>The first difference I found between the US and the RD (Repulica Dominicana) was the bathroom situation. Even in the nicest neighborhoods in Santo Domingo, it is not possible to flush toilet paper down the toilet because the city’s septic systems can’t handle it. You have to throw the used toilet paper in the trash. All households and public bathrooms in restaurants, shops, etc. keep a little trashcan next to the toilet for this purpose.
Second, my husband and I learned that most neighborhoods don’t have running water 24 hours a day, no matter where you live. When we arrived at J.’s apartment, she told us that they don’t have running water between 11 pm – 6 am. If you need to use el baño during those hours, J. keep a ginormous garbage can in her shower that was full of water. You’d have to scoop out water from there to flush the toilet (or take a shower).
These bathroom challenges looked like peanuts, however, compared to the outhouses that dotted the countryside. On Monday, Dec. 26, we embarked upon a road trip to rival all road trips, and we set off for the Southwestern part of the RD. Our goal was to get to Lago Enriquillo, noted for being a huge saltwater inland sea with an exotic island in the middle of the lake with crocodiles, unusual iguanas, flamingos, and rarely, a creature that only exists on the island of Hipaniola is almost extinct, called a solenodon.
By the time we pulled into the park, I had to pee worse than I’ve ever had to pee in my entire life. I got out of the car and every step I took, my bladder screamed like a mad motherfucker. J.’s novio (boyfriend) asked the ranger where the bathroom was and he led me down a path. J., her novio, and mi esposo (my husband) stayed behind to pay the park entrance fee and arrange for a tour of the island. The deeper I went into the park, the more concerned I grew about ever seeing mis amigos again. I mean, who builds a bathroom that far away from the ranger station? On the other hand, I didn’t care if this guy led me into the forest and sacrificed me to the iguanas as long as I could pee first.
Finally we got the outhouse. There were two “stalls,” each with two toilets (!) and a urinal in them, side by side. Did I mention that I’ve never had to pee that badly in my life? Seriously, it was bad. If not, I don’t think I ever could go in a bathroom that looked like this: Let me note that the flash on my camera added tons of light to the picture, because in reality, this outhouse was fucking dark. In fact, when I shut the door it was pitch black. I actually had to re-open the door quickly right tbefore I went so I could locate one of the two toilets to pee in. (I guess that you can use the outhouse with someone else and not worry about seeing the other person do his business since it is so dark, but that still freaks me out.) Then when I closed it, I just hoped for the best – that I was in fact squatting over a toilet and not peeing on the floor and my own shoes. Also, I hoped not to pass out while I held my breath because the stench was beyond overwhelming. It was also wretchedly hot. Thank god my mysterious digestive illness did not decide that now would be the time to whip up a special shit treat because I think I would rather have shit myself.
I thought that I had incredibly huge cojones for peeing in that outhouse. I was wrong. I didn’t know what incredibly huge cojones (or possible insanity) was until mi esposo, J., and her novio came wandering down the path to find me and also decided to use the outhouse. Both J. and mi esposo had to take dumps. I warned them it would be nasty. J. walked into an outhouse and right back out again. J. is hard core, having done the Peace Corps in an indigenous village with no plumbing at all and doing a lot of work in extremely poor areas of the RD, but she said that her desire to shit left her the second she saw what was in the toilet and then accidentally breathed. (Her desire to crap, in fact, evaporated for the next 18 hours it was so bad.) Mi esposo – a man who works in finance and stays in five star hotels when he travels to Europe for business – went into the outhouse and didn’t come back out. I started to get worried. What if he passed out in there? Every few minutes I called out to him to make sure he was OK. After what seemed like an eternity, he emerged from the shitbox, drenched in sweat (as there was absolutely no airflow and it was like 100 degrees in the outhouse) and triumphant. J. commented that as seasoned veteran of outhouse crapping, she was super impressed by his endurance. Mi esposo commented that he was glad that he had been lifting weights at the gym to build up his quads, as it made it much easier to squat for his entire shit session.
I learned two important lessons that day: the first was to be grateful that I will most likely never need to use a toilet under these conditions again; the second is how truly and utterly amazing mi esposo is. His ability to adapt and make the best of any situation – no matter how shitty (ha ha) – is a wonderful trait.
Ultimately, I ask: would you bring yourself to pee or shit in a situation like this? If not, perhaps a good new year's goal would be to train more in the event that you find yourself in such a situation. Either way, have a happy New Year!