snow. Some may make a snow angel with their naked bodies, but honestly, I can’t see how that’s fun! Your body too hot to feel the extreme cold of the winter, you’d feel dreamy watching the steam growing on your skin. Cool down for a minute and get ready to get back in the sweltering room. That’s how it’s supposed to be done. That swimming pool had neither of those options; a cold shower was all I was left with in the end.
Well, I was going to explain it all to the woman, and maybe more about this historical phenomenon, but she kept interrupting me, saying that the temperature can be adjusted by the electronic heater underneath the rocks, and that she had seen the same thing in other pools. I even thought of Raimo when he walked upstairs to the living room, a little bit out of breath but definitely relaxed and fresh. He would hold the basement door, “sauna on vapa” is what he’d tell us. Means sauna is free now, and it is your turn to sweat down and enjoy life Finnish style. I wondered why she wouldn’t let me finish.
3.May.17 – Tehran, Iran