Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

No, I'm not referring to the fuzzy little rodents. Groundhog Day....you know the movie where Bill Murray has to relive the same day until he gets it right. I totally get it. It's groundhog day here every day. The whining and bickering starts at the breakfast table....who gets to read the cereal box, followed by me nagging them to clear the table, get dressed for school, brush teeth (hair brushing is optional in our house), stop hitting your sister, don't forget your homework, and after a 7 hour reprieve the afternoon and evening session begins with the battle over homework , then on to the dinner wars ending in an all out bedtime struggle . The next day....well it's EXACTLY the same.

It's like we're on automatic pilot with the miniscule details on shuffle. How did we get here and become these creatures of habit? There is so much that we take for granted. Thus, so much meaningless stuff to fuss over. Most of the world doesn't have safe clean driking water let alone hot water that comes out of their faucets, heated homes, 2 cars per family, access to healthcare, etc. And this is going to sound trite compared to the big issues out there, but alot of the world does not have.......toilet paper! Yes....toilet paper.

The first time I experienced toiletpaperitis we were in Russia where we adopted our 4 children. As I've learned from my travels, you can go to all the touristy spots and think you know what the culture is like, but the truth about a country lies in its off the beaten' path toilets. And Russian restrooms have many stories to tell. They contain only the necessities, nothing frilly or aromatic here, purely function. Alot of public bathrooms have stand-up stalls....you got it with a hole in the floor. Not only that, but you PAY to make a donation to the in the hole in the floor AND you must take the adequate amount of toilet paper you will need with you from the bathroom attendant located at the entrance. (This is an especially tricky calculation when you ate the chicken at the local market and aquired a particularly stubborn intestinal illness. But really, who's gonna take half the roll of sandpaper like tp, especially when you have to look the stern Russian attendant in the eye who I'm pretty sure could lay you out in a wrestling choke hold that you've never seen the likes of. But alas, I'm getting off track.) It's not only a humbling experience, but one that requires ample balance and aim to say the least. I took this to be the standard Russian bathroom experience until I saw that things could be even more "efficient" and "ecofriendly". This brings us to the toiletpaperless option.....

If you're in a bathroom in Russia and notice a metal bucket with a lid you're in for a treat. Warning to read on further may cause: nausea, dizziness, double vision, headaches, vomiting, vertigo, severe abdominal cramping and incontinence. If you are the curious sort (and you must be if you're reading this), you lift the lid off the bucket to discover wooden sticks with cloths secured on the end, each with a name written on it (thank god). They look like a q-tips broken in half. And guess what they're used for. Yup...you got it the world's second most "green" way to wipe your butt. You can probably guess what number 1 is even if you haven't been to a 3rd world country (if you don't.... just remember never shake someone's LEFT hand as a general rule). It brings a whole new meaning to reduce, reuse and recycle! I don't know if there is a Russian name for these ingenious little crusty sticks, but that never stops me from creating my own, so I have dubbed them poo-tips. And how are poo-tips relavent? Well, how aren't they? This is one of the most basic bodily functions. We all have to do it once or twice a day. And if we take toilet paper for granted imagine all the other things we do. The bigger things. It's little things like poo-tips that bring us back to the basics. Food, water, shelter, hygeine. What could jolt you out of the groundhogness of daily life more than that?

So our challenge is to embrace the poo-tip moments. That's what this trip is about, experiencing life from another angle, learning from it, growing and hopefully making a difference in some way in the process. I know what you're thinking and I will not hoard wet wipes to avoid the harsher side of whatever West African toilets have to offer. I'm hoping the harsher side is not ecofriendly option #1. But next time you see me remember to shake with the RIGHT hand....just in case. Happy Groundhog Day!


Christy said...

What a great read, Marie! We're really looking forward to hearing all of the amazing, funny, interesting stories about your upcoming adventures. Living vicariously through you!

Buckets of Drool said...

Thanks for putting things into perspective...I'm glad we can learn from your experiences and not go through them ourselves. :)


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