20 January 2011

Defecating in the East

I suppose this post should come with some sort of disclaimer. This will be about the art of -how can I put this nicely- defecation. Well, more accurately the difference in the practise of defecating between the East and the West. So if you are one of those many women (and I know there are many, many of you out there) who find me deeply attractive and does not wish to read about the process of my bowel movements, then I urge you to stop reading now.

This story begins some 2 and a half years ago in Delhi. It was my first experience in Asia and after a particularly spicy meal (this was in the days when I literally looked at a chilli and my stomach screamed for the contents to be freed) I needed to find a toilet. The process of finding the toilet was easy enough, but what met me behind the creaky old door puzzled me completely. Expecting to find a gleaming, crystal-clean, porcelain water closet, I was met by something altogether different. A hole in the floor.

For a good ten minutes I tried to negotiate my body into a position so that I wouldn't make a mess of my nice new shorts. I put my feet at the front, no good. The contents wouldn't make the hole. I put my feet towards the back, that would miss too. I would overthrow the contents. I eased my way down into a squat position but, even by bracing my arms against the side of the walls, the action was too painful. Plus there was the risk of me tumbling down the hole, or at least partly towards it. Eventually, and rather pathetically, I removed all lower garments and got by.

And just as I finished and looked to my left where the toilet paper should be there was nothing. Not even a holder for where the toilet paper should be. This wasn't one of those experiences where you don't check if there is any of the holder before you start, there wasn't a holder for it to go in. Then I looked to my right and I was met by the sight of a piece of plastic tubing protruding from a rusty old tap. What the hell was I supposed to do with this? I turned the tap and water spurted up towards the ceiling and over the cubicle door. Eventually, I managed to bring it under control and find it's intended target but, rather than being a refreshing clean, I felt like how I would expect to feel after a prostate examination. Not only that but there was water everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE. Up the walls, puddles on the floor and all over the bottom half of my body.

Fast forward 2 and a bit years and I am in Asia for the first time. In a little town in the far north-west corner of Malaysia. I have had another meal and my bowels are making their usual demands. I walk to the toilet and am met by the comforting site of that gleaming porcelain toilet that I needed all those years before.

But I walk past this cubicle to the next one. Yes, you guessed it, I walk to the hole in the floor, undo my belt, sit back on my heels and do my business. When I'm done I take the hose (also known as the 'Bum Gun') and have a refreshing clean up. It's not perfect, there is still a spray of water on my shorts and a slight puddle on the floor, but it is a marked improvement.

I never thought I'd see the day that I prefer to use this Eastern style of the toilet, but it is true. The squatting position - please get rid of that image in your head - is a much more fulfilling experience and, particularly in this part of the world where the food means for a, lets say, more tender feeling on that particular part of the body the hose makes it a much more refreshing experience.

So, there you have it. The theme of this lecture, and I like to think of these posts as educational experiences, the next time you happen across a hole in the floor, give it a try. You might not be perfect, but eventually you'll get the hang of it.

6 January 2011

It's Starting To Feel A Little More Real

45 minutes ago I went to bed. At that point I had 5 hours sleep before I would have to get up to head to the airport. I was going to enjoy a comfy, blissful final night in my bed. Then my mind went in to overdrive. Tomorrow, I set off to Asia. Maybe for a year, maybe longer, maybe less. Who knows? Suddenly, it's starting to feel a little more real. Not completely real perhaps. Not that when I walk out the door in the morning it will be the last time I get to see my dog for a year, or tonight was the last time I could lounge on the sofa with my family chatting shit for a long time. It doesn't feel that real. Not yet anyway.

But then again, it might not sink in at all. It didn't the last time I went on a prolonged 'cultural experience' (yes, I know, this is my third one). Not when I got to the airport and hugged my mum goodbye, nor when I stepped on Blighty grounds for the last time and boarded my plane. Not even when I arrived to the shock-of-senses in Hong Kong. And maybe that will be the way tomorrow, who knows? It would certainly make it easier that way.

The pre-trip anxieties have crept in as well. Not so much whether this was the right thing to do. It was, I'm certain of that. But the fear of travelling alone. I've done it once but I was 18 then carefree, a little cocksure not giving a flying fuck what anyone thought of me. But, while I've got a little more confident over the last 6 years, I'm a little more self-aware. I certainly have my flaws and what if the people I meet notice those flaws and dislike me? What if where I'm going, I meet no-one, or even worse, I come across nothing but fucking couples.

I must make one thing clear, I have nothing against couples per se. I've been a member of that particular demographic over recent years. But when you're carefree, young and single on the road there are only 2 types of people you want to meet. Likeminded guys, that you can tag onto for the bits of the trip, and girls. Hot girls. That's it. Ok, there may be a few more to add to that list. Locals, slightly odd yet interesting 40-something bohemians that might have met Lennon or been part of the original gatecrashers at Glastonbury. I'm sure there are more, but it's late and this is a post just to get my thoughts down.

The truth of the matter is, I have no idea what the next few months has in store. I will be a teacher, whether I will be a good one or not I have not a clue. Whether I will meet people on my trip, and whether I will get along with those people, is also up for question. But what is for certain, is that it is going to be a much more interesting and varied year than the one I've just come from.