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squat toilet vs western toilet

By 5 years ago
Categories Pokhara
For the first couple of skype sessions with my parents after arriving in Nepal, our conversations revolved around the squat toilet in my new accommodations. My mother asked me to move the computer camera into the bathroom so that she could see what kind of ‘hole in the ground’ I was working with. After I had my first parasite, we talked about vomiting into a squat toilet (surprisingly nice and easy, and preferable to a western toilet) and we talked about having diarrhea in a squat toilet. Yes, aiming is a bit more difficult and yes my legs were tyred after the first couple of rounds but now my leg muscles look great. After the third or fourth time showing my mom pictures of squat toilets I had to ask about her fascination, ”well, I’m just trying to figure out if I would fall in,” she said. 
I think my mom is on to something. Western toilets vs squat toilets are fascinating. I’ve had endless conversations with volunteers from around the world who I’ve just met about the merits and drawbacks of both. Plus, Ruth and I (your gvi staff in Nepal) urge volunteers to talk to us about any problems involving diarrhea or constipation. Traveller’s belly is common and there are small things we can advise in order to make you more comfortable during your stay. Sometimes it’s just nice having someone to sit and commiserate about your gurgle-y and uncomfortable belly.
While toilets may normally be a slightly taboo topic, once the topic comes up there are a surprising amount of points to discuss.  When I lived in Australia, I taught English to Korean students and we would spend hours discussing how hard it was for them to get use to western toilets. It would start with a simple but timid question, what do you call the Asian toilets and then also how do you spell squat. For my Korean students, western toilets meant complaints about dribble left on toilet seats and how that’s not a problem with squat toilets. They are right, squat toilets are far more hygienic and the position that your body is in while squatting does seem to push everything out a bit easier. 
In Nepal, after the nuance of using a new style of toilet wears off, volunteers start to talk about the lack of toilet paper in public restrooms. Some take to carrying around toilet paper in their purses and day bags. Some have even asked my Nepali roommate ‘do you ever use toilet paper?’ It’s a good question even if it took him off his guard. It took me awhile to embrace water as the new toilet paper. It took me even longer to use water without getting all my clothes wet. But in hot weather, a splash of water feels refreshing and dries quickly when I do accidentally splash my clothes and as my Nepali roommate explained about his preference to not use toilet paper, ”if my hand is sticky with dal baht (classic nepali food of rice and lentils eaten with your hand, see previous post), do I use a napkin to clean my hand? No. My hand will not be clean. I use water.”
My mom also wanted to know if there is a lot of poop on the streets from all of the cows and buffalo roaming around. In case you’re also curious- you do need to watch where you step.