Few things appear to highlight my travel experiences as much as… well, frankly toilets.
Day three of apartment searching and shopping in Nairobi takes me on a mental journey of toilets as Eunice and I head to the ladies’ room at a well-known restaurant frequented by local Kenyans called The Tankard. It is at the entrance to the bathroom stall that I am thrust into reflection. In fact, that reflection takes me since childhood where the toilet topic has plagued me. Our family would pile into the family wagon for 600 mile trips from El Paso to Dallas, Texas, or road trips camping in the mountains far away from the desert, and my precious Dad not knowing better, would allow us sodas for the trip. Dr. Pepper seemed an unusually difficult diuretic for me and I spent much of those road trips in bladder distress. As a small girl, I refused to just stop on the side of the road, perform and air dry. Nope. And as a parent, mom and dad take note, I get it….. what a pain to have to continually find an accommodating toilet in the middle of nowhere.
So, it isn’t surprising that as an adult, toilets continue their theme in my traversing the globe as it were. Fast forward to Cairo, Egypt spring of 1998, as Hakim and I are venturing out one morning for a day of sightseeing, and that terrible and familiar urge hits. We stop at the famous mosque there and I am not able to go inside because I am not Muslim. There are bathrooms located on the outside of the building but they are either locked or broken and I am denied permission to enter those either. The arm hairs stand on end and Hakim, like my dad before him, begins the daunting process of finding an accommodation, but unlike my father, he is blessed with my willingness to use a tree or whatever we can find because I have done some growing up a bit! But this is Egypt and trees are nothing more than a figment of people’s imagination or photos in a book. We end up in the bowels of a colorful Egyptian neighborhood, dirt streets and all, with Hakim pressuring a “chemist” to allow me their facility since I have terrible diabetes and the urge hits unexpectedly in such patients. Yeah, ok, whatever works. It worked. I climbed the 4000 year old tile stairs (I wish I had the presence of mind back then to take a photo) and found a tile room with what stood for a toilet…. a pipe hole in the floor and no paper. It was the greatest pipe hole I have known.
Most recently, in traveling with our Thai friends on a road trip of the National Parks, we all began noticing the inordinate number of toilets on the roadside. Toilets were everywhere and in a variety of colors, but always something upon which to perch.
Reflection complete, I am in the moment staring into the stall of the women’s toilet at The Tankard restaurant on Ngong Road in Nairobi, Kenya, 2012, and I see what can only be described as an upscale Egyptian hole in the ground.
Yes Nairobi, you have christened me at The Tankard. Click on the orange words here for a video clip! Tankard Toilet