Thursday, December 07, 2006

Toilet Pressure: Africa/US v. Brazil/Mexico

Okay, I have to ask this question because it causes me a culture clash. Why is it that in Africa they have better water pressure for their toilets than they do in Mexico or Brazil? In Africa you can flush the paper. In Mexico and Brazil you have to throw it in a trash can. Yes, this is gross. But this is a huge problem for many westerners who travel there. I, for one, manage to forget at least once every trip and the resulting embarrassment is not fun. (Not to mention the potential overflow). At least this time, I did not do it in a private home, but a hotel. They are probably used to it.

Africa was weird because they did not have running water for our showers but the toilets were superpower flush. I mean, you felt the power. I don't get that either, but it's another issue. Their toilets were at least able to handle things similar to the US.

I realize it should not be a big deal to remember this, but somehow old habits die hard. And I do think that it is something people who visit should be aware of so as not to inconvenience themselves and others. The only explanation I have got is that plumbing systems in Mexico and Brazil outside of fancy tourist hotels are not strong enough to handle the paper.

To be honest, given other factors about Africa, Brazil and Mexico are still often more comfortable places to visit for Westerners because of more modern conveniences and sanitary conditions, at least where I have been. I am sure you can look and find all sorts of things. I did visit an area of Juarez, last Saturday, which looked much like Africa -- dirt streets, cobbled shacks, no plumbing or electric. It is a hard life for those people and I am sure sanitary conditions are not up to Western standards nor ordinary conveniences either.

But in Juarez, at least, I felt while some things seemed less modern at times, it was clean and not startlingly different. Except for food and language and dress perhaps. And don't get me wrong -- I love exotic places with differences abounding. I do. I love the sense of adventure and seeing it for myself. I enjoyed sleeping in the unheated home last Saturday night because I had not done that and I know many Mexicans and others around the world experience that every day. To truly understand them, I need those experiences. It was hard for me, as I wrote, but it was a blessing. And it is also a blessing that I don't have to do it every night, too.

To me, one of the saddest realities is that basic functions like plumbing are just not standard in so many places. And until they are, we will see ongoing crime, starvation, violence, etc. Everyone talks about building a wall between the US and Mexico as a stop to immigration. I say help the Mexican government meet their people's needs better and shore it up for the long haul and immigration will be way less of a problem. After all, people are coming here to escape such conditions. If those conditions were not so common, they would have less reason to go elsewhere. The wall is not a solution, better infrastructure and jobs are. Of course, a lot of Americans, sadly, would roll over in their graves at the thought of using our tax money to do the Mexican government's job. That's because the immigrant connections of most people here are generations past and they have lost their sense of connectedness. That's one reason I love my opportunities to travel -- they connect me with people from other places and remind me why America was founded and what so many people went through to make it what it is.

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