Toileting (Indo-Style)

The Throne

Yeah, I said it. Toileting.

This summer I worked with a wonderful head teacher named Marie. Marie has worked in countries that span the distance of our fair globe and has an entertaining story for just about every occasion. And by every occasion, I mean every occasion.

Take, going to the bathroom for instance.

During her time teaching English in foreign lands, she coined the word “toileting” to describe the action of using a bathroom. Stick with me on this one, it’s worth it. Toileting is one of those words that can be used alone to mean any number of things, or as a phrase—which is where it’s brilliance really shines.

When I asked Marie to explain toileting to me, she smiled and simply said, “Well, it can mean many things McKenna. I like to use it because sometimes you are going to the bathroom to fix your hair, and sometimes you are going to the bathroom to do something much more intense and most times we don’t want anyone to know if it’s one or the other. That’s why I like to say I have some toileting to do.” (Okay, this isn’t a direct quote. I am quoting from memory. I am a bad journalist. There, I came clean about it.)

And she’s right, it’s wonderfully ambiguous and allows you to excuse yourself from the table and leave your guests wondering if something you ate didn’t settle well or if you just wanted to add a new layer of ruby red to your lips.

Here in Indonesia though, the word has a whole new meaning for me. Here I am finding bathrooms to be a challenge that I refuse to lose—and thus toileting has become a full contact sport.

First of all, there’s the damn water bucket and scoop.


I swear, the bathrooms here are a nonstop skating rink between the constant flow of water on the floor and the 475% daily humidity levels. Additionally, while there is a western style toilet in my school, it seems that the folks here just can’t let go of the bucket and scoop and find it necessary to keep it even in the western water closet.

Hank the tank.

I promise that this tank is capable of achieving the flushing action all on its own. The bucket is just getting in the way of my knees because, yeah, my legs are longer than the bulk of my co-workers.

Then there’s the whole porcelain hole in the floor thing.

Indo Throne

Okay, lets just get this out there right now, I am 5 feet 9 inches— which is nearly two feet taller than most people here. Squatting over a porcelain hole in the ground is challenging and the first time I encountered a traditional Indonesian toilet I was wearing a one-piece pants jumpsuit—yeah—jumpsuit. Cue a lot of careful gathering of fabric, hiking of pantlegs and bracing of body. I won, no wet clothing was sustained but it was touch and go for a little while. We’ll just leave it at that.

NOT overrated.

There’s also the sprayer. If there isn’t a bucket with water and a scoop, there’s a kitchen sink-esque hand sprayer or a spicket that you are apparently supposed to use to help flush the toilet or maybe it’s there to clean your rear. I haven’t quite figured this much out yet. I’d like to think that maybe it’s for the latter seeing as, here it comes—toilet paper seems to be optional. A fellow co-teacher handed me a small packet of tissues shortly after I arrived and told me to keep it in my purse. I now understand why. It just seems that there isn’t lot of care when it comes to stocking TP.

In our school faculty toilet I am always the one asking the office staff for a new roll of toilet paper. It’s as though I’m the only one who requires its presence when toileting. I would like to note that while I am happy to adjust to many cultural things, if it is an option to HAVE toilet paper then it is not, in my opinion, optional NOT to have it…

In closing I would like to state that I live in the largest Muslim country in the world. This means that ankle-length skirts are not just common, they are the norm for many women. I just don’t understand how these women manage in these toileting conditions!

Toileting in Indonesia, not for the faint of heart.


One thought on “Toileting (Indo-Style)

  1. Have you worked out how the toilets and the water works yet?

    An insight into how they don’t get wet. They don’t get themselves wet because they remove their trouser/skirts etc and hang them on a hook/nail they you will generally find in most Indonesian toilets. They use their knickers to dry off after using the appropriate amount of water to clean themselves.

    When you next have a long weekend make a trip down to Bukittinggi (lovely mountain town about 5 hours from you) and visit a bar/cafe called Bedudal’s. They have a great step my step guide of how to use the Indonesian squat toilets. 😉

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