Let’s Talk Toilets and Paperbacks

Let’s say you are traveling in China, Mexico, or No. Africa, and have checked in to your modest or very modest (okay, cheap) hotel room.  (This advice probably (note the shifty word) doesn’t apply to elite or posh accommodations.)  One of the first things you will want to do is to use the bathroom, where a small basket, often woven, sits next to you.  That basket is to receive the used toilet paper…..do not flush it down, because the little basket tells you that the plumbing system is not quite up to par.  At least our par.

When I was in Mexico last, I thought Mexico City at least had upgraded the plumbing–wrong.  The city sits on a wobbly (in an earthquake) sub-system of questionable plumbing in porous dirt…and if everyone used a flush toilet as designed, the results wouldn’t be desirable.  SO, when in the areas I’ve mentioned, just note the little basket.  And use it.  The same is true in many restaurants, stores, etc.  And, sometimes there is a nice young man (men’s room) or nice young woman (women’s restroom) to hand you a hopefully adequate amount of toilet paper. And usually, one leaves a modest tip, very modest. And don’t make fun of the facilities.  We’re there to have adventures, right?  So, just consider it a toilet adventure…

Oh, by the way, paper products are very, very expensive in most countries, so be gentle with the amount you buy/use.  Have you ever bought a paperback book in England or Mexico or Australia?  Well, even if you can find a good selection from which to choose, the price sticker may give you a shock.

If everything worked in these places as well as it usually does here in the U.S., what would be the fun in traveling?   Suggestion:  Carry your own paperbacks, and plan to “dump them” for the maid or a new friend as you finish reading them.  Another suggestion:  check the languages in which the paperbacks in foreign stores are printed.  Since most countries, not the U.S., have so many international travelers, they have books written in those languages.  You might be unhappy, after paying an exorbitant amount for a paperback, to find the novel is written in German or French, etc.

You’ll usually want to do some reading; many countries “roll up the streets” when people are home from work for the day.  Now, in Spain, that might not be true…..somehow those towns come back to life after “siesta”–although one doesn’t notice that as much as in the past; many countries are trying to accommodate American or western “tastes.”

Just watch for the little basket!


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