One thing you need to be prepared for before foreign travel in many countries (including but not limited to Tanzania) is the predominance of squatty potties. You hardly ever see western-style sit-down toilets.
Most toilets are either keyholes cut in the floor with a stepping stone on either side or if you are in a really fancy place, there might be a steel or porcelain receptacle but it is still nearly flush with the floor. Anywhere you go you should be prepared to do a full bodyweight squat and return to standing under your own power.
(N.B. – I found the above photos on the internet. These are the cleanest squatty potties ever documented. You will not ever see one this clean.
There is a technique, and until you get it perfected, it makes toileting an act of logistics and planning akin to a campaign in a war theatre. Assuming you are wearing shoes and pants, then you have to:
- Remove one shoe but leave it in position to stand on so that you don’t have to stand in bare or sock feet on the distressing floor. Make sure you do not kick your shoe into the hole!
- Remove that unshod leg from all pants and underwear, then stuff the pants and underwear under your arm so that they don’t touch anything or get in the way underneath you.
- Preposition your TP or wet wipes so that it is handy but make sure it doesn’t fall into the hole or touch anything.
- Do your business, clean up, and get your clothes back on without touching anything or kicking your shoe into the hole.
The fact that you have to plan your toilet like an adventure can take some getting used to, but after you get the technique down, it’s sort of cool, because when you have to go to the toilet you don’t have to actually touch ANYTHING!
Elise even came up with some Squatty Potty rules of Etiquette – these are good pointers that make it much easier for Westerners!
- Always wear shoes. Do not remove them for any reason. In one squatty potty Elise visited in Tanzania, Elise saw a distinct bare human footprint in the (hopefully) mud and (probably) filth on the floor of the squatty potty.
- Squatty potty technique is easiest with a skirt or wide-legged pants (see Rule #1). Don’t touch the floor or walls with anything!
- If you miss the hole, kick it in! Don’t leave it for the next person!
- Always carry your own toilet paper or wet wipes.
- Do yoga for at least 2 months before you go to a squatty potty country. You will need the hip strength and flexibility!