My First Shower

So who knew that even taking a bath was going to be a different experience? First, I had to use the bathroom. I was led out into the courtyard up some concrete stairs to the…latrine. Now when me and Mimi had been chatting, she told me there was a toilet in the house. As she led me to the latrine, she said the toilet was in the process of being installed and she had thought it would be in by the time I arrived.

(For my African friends reading, bear with me on the bathroom explanation. You’d be surprised at the things so important to us Americans. Toileting is a big one!  )

Long story short, you squat over a hole to use the bathroom. And you have to use a flashlight to do so. Imagine coordinating all that. Flashlight, toilet paper, squatting and not missing the hole (splashing is NOT cool). And friends, if you ever find yourself in this situation, resist the urge to shine the flashlight down the hole! (I know what you’re thinking, but surprisingly, it doesn’t smell like you would think. They pour some chemical down the hole to prevent that.) And when you come out, don’t ask questions like, “what do you do when the hole fills up?” You’ll get a brief stare, followed by something muttered in pidgin under the breath equivalent to “silly American…”

So on to the shower. I was led to the “bathroom” which is just that – a room with a drain in the floor. No stall, no curtain... I was given a big bucket of nicely warmed water (I now can appreciate the extra time they took to boil water for me to take a bath. On my second trip, we were running late a few times and didn’t have time to put the pot on the stove. Can I just say there were screams coming from the bathroom when I poured the cold water over myself???)

As I looked at the bucket, all I could think was, how am I gonna keep from splashing water all over the floor? So I took a bird bath, being as careful as possible to make sure as much as the water stayed in the bucket as possible.

When I came out of the bathroom, I apologized for having accidentally splashed some water on the floor. When Mimi came back from examining the bathroom, she asked me how I could have possibly taken a shower when the bucket was still full. There was no way I could be clean. I was completely confused as to why she thought I would splash water all over the clean bathroom floor. She gave me another strange look and explained that what I was supposed to do was pour some water over myself, lather up, and then pour water over myself to rinse off. I was supposed to splash water all over the floor. Mimi asked, “why do you think they call it a bathroom?” She gave me yet another a strange look and muttered something about how I didn’t know how to take a bath. I was feeling the cultural differences already.


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