Friday, 11 September 2009

Everybody Poops...

*Warning: The following entry may be disturbing to some people.

Just remember: everybody poops. The only difference is that in some countries it’s a little trickier to accomplish.

Where should I begin for this entry? Once upon a time… It was a bright and beautiful day… There once was a man from Canada…

I’ll just lay it all out for you, sparing the unnecessary graphic details.

My routine is usually like clockwork. No unexpected surprises, no worries. But for about a month now I’ve had some pretty bad stomach aches, and my schedule has been slightly off. I was told that the dramatic diet change could induce stomach aches for up to a month, so I stocked up on meds and tried my best to limit diet extremes (such as a full meal of insanely spicy food, things that are still wiggling, and anything called a “Korean delicacy”). Up until today, I’ve been able to save my bathroom sessions for when I am safely at home.

Time: 11:00AM

Status: Urgent.

I opened my laptop case and pulled out a pack of bathroom tissues (bathrooms in Korea rarely have any available, so they must be carried with you at all times). I walked to the bathroom, opened the stall, and to my horror found an oval shaped porcelain hole in the floor. At first I stood and stared at it, thinking that it kind of looked like a western toilet that a steam roller had run over. But my amusement didn’t last long. I had to go. Now. But the important question was: how?

This may seem like a pretty stupid question, but it really didn’t have an obvious answer. They didn’t have diagrams on the walls, I’m pretty sure the details weren’t given in any Lonely Planet books, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to go and ask one of the teachers. I was on my own for this one.

First problem: Which way do you face? The squatter is a symmetrical oval shape on the floor with a little “lip” on one side. I assumed (correctly) that I had to face the lip.

Second problem: How the hell are you supposed to squat properly? In reality, everyone should be able to squat, but doing it properly is something entirely different. Go ahead and try it at home. Take off your pants, squat, and observe where everything would naturally go. I guarantee you, 98% of it would hit material that you wouldn’t want it to hit. I solved this problem by using my left hand to pull everything forward to clear the way.

Third Problem: How the hell do you balance? I tried leaning forward (which was the correct thing to do), but without side railings, this balancing act seemed nearly impossible. And I knew no matter what, falling wasn’t an option…

Fourth Problem: Anxiety. I never anticipated this one, but the squatter doors are all open at the bottom. This means that anyone and everyone who walks by can see you doing your business. In some countries, there are no doors at all (everyone “squats n’ talks” to the people around them), so I was at least grateful for the limited privacy.

Fifth Problem: Wiping. I won’t go into any details on this one, but I’m sure you can imagine the difficulties I went through. One thing I will mention is that in Korea, toilet paper doesn’t go in the toilet. You wipe, fold, and then drop into the garbage. I later found out that on a daily basis, a little kid (I don’t know how he/she is chosen) goes into the bathroom with huge gloves and salad tongs to empty the bins into a single garbage bag. It’s not exactly the most prestigious job in the school, but someone has to do it…

Sixth Problem: Leg lock. The squatting position was painful and hugely uncomfortable for my legs, but once I was down, the problem quickly changed to how to get back up. Try squatting for a few minutes until the muscles in your legs relax, then try and get back up without using your hands or moving your feet (you have a giant hole on the ground, so movement is limited). It’s not an easy task.

Well, I went home that day feeling great about myself. I had conquered the squatter.

- Ken


  1. I would have been just as confused! That's too funny!!!

  2. I just read it to Krystal and she found it so amusing!!! Is it like that everywhere in Korea?

  3. You telling me you never squatted on a military ex? Hahaha or dropped any "aqua-dukers" on the camping trip this year?

    Psh, you should be plenty veteraned for the Korean Toilet ways! ;)

    ... Or maybe for once in your life (haha im so mean) you're actually too TALL for something!! :O. Maybe all the short koreans dont squat at all, but instead simply stand overtop of it, legs spread apart, and "let 'er rip" standing up... so to speak.


  4. I've heard about that but now I can imagine..funny!

  5. Adam, Ken better not have done an aqua-duker while camping with us :).. Anyways Ken, I finally got around to reading your post and found a number of them pretty funny. Both you and Jessica have amazing writting skills.