The Chicken and the Squat Toilet

One of my most formidable opponents in Indonesia was the squat toilet. Unlike the porcelain thrones of my country, a squat toilet consists of a raised platform with an inlaid bowl that you squat over. I soon found squatting atop the bowl without falling over while finding the right angle for a clean delivery a challenge, as was figuring out how to use the scooper bobbing in the bucket of water alongside it to clean myself afterwards. After suffering many defeats at the hands of the mighty squat toilet, I (just about) mastered it a few months in.

Squat toilets are common in other parts of the world and are actually a more natural way of conducting your business. The thing is, they often presented other obstacles beyond learning the technique.

On one occasion, this obstacle was a chicken.

Midway into the 2-hour journey into the forest from the village where I stayed in Borneo, we stopped at a logging outpost for a quick bathroom break. Around the back of the small house, I found the toilet, guarded faithfully by a chicken tied to the hinges of the open doorframe, which I could only assume was meant for dinner later. I tried to navigate my way around without getting pecked, but soon found this to be impossible, and was able to distract it with a leaf just long enough for me to hop over it, barely escaping its reach.

Once inside, I found the toilet to be infested with bees. The other doorframe, which lead directly into a room where men were sitting around smoking, was occupied by a hand-sized, menacing-looking spider that made me reevaluate just how much I valued my privacy. I considered my options, but ultimately the urgency of my situation took hold and I found myself squatting above the toilet, in full view of the men in the next room, trying to avoid being stung by bees. Meanwhile, the chicken, whose rope kept it just out of reach of my shaking legs, continued its valiant crusade against me, straining with great but fruitless effort to land a peck on my feet.

Once I had escaped without being stung, pecked, bitten, and (I think) seen by anyone, I decided that dehydration was a preferred alternative to what I had just experienced.

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