Quite honestly South America is a bit like most parts of Asia, with all sorts of toilet facilities that one can imagine. So every time when the nature calls while outside a touristy area, I often find myself debating whether I am ready for another possible surprise.
Today’s surprise came after a delicious lunch at a roadside food shed in a small Peruvian town. While Q paid for the bill, which was a whopping USD$ 6 for two complete lunches including soups and meat dishes - outrageous I know -my eyes quickly scanned the little roadside restaurant for any indication of a bathroom facility.
Definitely nothing obvious that I could see, but maybe in the back behind the shed? Hmm… I wonder if I should just cut my losses and go straight for the Shu-Pee device. Oh wait, but that’s at the motorcycle and I didn’t feel like running across a busy street just to get it. And holding out for a better spot isn’t an option either. Q already gave me heads-up on a long ride ahead. Hmm.
A couple minutes of cost-and-benefit analysis later, I find myself walking up to the lunch crew ladies by the big pots, and asked them if they had a bathroom. I was certain a small part of me was hoping the answer would be “no”.
Surprisingly somehow my question generated quite a bit of reaction from the ladies - I may even use the word “excitement”. Maybe it was because I was one of the few women who have lunch there? Just about all the diners were men when I was there except for me. Anyway, so one lady nodded “yes yes” so enthusiastically it was as if they have been waiting for this question the whole time! She gestured to the second lady who heard my question and was already acting on it. She quickly picked up a big bucket from somewhere, and scooped up some water from somewhere else with it. Then she signaled me to follow her to the back of the shed. Here it goes.
Aha, so there was a area shielded by a couple of weaved bamboo sheets. I was signaled to wait while the lady went in first.
I made out from the small cracks in the sheets that she first dumped the bucket of kitchen water down a what-looked-like a bare toilet seat, then she bent down and proceeded to wipe the seat’s rim clean with her bare hand!
At the moment I simply couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I called her that it was okay. She looked through the sheets and pointed up at the sky trying to tell me - what I believed was – that the toilet got dirty from rain.
It was such a humbling moment. All the time when I looked down on the lunch ladies for what little they had, I didn’t realize how they offer it all with all their hands with outmost kindness. For once in my life, I was grateful for a bare toilet seat.
Back on the road, the question did cross my sanitized mind whether the lady would wash her hands before tending to lunch duties. Then I told myself not to worry since there is no point. Well, at least until the next stop.