China is a ancient and sophisticated country with thousands of years of history and culture, but one thing I feel that they are still a little bit behind the times on is their lavatory system. Before I came to China I was made aware of the bathroom situation here. I was told that that Chinese toilets are not like the western toilets which my tuchus has become so accustomed to. They are more like holes in the ground (which people squat over to do their business and hence I call them squatters), as opposed to the porcelain thrown I enjoy.
When I arrived in China I was expecting literally a hole in the ground but was surprised when it actually looked pretty professional. It was a toilet without the seat. Looking at it I wasn’t quite sure of the logistics of how one used it, but thankfully there was a western toilet in my apartment and one at work too. But I knew that to truly experience what it meant to live in china I would have to try it and put it on my to-do-list.
This past week the school I work at got shut down due to fire regulations and as a result the power got shut off.
QUICK SIDE STORY: The army fire inspectors came to our school a couple of weeks earlier and said that we were in violation of a fire safety code. They then put emergency tape on the front doors to make sure nobody entered and cut the electricity to our school (but not to the rest of the building). I thought that it was because the school’s handyman had made a kitchen in the fire escape stairwell, but we were later told that it was because of a new law that was passed which states that children ages 6 and younger are not allowed to be taught on the fourth floor or higher of any building. I think it was a made up law and the owner of our school had just not paid off the right people, because a week later it was business as usual and nothing had changed.
BACK TO THE STORY: Although classes were canceled, I needed to get some planning done for classes I had later in the week so we found a back door that was not taped shut and I came in to plan some lessons. For lunch I ordered shehung sher gee dan (tomatoes and eggs, a popular Chinese dish) and like clockwork, in 30 minutes time it was time to go to the bathroom.
I got up and headed to the bathroom only to remember that there was no electricity. I knew it was going to be a big one (because they usually are when I ate shehung sher gee dan) and I was worried about the wipe. While I didn’t mind going to the bathroom in the dark, I was worried about the clean up afterwards. As I’m sure all of you know it’s pretty hard wiping in the dark for the mere fact that you’re not sure if you got it all. I remembered that a gym had just opened the floor below our school and they had power. So I headed down ready to throw the curve.
I got to the gym only to find that like most places here in China they didn’t have any western toilets. They only had squatters. It was a do or die moment for me, and I went with the only choice available to me. I went with the squatter.
Now, taking a poop on a squatter is not as simple as one might think. In fact it is actually very tricky. First, you need to make sure you have good footing because it is hard to readjust your position once your in full squat mode and you don’t want to risk slipping and falling over. Secondly, it is unclear what to do with your clothes. How do you pull down your pants and squat down without getting any poop on your pants or falling into the hole because you leaned back too far so as not to get poop on your pants?
In a precautionary move so as not to poop on my pants, I chose to eliminate my clothes from the whole equation. With my pants off I was ready, I squatted over the hole and prayed to God I wouldn’t fall in.
To be honest with you, there was a simple charm to it and it really was quite a pleasant experience. There was no real pushing required. It sort of just slid out. One thing I was a little upset about was that squatting is not as conducive to reading as one might think. Sitting on a western toilet is great for reading a book or a magazine, but a Chinese squatter isn’t. Although I have seen Chinese people reading a newspaper while they were squatting (many toilets in China do not have stalls or doors so you see people doing their business all the time) I was not at their skill level to squat and read at the same time.
All in all my first time went pretty well. I’m sure I am going to have to use a squatter again in the future so I’m glad I got some practice. Hopefully during my second time I can try pooping with my pants on.
Note: These pictures are reenactments of true events so as to not be considered pornography.