This was one thing that I was legitimately worried about before arriving. I had only squatted once in my entire life, and that was an emergency so things just kind of happened on their own. Now that it was going to be intentional, I wasn’t so sure how it was going to work out. I still remember one of the trainers on our last day of orientation at the hotel saying, “Oh yeah – one more thing – you get down like this,” and proceed to flat foot squat on the floor. He must have been missing a tendon or two because my legs didn’t bend that way and I was positive that position would send me straight down the hole.
The first morning in my host family’s house was all trial and error. I went to the outhouse seven times in two hours, but ironically nothing was coming out. Did the pants go in front or in back? I honestly had no idea; I kept swinging my hips forward and backward, eyeballing the distance between my jeans and the imminent free falling object. I could only squat for about 45 seconds at a time, both arms straight out to the sides bracing myself in a tremendous iron cross that would make an Olympic gymnast jealous. I was a nervous wreck for days, avoiding the toilet and corking it “until the time felt right.”
I had been completely spoiled by my previous living abroad experience those two years in Japan. Those people know how to go in style: built in bidets with dials to adjust the temperature, knobs to change the angle and pressure, and a button that when pressed plays the sound of tinkling water for the more modest goers. Even the seat was heated; you could take a nap on it and still look at yourself in the mirror afterward.
There’s no toilet in the toilet
When I arrived in Kyrgyzstan I found not only an absence of the bells and whistles but the complete absence of a toilet at all. It did, however, force me to acclimate very quickly. I can cork it a good while, but there just ain’t no will power on God’s green earth that will stop a bout of giardia from passing as it so pleases.
Now a year on, I’ve grown so accustomed I just squat and play Sudoku on my cell phone – with a vice-like grip mind you – mashing the numbers and hoping it doesn’t fall. My legs have gotten more flexible. I can stay down for about 16 or 17 minutes before my feet go numb (I time it with my Sudoku games – don’t judge).
The one upside about being able to poop in a hole is that it is a truly transferrable skill. I can now poop in all kinds of holes in all kinds of places. Of all the things I’ve learned in the Peace Corps, that right there is the most satisfying.