This weekend my school took its teachers on a quick getaway to a different part of the island. They organized a big bus to haul everyone down, but since one of my coworkers has a car, he offered to drive a few of us so we could also go visit a different part of the island on our way back the next day.
On the drive down on Saturday we pulled into a gas station/rest stop area to get gas and use the restrooms. It was still pretty early, but the temperatures were already climbing and the humidity was off the charts. I think "off the charts" is how the humidity always is here, so I'm not sure how to effectively describe it anymore. I'll try to get creative. Anyway, we got out of the car and walked up to the restrooms, which was a smallish building, right side for women, left side for men. The men's side of course was smooth moving, free flowing, and everything else that describes how efficiently men do their business. The women's side was jam packed, people overflowing to the outside, and yet still women were pushing their way inside. I peeked over their heads to the inside and saw most women with looks of disgust on their faces as they held their noses, waiting for their turn in the stalls. An odor wafted out, and I caught just the beginning of it and ran backwards as quickly as possible. No thank you. I had to pee very badly, but I could think of nothing that was worth waiting any amount of time in that mess of a situation. And!...if the smell was THAT bad, just think how the conditions of the squat toilets were going to be once I did make my sweaty smelly way to the front of the line. Yikes.
Just then I saw one of my coworkers come from around the back of the building as he whistled. He looked pleased and relieved. I asked him if anyone was around back and he said no and that he would stand guard for me. So I ran to the back of the building. I saw a small grassy area, and then I heard my coworker yell, "Just watch out for all the poop!" Glad he mentioned it. Guess we weren't the first ones with this idea. I looked over across the small stretch of grass and saw another woman with the same idea. I never thought I'd be ok with 1) squat peeing behind a rest area (I was always terrible at even peeing in the woods while camping; always required an outhouse), and 2) squat peeing with a total stranger. Well the past two months of living here in China keep proving to me that I can do things that I was previously not cool with, and that I have less and less sense of shyness or self consciousness as the days go by.
I looked at the woman, she looked at me, and we smiled and gave each other a tiny nod as if to say, "Yes, we're in this together, and that's ok. It's better than what's going on inside that building. We are the smart ones. We are victorious." Or something.
I walked back around to the front of the building where my coworker was standing guard, and where the situation on the women's side of the building looked even worse than before as the tour buses kept pulling in...and I'm sure I looked as pleased and relieved as he did just a few moments earlier.