Thursday, November 27, 2008

Noticing A Theme Yet?

First, I have to apologize for the toilet theme that keeps repeating in so many posts. I think I've said all there is to be said on the matter and then, WHAM! I'm proven wrong! I keep thinking I should wait to post these things--to gather as much info as possible before writing, and I do! But then I realize that I'd be depriving all of you if I were to hold out for more than a few days. And I can't live with that, so here we are again....

Last week, I detailed how beautiful the countryside of the Yunnan province in Southern China is. But I didn't get into the other side of the trek--the nitty-gritty. We were on a bus for 8 hours, which required several stopovers along the way for potty and food breaks. Our first one came about 2 hours into the trip and we parked along a stream that had a large outhouse building beside it. The building was divided in two: one side for men, the other for women. Though there was only one big room on each side. David had gone ahead of me and taken a peek inside while I was on the bus fumbling in my bag trying to locate my toilet paper and hand sanitizer (two ESSENTIAL items in Asia). He warned me about what to expect when I walked in, but it still wasn't enough to prepare me for what I saw:

Luckily, by the time I got in there the crowds had thinned out a bit and I was only required to share this disgusting space with one other woman. I waited until she left to snap the photo. Probably wouldn't have gone over so well if I had tried to take a picture with others present. This style toilet requires a sure foot and impeccable balance to ensure you don't fall through the cracks and wade through raw sewage. Not a place for bare feet (sorry, Brittney Spears!) or sandals. I couldn't help thinking that I would hate to live downstream from one of these, as the contamination obviously seeps into the creek that is less than 10 yards away. Gives you a new perspective on water quality in China, huh?

The next pit stop we made was for lunch and a bathroom break. David and I opted to skip the prepared cooked meal being served and chose a few tangerines instead. The roadside diner obviously had a deal worked out with our bus driver to stop there every time he came through. As a "thank you" for providing regular business, they gave him a free meal in a private dining area away from the other passengers. Another reason for skipping the food this time was that there were crops being grown in a small field directly downhill from the toilet. I don't want anything I put in my body to be contaminated by something that comes out of it, so I decided there was no amount of money you could pay me to eat those greens.

I'd seen this style of toilet before (at the train station in Chengdu). Essentially, its a trough that you squat over, which is divided into stalls with no door and only about a 3 foot high wall dividing each stall. The trough is continuous under each stall and is flushed every so often by a water source at one end that forces the waste to a drain at the other end. There's never enough water sitting in the bottom of these things and large waste tends to sit, fester and rot. Did I mention the humidity of these bathrooms before? Yeah, it really helps with the smell....

This was the same style of toilet at the hospital in Dali. I've learned the trick in all Eastern-style toilets is to take the toilet paper you intend to use out of your pocket before you walk in and use it to cover your nose until its time to wipe. Then you take one big breath, wipe, pull up your pants and make a run for the door before you have to breathe again. Not exactly foolproof, but its better than gagging!

I'm still not feeling well enough for travel after having my ass kicked by food poisoning (if you can call it that after 3 days of sickness). I'd have to be feeling pretty well to risk having to use toilets like these on the road. These holes don't inspire me to want to wander far from my Western toilet at the hostel...

1 comment:

  1. That first toilet looks like a wood pallet with feces under it. I will never again be as disgusted by a port-o-pottie after seeing that and some of the others you've had on here. Sorry to hear about y'all being sick and hope the rest of the trip is more pleasant.