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Guest Blogger: Sidney Bristol
Sunday, January 8th, 2012

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.


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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.

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10 comments to “Guest Blogger: Sidney Bristol”

  1. Fedora
    · January 8th, 2012 at 1:35 pm · Link

    How cool, Sidney! I’ve had a couple of not ordinary experiences, mostly while traveling through China with my family. It is quite eye opening to see how different things can be in other parts of the world, and yet other things are much the same (an appreciation for art, or nature, or good food for instance :))

    Thanks for visiting, and looking forward to Flirting with Rescue!

  2. Lynda Frazier
    · January 8th, 2012 at 2:00 pm · Link

    Great story, I had a squatty potty incident while I was in Japan and it was too cute to see my 4 year old grandaughter trying to show me how to use it. I use to camp in the woods so squatting is not foreign to me but I loved her explanation.
    Congrats on your debut book, can’t wait to read it.

  3. Little Lamb Lost
    · January 8th, 2012 at 3:28 pm · Link

    My first squatty potty experience was in Switzerland. I have no difficulty with the position or the concept. However, I was somewhat confounded in using that toilet since it was a essentially an outhouse on a mountainside in the middle of winter and I was dressed in a one piece zip-up, ski suit. There was very little room to maneuver and the experience had me almost literally freezing my butt off. What topped off the whole thing was that there was a long line awaiting me to exit.

  4. Greta van der Rol
    · January 8th, 2012 at 4:41 pm · Link

    Funny you should mention this. My latest WIP is about an Australian female doctor who goes to India. One of the scenes in the first chapter is her intro to squat toilets. I’ve come across them in a few places but I’ve never had to use a really disgusting one.

    When I was a lot younger we’d go camping in the bush, where we’d dig a hole to do our business. It’s the same thing, isn’t it? But the difference is, that’s YOUR hole – you’re not sharing it with anybody.

  5. Sidney
    · January 8th, 2012 at 4:50 pm · Link

    Hi guys!

    I’ll admit, I was amused with my first squatty potty experience in Russia, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. But, as my team in Thailand showed me, not everyone has squatted to pee before!

  6. tammy ramey
    · January 8th, 2012 at 7:22 pm · Link

    i spent most of my childhood in the mountains camping so this would not have seemed all that strange to me but my sister who hates to camp would have been just like the girls you were with. LOL

    when i was in Las Vegas my sister took me to what they call “China town”, it is just a small section of town that is mostly asian businesses. we went to a vietnamese resteraunt and the menu wasn’t in english and the waiter didn’t speak english and the cashier only spoke a few words of it.
    we had to try and mime and point at things others were eating to order. it was the first time i drank their version of coffee. i loved it, but it was very sweet. i still don’t know what it was i ate, but it was (mostly) very good. 🙂

  7. Amber
    · January 8th, 2012 at 7:52 pm · Link

    Well it’s great that you got to experience a new culture. Even if it’s not always pleasant. 🙂 I can’t say that I’ve really experienced much of anything out of the normal. I did learn alot about the Chinese culture growing up. My family was really close with a man from China who was a catholic priest. He didnt have any family over here so we became his surrogates. So I learned a little about what it was like for him growing up. Unfortunately I can’t say that I’ve been able to travel out of the country or anything. It’s on my bucket list though!!! Maybe not the squatty potty part though! LOL

  8. Becky Ward
    · January 8th, 2012 at 10:54 pm · Link

    I spent some time camping as a child so using a squatty potty wouldn’t be no difficulty with the concept. I don’t remember experiencing anything out of the normal.

  9. Sky Robinson
    · January 8th, 2012 at 11:10 pm · Link

    The roller derby, missionary, tattoo addict combo is so interesting I have to check out your books:)

  10. Mary Preston
    · January 9th, 2012 at 3:28 am · Link

    Squatty potty & crickets – no thank you!!

Comments are closed.