(Written by Leah K)
The squatter and I have a bittersweet relationship. “Look at this thing!,” I thought, when the two of us first met. “I have to literally squat over this piss infested, muddy hole to relieve myself?” Not only is that a challenge in itself, but I must defeat this squatter while wearing my three sweaters, coat, scarf, and purse. I pray every time that my shoes don’t get dirty. What started as a miserable journey, eventually this guy, this hole in the ground, turned into my favorite type of toilet. Let me explain.
The first challenge for me was figuring out how to use the squatter. There are no hooks in chinese bathrooms to hold your belongings. There are also no toilet paper holders to set your things on because there is no toilet paper in Chinese bathrooms. It’s BYOTP in this country. (Bring Your Own Toilet Paper) So the most difficult task at the squatter is not letting anything touch the ground. The ground, I might add is wet, because when you flush this toilet it sprays and overflows. There are wet napkins and pieces of toilet paper everywhere and something brown, which I keep pretending is mud. Nick and I have gotten in the habit of taking off our shoes immediately after entering our apartment. Not only because the bathrooms are disgusting, but because the sidewalks all over China are littered with spit, garbage, and who only knows…piss. Yes, people use the restrooms on the sidewalks. But getting back to the squatter-once you figure out how to secure your belongings all you gotta do is squat. Pretty simple. Any girl that has peed in the great outdoors can use the squatter.
Using the restroom on the squatter wasn’t in my nature, since I was born and raised on Western toilets. So when I couldn’t hold my pee any longer, I would scurry into the restroom in hopes that there would be a normal, Western toilet. To my dismay, there never was. Not one, single, Western toilet. I slowly trained myself not to set high hopes on the chances that there would be a Western toilet. As Matt Gambatese told us when we first arrived in this country, “Whatever your expectations are of anything in China-lower them.” Great advice I might add.
As I started to get more and more used to using the squatter, I began to notice the strange happenings that occur in Chinese restrooms. Of course I have heard stories of a bunch of Chinese men, sitting on a row of squatters, texting on their cell phones- but I never thought I would see something like that in a woman’s restroom. As I walked into a bathroom in a six story mall, a very elegant place, there was a woman squatting over the toilet minding her own business. The peculiar thing about this was that she left her stall door wide open for the world in the women’s restroom to see and she was slowly enjoying her cigarette. Fancy that. So going to the bathroom was something that I tried to reserve for at home. I never realized that such an activity would turn into a luxury in China.
The other night Nick and I stumbled into an expat bar. This place was full of Americans, Canadians, Russians, Irish and English people. It was a beautiful sight for the two of us, considering we haven’t spoken English with many people other than to each other and haven’t seen any other white people in this city of Shenyang. As I was drinking my half liter, 3.7% Tsingdao’s I had to use the restroom a lot. One can imagine that drinking this much fluid would cause the urge to pee… so I wearily stepped into the bathroom. To my shock and disbelief there was a Western toilet! Go figure, a Western toilet at a Westerners bar…why didn’t I think of that sooner?! I was in awe. What a beautiful wonder.
As I examined the toilet, I gradually realized how gross it was. It was in the same condition as most squatters in China, however it was in the style of the Western toilet. The wet, smelly, substances that covered the floor in most bathrooms were now much higher than the ground and closer to my eyes for inspection. I pondered, how are people expected to sit on this mess of porcelain? Then, amidst all of my skepticism, I had an epiphany. I felt as if I had made it to another stage of awareness. A big fat smile came to my face and I was enlightened- THE SQUATTER IS MUCH CLEANER THAN THE WESTERN TOILET.
Once I realized that Western toilets are gross, I began to like the squatter. No, I think that I am more than just fond of the squatter. I love the squatter. The squatter is my new favorite thing. I encourage people to try the squatter with an open mind. It can do great things for your cleanliness. You walk in, pee and walk out. You even get to flush the toilet with your foot. Westerners should go back to their primal roots. Go back to the generations when peeing in a hole was cool. Use the squatter.
And don’t forget. If you brought your own TP, please don’t put it in the squatter. Put it in the overflowing garbage can next to the squatter so everyone can look at the remnants.
Nick doesn’t have much to say about the restrooms in China except that he has never seen a clogged urinal in his life until he moved here. So look out boys, there is a challenge in the restroom for you too!