How to use a squat toilet

2 April 2012

This is a squat toilet.

Here is the response from a certain former Tanzania Peace Corps volunteer regarding the confusion we white folk face when using a squat toilet, the type found in almost all homes and establishments aside from those in which white people reside or are the primary patrons:

“Anyway, for me, the question is more than the direction, but also, how to clean.  I am one of those who sees toilet paper as a relative novelty item, an added expense, and an environmental waste.  That said, I use it.

BUT, I honestly think it better not to (kind of like I think it would be better to eat bugs and the French imported snails in my garden, but generally I don’t (minus the 2 times I’ve eaten at a French restaurant)).

So, with a spigot, a dirty plastic cup, and soupy brown water, how does one take care of business and clean?  Facing the door is the intended direction, but doesn’t work for the female stream.  Facing the wall is stifling, but keeps the area cleaner.  However, if you are peeing AND pooping, it doesn’t make sense to turn around mid-stream!

I’ve tried all directions, and to save my nose hairs, just face outward toward the door for all operations, squat and tilt pelvis, use the water to slosh around the toilet to clean up any sprays or spills  AND when using for cleaning, its like this: you can’t avoid the hand.  (My Tanzanian husband) has ingrained a type of left-hand taboo that I learned was Arab specific, and I know it is because he grew up without toilet paper. The left-handed taboo for me was always just a sort of bigotry, but it actually is best, because… well… you never know!

All THAT said, it still is an art, like carrying a bucket on the head, or taking the chaf off the rice, something that looks so easy for the natives, but I am totally inept at.  How do I wash my bum or yoni without getting completely wet?  How do I hold my skirt/pants while pouring and wiping?

So, sad to say, after all of my purported “cultural fluency” truth be told: I am just another mzungu.

Hand sanitizer anyone?”

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