Published: June 26th 2012June 26th 2012
At the choo
Some directions, are culturally appropriate to ask and worth asking. Knowing the whereabouts of a choo, sometimes referred to in urban areas as the WC, is after all, often necessary. Choos are placed in a variety of locations, mostly unsuspecting ones. You may ask, “Choo?” or the more polite, “Please be so kind as to tell me where the water closet is.” There is danger is speaking Swahili too well as the response may be beyond your understanding. Given that the locale of the choo may be out of doors, through the corridor to the back alley and around the building next door to a structure without a sign, you may want to carry a notebook in which you can draw a map.
Choos come in many forms, but you can be guaranteed none of them will have toilet paper and many will have some form of bidet especially if it is the rainy season. The world is divided into user of paper and user of water. Tanzania uses water. The bidet may be a bucket of water, a tap or a spout. It depends whether you are in an urban area or rural, an area where previous wazungus have dared to tread. You will soon understand why you don’t eat with your left hand. Choos in Tanzania seem to have doors which never close. You may want to bring a friend.
If you are lucky enough to find a choo with water and a toilet that you recognize, you may spend several minutes remembering your elementary physics determining how it is flushed. Often however, the WC will be a hole. Squat toilets are the norm. They are basically a hole at ground level over which you squat and into which you aim. Not everyone’s aim is accurate. Determining your aim is most important. Women visitors will find that wearing loose fitting dresses with pockets for tissue and hand sanitizer very handy. This works well to avoid any back splash which is an issue. Pooing requires some thought before doing so. The trick for women is to hitch your skirt somewhere secure on your body, place your right hand against the wall to steady yourself and use your left hand for cleaning. You will remind yourself of how you should have practiced your yoga poses before coming to Tanzania. Men or women silly enough to wear pants have a different thought process to consider. Remember that the floors are usually wet. Not everyone aims well. You will want to practice different configurations until you get it right. Dropping your pants completely and holding them in front may stop you from soiling your pants. Note that Laundromats are not common. Cargo pants with side pockets hold hand sanitizer containers very well.
Should you find a choo with hot and cold water, remember that blue means hot and red means cold. Do not ask directions if you are in a two or three star hotel for the hot water tank. If there is one you will find it or hear it. Remember to turn it on before you go to bed. You might have a warm shower in the morning if the pump is still working.
Peeing outdoors is more of an art here than at home. A kanga for women comes in handy when there are no bushes around as you can simply raise it, squat and go. One must definitely avoid any splashing here as you may confuse the red sand on your ankles with either blood or sunburn or you may think it is sand but really you are burnt. There are always people around who appear from nowhere so having a guard is a definite must as is timing. Be sure not to pee on or near an acacia thorn bush, avoid other cacti, and frolicking goats of course! Always double check the bush you are using is not someone’s fence. And last but not least remember that when you think you have found the perfect bush, other people have likely found it before you.