The Banya

November 2, 2017
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My soul had finally awaken. The lids of my eyeballs shot up like opening the blinds on a window. I was looking at the seat in front of me. The nap I took cleared my memory, and made me forget that I was southern Siberia at this point. The first time traveling on a plane without my parents. The plane was turning right to line up with the runaway. I could see it from the naked eye. We were getting close, about 1000 feet in the air. Before I knew it we landed in the middle of nowhere at a small airport. We all grabbed our luggage and got onto a bus that lead us to our camp. It was about an hour. I was very tired, and luckily got some sleep since the bus ride was longggg. I rested my head on the window that was shaking from the bumpy road. I gazed out at nature, looking at anything that came by, thinking about the fun things we’ll be doing at our camp. As I relaxed my mind, my body decided to shut itself down.


My eyes opened slowly to the vision of a camp sign. We were here. I got out of my seat like I haven’t walked in days. Everybody looked out the window scanning the beautiful campsite. My muscles and mind were relaxed and ready to explore the campground and the river. The teachers lead us to the front of the breakfast area. Mr. Wolf yelled in his deep and raspy voice “Before we do anything we will assign your partners and cabins”. I wasn’t excited for this considering that I chose people that, well.... I regret choosing. I looked over the shoulder of Mr. Wolf who had the list. I had a stunned face. My eyes were streaming through the page, scrolling down till I found my name. Next to that I saw Matthew Maneros’ name. I wasn’t astonished by that. Matt was a person who was not willing to do dumb things, or annoy me while I was in the cabin with him. He always respected me which was appreciative from my standards. Someone, not sure who yelled “Aaron K-Karolus and Matthew Manero, Cabin 8. I had a straight look on my face, our cabin was right in front us. We chuckled, amused by how close it was to breakfast. We got our key that was attached to a piece of plastic with the number 8 on it. We jammed the key in the door knob twisted and found the house made out of wood pretty disappointing. Sure we were going to be outside most of the day but there was nothing in the cabin which was not surprising since we were in the middle of nowhere. There were 2 beds, one bigger than the other. “You can be closer to the heater- as long as I can have the bigger bed” I said. He agreed. Matt was nice, he always respected by opinions and my ideas as to how we set our room. Everybody had lots of time to settle in and relax. I was ready to go to bed. “I wait! It’s 7 in the morning. I wasn’t jetlagged or brain dead, but it had just been a long night, and totally forget that it’s this early. Matt and I dropped off our stuff, put things where they’re supposed to go, dropped the keys on the table and went outside.


I explored the campsite by myself by going near the river. The water looked so clean and cold. Most of the water comes from the beautiful lush mountains of southern Siberia. It melts and slithers down into the river, which is why it’s so cold. I kneeled down finding a smooth and round rock. Picked it up and threw it as far as I can into the river. Again and again just taking things off my mind by skipping rocks into the river. It was a fascinating scenery to catch my eye with, watching the rotation of the rock then letting it skip off the surface multiple times letting off a little splash. My arm got heavy and weak. I started to get a headache off the release of me throwing the rocks. The bulging and pounding pain inside my head made me settle down to try and loosen the ropes that were stretching my head causing the pain. I forget to tell my mom to put advil in my suitcase. I didn’t know where to get water, so I settled down on the bench where people were playing Uno.


The teachers were always telling us about the Banya, and how refreshing the heat is hitting your body. I was excited for that considering that we were doing a lot on the first day. I was assured that horseback riding was going to be fun. Soon everybody was yelling to come in and eat breakfast. I was famished by how little I ate during the last 12 hours. The ache in my head was slowly descending out my body through my veins. I slowly walked into the breakfast house. My body was facing towards the tables my head towards the food. They had eggs, pancakes, sausage, and juice. I didn’t care where I sat, but did care how good the food tasted. The teachers called one table at a time, depending on how quiet we were. “Aaron”- I looked over, “Your table can go” Mrs. Lopez said. I shoved my seat back and hustled towards the food and grabbed a plate. I asked for pancakes, eggs, ham, and drenched my cup with juice.


I took a bite of the scrambled eggs, and looked like they came straight from the chicken's ass. They were nasty and kind of tasteless. I finished the rest of the food. My fuel tank raised a lot from all the protein in the ham and eggs. I sat next to Greg on the bus. We each shared an earphone to listen to some music. It passed time since the bus ride was longer than I thought. The energy in my muscles were drained from sitting on the bus for a long time. It eventually lead to my eyes. I fell asleep once again.


I woke up to the annoying sound of kids screaming. I sat up from my comfortable position. It was hard to move my body from how long I was sitting still. I walked out of the bus next to a river with a small village. We took a small walk 10 minute walk down to some 30 horses that were eating on the side of a mountain. The instructor gave us a brief description on how to get on and control the horse's movements. I was the very first one to get on one of the horses. I was practicing how to control the horse meanwhile people were getting assigned horses. We started a line that followed us to our destination. I finished last in the line which I didn’t like. I wanted to be up front where everybody was. I used the rope to control the horse. Every time it twitched its head down the roughness of the rope would slash my hand giving me a blister. I felt water hit my hands. Every second they came down faster, penetrating my clothes disrupting my comfort level. Midway through our hike, the clouds let out floods of rain soaking my pants and sweater immediately. Soon we decided to turn back because of the rain. Having the type of teachers that we had, they made us take picture next to the river. We went down a hill to get to it. I focused only on where I planted my feet so I wouldn’t slip. Our group came down to an area filled with sand like a beach. My shoes were tracking sand everywhere making it hard to lift my feet up. I lifted my head up to see the crystal clear water of the river. It was astonishing. It looked so warm in there, even though it was probably freezing. We took a photo. I knew I was going to look depressed considering I actually was in that moment.

I was frustrated, and wanted to get back to camp. The clouds faded away, clearing up the rain. My pants were sticking to my legs. It felt like the water was squeezed out of my pants because they were so tight on my legs. But my comfort level was about to exceed my patience. I got back to the village, tried to get off as soon as I could. My legs were dropped off the horse like a pair of twigs. I almost lost my balance. It was hard to walk with my pants drenched in cold water. I could see the horse hair on my legs. I was not able to walk normally standing on my own two feet. My muscles were stiff, I had two loosen the hinges by stretching. On the bus I took up 2 seats because I wanted to sleep. I woke up seeing the campgrounds. The bus came to a stop. I leaped off running to my cabin. I felt the cold hit my wet clothes making it worse. The goosebumps were making my skin hard trying to trap heat for my miserable helpless body. I hauled open the door. I urgently ripped my clothes off putting them on the heater. Pulled up my swim trunks grabbed a towel and ran outside.

The wind grabbed me by the shoulders and shaked my body back and forth making me twitch. The inside of my body was fighting it, meanwhile my brain motivating my legs to move faster. I got inside the cabin, slowed my breathing down. Patryk and Greg were in there making themselves
feel at home. The heater was burning something that made me gasp. It was hard to breath. I felt like I was breathing in chemicals. I took in deep breathes trying to get use to it. I could physically see the goosebumps sink back into my body and let out sweat. The heat felt incredible. It can relate to being stuck in a greenhouse in the middle of Death Valley. I rubbed the sweat off my body. More and more boys came in. We decided to jump in the river. I took off my flip flops. I was terrified of touching the water. I planted my foot in there. I let out a screech. The cold shards of glass were stabbing me in the leg making me lose my balance. The cold was squeezing my leg letting out a painful scream out my mouth. I was in a panic to get out of this unpleasant experience. I sprinted back to the Banya. I got in, and the heat instantly beat the throbbing pain and numbness in my leg. The relief released a happy part inside of me. I wanted to stay in all night. I knew I couldn’t, but I always made sure to come back every night to feel the relaxation of the heat. Discovery week was one of the best experiences of my 13 year life. Sure there were bad times but I built lots of relationships and most of all had fun.






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