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Things I Take For Granted

After being in Beijing for even a short while, you realize there are more than a few things that you take for granted in the U.S. These are just two of them.

Potable water. We were all informed that we shouldn’t ingest any of the water straight from the tap in China, and that we should make sure to boil it first. We get two (small) bottles of mineral water every day from the hotel, but it’s not nearly enough to get us through the hot days. I currently live and die by that water kettle, and considering how much water I usually drink (read: a lot), I don’t think I’ve felt properly hydrated for a single day since we got here.

It’s not terribly hard to find bottled water to buy, though. Just about everywhere you go, and especially at tourism areas, there are people selling water, and selling it very aggressively, at that. (that’s a ramble for another post)

The other one? Toilets. We have things pretty cushy with our little Western-style toilets. We get to sit down and relax while we relieve ourselves, wipe clean when we’re done, maybe have a splash from a bidet, if we’re in a fancier setting, and, barring the occasional unwashed gas station bathroom, it’s usually a fairly clean and odor-free environment. Well, aside from the odors we produce while we’re going.

On that note, I’d like you to meet my new nemesis: the Asian-style toilet, otherwise known as The Squat Pot.

I’d read about these toilets before, thanks mainly to my years-long interest in Japan–#2 on my list of places to go, by the way–but it hadn’t occurred to me that I might encounter one here in China, too. Turns out that’s all they have here: the only western-style toilet I’m guaranteed access to is the one in my hotel room, and I’m only there at the beginning and end of the day.

A lot of the toilets I’ve encountered so far look much, much dirtier than the average Western toilet, which already sets a less-than-spectacular standard. So, imagine my surprise when I took a leak for the first time at Shichahai, and discovered there was no toilet paper anywhere! There were plenty of paper holders, but no paper in them. Turns out, this is the case in a lot of places. I guess wiping your ass isn’t a priority around these parts?

Also, these toilets don’t tend to have that nice barrier of water between you and what lies beneath. Top that off with temperatures soaring above 90F, and you can probably imagine how overpowering the smell can be. Some of these things smell like pure death, and are easily worse than any port-a-potty or outhouse I’ve ever used.

Beyond that, I have to admit that my real annoyance is with the fact that you’re required to squat in a rather funny way. It doesn’t exactly come naturally to me, and I still don’t quite understand how I can position myself in such a way that I can urinate without doing so all over my pants. I’ve been bracing myself in position with my hands, and going verrrry slowly. There’s probably some secret technique that my body doesn’t quite understand. For now, I’ll go with the theory Goo mentioned the other day: everything in China is training, even taking a dump. 😉


  1. OMG, TMI! LOL 😛

  2. In most countries I have gone to you have to take TP with you. I remember in Panama I did find some tp in a bathroom….but it was chained and bolted into its spot. Apparently people steal tp, so most places don’t bother.

  3. You have captured the essence of traveling! I peed on my feet using one of these toilets in a tiny town in SW France once. I have enjoyed your blog–thanks so much for sharing it!

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