Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Necessary Business

As any traveler knows, the moment you step outside of your native habitat, two primary and essential cultural questions must immediately be faced: How and what do these people eat, and how do they shit. My good friend Dwight spent a good chunk (no pun intended, well...okay, pun intended) of the year doing readings on the subject of world toilet habits, and the students surprisingly complained. Perhaps it takes facing a wholly alien process of waste management to make the subject seem fascinating. In fact it comprises a good portion of our group talk and joking, and a mixed group of relatively new friends freely and heartily rib each other and discuss their latest scatalogical tales. I know it belies my cultural bias, but it hard for me to believe that we aren't easily one up on the Thais in this area. I have yet to encounter hot water. That makes sense since it averages the high 80's and above. The heat means that showers are frequent and cold. The sink has one spigot and it is set strangely far back, as a rule, from the edge of the counter.

The nicer bathrooms are all tiled. Most have a hand held shower unit that points to the middle of the room. I guess you can take the shower wherever you want that the hose will reach. I just leave it in place though it is pretty low for me.

The water is supposed to drain down the pictured hole, which is located at random. There must be some thought given to the matter because the water does manage to slope down to it and drain. This one is located in one of the squat toilet stalls.

Some of these stalls have a tile lined built in water storage area to the left of the squatter, but many just have a plastic garbage can like this one with a water spout for filling. This makes just navigating to the squatter a job, but it does give a heavy object to hang onto once in the squatting position. Either way, the idea is to take the scooper pan and fill it with water to flush the materials down the squatter hole when done. Often the Thais will leave the spigot filling this dump water container while using the squatter in order to provide a covering noise because they are apparently quite shy about this. To the right of the squatter you see a sprayer and toilet paper roll holder and a trash can.

The paper is not for wiping, however. Instead, one uses the sprayer as accurately as possible to cleanse the affected area and then uses a bit of paper to "dry" it, placing the wet paper in the trash can afterward. The toilet paper and holder is a rarity. More often Thais simply just use the sprayer and depart a bit "wet". It is preferable to the "Indian Handshake" I suppose, and it does get the job relatively done, but I find the whole process fraught with danger. I am always anxious that the sprayer will somehow douse my whole lower half, and each time I half to both hike up my pants from the ground and lower them down from the waist as low as possible.
There is a lot of leaning and movement and stepping up and down and potential for disaster. The good news is that so far every traveler's worst fear, the dreaded diarrhea, has not struck, and I really don't think it will. I have been pushing the hot pepper limit and trying all kinds of street food and brushing my teeth with tap water, and, knock on wood, my  guts have been performing like old pros! My one new addition to my toiletries has been Johnson's Baby Powder. Everyone douses themselves liberally in it and it seems to help with the sweating and the heat. Some prefer an "active" powder which seems to sort of tingle, but I have yet to try it.


  1. Fascinating. In the heat and humidity, isn't there mold on everything in the bathroom?

  2. Oddly no, probably because you sort of hose the whole thing off regularly, but speaking of mold, when I sit for long enough during class, I occasionally get a whole "swamp butt" thing going on that no amount of baby powder can ward off.

  3. this is one of the most absurd blog posts I have ever seen...and yet for some reason, quite fascinating.

  4. ha ha! Reading this again now reminded me of all you guys and your "wake-up" method with the cooling powder to ward off "swamp butt," or my old classmates at UH called, "Hawaii Crotch." Better than a cup of coffee, or at least the three-in-one excuse for coffee.