Imagine waking up in a house with no running water, when you’re used to a huge tub to soak in every evening. Using the restroom to do your business means squatting over a hole, and scooping water out of a tub with a butter bowl to “flush.”
During my last year of college I had the opportunity to lead a student trip to Thailand, months after the tsunami devastated the coast. I’d spent the better part of a year preparing for this trip, but there’s nothing that can prepare you for the culture shock of living in a different world. Culture shock has been part of my life, so I think I handle it better than most. That was, honestly, one of the reasons I didn’t warn the girls going on the trip about using a squatty potty. I knew that without all of the comforts we were used to living with, the toilet situation was one that would be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I will never forget our first, group, squatty potty experience. I’d learned the finer points of using one while living in Russia, but the ones we used in rural Thailand were crude, cinderblock structures. We’d landed in Bangkok as riots were starting, and got out of the city as quickly as we could, which meant no potty breaks. We stopped at their version of a rest stop on the side of the highway and our guide prodded me awake.
“We’re stopping so the women can use the bathroom,” he said, giving the girls nervous glances.
“Oh, so?” My jet lagged brain had forgotten the minor detail of instructing the girls about the potty situation.
“They need to go.” He jerked his head toward the bathrooms. “Do they know-?”
“Ooooooooh.” Light bulbs flash to life.
Part of me cruelly wishes I’d videotaped the introduction of American Girl Meets Squatty Potty. I feel that it would be a great YouTube hit. The girls on this trip, except for me, had never been out of America. Their reaction when I explained that the toilets we would be seeing were holes in the ground with foot grips on the side, if we were someplace fancy, got a lot of slack jaws and wide eyes.
I have no idea why using a squatty potty is so confusing, but on this day, after experiencing a barrage of new things, but I actually had to demonstrate how one would squat to pee. You can see photo evidence to the side. Unfortunately my demonstration wasn’t good enough. Do you see how my arms are stretched out? Well, one of the girls didn’t understand that it was not necessary to hold ones arms straight out and couldn’t figure out how to hold her skirt and extend her arms. To make matters worse, there were lizards inside the bathroom that intimidated most of the girls.
Over my handful of years I’ve had the opportunity to live a variety of places, eat things I never want to eat again (like crickets), and experience some out of this world things. Sure, I’ve gone to foreign countries, but culture shock can happen at home anytime we branch out and go someplace new. I love taking my mom out with me, for example. She says I never fail to show her something she wouldn’t have seen on her own. Our world is full of new experiences, cultures and a variety of people and places in our own backyard.
What’s an out of the normal experience that’s stuck with you? It can be something from everyday life, or a once in a lifetime trip you took to a destination you always wanted to go to. One commenter will win a $10 gift card to Amazon.
It can never be said that Sidney Bristol has had a ‘normal’ life. She is a recovering roller derby queen, former missionary, and tattoo addict. She grew up in a motor-home on the US highways (with an occasional jaunt into Canada and Mexico), traveling the rodeo circuit with her parents. Sidney has lived abroad in both Russia and Thailand, working with children and teenagers. She now lives in Texas where she splits her time between a job she loves, writing, reading and belly dancing. Her debut release entitled Flirting with Rescue will be out later this month from Ellora’s Cave.