Thursday, February 2, 2012

Biff’s guide to using a Swazi Pit Latrine

January 29th, 2012

Having now been using a pit latrine for eight months I feel I have mastered proper pit latrine etiquette.  These rules may also be useful to anyone using an outhouse, a port-a-potty, or squatty potty (toilet in the ground found in parts of Europe and Asia).

Rule #1:  Only use the pit latrine in the morning unless it’s an emergency.  During the winter months this rule doesn’t have to be enforced as much, but in the summer the less time spent in the loo the better.  You see most latrines are made of bricks and corrugated tin that trap heat very nicely.  The summer sun does a great job of cooking everything inside so you can imagine the smell that is produced from this box of poo by afternoon.  The amount of bugs that are active in the latrine are also less in the morning when it’s cooler.  By midday the flies coming out of the seat are enough to give you a very unpleasant bum message. 

For the remainder of the day (and especially after dark) it is very much appropriate to use your pee bucket.  It feels just like sitting on the pot after awhile.  So why use the latrine at all if you have the luxury of a pee bucket right in your own hut?  Well there is that pesky #2 business that needs to be addressed.  If you are one of those lucky people to have regularly scheduled bowel movements in the states then good for you, but if you were like me and ate meals mostly consisting of on-the-go options then you probably weren’t that regular.

Rule #2:  Become regular and schedule it for the morning first thing (for reasoning see rule #1).  This will also ease your fear of needing a “facility” when you are out working.  The “facility” available to you will guaranteed not be as nice as your morning latrine experience and you probably don’t want to dig a hole and squat, so get the job out of the way in the morning.  Exception: if you are going into town and you plan to make a stop at KFC or Riverstone Mall for the sole purpose of using the bathroom.  Then you may forgo your morning ritual if your body lets you.

Rule #3:  Always carry your own toilet paper.  The only option you will find in the latrine for wiping will be yesterday’s newspaper.  While this provides great reading material your bum wont be happy if you receive a paper cut.  TP is also essential if the person who used the latrine before you does not have good aim.

Rule #4: Upon approaching the latrine pay attention.  If the door is open its most likely that there is someone using the facility so kindly wait out of viewing range for them to finish.  If the door is closed it is still important to make as much noise as possible upon arriving at the latrine and if you feel like it giving a courtesy cough letting anyone who may be inside know that you are there.  This little trick was a suggestion from another volunteer and it really helps deter any awkward moments at the latrine.

Rule #5:  Always thoroughly check the latrine for the following: snakes, scorpions, lizards, rats, and spiders.  They like to lurk in this dark, confined area and can easily hide from you.  They wait for you to get comfortable and then either attack or aggressively try and escape; either of which you are bound to severely freak you out.  Best to make sure the area is clear beforehand.  If you do encounter something sweep it out or let it make its way out before going in.  If it’s a snake best to just walk away and use the pee bucket, informing someone on the homestead on your way so they can kill the snake.

For the most part I don’t mind the latrine.  I enjoy the early morning walk across my homestead every morning and then forget about using it until the next morning.  However, that being said it has gotten to the point that I was using my pee bucket one day and thought to myself, how great would it be to have a bathroom facility inside your house?  One with a way to just let the excrement flow away rather then having to empty your bucket every time.  I was half way through a brilliant design of how this would work when I realized that I had just reinvented the toilet! 

My lovely pit latrine

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