Let’s talk about poop

My backyard and private outdoor bathroom.

My backyard and private outdoor bathroom.

Never in my life have I felt comfortable talking about body functions. But this is Peace Corps. And now, my most frequent topic of conversation is about poop. And since I know you’ve all been wondering, let’s talk about poop.

When we first arrived, it was all about the logistics of the pit latrine. Pooping in the pit latrine is actually the easy part. You open the lid, put your feet on the footprints, squat like a frog and do your business. Simple. So, as you can see, our talks of that didn’t last long. Boring!

My pit latrine

My pit latrine

Instead, the initial Peace Corps poop conversations focused more on celebrating the first official dump in the hole, swearing to never to wipe with the left hand, and etc. There were of course, also long conversations about the more complicated situation of urinating in the pit latrine. One volunteer even brought a “she-wee.” Google it.

Oh, so why is urinating more complicated? For women, at least, aiming is an acquired skill. It’s best to step at least one foot out of your trousers, if not both. Then, squat and push at first to get a steady stream. Dribble is not good. It can be better to squat backwards to avoid the back splash that can happen since the front of the pit latrine is cemented. Back splash is also not good.

My pit latrine. Notice how the front part is cemented.

My pit latrine. Notice how the front part is cemented.

With time, and as we got to know each other better, the conversations turned to diarrhea details, and in my opinion, what’s even worse – constipation complaints. “What should you do when you have diarrhea so frequently, for so many consecutive days, that you are too tired to squat?” “How many days is it possible to go without defecating? Can I please just have diarrhea?!”

Hey, it’s important stuff to monitor your bowel movements here. As we learned in training, oscillating between diarrhea and constipation could mean the water-borne illness of giardia. “And wait, what does it mean if I see mucus? Does that mean I have a parasite?” Speaking of medically-related feces, I just learned that when you finish your service, you are required to poop in a Dixie cup.

Now that we’ve reached the six-month mark, volunteers’ views on “the left hand” have shifted dramatically. People who were once swearing about the foul practice are now firm believers in wiping with their hand. Volunteers crossed over for various reasons ranging from curiosity to running out of toilet paper while at site. I, however, am “fancy” and still welcome baby wipes in care packages.

My bathroom.

My bathroom.

My personal favorite topic in the poop genre of conversation is “the oopsie poopsie.” It’s said that you are not officially a Peace Corps volunteer until you poop your pants. I know it’s hard to imagine in America, but it is not uncommon for poop to just come out with no warning here. The water and just general bacteria around can do wonders on your digestive system. My question is: “Are you part of the club if you are able to get your underpants off but you don’t quite make it to the latrine?”

–JDF