Toilets and other Tips

Tips for the unseasoned traveller:

while travelling through west Africa one encounters a whole gamut of these from tidy, tiled with western plumbing, to muddy, roach infested and no plumbing. For the unseasoned traveller the latter and some of the stages preceding it can be a challenge. here are some tips.

Pack with you, or purchase directly upon your arrival, a pair of flip-flops. They are available in any shop for no more then 600 f cfa. Even if the bathroom is a clean one, there is rarely anything to keep bathing water from wetting the entire floor, thus the flop flops are very useful. In worse ones where urination is done over the shower drain or the floor is made of dirt you can see the obvious benefits of always wearing shoes (and ones that can be easily rinsed at that) in the washroom.

How do you use a "Turkish" toilet or a hole in the ground- other wise known as how to squat? Outside of some fancy hotels and businesses the typical plumbing is a pit latrine. Even some of the plumbed bathrooms have a nice ceramic... hole in the floor. Westerners are often not as adept at squatting as are the locals. You can try this in a more neutral environment and see how you rate prior to using a latrine.
  • You may find your hamstrings or achilles tendons are not flexible enough and you have to tip forward and balance on the balls of your feet. If you feel unstable in this state try holding onto the "butt pot" as well.
  • If the floor is at all sloped and you have a choice in orientation point your toes in the direction of downgrade.
  • If you are in a place where you will use the latrine regularly and can set it up you could place some stable stones or boards under your heals to elevate them slightly.

What is a "butt pot"? How do you use it?
The local population does not, as a general rule, use toilet paper, paper being rare and valuable until recent times. They use water which, religiously, is more "clean" in any event. In any household and most public establishments with a toilet there is a plastic recipricle in the shape of a tea pot. This has been quaintly dubbed the "butt pot" by certain western visitors. It is with this that one cleans up after using the toilet.

For going pee this is simple enough: a small splash in the appropriate place is all that is required. Locals usually pour some water in their left (always left) hand with which they subsequently splash. but either way will do. How about the other number?
Squatting, with your clothing well out of the way, hold the butt pot in the right hand behind you with the spout facing forward. slowly pour water down the crack while washing the area with the left hand (always left) remember for hygiene's sake you sould use a front to back motion rather than back to front and when it is clean, thoroughly wash your hands with soap.

How to take a bucket bath.
Despite notions of people sitting with their knees sticking out of a wooden tub, here bucket baths are more bucket showers. The buckets are usually too narrow to even stand in comfortably let alone sit. Your shower room will have a drain in it some where maybe only a smell pipe or hole in the bottom of the wall for the water to flow out onto the ground outside. Stand outside of your bucket of clean water. Using a dipper, sluice some water over your body to wet it soap up and scrub appropriately and sluice more water to rinse, letting the used water run onto the floor to the drain. For those with long hair bunch it up and if your dipper is large enough you can sort of dip it in that before pouring the rest over your head, If it is small just pour the water over your scalp keeping the cup close so as to have the maximum soaking action. when it is thoroughly wetted add shampoo and scrub as usual to rinse tip you head forward and pour the rinse water from the nape of your neck so it runs down to the top of your head and down your hair pull your hand down the wet hair after it to speed the dirty water on its way repeat until hair is rinsed.

How to wash your clothes by hand.
Even when washing by hand it is wise to separate your clothes into whites and colours and perhaps again separating particularly bright colours especially if they are prone to bleeding. Put your laundry in a basin and fill it with enough water to cover the clothes add some detergent.You can buy powdered detergent in packets; 15gr packets for 25 f cfa 30gr packets for 50 f cfa and large sacks for around 500 f cfa. One small packet will do if you only have a few items. Add the detergent slosh the water squeezing and agitating the clothes to get the suds up then, if you have the time, leave it to soak for at least 30 min. This will loosen the dirt. Begin to wash the items by fisting some fabric in each hand and scrubbing it against itself. Pay special attention to cuffs, neck holes and and any spots. A bar of the brown peanut soap (small bar 100 f large bar 250) rubbed judiciously on the more soiled areas works wonders. For the more finicky launderer both bleach and bluing are available in the market (don't confuse the bluing with the indigo die). After the clothes are washed rinsed and rung I highly recommend the clothing be turned inside out to dry. This has two advantages it will protect the outside of the item from bleaching by the sun and if any soiling occurs during drying (falls in the ground, line is dingy etc) it will not show up when you wear it.