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qotd, on bathrooms and expectations

"What I have to say next concerns the Omsk airport men's room. I regret this. I've noticed that in books by Siberian travelers of the past they don't talk about bathrooms, and that's probably good. I relectantly break with tradition for two reasons. First, I am an American, and Americans pay attention to and care about bathrooms. The habit may show childishness and weak-mindedness, but there it is. Second, if the world really is going to become a global community, then some of our trading partners (I'm talking to you, too, China) need to know how far apart we are on the subject of bathrooms."

-- Ian Frazier, Travels in Siberia.


Yeah, my experience in Russia was that the bathrooms were often problematic. The most disgusting toilet I've ever been in was backstage at the Mariinsky Theatre. Oh, and that portajohn I had to pay 5 rubles to use on a corner of Nevsky Prospekt...

I have a friend who started an academic treatise (don't know where she is on it) on bathrooms through the ages. She's a medieval scholar, and let me tell you some of her reports were not pretty. My worst bathroom experience was when I was a teenager traveling with my high school in Italy. The bus driver wouldn't pull over for forever. I was gasping for a pee. The Italian rest stop was literally a hole in a tiled floor with no privacy (it was four holes variously placed about a room). The tour guide blamed the French. I raced across the highway to the "civilized" toilet. I was practically in tears. The Italian women waiting let me cut in line even though we didn't speak each others' language (well, apparently we did). I've never been so relieved to pee. Today, I would totally pee in hole on the floor in front of everyone.

Russian public bathrooms aren't great, but Siberian "bathrooms" present a whole new level of "fun" -- I must agree with Frazier on this one. I don't mind the outhouses at (most) private homes in the smaller villages, because they are (usually) spotless. And in general, I'm pretty good at drop-and-squat, and have shared technical pointers with any number of squeamish students. HOWEVER: beware any "toilet" at any crossroads "rest stop." A tree is a better option, if you can find one.

That quote almost sent me screaming from the monitor (ahhhh Guangzhou bus stop, 1983, ewwwwwww)

ex-Peace Corps Volunteer (go ahead, show me your facilities)

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