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Stuff ‘N Nonsense - Unmentionables Of Global Travel

POSTED May 24, 2011 10:49 p.m.

When your traveling experience has been limited to the United States certain aspects of life outside the cushy bubble of western civilization can be jarring.

Case in point, my husband and I recently discovered this hilarious show produced by Ricky Gervais called “An Idiot Abroad” where this pal of Gervais is filmed, documentary-style as he experiences life outside his own comfort zone. The commentary is side-splitting, not because it’s witty or engaging but because it’s embarrassingly real. Most times, this poor guy is absolutely miserable as he goes about the tasks he’s been given and his misery is rife with hilarity. I suppose we’re laughing at his expense but he doesn’t seem to mind because there’s already another season filming. But here’s my point, as my husband and I were watching an episode filmed in China we discovered a few unsettling facts of foreign life — squatty potties and no toilet paper.

I’ll explain: apparently, when you have to go, you squat over a hole. No prissy (and sanitary) use of seat covers because heck, there’s no seat. And no using a wad of toilet paper because there’s none of that stuff either.

I never considered myself a princess but there’s just something wrong about squatting over a dark hole in the ground to do your business and then just hitching up your drawers. No, let me amend that — it’s not only wrong, it’s gross.

I was watching another show called “House Hunters” and an episode featured a couple who wanted to purchase a second home in Morocco because they spent so much time there due to their textile business. One of the criteria for the house was that it possessed a regular loo, rather than the squatty potty. (The fact that you’d have to make that specification strikes Morocco from my list of places to visit.) So the Realtor shows the potential buyers several homes (none to my tastes but it wasn’t about me) and the Realtor was quite pleased to show the man that this one house had a regular bathroom; however, it was apparently built for a Hobbit because you had to practically crawl to the facility before you could sit and do your business. And although the toilet was in a low-ceilinged cave, the shower — which was only a few feet away — had a 10-foot ceiling! Talk about a weird use of space.

I guess I took for granted that no matter what country you travel, some things were basic and likely the same — like toilet facilities.

My ignorance is evidence of my less-than-worldly travels. Ah well. At least I discovered these differences through the convenience of my television and not as I stared in horror at a hole in the ground, biting my lip and wondering how long I could hold it.

And since we’ve already descended into bathroom talk, here’s another thing I discovered, this time, through the wonders of a documentary called “Babies.” Somewhere with a very arid climate — another place I don’t have the urge to visit — there’s a tribe of indigenous people who live much the same as their ancestors did. Babies are born and cared for in much the same way as generations before that one and in one aspect, that’s very cool. However…there are no diapers. And babies, particularly newborns, poop — a lot. So, here’s what I was exposed to via this (really awesome) documentary. The woman labored and delivered her own baby. That in itself was pretty jaw-dropping, Then she wiped away the gunk, licked its face (ack!) clean and then when the baby unloaded, she held it out away from her and when it was finished, she slid the baby’s backside down her knee. Yes, people, you read that right — baby poop on the knee — and then she wiped it away with a healthy scrub of dirt. Oh, that’s even better. Dirty and poopy. Excellent.

So the main point of this column? I am so thankful I was born here in the United States where there are regular commodes and diapers; but most of all I am utterly prostrate with gratitude that I never, ever had to lick my baby’s face free of afterbirth after I pulled it free from my body.

 

Kim Van Meter is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at kvanmeter@oakdaleleader.com or by calling 847-3021.

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