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September 9th, 2006:

Back in the land of the toilet seats!

At our recent party, one of our friends commented on one of our high-end innovations– the non-slam toilet seat. He said “This might be the greatest invention ever.”

For those of you not in the know, the toilet seat is designed with some kind of special do-hickey thing that prohibits the toilet seat from slamming down. It is a slow closer. We got ours from Home Depot, Kohler made. The other really good thing is that they are specially designed to be removed quickly for easy cleaning, which is a Very Good Thing Indeed.

Anyway, we have just returned from Colombia (the country, not the University) and can say many fine things about the place– the beauty of the country and the city, the friendly people, the interesting crafts, the inexpensive handmade goods. We cannot say anything good about the local toilets. (This next part is not for the squeamish)

For reasons currently unknown to science, most Colombian public toilets and yes, even some private toilets, do not attach toilet seats to the bowls. I include the international airport as one of those areas. I’m not sure if toilet seats may be considered dangerous, or perhaps it’s to make it easy to spot check for drugs, or to use the toilets for some ancient Pre-Colombian function. Perhaps it’s a cultural difference? Perhaps they feel that it is more hygienic not to sit, (which come to think of it, it probably is!) I just don’t know. What I do know is that the inconvenience of squatting for gringos is surprisingly powerful, and definitely downgrades a country in the “convenient for tourism” department.
And in many public toilets you are required to pay! Even to stand up and pee! (and in a related story, the urinals of Colombia are very small. They are smaller than bread boxes. It’s a good thing my aim is pretty good!… (Was this more information than you requested? I warned you this wasn’t for the squeamish!)

Bad toilets not withstanding, Colombia was a fantastic place to visit. Stephanie and I were there to witness my brother getting married (he’d been officially married in the States, but my new sister-in-law has thousands of relatives and friends in Colombia, and it was imperative that they have a gigantic party there.)

Which they did! Several gigantic parties, actually. We spent 4 days in Bogota, and 3 days in Cartagena. There were 300 attendees, nearly 1/3 of them from out of the country, a wonderful and lavish rehearsal dinner at Andres de Carnes de Reia, a fabulous eccentric steak joint in the middle of nowhere that started as a shack, and now serves thousands of people per night with food, dancing, artwork, drinks, and a kickass band that made our 94 person party rock out (including my brother and his bride ascending a staircase in a makeshift prop balloon, to be feted by everyone, including the mariachi band, and then have sparklers lit up dangerously close to the paper streamers that were hanging low. (Not the only reason this fabulous restaurant could never be duplicated in teh states is the Firelaws. Being a resident of Rhode Island, I was more than a little nervouse about the crowds, the paper streamers, and the sparklers and candles, and the narrow passageways. Happily it all worked out just fine!

It was a massive planning/undertaking for my brother and his bride, but it all worked out beautifully. They arranged buses to take us places, and then a sojourn to Cartagena, the Caribbean resort of Colombia for a couple of days of R and R. We stayed in a beautiful old hacienda that was fantastic! It was great fun, and I definitely would like to return.

Sadly, the weather change did not do me any good healthwise, and I am currently sporting a small sore throat. Which I am combatting by liberal use of Hall’s and theraflu. (and the everpresent Throatcoat tea)