on squat toilets…

thanks to the folks over at rocksmyfaceoff.net, i’ve been inspired to revisit a blog i wrote a little less than a year ago. sadly, it died in the conversion between my old iWeb version of gypsytracks and this shiny new wordpress version. so to commemorate this travel tuesday, in all its glory, i give you the infamous chinese toilet blog.

i’ve written a lot about life in china, but i’ve never blogged about the one thing that is the scariest to most westerners: the squat toilet. of course, in something like 75% of the world’s countries, squatters are the norm and, according to this website, a shocking 30% of the world doesn’t use toilet paper, either. now, i’ve gotten pretty used to using public toilets in china (drink beer + street food = piss where you can get it). i even wrote a section about it in my book to introduce china newbies to using a squatter.

if you’ve never had the pleasure, let me paint ya a little picture. first of all, you have to carry paper with you at all times, because public toilets never have paper, and even most restaurants deign to give away paper for free. now, enter the bathroom, which, if it’s in a restaurant, will also be home to mops, dirty bucks, supplies, a bare hanging lightbulb, lots of cobwebs, a grimy fan, several dozen mosquitos and possibly a sink hanging off the wall. the stench is overwhelming and inescapable, even in a clean(ish) bathroom. there’s the toilet – a small oval-shaped porcelain hole in the ground. it has two “foot sliders” along the rim, which you never stand on lest you soil your feet with your own piss spray (don’t even talk to me about doing a number 2 in a squatter because it’s horrific).

before you just jump right in, you’ve gotta roll those pant legs up. roll ‘em high – i am talking up to your knees, because we don’t any ricocheted pee on them, either. now, comes the hunker. it takes a fair bit of practice to learn how to hunker just right, but there are two rules of thumb: you have to get down really really low (no “hovering”) and you have to get your legs far enough under you to avoid falling over backward. it also helps if you have some sort of hand-hold, although this is rare, for the walls in most chinese bathrooms have never been cleaned. ever.

now you’ve gone, you can’t just toss your paper down the toilet. no, the paper actually gets thrown into a small waste basket next to the toilet itself, to fester and stink along with all the other used papers that have been sitting in that basket all day.

there are lots of variations on this general theme. for instance, i used many a toilet in thailand that required the user to self-flush with a big bucket of water. in china, you come across a lot of toilets that have either a meagre attempt at a stall, or in the worst cases, no stall at all. schools and bus/train stations are some of the worst. these bathrooms usually consist of a long gutter that runs down one wall. small walls or low stalls line over the gutter, meaning that everyone is going into the same general stream of disgustingness. to boot, the walls are chinese-sized, meaning that i have to squat BEFORE undoing my trousers, or else everyone on god’s green earth will catch of glimpse of my girly parts.

the worst type of all, though, are the ones with absolutely no stall whatsoever. in fairness, these are more rare than the aforementioned type. you usually only run across them in extreme situations. i had my first go at pooing in front of god and all creation on a long bus trip between hohhot and erlian in inner mongolia. it was the STICKS, let me tell you. the bus stopped for a short rest at a village bus station, and none too soon, because i was barely containing the diarrhea cramps from a bout of bad kung pao chicken the night before.

the toilet was a small wooden shack and, when i got there, there was already a line of women queuing to use it. when i got far enough up in the line to peer inside the shack, i saw, to my horror, three small open slats and three women hunkered down while everyone else, myself included, had a good gaping look. dealing with this type of situation is a bit like having a near death experience. the only thing that goes through your head is “oh holy mother of GOD.” your whole life flashes before your eyes. you want to flee, but you know that it’s either this, or literally shit yourself.

so, you know, i used the damn thing. these old farmer ladies could not get a good enough look at me. they were fascinated by my big white ass and my white vag and anything else they could get a look at. there were flies just swarming the inside of this thing and i was actually praising the god above for giving me the squirts, because at least it was over in a hurry!

now that i’ve officially said too much, let’s take a look at the video that inspired this whole post – an amusing “howcast” on using a squatter in china. and i would like to state, for the official record, that our apartment does have a western style potty. jaysus.

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6 thoughts on “on squat toilets…

  1. Wow. That’s intense. Not only does it make me thankful for my bathrooms and toilets, it makes me want to go clean them all. Right now. And you still love to travel? Bless you.

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  2. @marlo – it is stuff “like this” that makes me love to travel even more. pushing yourself to get away from comfort zones and understanding how other people live their day-to-day lives, completely different from your own. it might be gross, but it is also sort of good for you.

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  3. Pingback: Guest Post by Megan Eaves, Author of This is China, a Guidebook for Teachers, Backpackers and Other Lunatics :The Lost Entwife

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