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Saturday, 5 November 2011

Squat toilets - an explication

We asked world-tripping poet, David Farnsworth, to write a post for the blog about his latest jaunt in China. We expected a deeply considered piece about psychological perspectives among the Sino-proletariat. Instead, we received this erratic study of international toilets with the comment: "As is my practice, this piece is mainly unedited and written after a considerable intake of red wine. It works for me. It may not work for you." 
David promises to send the expected article as soon as his fine madness subsides.

Like Pam Scott, I, too, suffer Culture Shock. 

For me Culture Shock mostly occurs when I return to Australia. It can even happen after as little a time as three weeks in China (Weifang, Shandong).

For me, Culture Shock is mainly related to people.  I should avoid supermarkets for a few weeks on my return. My own supermarket in Sebastopol Victoria is invariably dirtier (externally) than the one I patronize in Weifang. Inside they are both clean.

My greatest shock and embarrassment is reserved for the airports. 

For instance, Adelaide is primitive, Third World material. Take the toilets. (At the age of 73, I visit many toilets in a four hour period.) In Adelaide,  I swallowed four tablets with water from a tap. And yes, you couldn’t do this in Qingdao (Shandong). But then they do have a drink station with paper cups outside the toilet.

I remember the shock and disbelief of Chinese students faced with buying a bottle of water at Adelaide and bucking at the price($4.00). In China it would cost less than 25 cents. 


Pity that at another basin, the cold water tap didn’t work. It would’ve been the same if I were cleaning my teeth. Do you clean your teeth in warm water?

At Tullamarine, when disembarking, there was a women’s toilet, but no male toilet! The male toilet was hidden around a corner 100 meters away! And the floor felt sticky to my feet. (You know how urine on a floor feels!). There was a chart/ log on the door assuring me when the toilet was last cleaned. I didn’t bother to check. I let my shoes do the checking...

In Qingdao and Hong Kong Airports, the many and conveniently placed toilets all had their own toilet attendant... I assume/guess they had pride in their toilets which were all immaculate.

In the early forties and fifties in Ballarat, all the Public Toilets  had attendants (full time). The toilets were - from memory - always clean. Okay, there’s a cost involved in this. But I assume the expenditure would be minimal. (Car park charges, flight charges, rents.)

Culture Shock? 

The people... Their visages squeezed like a prune, disdainful of others. They are not amused. They are never amused. Unhappy, I might have said.

In China, bus drivers lift up bags into the bus... Here you do your own lifting. I’ve been home a week. I expect the worst is yet to come.

Oh yes. Toilets. (Speak to any traveller and this will probably be an item they mention.)

Squat toilets?  

Well Tullamarine does not have squat toilets. (That is the floor hole, with footprints.) Which is a shame for the people of the Southern Mediterranean.

(In my youth. I was amazed that some people felt it necessary to stand on the western toilets and aim.) Also for the Pacific Islands, South East Asia and China.  It’s a ‘small’ thing but, if we are eager to encourage tourists, I imagine the odd squat toilet should be made available at our international airports.

As a foreigner in China, I am frequently delighted by the availability of western toilets.

Of course,  there are now many middle-class Chinese who have Western toilets in their homes. But what about people from the country?

Buzzword Books has now published David's iconoclastic anthology of world-spanning poems MIDDLE KINGDOM.Check the link on the right.

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