When people begin their love affair with Latin America, generally, they have no Spanish skills. First words are learned at vacation resorts. “Dos cervezas por favor,” they proudly ask. Two beers please, lol, is usually the first sentence learned followed by a panicky set of hand gestures leading to learning, “donde son los baños.” Where are the bathrooms! <Insert sighs> ahhh oh the fond memories!
Soon, the love affair leads to moving from staying at resorts to smaller hotels or with locals as friendships develop. The exploratory nature leads to a great many bathroom experiences. Some of these are very, for lack of a better way of saying it, disgusting to a girl of Canadian culture!
For example, my daughter was visiting not too long ago, on a night out at a local hotspot, yes, imagine that, after a few cervezas we needed the bathroom. The bathroom consisted of a toilet with no seat, no paper, and unimaginables all over the floor and walls. The smell was unbearable. Venturing back outside in the pale light we could see dots of white littering the pavement in the alcove of the entrance. After a moment, our eyes adjusted and we did like the locals, taking the lesser of the two evils we squatted and deposited our little bundles of used tissue along with all the other little dots of white! Desperation called …
You quickly learn where the serviceable bathrooms are in the areas you frequent. This information is shared with all the expats who like to be able to sit and do their business.
The other problem with bathrooms here is that at night, there may or may not be lights. In part, the electricity may be turned off by the power companies or there may be no light bulb. Businesses give up replacing stolen bulbs. Gently gripping your phone in your teeth with its lantern on to shed a bit of light, you pray you don’t drop your phone as you squat over the toilet creatively holding your pants so as to not have them touch the toilet or the floor. All the while searching with your free hand to find the napkins that you misplaced in your pockets, that are now down at your knees! Soon, after a few “episodes,” you place your napkins conveniently in your bra strap.
Or the outhouse’s, wow, these can be precarious as well. I’m constantly afraid that I will be the one to go through the floor! With the breeze blowing the curtain, keeping it shut is a trick, while me feet feel the crisscrossed planks of the floor give a little under my weight, all this tension leading to a longer period of time to … um … go! “Mi amor, tu necesita beber mas agua. Tu no bebe mucho!” “My love, you need to drink more water. You don’t drink much.” Oh HELL no! I can wait until I’m home!
A little while back we went to a fiesta, a celebration of culture, a Patronales! I love these community parties. They last several days, so if you can’t make it one night there is always another. Booths line both sides of a fair ground selling alcohol, food, and souvenirs. White plastic lawn chairs are scattered in front of the booths. You can sit or stand, or as I like, sit on top of one of the bar stands off to the side. I get hoisted up every now and then. Everyone is in a fiesta mood eating, drinking and dancing, and singing along! Free entertainment is provided and soon, the concert begins. There is always a live band. These Dominicans, they know how to celebrate, they know how to be proud of their heritage. But like all other events, all of a sudden, “relief” is needed. There are no port-a-potties. There are no outhouses. There is nothing but open field in the dark. I’ve learned over the last few years to dress simple, and, not to drink. I’ve also learned not to wear shoes that I love. Wear old footwear. What goes in has to come out!
By the end of the evening, you could tell exactly how many beverages were sold. You could tell by the smell. Urine was in the air. Every now and then a breeze would come in and damn it was blowing into the crowd rather than away. It is at that point that I realized, hmm, my bike is parked in the grass and I am NOT walking to the bike. “Oh honey, would you, I thought to myself …” And miraculously my partner and the bike pick me up at the entrance.
Dominican chivalry at it’s very best!
Yes, going for a wee here as a girl, is a challenge! So for all you guys reading this, I am so jealous of you!
Listen to the palms…
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