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.

“On the other side of this wall,” 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. “No, no,” I had insisted. “I am a world traveler. I want to experience everything.”

“You might have to go pee in the river,” my friend said. “Just tell me if there’s something you don’t want to do.”

“I can’t imagine anything I wouldn’t want to do,” I told him. “Except pee in the river.” I wonder how exactly you pee in a river anyway? In Vietnam they have toilet seats built over the river, but I’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 river’s edge would surely attract attention.

During the entire bus ride to Java, I couldn’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. “Where did you go?”

“To the toilet,” he said.

“What toilet?!” I demanded, doubled over because my bladder was so swollen.

“The shower,” he said.

“What? You peed in the shower?” I mean, it’s one thing to take a leak in the shower when it’s a side-effect from showering. But it’s quite another to squat over and pee directly onto the floor of the shower.

Isn’t it?

I thought about the toilet slippers sitting outside by the toilet door. “But Ibu is there in the kitchen, right next to the shower.”

“Just tell her, ‘I want to pee.’”

“I can’t pee in the shower with Ibu right there listening.”

“Then just take a shower,” 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, “Take Me to the River…”

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. “We’re going to the public toilet,” 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, “Public toilet Rp500.” They also had a sign listing the prices for using their private telephone.

“Kotor!” Ibu apologized to me before I ventured into the public toilet. “No problem,” 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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