That is not the only question. The problem is where to pee. And how to pee. And if front of whom to pee. And what happens after you’re done peeing. And I am not even talking about poo yet!
Oh, how sweet/disgusting it is to see on Facebook all the updates about Junior mastering the multitude of potty training stages! How much money is spent on advertising the variety of leak-proof diapers (nappies for you Aussies) to mothers who use the convenience of a Diaper Genie? Or advertisement for bleach if the above mentioned stages turned into a “miss”? We are a society obsessed with bodily fluids and trying to convince itself that we, miraculously, don’t do “that”. We judge people on their body hygiene. We have invented new appropriate ways to cough (inside the crook of your elbow please) to avoid the spread of germs. The only body excretion we are not ashamed of is sneezing. Gesundheit.
When you move out of the comfort zone that the Western world is to us, you realize that we have moved ourselves so high on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that we believe our s… does not stink anymore. Get over it people. If you want to have fun in India, you’d better get used to a few drops of human urine on your shoes. And if you thought we had escaped the world of toilet unpleasantries after leaving India, wrong! That applies to China too.
One of the first things anyone notices when arriving in India is men peeing everywhere. It is a source of great amusement to tourists, and great shame to many Indians. On our way back from Pondicherry, after an hour of wiggling on the backseat waiting for a decent place “to go”, I asked our temporary driver for help. Within minutes he found me a rather clean restroom. Twenty minutes later he stopped the car on the side of the road. And peed. Ya think he could have used the facilities after me? Nope. You think he washed his hands before coming back to the car? Nope again. On our second day, a kid standing on a busy sidewalk on Immadihalli road didn’t aim his weewee properly and I became a target. And the relieving oneself on the sidewalk is not restricted to urine: in the villages, it is appropriate for kids to use it for everything. We have it on video.
Sandra was in the kitchen once and called me downstairs. Madam? Yes. I am sorry. What? I need to use the toilet. Ok fine. Where is the servant toilet? Huh? Yes, the servant toilet? Oh. We have a room in the back but we don’t have the key, it’s Sathya’s room. Use that one (pointing at “our” bathroom). Madam are you sure? Yes, go! Then we had a brief chat over the fact that she also didn’t need to ask permission to drink or eat something. After that, she kept a bottle of water in a corner on the kitchen counter. That was Sandra’s water!
She returned the favor to me once. We were coming back from a long drive, probably from Pura, and my bladder was ruling my life, as it often does. We stopped at her house, and, once again, wiggling like a worm in front of her entire family, I asked how I could fix that problem! She pointed to a door in front of her house and said “But Madam, it is an Indian toilet”. I replied something to the effect that it could be German for all I cared, all I needed was a hole in the ground. I was relieved (pun intended) that she had a closed-off room. Most of India’s population still has to use the outdoors, and women often have to wait for nightfall if they expect a bit of privacy.
I have no problem with what the French call “chiottes turques”, or “Turkish toilet”, aka the porcelain platform on which you squat. E. was less happy with those facilities. In France, those have a flush. In India, no. In all Indian bathrooms, there is a faucet next to the toilet, from which you run water into a little bucket nicely provided to you, and use to flush. Voilà! All Indian bathrooms also have a spray mounted on a hose, the exact same spray that we Americans have mounted on our kitchen sinks. We rinse the sink, they rinse, well, something else! More hygienic I was told. Toilet paper? Only if you’re lucky. You only forget once to put tissues in your purse. And you also always carry antibacterial wipes. What does one do with the soiled TP, if it is available? In the Western world, we flush it. In the non-Western world, you don’t, or your pipes will be clogged very quickly. So you throw it in the trash bin (sometimes) provided, and hope that someone will empty soon. Ask my nose and it will tell you that it doesn’t happen often enough in China.
To be fair, in China, I have only been to Shanghai and Beijing, I have no experience of the villages. So far, the number of men we have seen peeing in the streets is: zero. However, public urination is apparently not always frowned upon. There we are, the two of us, all proud to have figured out the Beijing subway. We are sitting in the train. It is crowded but not packed. In front of us, there is a little boy, about 4 years old, with his pants down to his ankles. My first though was that he had had “an accident” and was getting a change of pants. But no. Grandmother was holding what looked like a bottle of Snapple and Kiddo was peeing inside (hopefully) it. I guess we should have been happy that he wasn’t peeing in the train. I knew that in China, toddlers wear pants that are open in the back so they just have to squat. I have seen the pants, not the squatting. Yet!
One of the first things anyone notices when arriving in China is people spitting everywhere. It is a source of great amusement to tourists, but not of great shame to locals. I don’t mean the “I have something stuck in my teeth” spitting. I am referring to “help me I am about to die of black lung” spitting. Which, when you consider Beijing pollution, may very well be the case.
We have tweaked our “points game”: businessmen in freshly pressed Armani suits spitting across the street has become our new “minus one”.