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My (Mis)Adventures with the Squat toilet
So the fun just doesn’t stop… While I’m still sorting out my reaction to my new move, luck-draw number two just hit, when on my first day of school, I learned that every peeing portal in my school was a porcelain… hole in the ground. Yes my new workplace – Anil Elementary School in Dong-bu, Daegu- had seemingly no western toilets ! (see My First Day at a Korean Elementary School video) Expectations, hopes?… one ought never have them, even when it comes to assuming your work environments will have standard western conveniences; yet for me, there were obviously still some there…
Some of you already know of my mis-adventure with the squat toilet in Thailand… not good.
I accidentally nailed my shoe and spent the rest of my trip spritzing it with hand sanitizer and paranoid, sniffing it to see if the smell was me or my shoe. It’s make me a bit of a timidsputterer. I get performance anxiety and like driving on a road with scary turns, I pray and hold on tight during each pee.
To squat or not to squat… when you really have no choice.
Bare-assed and cold is inevitably something one must deal with in the winter here. It’s due to Korea’s occasional lack of public heating. Restrooms aren’t heated.
But my work attire is office professional – suit jacket, blouse and a sleek pair of slacks. This raises the stakes.
Not only must I GRRR my shivers, but I must hoist my pants and leggings up around my knees to keep my nice clothes out of shot range! There is no pretty or elegant way to do this. I feel quite unlovely most of the time.
So I’m a bit of a Princess (as you probably guessed…). I haven’t had to really rough it. I joke with people about needing “a throne” but I do. I’ve only used my natural Asian squatter legs for sitting and yoga positions, not squat toilets or “hovering”.
Even as a little girl going on family camping trips- my father would always bring a bucket for me so that I’d never have to experience true camping reality.
Digging a hole in the ground or squatting in bushes?
A traveler must inevitably encounter difficult situations, but the mind pans for angles to avoid it before finally… capitulating.
After Thailand, I actively sought ways to navigate my toiletry obstacles.
Although Thailand has a pretty clean train system, train toilets are always questionable, when people are forced to sit in one area for a length of time. The Thai also have a power hose which they use to clean their backside. It exerts a forceful stream of water and as a MacGyver device I used it to hose down my bathroom and the toilet seat cover before using it. Genius device!
But moving to Korea – I’m coping with living situation. Not non-committal travel experiences.
I’d have to suck it up and deal with it.
Hit-or-miss— I’d have to get used to using that toilet.
Ironing out the rough edges or… letting them iron you out.
In Korea they sell these wonderfully long and stylishly warm winter scarves. In an effort to Koreanize my style a little, I recently bought one and I love using it! The winter cold permeates through my professional layers… and if my ass must experience the shock of winter’s bite, then the rest of my body would like to experience its warm cuddle. Needless to say- I stay bundled up when going to the bathroom. Yesterday, my new scarf accidentally fell loose and dropped next to my girl urinal and onto a bit of my splash.
So much for the warm cuddle. No amount of washing will sterilize that mental image of my fallen scarf…
On a hopeful note, my co-teacher told me that due to one of our wheel-chaired students, the school may have recently installed a western toilet… somewhere. I know this sounds so wrong for expressing, but God Bless handicapped children! This little wheel-chaired boy is my angel. But, I guess it’ll be a scavenger hunt.
This was my third time questioning her and she realized the cultural difference was a serious concern for me. Afterall, they can’t have a teacher that pees on herself. and next Monday, I start my hunt for that western toilet!
My Mother’s Secret to Using a Squat Toilet
Whether you’ve never had great aim or life has shocked you into being a timid sputterer as it has me, I have only one tip you and I guarantee it will be the best advice you will ever need!
“Press your knees tightly together and then let it rip.”
Pressing your knees together directs the pee down. If you open your legs, chances are the pee will want to follow the line of your leg and spread. The letting it rip part is difficult if you don’t trust yourself, but sputtering will also entice your pee to dribble and follow the lines of your leg, so you must choose…
It’s a trick my mother keyed me in on after my Thailand fiasco and it’s not (quite) failed yet.
Five tips about using the Korean squat toilet:
1. Where’s the support in squatting?
They don’t call it “squatter legs” for nothing. The squat toilet has nothing to hold onto or hold yourself up with other than the flusher (and you really don’t want to touch that)
Advice: If you need support, grab the door handle or the handle in front of the toilet.
2. Baring bare-assed cold.
The cold upon cold makes you want to only wash your fingertips vs exposing your whole hand.
Advice: Bring hand sanitizer with you.
3. Fumbling in the dark.
The stalls have high doors (ground to up); not much light enters these torture dungeons.
Advice: Sometimes, it’s best not to see your situation anyways- it might make you more timid. Learn how to pee in the dark.
4. Throw used tissues in the nearby basket.
This prevents the pipes from getting clogged. In some countries and developing ones, the pipes apparently aren’t so strong; hence, why the waste baskets are there in your stall. And yes, some unfortunate soul has to remove the contents of this. Also, if you wonder where that additional smell is coming from, this is probably your culprit.
Not sure if it’s a good solution but I try not to use much toilet paper, so that I can flush the poo ones.
5. Toilet paper rolls are outside the stalls.
Usually, there is just one large container and it’s in a neutral area… and sometimes, they are empty. If you go into the stalls, you will not find any toilet paper. I repeat, you will not find toilet paper in your stall. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Advice: Always carry a wad of toilet paper, handy wipes or pack of kleenex in your purse. This has saved me more than a few times.