Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Missed Opportunity

Last Saturday, Christopher's baseball team played another double header against Minebae (the Japanese baseball academy team). For the first time, our team traveled to play at Minebae - usually Minebae likes to travel and play at ISB. 

We were told in advance that the Minebae facilities were very primitive - very little shade, no spectator seating, no concessions, etc. It didn't sound like the best place for me to spend 8 hours on a Saturday but I thought I could just grin and bear it. With a little preparation, we could bring enough food, drinks, umbrellas and camp chairs to make it comfortable. However, after we were told to bring our own toilet paper, I asked the one question that I never ever would have thought (or had reason) to ask before living in Thailand, "What kind of toilets are available?". Once I had my answer, it was a very easy decision for me to opt to stay home.

Almost all of the upscale hotels, restaurants shopping malls and office buildings in Bangkok provide Western-style toilets. If you never venture outside of downtown Bangkok, you would probably never see (or be forced to use) a squat toilet. However, outside of Bangkok and away from other tourist attractions elsewhere in Thailand, the squat toilet is often the only option available. In fact, almost 99% of the toilet facilities in Thailand (outside of Bangkok) are of the squat type.

Obviously, as evidenced by the 277,000 results to my google query "how to use a thai squat toilet", there is a technique to using a "squatter". (FYI - this website gives the best instructions). I won't go into too much detail about the entire process but usually the first step in using a squat toilet is to remove all of the clothing from the lower 1/2 of your body. It is hard to believe that it only goes downhill from there - the stench, the filthy floor (think about it!), nowhere to hang your clothes, no toilet paper, no running water (no flushing, no hand-washing), etc. It is just not a pleasant experience at all. 

When we would camp or go out bush in Australia, "long drop" toilets were always available and, although I didn't think so at the time, those long drops now seem very luxurious! In China, squat toilets were the norm but there was usually toilet paper and running water available so using them didn't seem like such an awful hardship. The worst part about using the squat toilet in China was, because it was an incredibly cold winter, we were all dressed in three layers of clothing plus we were wearing gloves, mittens, scarves and hats. Try to manage all of that while squatting! I am not ashamed to admit that if there was a Western toilet nearby, we would always wait until it was available! 

Presenting the Thailand Squat Toilet.
As much as I hated to miss Christopher's games, there was no way I could deal with being at a baseball field for at least 8 hours in the hot sun (and drinking a lot of fluids to hydrate) and have the squat toilet as the only option for a bathroom. Call me a princess but it wasn't going to happen!

If you want to experience using a squatter, quickly plan your trip to Thailand. Just last summer, the Thai Government announced an initiative to replace the squat toilets in all public facilities with Western-style toilets. It seems that this program is necessary as the country's population is aging and will be unable to use the squatters. I don't even want to think about what the elderly or handicapped do if a Western-style toilet is not available. 

The one benefit of a squatter? From www.cnn.com, "Killer legs. Nothing works out the thighs and butt quite like a two-minute struggle to keep your bottom from touching the edges of these beasts while you do what you have to do."
Christopher's team lost both of the games and, even worse, one of our better pitchers suffered what might be a season ending injury. I think the final diagnosis was that he broke his eye socket and can't play for three weeks. Since the tournament in Singapore is now just about a week away, it doesn't look very promising. 

Kevin left this morning for Japan and he will return Friday evening. I know he wasn't happy about having to leave us again so soon after he returned from the U.S. but duty called. Next week we will be traveling to Singapore but at least that is a family trip so it won't be too bad. 

Have a great Tuesday!

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