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.

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