16 June 2011

Well it doesn't take long

To have a bathroom story while travelling. I'll continue with the afternoon and evening later. For now, here's a little story about intestinal adjustments in a new place.

Last weekend, the entire group took a day off to go to a nearby beach, Ngor. With the "increased sensitivity to sun" from our malaria medicine, we all left with some level of sunburn. Apart from the burns and the tide-transited trash that interrupted our swimming, the day was pretty enjoyable. Including the grilled chicken sandwiches that we purchased for a nearby stand. Now, in Senegal, the power cuts mean that any store without a generator runs the risk of selling/using rancid or spoiled food items. For this reason, we have been advised NOT to eat food of unknown sourcing. Well, we've been here for three weeks, so surely we have conquered all major bacterial hurdles and can venture out into risk this one time, or so I told myself. Carelessness can be biting, I have learned. But the moment passed, the food was consumed, and I headed home. Two days later I was in bed, feeling nauseated, exhausted, and homesick. However, that too passed. Yes, "passed" is the operative word.

On Monday after our beach venture, we headed to Le marché HLM, a vast fabric market, to secure some garish textile evidence of our geographic location. (Transition to present tense to bring you IN to the moment). The moment I step out of the taxi with two friends, I realize the unfortunate fact that not all of the weekend's ill had passed. But at this very moment, my body wanted it to, with gusto. Using all of my energy to remember my Aikido training and localize my onepoint somewhere other than my colon, I realize that I have about five minutes until this market visit will get a lot more memorable. With no public toilets available and a rapidly-exhausting time table, I begin walking more quickly, in search of anyone who will recognize my visible panic and come to my aid. Unfortunately, such was not the culture this day at HLM and I ended up walking up to a stranger sitting alone in the middle of the market. I rush through the greetings as fast as I can to get to the matter at hand: a toilet. The closest possible. And I will pay.

After a recognition of my lack of resource, he led me to his family's house in the middle of the market, wherein I greeted his entire family– now hearing the seconds tick off in my head– and  rush to his bathroom. I didn't have time to acknowledge how surreal this moment was, especially when I entered his bathroom to find it a squatty with a manual flush (that is, a bucket of water). No time to think, I realize, after using the restroom, that there is, once again, no toilet paper (see El Salvador 2008 and the $10 bill). In fact, there is nothing at all, on my person or in the bathroom stall, that will suffice for toilet tissue. Except, that is, MY HAND. This, my friends and family, was my only recourse, and, as in previous cases, I went for it. When in Rome, right? So, I cleaned up, flushed my mess away with my pride, and went to wash my hands, only to find the place soap-free. I cast hygiene aside, used as much water as possible, paid the man and got out of there. I spent the rest of the day very very conscious NOT to use my left hand until I returned home, where I scrubbed it raw and went on with my day, I will admit, rather seamlessly.


  1. Bahh, I am so sorry for your terror, but I'm thankful for the story! Hilarious. And now, if I ever find myself in such a mortifying situation, I'll know what to do. Thanks, David! :)

  2. SICK. We are never holding hands again.

    Ok I did enjoy some strawberry cream cheese today that I forgot was in the Bridges med-bag from yesterday. But there have got to be enough pink preservatives in that little container to last a night or two, right??

  3. Nasty. Of course, as we both know too well, though, a trip abroad is not really complete with out an "issue" or two. Next time, I guess, have a tissue for your "issues." Heh heh