1. Be Flexible
Remember Gumby, the claymation cartoon from the early '60s? For those who don't, Gumby was an animated green stick of gum who never got caught in trouble because he could twist and roll out of every bad situation. Sue, a life long Air Force dependent (wife and brat), lives for mission. "Semper Gumby! Always flexible." is her battle cry for the Kingdom of God. She and her husband often spend their vacation time on short term assignments all over the world. They've led several teams over the years. The one thing that Sue despises is whiny westerners. "You have to use what's available. The whole world doesn't live like America. If we go to help let's not complain about how they live. That doesn't help anyone." So in third world countries don't expect modern plumbing and porcelain thrones. Kay told me you may just find a simple hole in the ground and guess what. That works! When it comes to squatty potties, as my friend Rebbeca calls them, enjoy the relief of simply relieving yourself.
2. Bring Your Own TP
Next Kay advised, "Make sure you bring some TP with you. You'll need it." So I bought lots of kleenex travel packs. The slim style in a sturdy plastic flip format worked well. Then I made sure I always had one on my person. I used them all and even gave Jane, my fellow traveler, a pack when she forgot hers. It happens. Pray if you forget, that someone you're with will be equipped and generous. Plan to be equipped and generous because a job's not finished until the paperwork is done.
3. Handiwipes are Handy
"You may want to bring hand wipes too," Kay encouraged. So I brought travel size handi wipes. These also proved helpful as many places do not have a sink to wash your hands in. Trust me, if you lose your balance in a squatty potty an antibacterial handiwipe will be your new best friend. Don't ask me how I know. I brought one travel pack of ten days. I found that insufficient and had to get a couple from my husband. Remember the whole equipped and generous thing. I suggest a travel pack for every week in the country and keep them with you. I scratched my ankle and the water tank was empty in our building. I was glad I could wash the scrap off. Plus, you never know when the smiling face of a child or a public table or toilet seat may need a little wiping.
This tidbit came from Jane, my traveling companion. She spent twelve years living in third world countries: six in Ghana and six in Nepal. "Chances are if you see a waste paper basket in the bathroom it's for your TP. I know that sounds gross to us but that's how they do it because often their plumbing can't handle the paper." If I found a toilet already plugged up I used the wastebasket for paper and the standing water supply to flush the receptacle manually. Many restrooms will have a bucket of water with a pitcher or a large jug for this purpose. Do use it, please. I also found myself peeking into wastebaskets to see if I should trash or flush my paper, when in Rome...
Before I left on the trip, friends would ask how they could pray specifically for me. Handling my colitis concerned me most so that's what I would tell them. That's why I asked Kay about restrooms in Ethiopia. Humility freed me and provided me with both helpful information and well-informed prayer warriors. Through those means, God took me on a wonderful trip and opened my eyes to the diversity and beauty of His creation. So GO into all the world with the Gospel and go feeling free to go because now you know!
This was my favorite bathroom in Ethiopia. Jane and I raved about it and called it "The PLACE!"
Lord, please send laborers into Your harvest. Make them well informed and flexible. Give them a love for people who live differently and a love for learning how to live as others do. Please, use this to prepare others to GO! Amen.
For those who've been in third world countries do you think this is helpful? What other advice would you give?