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Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Okay, I am posting about stuff I have been thinking about, namely bathing and toilet use in India and I see no reason to not be frank, but if you are a sissy lala and cannot handle conversation like normal adults, I have put everything after the jump. But if you skip this entry, stop for a minute and think about that.

This won't be long, just there are two things I have been meaning to talk about.

First, showering. As I am staying in a cheap place, there is no shower here. I have twenty-four hour running water, so do not freak out. In lieu of a shower I usually take bucket baths. Now it seems like when I tell people this, the general consensus is that this is so tragically primitive and backwards and I must be suffering or else used to slumming it to get by.

That is absolutely ridiculous. I actually have great respect for the bucket bath. When I take a bucket bath, which I do daily, I get completely clean. As clean as if I was using a regular shower. Just instead of having a constant stream of water, I use focused applications of water via a small hand bucket thing. I wash my hair just fine and wash every inch of my body with some nice anti-germ soap. It is actually quicker than a regular shower. It also becomes a game of conservation. I try to see how little water I can use and still thoroughly wash myself. The best I have gotten is a little less than two thirds of a bucket. I am trying to see if I can do it with half of a bucket. I think I will be able to do it.

In the heat it is quite refreshing and also reduces the need for a towel because you do not step straight out from a torrential downpour. Bucket baths work everywhere and require little or no special infrastructure or plumbing. All you need is a big bucket and a cup or hand bucket. It does require crouching, but the added athleticism is probably a health benefit.

I am not trying to convert anyone, but I am kind of tired of people hating on the bucket bath. It is more economically and environmentally responsible and just as clean.

Now for topic two: the Indian toilet and pooing.

This is the controversy I am hiding under this jump. But seriously, grow up people. Okay, so everyone gets freaked out about the idea that people in India do not use toilet paper. Also, if they find out that you have not been using toilet paper, they act like you have transgressed some law and are now less in their eyes.

Confession: I regularly use Indian style toilets without toilet paper. Actually I haven't used toilet paper in over a month. I have a western style toilet where I stay, but often Indian style is the only thing available.

Now allow me to look down on the rest of you because I find myself in the position where I have to point out the existence of soap and water. You do use those, don't you? You know, the stuff that comes in a variety of scents in a bottle with a hand pump? Commonly it is antibacterial. It tends to be stored near taps or other sources of water. Is this ringing a bell? You wash your hands with it. It's amazing. Even with your toilet paper, you should try using it sometime. It's amazing. I am a huge advocate of hand soap.

Let me be frank, I mean, I said I would be. It is easier to poo Indian style. No way around that. Pooing on western style toilets may be physically more comfortable, but physiologically it is kind of a step backwards. Secondly, if you have an Indian style toilet, it is a lot easier to clean everything. It is also cleaner in some ways. It doesn't matter if someone vomited on the "toilet seat" you are standing on it with your shoes. You never have to put your bare bottom on anything. At least when you clean up after going Indian style you are only touching your own germs rather than Western style where you get to sit on everyone's germs.

Contrary to popular belief, Indians do not actually just use their hands. They also use water. Maybe you are thinking that this is irrelevant in the face of the use of hands. I think you need to try it. I am not arguing against using your hand feeling disgusting, but with the water and your hand you actually get clean.

If you were working out in the yard and got your hand muddy, would you go in and just wipe them with paper towels? Would they be very clean? After discovering that the first three or four were not exactly enough, would you just keep using paper towels to wipe your hands as best you could? Would you be satisfied with the clean? I don't imagine so. How do you think it works with your butt? With water and your hand, it just feels so much cleaner. There is never any risk of itching or residue or anything unpleasant. You wash everything off.

How do you dry? Well, you don't, but the water mostly runs off, especially if you are using an Indian style toilet and it takes hardly any time at all before you are air dry. It works quite well. Actually my personal favorite is Indian style plus toilet paper. I find the best of both worlds works as, well, the best of both worlds. With the water you actually get clean (ever think why Europeans have bidets?) and then you can touch up/dry off with the toilet paper. It is my favorite.

But for those of you hating on Indian style pooing, get over yourselves. Clearly you have never thought about it. Also, for the muddy hand example I gave you, Indians actually think Westerners are gross in how they poo. Did you ever think of that? Or were you a closed minded, arrogant, self-obsessed Westerner imperialistically looking down on other cultures? You weren't doing that were you?


  1. conservation or conversation? I was wondering who you were talking to during your bucket bath...

    1. that's what i'm saying
      bucket baths are basically a party

  2. I totally agree with you on every point. I wonder what size your bucket is...I usually can accomplish it with a little less than half but I could have a much larger bucket :)I'm sure I have more hair to rinse, though, so I still feel accomplished.

  3. are we making this a competition? haha

  4. Nah, just figured I needed to keep up my rep. with my own American way of being arrogant - competition like statement - since I didn't fit in with your description of closed mindedness about toilet habits above ;)

  5. Thanks for being frank here, I think talking about the most taboo things is one of the best ways toward a better cultural understanding, and toilet usage is a great topic because it's so essential to life and yet so often embarrassing...

    I agree with your logic, although I have to say that running water can be a bit of a scarce commodity over here, so I'm sticking with Ecuadorean toilet habits for now-- almost the same as USAmerican, but you throw the paper in a bin because the plumbing can't handle it. I usually go for purell when there is no soap and water, even though I used to hate the stuff.

    I'm also quite impressed by your bucket baths. I have felt very spoilt with hot water showers over here, and your positive description makes me feel more excited to visit future field locations where I will have to learn such techniques. So thanks again.

    1. bucket baths really aren't that big a deal. its basically like taking a shower except you just step in and out of the water repeatedly, haha
      and the stream of water comes from the little cup you are holding, not the tap
      so when you really do go disappear in the jungle one day in search of language
      i think you will find that you will adapt pretty easily

  6. Loved this post. I agree with Rose that talking about differing customs is the best way to get past cultural misunderstandings. Bucket baths sound a bit like French showers, in which you must turn off the water every time you wish to soap up, and only use the water to rinse off because there isn't enough water to have a continual stream of it. It's a lot faster, and I've become quite accustomed.

  7. I recently converted to Indian bathrooms myself. I realized this when I inexplicably shied away from the western toilets at the mall in favor of the indian toilet. I must say however I do appreciate the models with a flush. I also wouldn't mind if the bathrooms were cleaned with bleach rather than a bucket of water that is sloshed about.

  8. Ah Rem... back to your blogging persona.