Oh The Places You’ll Go. Part 7.

Toilets 4

Toilet.  Art.  Inspiration.  Contemplation.  Thanks to my friend Brent, all these things come together in one serene toilet retreat.  I’ve been super impressed with his artistic decorating skills.  But the most creative expression, in my opinion, comes in the form of the art for his toilet room.  This is definitely worthy of a highlight in the Oh The Places You’ll Go series.  Enjoy!


Toilets as art.


What’s your favorite toilet?


Oh the places you’ll go. Part 6.


I think it’s fine to dedicate this toilet post to my cousin.  He is the one who took the picture of the keg urinal in Brats Brothers and this is definitely a picture worthy of the “Oh the places you’ll go” series.

Brats Brothers

Thanks Branch for taking advantage of your LA visit and spending some time with us.  It’s always fun to reminisce about the old days but it’s definitely more fun to hang out with you as an adult.  We get in a lot less trouble now even when there is beer involved.  Love you cousin!

Thoughts on Toilet Paper and Australian History


Toilet paper is probably one of those things that you never think about it unless you don’t have it.  Be proud, admit it, you’re a toilet paper user.  But I hope you’re not a toilet paper abuser.  I had a suite mate in college who we figured out used an excessive amount of toilet paper.  My other suite mate and I conducted secret toilet paper use tests in order to confirm our suspicions.  Yes, it was probably a little strange and invasive but I would rather spend my money on other things instead of helping fund my suite mate’s toilet paper habit.

In Papua New Guinea, I found myself counting toilet paper sheets once again because that was one of the very important things on our pre-village shopping list.  Being out in the village for weeks without enough toilet paper was not my idea of a good time.  We had it down to  science because you didn’t want to waste space and kilos bringing too much toilet paper but you didn’t want to short yourself in case of sickness or a plane delay either.  Papua New Guineans used special leaves and sometimes newspaper for toilet paper.  It was important to know the right kind of leaves to use because certain leaves can leave a rash and that is no fun for anyone.  Because of the lack of toilet paper in public toilets, well the general lack of public toilets, even when I wasn’t in the village I always carried a partial toilet paper roll with me.  It was part of life in PNG.  That’s one of the things that I needed to wean myself off of once I returned to the US.  I no longer needed to bring my own toilet paper everywhere and I no longer need to keep my camera in a plastic bag in case of rain.  However, I continue to carry around a handkerchief.  It seems to still come in handy.


While reading about the history of Australia, I found myself contemplating the toilet situation on the ships that first brought the convicts over from England to Australia.  If you look up the etymology of loo, some say it comes from nautical terminology, loo being an old-fashioned word for lee. The standard nautical pronunciation of leeward is looward. Early ships were not fitted with toilets but the crew would urinate over the side of the vessel. However it was important to use the leeward side. Using the windward side would result in the urine blown back on board.  Unfortunately the prisoners being transported to Australia were often not free to do their urination or anything else over the side of the ship.  Instead, according to The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes, “The starving prisoners lay chilled to the bone on soaked bedding, unexercised, crusted with salt, shit and vomit, festering with scurvy and boils.”  One convict’s letter home describes that they were “chained two and two together and confined in the hold during the whole course of [their] long voyage.”  After reading that, I thought that peeing over the side of a ship actually sounded pretty good.  But somehow despite this harsh treatment, some men and women survived transportation and went on to settle and populate Australia.  These hardy, enduring souls are part of Australia’s DNA.

They survived their lack of toilets and went on to build a society with exceptional public sanitation despite the fact that the water in the toilet bowl does indeed swirl the other direction.  Public toilets in Australia are generally clean, easily accessible and equipped with toilet paper.

Oh the places you’ll go. Part 4

I’ve arrived in Perth via Singapore and Korea.  My layover in Singapore was long enough for a snooze and a shower.  And we actually had a layover in Korea.  This meant I had to get off the plane and spend an hour in the airport.  But I won’t be hasty in adding it to the countries that I have visited.  Although I think it somehow counts more than Russia which I have only seen from the window of the airplane while we waited for people to deplane at night in Yekaterinburg while on the way to Kazakhstan.  But still a layover in an airport isn’t the same as getting your feet on the ground and breathing in the air of a new place.  However, I did use the toilet and this one had a handy little invention where you just wave your hand over a sensor and the toilet seat cover is refreshed.  Lovely.



Oh the places you’ll go. Part 3.

Toilets can also be fun and interesting in America.  This past weekend at Pismo we used the ever classic blue porta-potty.  Some people might find these hard to use and disgusting but I have to say that traveling and/or living in a third world country helps to change your perspective on things like public toilets.  These were cleaned every day, toilet paper replaced and in general (judging by the state of the floor) people were very respectful and had good aim.  The only thing I really missed was a sink to wash my hands but that’s what anti-bacterial hand sanitizer is for.

Contrast the porta-potty picture with this bathroom shot from the Madonna Inn outside of San Luis Obispo.  The perspective on this picture makes me laugh because i’m not really holding the stall door but look at that cushioning, the wallpaper and the chandelier in the bathroom.  This is ridiculous but amazing.  If you ever are driving by the Madonna Inn, it is worth taking a walk through even if you don’t have time to have a meal or to spend the night or to enjoy the Saturday night swing dancing.  But for us, in all of our camping, smokey, sandy glory, we stopped just for a look-see.  I had to use the bathroom just to have an extra excuse to wash my hands using the nice warm water and soap.  It’s the little things in life that make it so enjoyable.

The Moon Cup, The Diva Cup and Papua New Guinea

Warning:  This post is geared towards women.  If you are a male reader, please feel free to keep reading because you most likely will learn something.  But consider this your warning that the information may be a little (or a lot) out of your comfort zone.

I have been asked quite a few times about how I dealt with my period when I was in Papua New Guinea.  This is a very valid question.  And I will answer that question here in just a minute, but first I want to address some of the issues associated with women’s menstrual cycles in Papua New Guinean culture.  Old cultural traditions are changing but women are still required never to step over anything.  This is especially important with, but not limited to, food and children.  This gets ingrained in you so even now I find myself getting tense if I have to step over someone’s legs to cross a room and I would definitely choose to walk around anything if at all possible.  I heard a few different reasons for why this is, but the most common reason is because a women can often be unclean and stepping over something would defile it.

An even more extreme example is that some PNG sub-cultures wouldn’t/won’t allow women to prepare food while they were menstruating.  This goes back to the whole defiling thing.  One would assume that there are so many women around that this wouldn’t keep the men from eating because if their wife couldn’t cook, their sister or mother could.  However, I do wonder how this worked since women in close quarters tend to menstruate together.  I never had the opportunity to ask.

For the same reason, there are also places where women are not allowed upstairs in a house where men are downstairs.  And it was also the reason that some Onobasulu would get angry with the kids for hanging out under our house in the village.  On a side note: during village meetings the back part of our house was often used as shade and so we would have to remind people that they were sitting under an area andor leaning against a pipe that was essentially our outhouse.  This usually made people move pretty quickly.  But they often were confused if they were new to the area.  I mean really, who does that IN their house!?

In the past women were sometimes sent away during their menstruation.  This meant they lived away from the group in a separate house or area.  This makes a bit of sense to me because they would have had no modern conveniences such as pads or tampons.  I have no idea what they used in the past, but currently I think that most women use old rags or clothes.  I was asked one to buy pads for someone and bring them back to the village.  That was the only conversation I had the whole three years that was directly related to a woman’s menstrual cycle.

So now armed with that information, we will visit the question once again…what did I do in Papua New Guinea each and every month?  Well for the first two years I used very expensive imported tampons from the US.  In Ukarumpa, use and disposal was pretty much the same as in the US.  But in the village I would stock-pile tampons since I didn’t want to risk running out.  And I would carry them out to our trash hole to throw them away.  This had to be done each day because if they were left in the bathroom trash overnight, there was a chance that they would attract unwanted creatures.

However, my third year I decided to take a chance and try out the Moon Cup.  I had heard a lot about this little wonder of silicone but I had yet to buy my own.  A few of my friends touted their praises and had sworn off all other methods completely.  Basically it is a little cup that collects the menstrual fluid and then gets washed out and reused.  Not only is it more environmentally friendly but it is also economical and healthier for your insides.  After a transitional time, I began using the Moon Cup exclusively.  And now even though I am back in the US, I have continued to use it.  I would recommend that any women should at least try this product.  Because we are all shaped differently there are different sizes and brands such as the Diva Cup.  Anyone who only uses pads might have a harder time transitioning but if you are comfortable with tampons, just a little practice and you’re good to go.  The websites where you can buy these also have great tips and other helpful related products and information.  Go ahead, give it a try!

Oh the places you’ll go. Part 2

So you’ve seen what the toilets are like in Malaysia, so now here are what some toilets are like in PNG.  Thanks once again Dan for some of the pictures.

It’s called a liklik haus (little house = toilet).  When I was in POC they told me that I was going to live in a liklik haus (little house = living quarters) by the beach, I was worried that it was going to be a liklik haus but they assured me that it was just a liklik haus.

Just a small leaf house with an open entrance.


A hole in the ground is all you really need.


This may look like its on solid ground but looks can be deceiving, it’s actually built over the break in a cliff.  It’s a sea toilet with its own tidal flushing system.

Don’t fall in!

Oh the places you’ll go. Part 1

Here is a little different perspective on Malaysia.  These are referred to as squatty potties and are seen as much cleaner than sitting toilets in some places.  All I have to say is that they are way nicer then a dirt hole in the ground.

The spray bidet is also full of surprises.  Almost every toilet in Malaysia has one.  I think America is really missing out.

Oh the places you’ll go.

Liklik Haus

So I have received a couple questions regarding my toilet facilities in PNG.  For the most part I do have access to modern flush toilets (when there is sufficient water to flush them of course) but in the villages we use a liklik haus (outhouse).  This is a picture of my village liklik haus in Karem.  It was located in some prime real estate between my house and the beach.  And I must say it was quite fancy- the door had a lock so that I had exclusive use and the walls didn’t quite reach the roof so I was able to watch the beautiful sunrise each morning.  I count myself blessed.