Sunday, August 10, 2008

Crouching Tourist, Hidden Toilet (Rev)

In the United States, there are two types of toilets - (1) urinals, for men, and (2) toilets with seats, for both sexes - we will call the latter "sitters."

In the rest of the world, at least outside Europe, there is a third kind, sometimes called the
Turkish toilet. It is a hole in the ground, sometimes in porcelain, sometimes just a rectangle hole. You squat down, keeping your pants, skirts, underwear, etc, out of the action, and aim for the hole. We call these "squatters." Sometimes they come equipped with elaborate and effective flushing mechanisms, usually not (you fill a pail with water and dump it in).

Chinese squatters also include a trench system. Several stations, each separated by a short wall, are placed along a trench. Your feet straddle the trench. This system is deeper and less likely to cause splashback. Periodically water is piped through the trench, effectively cleaning all sections. That is, if there is water.

It was a trench squatter that the Indian woman fell into on the way to the Eclipse on Aug 1. See details in that post. She violated the most important rule of squatters: one foot on either side.

Carol has become resigned to this new world of toilets, although her performance is not consistently up to Olympic standards. This raises the question: What kind of toilets are found at the Olympic venues, and athletic housing, and media centers?

About the only place where the toilets are consistently of the sitter variety is in better hotels throughout China. We have had sitters in every room we have stayed in so far, but sometimes the lobby facilities are of the mixed variety.

Handicap (ie, sitter) toilets also appear at museums and other institutional settings - only one per bathroom, often out of order.

Mike has not come to grips with any of this, and has had to use a squatter only once. For this reason, he now clearly understands the meaning of the first prayer in the Shacharit service (intended to be said immediately upon wakening) in which the men say: Thank God for not making me a woman. If you have followed this blog, you will remember that Carol had already come to this conclusion in Beijing.

Finding Toilets

Toilets are usually found in the little alley streets that come off the main streets. This is so because many of the inhabitants of these neighborhoods have no indoor facilities where they live. The toilets that just contain squatters are usually just marked by the Chinese characters for "man" and "woman." The ones that are marked by the symbol "W C" may also contain showers.

In the cities, we have taken advantage of the "Caucasian pass" at big hotels. That is, if you look to be of European origin, you can just walk in with determination and eventually find the facilities.

Carol has added her contribution to the grounds of several Unesco World Heritage Sites.


lancealot said...

I haven't been to your blog lately, so just arrived again.
I must say that your experiences to date and your description of them are absolutely fascinating.

I certainly hope that you will at least consider publishing them when you get back. I think they would make a fantastic boo.

lancealot said...

By the way, lancealot is in reality Mark Miller, just in case you didn't know that.