Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Goodbye Toilet Paper, Hello Wet Toilet!

I haven't used toilet paper in over 6 weeks. That's right, 6 weeks.

Ever since we exited Singapore and entered Malaysia toilet paper in my world has gone the way of the Dodo. Extinct. Why you ask? The wet toilet. It's quite the change from U.S. bathroom procedure, but I'm not gonna lie, I don't miss it at all. It's actually completely different from Western bathrooms in general. Every country I had been to before rocks the TP. Mexico, Canada, a hodge podge of east and west European countries, plus Singapore, too.
The hiney hose with a Western style toilet.

Now at the turtle project we have western bathrooms and TP, but I have chose not to partake. I figure we're going to be in Malaysia, Indonesia and other nearby places for the foreseeable future so I might as well get into it. Question number two: if you don't use toilet tissue then what? A hose that sprays water. Simple as that. Juara has a steady and safe supply of water - originating from a river up in the jungle hills here on Tioman. So there's no use for bottled water, we drink it straight from the tap. We got a lot of water, which is splendid: we consume it, take showers with it, keep the garden satisfied, and rinse my derriere too. Full disclosure: this column is just on my bathroom preferences, Alli asked me to leave her out of it. No turtle talk today people, the bathroom is the center of attention!

But that's it. Rinse off with water and it all goes down the drain. Here at the project we have western toilets, which enables you to sit and take a load off, but more commonly around Malaysia they have squat toilets. That's a hover-over-it situation. No seat to relax on.
Haven't seen you in awhile toilet paper.

My fondness for the wet toilet (and its accompanying hiney hose for lack of a more proper term) got me thinking. Could this work in the U.S.? For sure the idea would gross people out and toilet paper is so ingrained into our psyche that it would be an uphill battle to change ways. We're so used to it by now we even have a variety of TP lingo: double roll, two-ply, four-ply, and so on and so on. For the last four-plus years I had been living in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Is there room for the wet toilet in a water starved state? I don't know. My past residence of Colorado would be a tricky sell as well, considering the freezing temps and lack of water. In my childhood state of Maryland then? Maybe. I think in some parts it could be a sweet solution to the using too much paper problem.

Enter globalized commerce. Indonesian rainforest has been hacked down in the last few decades by paper companies at an alarming rate. Guess what one of their main products is? Well what lives in those rainforests? Besides unique herps, pretty birds, beneficial bugs, you got some mega-predators like tigers, which are very endangered. The dominoes fall like this: trees get cut, tigers lose ground, people get TP. But it's Western countries buying the toilet paper, along with other products (read the whole report here; more shorter news items here and here). The reality is never that simple though. Logging in the U.S. has been shut down entirely in some areas (SW and NW states especially) because of endangered species (the Northern Spotted Owl in particular). But does that just push the threat to biodiversity somewhere else? As I mentioned before, the globalized world is a strange beast. I didn't really mean to go off on a tangent about deforestation, toilet paper, endangered species and the economic engines of this millennium, but I did. Something to chew on eh?

Wait a sec!?! How'd I end up in a blog post about toilets. You gotta read to find out folks!
In the meantime, I am a wet toilet convert. I keep thinking how easier Alli and I's mayonnaise malaise of 2010 would have been if the wet toilet was there for me. I wish I had discovered it sooner. But just before I turned 28, I did. That's a-okay with me.

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