Chapter 9 - going to the loo
Well, first of all, apologies for the big delay! A few reasons...
1. I was ill, and lost the desire to blog for a while
2. I got quite behind. And the more behind you get, the more difficult it is to pick things up again
3. My next chapter was all about toilets,and I wasn't really sure I wanted the first post of 2014 to be about toilets. But I've got over that now. Hurrah!
So, you may be wondering why toilets merit a whole chapter.
First of all, let's transport ourselves to early November and the lovely Jaya (the diving liveaboard boat pictured above).
If you dusted the wall opposite the toilet, I am pretty sure you would find lots of different buttock prints.
Here's how it works:
Unlike previous dive boats I've been on, we had no private bathrooms. There are two shared bathrooms.
Each is a highly efficient, albeit not very luxurious, all-in-one. It has a toilet (luckily a sit-down one, as opposed to a squat one), a sink, and a shower. All in a few poorly-lit square feet. It is accessed by walking through the kitchen, so you invariably get a chance to see what yummy stuff is being prepared by Ahmed en route.
You go in to the bathroom, and slip the little lock closed, trying not to think about how sticky it is on your fingers.
Then you head towards the loo, and start undoing your shorts and pulling down your pants. But then the boat lurches and you end up falling against the wall, staggering a little because your shorts are round your knees.
You manage to get yourself arranged on the loo seat, which is invariably wet.
This is when trust comes into play. You just have to trust that this is water from the last person who showered over the loo or used the little plastic scooper to pour water down it as kind of manual flushing mechanism.
You do your business, and you pour water down to flush it away. If it's a number 2, you press a little button behind the toilet (again trying not to think about how sticky it is) and a grinding machine springs into action. It is all very graphic! There's no hiding from what you've just done!
And you've put your toilet paper in the little bin, so that only organic waste goes into the toilet.
You wash your hands in the sink. And your feet get drenched by the water which comes straight out of the plughole onto the multi-purpose floor.
And my top tip, for anyone else going on the wonderful Jaya, is: after you have washed your hands, put some antibacterial gel into your left hand, open the (sticky) toilet door with your right, and then wipe your hands together AFTER you have left said room.
A couple of weeks later, I have another toilet experience in Raja Ampat. We've gone out diving for a full day on a small boat with no toilet. I'm the only woman, and the only Westerner, on the boat. No mention is made of toilet arrangements.
For number ones, it's fairly clear. We are diving in water, after all. For number twos, however, I am a little flummoxed. The critical moment arrives, and my dive guide says - well maybe you can try that island.
So we stop on the jetty and I take one of the longest walks of my life.
I am met by a welcoming committee of several families all sitting around chatting. I bravely smile to them all and say "toilet?".
Glances are exchanged, and then a man gets up and nods that I am to follow him.
We walk past little houses and yards with chickens in.
We finally arrive at a small shed and he smiles and nods. In I go, and there is the squat toilet I've been dreaming of, with a little tank of water next to it and a plastic scooper.
As I close the door and settle in, a little pipe kindly springs into action to provide the funny Western lady with fresh water for her to flush. How thoughtful!
On the way past, I gratefully smile again and thank them all before heading back along the jetty.
And, with all this lovely time on my hands now I'm in Ubud, all this "back to basics" has got me thinking too.
I've realised how decadent and wasteful I was before, in the loo department!
This might be a little too much information for some people, but I've started being much more economical with toilet paper now. I use the little shower head next to the loo to wash myself when possible, as you dry off so quickly here anyway and it doesn't matter if you splash water on your clothes.
And I think I've probably been guilty of treating the loo like a general waste bin in the past too. Now I really think about it - what am I putting in the loo, where is the waste going and what happens to it?
Ultimately, everything in nature is a big cycle. In cities, it's fairly common knowledge these days that the tap water we drink has been through several other people in its lifetime! Euw.
It's crazy that ALL the water delivered to our homes in England has been purified to drinking standards. Think of the money and effort wasted! How much of it do we drink, compared to flushing it down our loos, washing our clothes, our cars, watering the plants.
If we were going to design our water system from scratch, wouldn't it make sense to have two supplies - one for drinking water and one for the rest - for the toilet, washing machines, showers and baths etc.
We are so lucky to have such a developed sanitary system, as it reduces the risks of all the terrible diseases that take the lives of people in communities who don't have it.
But, I can't help wondering, is there something about living in "developed" countries which isn't very developed after all...