Saturday, January 3, 2009

Shoes, Toilet, Shower

In Turkey, one is expected to take off one's shoes when entering a house, because shoes are unclean. I hate shoes, so I love this practice, and plan to impose it on my guests when I return home.

At the apartment Paul and I are staying at now, there are two bathrooms. Rather, there is one room for the toilet, and another for the shower. I understand this is a rather common arrangement, or was, back when squat toilets were more common. The shower and the toilet are at opposite ends of the apartment; I'm not sure how common this is, but because toilets are dirty and showers are where one gets clean, I'm glad that there's space put between them. The only problem is that I always, ahem, excrete before showering, so the process is a little longer.

The toilet here is a squat toilet. I'd never used a squat toilet before, and had heard horror stories about clueless Westerners pooping on Chinese trains, where the toilet is just a hole in the floor.

Upon using the toilet myself, though, I must say: sit-down toilets are, perhaps, the worst aspect of Western cultural imperialism.

I do not think that I have ever had such refreshing and thorough experiences defecating as the three times that I have used squat toilets. The intestines are aligned properly, and so there is minimal effort required.

The first time that I used the squat toilet, I stood to urinate, then dropped my trousers to my ankles to defecate. The geometry did not work such that I could then urinate a few more drops without hitting my pants, so I had to be careful. I am not sure if this is an issue for women who wear trousers, because I'm entirely unfamiliar with their plumbing and the angle of urine emanation.

For men, certainly, I recommend keeping the pants at knee level (this is probably best for women, as well). Trust the geometry! It works! Simply by putting my feet on the footpads and squatting as low as I can go, I have bombed direct hits each time, right from the start. It's tough to aim the urine stream, but, I think, with practice, this will not be too tricky.

To flush, I filled a pitcher with water and dumped it on my droppings. The pitcher was quite small, maybe half a gallon. These toilets use far less water than sit-down toilets, conferring major environmental benefits.

The tragedy is that squat toilets are disappearing all over Turkey, and probably elsewhere as well. Sit-down toilets are seen as more modern (flush toilets were invented in 1596).

All of the toilets that I have seen here provide toilet paper. This is probably not the norm for squat toilets, but I do not mind that the authenticity of my experience is undermined. I hear that a more thorough wipe is obtained using the hand, which is then washed thoroughly.

All I have to say about the shower is that we have the showerhead mounted on a hose rather than fixed to the wall, so I have to coordinate the soap and the showerhead, but this is not very tricky.


  1. A separate room for just the toilet?! This is how they do it in Russia!

  2. In Soviet Russia, toilet have separate room for YOU!

    Sorry, I couldn't resist.

    I suppose this is the way it is many places.

  3. I agree, squat toilets utilize this amazing positioning-gravity ratio to allow for quick and easy excretion. It's like the infomercial version of pooping - so much easier, you just have to try it!
    It's interesting that the toilet and shower are in separate rooms. I have used a two-in-one shower/toilet before, and although I understood the premise and simplicity of it, I couldn't really get over the pretty gross combination.