A Number 2 – Or As My Friends And I Say, Throwing The Curve

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 backwards about is their lavatory system. Before I came to China I was aware of the bathroom situation here. They are not like the western toilets my ass has become accustomed to, they are more like holes in the ground (in which people squat over to do their business and hence I call them squatters).

When I arrived in China I was expecting the worst but it actually wasn’t too shocking, it was exactly as it sounded. It was a hole in the ground. 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 it would be an experience that is essential to living in China 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 all power to our floor was shut off.

QUICK SIDE STORY: The army fire inspectors came to our school and said that we were in violation of fire safety code. They then emergency taped 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 they told us that it was because of a new law that was passed here in China 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 that the owner of our EF school had just not paid off the right people, because a week later it was business as usual and nothing had changed.

Although classes were canceled, I needed to get some planning done for classes 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, a little bit later I had to go to the bathroom for a #2.

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 were when I ate shehung sher gee dan) and I was worried about the wipe. 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 hard wiping in the dark because you’re not sure if you got it all, and as any self respecting person would want, I wanted to make sure I had a good wipe. I remembered that a gym had just opened the floor below our school and they they had power. So I headed down hoping that they had a western style toilet.

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. 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 very tricky. First, you need to make sure you have good footing because it is hard to readjust your position while you’re going 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 clothes or falling into the hole because you leaned back to far so as not to get poop on your pants?

I chose to eliminate my clothes from the whole equation; so I took off my pants and boxers and hung them on a hook on the door. Now that my pants were off I was ready. I squatted over the hole and prayed to God I wouldn’t fall in. I really did not want to 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 conducive to reading. 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 while they were squatting (many toilets in China do not have stalls or doors so you are always seeing people doing their business) I was not at their skill level to squat and read at the same time.

The next day my thighs were so sore from having to hold myself up over the squatter it hurt to walk. One time on a squatter is equivalent to a whole leg workout at a gym or a session with P90X.

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 the second time I can try pooping with my pants on.

Note: These pictures are a reenactment of true events. Some events have been modified so as to not be considered pornography.



About JoelS

Spending a year teaching English and saving the world in China
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