Cultural differences abound…The proverbial WC (water closet), the beach and more…Far removed from our own reality…

At this beautiful stopover, we walked halfway to the ocean, but we didn’t spend much time. We were looking forward to returning to the road behind all the vehicles we had already passed. It was Tom’s rationalization, not mine. (Previously we posted a similar photo at this place).

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali”

Sunset from the veranda.

We knew so little about the lives of those living in poverty until we began to travel the globe almost four years ago. Yes, we saw homeless people living in some less-than-desirable areas as close as 30 minutes away from our home in Minnesota.

However, over these years we’ve traveled through countless impoverished areas, at times a short walk from our vacation home. Today’s post is not a “political piece” on our views on poverty throughout the world. Clearly, it speaks for itself.

Instead, it’s an eye-wide-open observation of how many people must function in this world without the benefit of indoor plumbing and electricity, often living in makeshift three sided shanties with barely any protection from the elements.

The restroom areas are unisex. When we opened the door and looked inside, we wrongly assumed this one was missing a toilet.

Others may live in the streets without a permanent place to rest their heads at night, while in richer areas, may reside in their cars, public shelters and camps. Every public space becomes a possibility, far away, isolated or not.

In many countries like Fiji (where we lived for four months and Bali (where we’ll have spent another total of four months) from what we’ve understood from the locals, most citizens care for their own, whether family members, friends or neighbors. But in doing so they too can live in poverty without the conveniences and comforts that the rest of us easily take for granted.

In neither country does the government provide financial support to the poor, people with illnesses and disabilities, or the elderly. In Fiji, healthcare is free. In Bali, one must pay (prices are relatively low for medical care as compared to other parts of the world) or obtain pricey insurance which is beyond the reach of most.

After further inspection, we realized that the narrow bowl was really the toilet. The bucket of water and scoop were for tidying up, not washing hands. Fortunately, we keep antibacterial wipes handy at all times. This facility was clean in comparison to the other facilities we encountered.

In Bali, there is no such thing as government provided food stamps, no welfare, no unemployment benefits and no Food Shelf. The Balinese people aren’t waiting for a handout from anyone. Their joy of life clearly illustrates their independence and fortitude. They work, they share and they’re resourceful. 

Beyond all the challenges of the poor maintaining some form of shelter and finding sources of food, they have the reality of such basic human functions as finding a place to go to the bathroom when perhaps half or more of the population don’t have a toilet in their place of residence.

In yesterday’s post we touched a local tradition of cleaning the entrails of a cow in the river next door and thus contaminating the water, but, also the deification of humans and buffalo in this same body of water. 

Apparently, there was some type of museum here, but we continued on the long drive rather than take time to see it.

Seeing both children and adults swimming, bathing and playing in the toxic water is disheartening and yet they do so with considerable joy and laughter. Our personal concern for their contracting a disease is irrelevant. Most likely, their bodies have adapted to the bacteria. Most likely, they don’t give it a thought.

Yesterday afternoon, as we lounged under the cabana, our eyes scanned the beach in hopes of finding more interesting “Sightings on the Beach in Bali” a daily activity we’ve found to be quite enjoyable, not unlike searching for unusual seashells on our walks along the shore. We’ll excitedly share what we’ve found in an upcoming post.

Tom’s eyes widened and then squinted as he attempted to focus on a man, pointing him out to me, who was on the beach several paces from the water as we observed him removing his pants and underwear in plain view of us and others. It only took a moment to determine what was to transpire next.

A hut on the property, purpose unknown.

Not that far from us, we watched him, bare from the waist down, digging a hole in the sand to use as a toilet. Once he was satisfied with his handmade toilet in the sand, he proceeded to use it with nary a thought of being observed in the open space.

At first, we were a little taken aback. We’d seen people using the river as a toilet, but not the sand on the beach. The man stayed “seated” on his sand toilet for some time, occasionally pushing the sand around and tossing sand in the air. After about 15 minutes, he arose, covered the hole with sand, put on his clothes and went on his way.

Click here to see the video of beaches in India used for the same purpose.

Another statue.

At first, our normal human reaction was, “Oh, how dirty, how unseemly!” But, then as we spoke to one another of the sighting we came to understand and appreciate that such a use of the sand on the beach may not be unusual in an impoverished country. 

Surely, if the man had a home of his own with indoor plumbing, most likely he wouldn’t have come to the beach for this purpose. Then again, could a taxi driver unable to find a restroom, choose this option? Possibly. In a desperate situation anyone could possibly choose this option, although perhaps more discretely.

What a lovely rest stop halfway through the long drive!

There are few places to stop for a restroom on the highway, as we experienced in the four to five hour harrowing drive from Denpasar to the villa. It was halfway through the long drive that we found a place to stop which was originally the basis of today’s cultural story. It was only yesterday’s coincidental sighting of the man on the beach that inspired us to also include the man’s choice of toilets.

We didn’t take photos of the man on the beach. However, we found this interesting video on YouTube about how this is common in India and perhaps, more often than we’d expect, here in Bali and other parts of the world.

Monkey faced statue.

When we were in Bali during May and June this year, we shared a story and photos of an embarrassing experience I had, using a WC at the Monkey Temple. It was a lesson learned about cultural differences that I’ll always remember. 

Today’s photos illustrate a separate experience we encountered only 12 days ago when we stopped to use the restroom at a beautiful spot on the way to the villa only this time, experiencing an entirely different type of toilet as shown in these photos.

The young cow on the right with her newly born calf checked us out, surely concerned for her calf’s well being. Zoom in to see the tiny calf at her side.

Soon, we’re off to Negara, drinking minimal liquids in the interim, preferring not to bring any beverages with us, other than a bottle of water for a few sips during the heat of the day.

We remain in awe and humbled by our surroundings, grateful for our lives of relative ease while becoming all the more profoundly aware of the lives of those throughout the world. 

Be well on this day and always.

Photo from one year ago today, September 14, 2015:

After we arrived in Fiji one year ago we shopped at this tiny grocery that didn’t have much of a selection for us with only three grocery aisles. But, as always, we figured it out and managed to make good meals during the three month stay. For more details, please click here.