I lost my dignity on this blog a long while back, so I will now continue with that to tell you about my experience with toilets while I was away.
I became slightly obsessed with the whole toilet issue when I read an (incorrect) post on Google that suggested every Filipino had a sense of balance I certainly don’t possess – it said that they stood on a Western style toilet. After a few panics and wondering if I should practice this, I asked Jackie what stance I should take over there when, um…relieving myself and thank goodness, the information was wrong (and made Jackie laugh a lot). But it was true that toilet paper wasn’t common place and it turned out that things are a little different.
I decided to take my own toilet paper, which led to a rather surreal family Sunday dinner where my Dad unrolled an entire roll to count the sheets, and then the family made best guesses about how many sheets I’d need per day. This was then multiplied by number of days, added to allow for poorly tummy issues, then a little added for contingency and a total of three rolls was decided on. As it turned out, most places (being Jackie’s family’s houses) had a supply, but I took a little roll out with me in my bag each day, just in case.
So on the off chance anyone else has stumbled on this post in the same way I did with that incorrect one, all the toilets I used were Western style – some didn’t have seats but none required any sort of circus skills. The only difference is that a lot don’t flush – by either accident or design – , but there is a handy bucket / dustbin in the bathroom with a dipper (a little like a small plastic saucepan) which you use to manually flush. I’d advise not being over enthusiastic with the toilet roll though as it turns out that’s a bugger to flush away in this manner.
I realised pretty early on that I didn’t need to worry about toilets while I was out as the second I left the house in the morning every molecule of moisture on my body leaked out of me in the form of sweat. Even sipping from my bottle of water just seemed to replace the rivers that ran down my face, so that was all good.
There was one time though where things got a little awkward. I went away to a beautiful island for a night with some of Jackie’s friends. Getting there was a bit of a mission – we had to drive for about 2.5 hours, then get a boat, then a Habal-Habal ride (a motorbike with an extended seat so it can take the driver plus two – or a lot more – passengers. THAT was an experience!) across one island before getting a boat to our final destination. I made a school girl error in that I drank as much as I usually would and then remembered that I was in an air conditioned minibus for the drive and so I wasn’t sweating…
When we got to the first island I was told we were stopping at the mayor’s office and I was relieved to see the ‘comfort room’ sign. There were quite a few of us, so I sidled off to discover that the sign was slightly sarcastic. It wasn’t even a little bit comfortable. It was a bare room with a wet floor (best not to think about it) and a toilet basin in the middle. I couldn’t put my bag down so I balanced it as best I could, put my fan between my teeth and did a bit of balancing myself. I then had to do an interesting bit of contortion to find the toilet roll in my bag and break a bit off with the few fingers I had spare. There was a bucket for flushing but the dipper on this occasion was more teacup than saucepan sized so it took a while. Then I realised there was no tap so I washed my hands over the toilet with the dipper…then wondered how clean that actually was, so, fan still in teeth I attempted to find my antibacterial hand wash. All this was done while trying not to breathe through my nose as the place didn’t smell too fresh. It’s quite difficult to breathe through your mouth when there is a fan jammed in it though, and you’re doing a bit of a circus act…
Anyway, I finally got myself sorted and wandered back to subtly join the others. But there was no subtle about it. For some reason the mayor wanted to meet me, so I was ushered in to sit opposite him at his desk. (By this stage I imagine everyone was wondering just what I’d been doing for the last 10 minutes or so, but I didn’t think they or the mayor would want the details).
Mr Mayor asked me if I liked his island. I didn’t think the correct response was to tell him I’d spent longer in his badly named comfort room than coming round the corner from the boat to his office, so I told him it was beautiful. It was, as it turns out. All of it, except the toilet experience :o)
And here are some photos that do not include toilets. I promise: