Little Relief in Loos
By Amy Chavez
For The Bali Times
The other day I went to visit my friend Nyoman at his home in Klungkung, where he helps his family farm rice. After copious amounts of Bali coffee and various refreshments throughout the day, I asked the direction of the toilet.
â€œOn the other side of this wall,â€ Nyoman said, pointing.
I went through the doorway and on the other side, quite unexpectedly, I was confronted by several large pigs staring at me. The toilet was in the same room as the swine, with a mere dividing wall between us. I excused my self from the pigs and stepped into the stall. In one way, it was a relief – no need to worry about smelling up the bathroom. On the other hand, so to speak, after a chorus of grunts and snorts from these curious neighbors, I was truly relieved when I got out of there.
But some of my Indonesian toilet experiences have not been so amusing.
Once I went to Java with some Indonesian friends and stayed at their house in the countryside. The house was very nice, with tiled floors, a large veranda with carved pillars, a spacious kitchen, a shower – and no toilet.
I was warned before I went that I might rather stay at a hotel. â€œNo, no,â€ I had insisted. â€œI am a world traveler. I want to experience everything.â€
â€œYou might have to go pee in the river,â€ my friend said. â€œJust tell me if thereâ€™s something you donâ€™t want to do.â€
â€œI canâ€™t imagine anything I wouldnâ€™t want to do,â€ I told him. â€œExcept pee in the river.â€ I wonder how exactly you pee in a river anyway? In Vietnam they have toilet seats built over the river, but Iâ€™ve never seen anything like that in Indonesia. Do the women wear toilet skirts so they have some privacy? A foreign woman alone sidling up to the riverâ€™s edge would surely attract attention.
During the entire bus ride to Java, I couldnâ€™t get that silly song out of my head by the Talking Heads, Take Me to the River…
Luckily Indonesians shower a few times a day. So between the showers and using public toilets when we were out, I managed to avoid the river. I curbed my intake of liquids. Nonetheless, I awoke to a full bladder at about 5am the next morning. I lay in bed wondering what to do. Ibu was already up and working in the kitchen. Take Me to the River…
I heard my Indonesian friend in the room next door, open the door and leave. Where had he just gone? I wondered. I caught him in the hallway on his way back. â€œWhere did you go?â€
â€œTo the toilet,â€ he said.
â€œWhat toilet?!â€ I demanded, doubled over because my bladder was so swollen.
â€œThe shower,â€ he said.
â€œWhat? You peed in the shower?â€ I mean, itâ€™s one thing to take a leak in the shower when itâ€™s a side-effect from showering. But itâ€™s quite another to squat over and pee directly onto the floor of the shower.
I thought about the toilet slippers sitting outside by the toilet door. â€œBut Ibu is there in the kitchen, right next to the shower.â€
â€œJust tell her, â€˜I want to pee.â€™â€
â€œI canâ€™t pee in the shower with Ibu right there listening.â€
â€œThen just take a shower,â€ he suggested.
So I did.
Shortly after breakfast, as I was sitting enjoying the sunshine on the porch, I sensed something dreadful: a tight grip in the abdomen. The inevitable had arrived.
I walked very tenderly over to where my friend was standing and with one hand over my abdomen said, â€œTake Me to the River…â€
There was much discussion in Javanese among the family members and the longer they discussed, the more urgent my plight became. Finally, Ibu told me to follow her. â€œWeâ€™re going to the public toilet,â€ she said.
The public toilet turned out to be a private house that had two toilets out back. There was a sign outside the house that said, â€œPublic toilet Rp500.â€ They also had a sign listing the prices for using their private telephone.
â€œKotor!â€ Ibu apologized to me before I ventured into the public toilet. â€œNo problem,â€ I told her. Even a dirty toilet is better than no toilet, right?
This was challenged, however, as soon as I closed the door and turned around to see 1.5 million mosquitoes grinning at me from the walls. No matter. After all, this was now an emergency.
While I managed to avoid the river during those few days, I did acquire a skill all world travelers should have: that of squatting over a hole in the ground while waving your hands wildly about, protecting all posterior flight paths.
I also realized the real reason Nyoman has pigs in his toilet room: they distract the mosquitoes.
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