Saturday, September 24, 2011

Kelsey: How-to Friday! How to poop in Africa.

Don't lie. I know you have been waiting for this post. And I am very sorry to have kept you waiting but I could not post this before Sarah arrived. All who know Sarah know that she is very comfortable with all things bathroom related. She does not close the door when she poops and she will walk in on you to talk to you while you are pooping. Don't try to resist it

Before I came to Uganda for the first time I was very naive of very many things. I tried to research Africa but I think until you experience it you just can't grasp it from reading other people's stories (meaning you all need to come visit and experience it for yourselves! come on.) I was a little bit nervous about how the conditions would be. I wondered if I could handle life in Africa. One not so nice friend, who had never been to Africa, flat out told me I could not handle it. (Uh wrong.) Chief among my naive concerns about Africa was where to poop and will there be toilet paper? Why is that information not number one on the travel sights. Stupid Lonely Planet. I do not care about 'getting there and getting around' I care about bathrooms. 

Actually I would say toilet paper may have been my number one concern. And I know I am not alone in that. I saw fellow study abroad students who had packed some American toilet paper in their bags. These concerns were very naive on one hand, I mean we were not headed to the bush. We were living 45 minutes from the capital city. A city of one and a half million people, tall buildings, giant electronic billboards, and even toilet paper. But on the other hand I very often found myself in situations where either there was no toilet paper or no place to poop (really no place where I wanted to poop). 

First I think we need to talk about the wonder that is the pit latrine. I really wanted to take a picture and post one on the blog but I could not come up with a respectful way to photograph someone's pit latrine, darn Uganda and their culture of respect. I can think of MANY American friends who would be happy to have their toilets photographed for me to post on the internet for hundreds of people to see... Anyways this is a photo I stole from google.

This is a beautiful, pristine, basically adorable pit latrine. They do not all look like this... Picture a board with a hole cut out and crap all on it. 

Pit latrines or 'long drops' are very common here. In my orientation for my study abroad program one of the Ugandan staff demonstrated how to use a pit latrine. She got up in front of the class and showed us how to plant our feet and then how to squat and lean back a little so you don't pee on your pants. (Side note one of my friends once borrowed a pair of my pants and then peed on them while trying to use a pit latrine. She peed my pants. You know who you are. ) This Ugandan staff member was one of the most respectful women I have met and watching her squat to teach us how to use our toilets at home was one of the greatest things I have experienced in my life. 

The pit latrine is classified as "no place I want to poop". Mainly because pit latrines are full of cockroaches. I mean they don't smell great and they are kind of dirty (as in covered in crap) and I have heard horror stories of people falling in them! But primarily its the cockroaches. While in normal life I do not love my encounters with the cockroach, I certainly do not want to pull down my pants and stick my butt near a thousand of them. Why do people do that?

Ugandans do not like to talk about their poop. I mean I guess Americans don't really like to talk about their poop either. But groups of young adults traveling in Africa love to talk about their poop. And I am one of them. One of my favorite things about traveling with people is the freedom of getting to complain about how I have not pooped in days! And let me tell you I do not think anyone who went from an all American diet to an all Ugandan diet did not suffer in some way. People were taken to the doctor in groups. Doctor, these three cannot poop and these two cannot stop pooping. 

The best advice I can give on the subject is always carry toilet paper. We study abroad students stole tp from everywhere we went. As I write this there is half a roll in my purse, half a roll in my backpack, a few squares in my wallet and a handful in the pocket of a pair of pants. It was actually a really hard habit to break when I returned to America where the toilet paper flows freely and you dont have to rob every restaurant of its tp. Also you can carry newspaper, very effective toilet paper, or a smooth stone. I have never done that last one but one time I did use a sock. You also just kind of get used to pooping in strange places. The strangeness of the places you poop will directly correlate the the amount of adventure you are experiencing. In rural Uganda I once pooped in a bucket, inside the house. Still one of the grossest things I have ever done. Even worse than the time I slept in a tiny tent with two other Haitian women and we all peed into a bucket inside our tent literally right next to each other. 

And now you will all stop reading this blog forever wont you. Has 'how to friday' gotten too gross? One day I will cross the line. But this is just life in Africa. 


  1. I appreciated this post--it brought me back and made me giggle a little.

  2. Loved this post! I'm impressed with your ingenuity to solve the cleanup crises! I've seen the pits in our travels, but I could never quite figure out which way to face. It now seems evident that facing downhill would prevent one from tipping over. Also, think of the cockroaches as part of God's magnificent plan to recycle our stuff. But I agree that I wouldn't want one scurrying up or down my shorts! Yikes! Thanks, Kelsey, your voice shines through in all you do!

  3. Kels, this was not at all what I expected. I was expecting it to be gross, but it wasn't. Will u ever top the "How to Kill a chicken" blog? As I always say.... You are cut out for Africa or wherever your life takes you. I would be terrified & very constipated. :)

  4. I am still laughing at the visual pictures...:)

  5. Michelle I have way more gross stories. Just trying to censor myself for the sake of Ugandans reading this blog. Hahaha.

    - Kels