My Apologies

I owe my sons an apology.  Allow me to explain.  In the refugee camps, they have squatty potties. I will try to paint a picture, for those of you who have never travelled to a place with these kinds of potties. There is usually a building with a stall or two. In each stall is a hole in the ground, over which you squat in order to defecate.  In nice ones, there is a concrete floor with a place for your feet. For a westerner like me, this was a whole new adventure.

squatty potty

First, there was the smell that greeted me way before I arrived. I switched to mouth breathing and left my nose out of it.  Otherwise, I might have had to use the hole for throwing up as well. I have learned this trick using porta-potties and state park bathrooms for years while hiking and camping. Who knew I was being prepared for this moment?  Then, I stepped into the oven…I mean stall.  It had a tin roof, which absorbs the heat of the sun making the tiny space 1,000 degrees. As soon as I was inside with the door latched, I saw I was sharing the space with a lizard and quite a few flies. I asked the lizard to please stay put while I took care of my business. I knew, if it climbed my leg or raced over my foot, my hosts might get a screaming-potty-dance like they had never seen before.

This being a nice latrine, there were places to put my feet. If I placed my feet there, and then squatted, I should be lined up to properly hit the correct spot…in theory.  I have peed in the woods a million times, so this should not have been hard, however, there were no trees to lean on so I found out my quads were not as strong as I thought. Not to mention, my undergarments were soaked with sweat, so getting them down and out of the way was quite a challenge.  Fortunately for me, the first day, I was wearing a skirt and not pants. Skirts can be pulled up and even tucked into your shirt so they don’t fall into the stream.  The second day, I wore pants and quickly realized that pulling them down so that they do not touch the floor, where there are puddles, while at the same time keeping them out of the way, was too much of a challenge for old lady quads.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lizard was moving slowly towards me, and I was trying to get properly lined up, while not forgetting to breathe through my mouth.  Our hosts knew there were westerners coming, so they were gracious enough to put toilet paper in one of the stalls. Fortunately for me, it was empty when I arrived so I didn’t have to use the Kleenex packet I brought with me. I got my TP before squatting, which proved to be a wise move on my part. I was anxious to complete my task before the lizard made his way to my feet.  Armed with my TP, holding my nose, skirt tucked up into the neck of my shirt, feet on the correct spots, I assumed the position and hovered over the hole.

Somehow, I missed. There was splatter happening.  My feet were the first to notice, and so they shifted away from the hole I was missing.  Still, not lined up properly with the new wider stance, the splatter was on the increase. I leaned more forward, and was able to make it to the desired spot…for a few seconds.  As my stream weakened, it no longer hit the same spot and so the splatter started again.  I now understood the puddle on the ground.  Sweat started to drip into my eyes, because holding a squat this long is what people in America pay trainers to help them do for exercise.  I think I heard what lizard laughter sounds like. Meanwhile, I was swaying in order to find the correct position to hit the hole.  I never realized how much I use sound to guide me, but in the tiny stall the sound was delayed as the liquid had a long way to fall.  Who knew I would need to know physics to pee properly?


Finally, I got to the correct spot…just as I finished. Grateful, and dying to get out of the heat, completed my task and wiped my feet off with more TP.  I exited without a lizard incident. However, my skirt was still tucked into my shirt. Fortunately for me, the latrines are far from the main buildings, and I was able to recognize my error before anyone saw me.

All of this led me to write this apology to my sons. I had no idea hitting one spot was so difficult.  I know my equipment is different from yours, but getting it right involves much more than I realized. Please forgive this mama for being exasperated with you while you were learning to pee in the toilet.  Now I understand practice makes it better, but there are adjustments and variables each time you go, which I knew nothing about.  I get it now.  I offer my sincerest apology to you all.

7 thoughts on “My Apologies

  1. Loved this Michelle! Your vivid description helped me appreciate: the sacrifice and work done on these mission trips (thank you!), another culture, our own comfortable indoor facilities, and lastly my sons! I raised two sons and each time they went to the bathroom I could be heard calling after them to “Point it Down!” Apparently, I owe them an apology too. 🙂

  2. Loved this! I had same experience in Asia but no one would believe me when I returned and tried sharing my ordeal. That you for the pictures! Gave me my laugh for the week!
    Have enjoyed your travelogue!

  3. When my friend and I were traveling through Belize, she and I were guests at two homes that used these.
    One was exactly like your photo here. The other had a tall throne built over it. Our short host and hostess, natives of the area, who built it for their guest house, thought it needed to be high because we Americans are so tall. Actually we had some difficulty climbing up to it – but managed! – luv, Mary

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