Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Travelling to Nanjing or How to Not Use a Squat Toilet

I joined up with many of the fellow teachers for the flight from Helsinki to Shanghai. The group I am with consists of about seventy seven Canadians, forty Americans, and two or three Brits. We arrived at Shanghai airport early in the morning and were quickly herded to buses to be transported to the city of Nanjing where we were to spend the weekend.
Hotel Lobby
This dog fell off but very quickly jumped up again.
My first impressions of China, as we drove along the very modern highway was quite different than what one might expect. In fact, when I was asked by my daughter what China is like, I responded, "Pretty much like home except the signs are in Chinese and the people speak a different language." Now, I have only seen a very small part of China so far so that is a fairly uninformed opinion and I am sure that by the end of my three weeks here, I may have a different opinion. As we made the commute I noticed that the roads, at least in this part of Jiangsu Province, are well constructed, the cars are very modern and well maintained, the streets are not nearly as congested as they are in my area of the Golden Horseshoe, and although there seems to be a steady stream of honking this seems to be a polite way of warning other drivers that you are passing them. (Considering my own close calls with drivers in my blind spot at home, I think maybe we should adopt this practice!). The biggest difference on the city streets is the endless stream of mopeds being used to transport not only single riders, but precariously stacked boxes, food, furniture and even entire families. On many of the busy boulevards there is a dedicated lane separated from the rest of the traffic but turning corners can be an issue.
No one seems too concerned!
Squat toilet from which I made my ungraceful departure.
The trip to Nanjing took about five hours by bus and was broken up by a brief rest stop where I had my first experience with a "squat" toilet. In this set up one is meant to strategically crouch over the basin in the floor to complete one's business and then to carefully extract your own piece of toilet paper from purse or pocket to complete the process. The most important thing to note for a Newby, however, is that the toilet hole sits on a raised floor so that as you exit the cubicle you must remember to carefully step down from the stall. This esteemed writer has failed to digest this little piece of information and on that first encounter I, very ungraciously, made a spectacular fall onto the tiled floor breaking my fall with both knees, and luckily for my front teeth, the palms of my hands. As luck would have it, my new found colleagues were outside the door and witnessed my very ungraceful exit...they now seem to think, I am a very klutzy individual who needs much looking after. It is difficult to redeem your dignity after such an event!
Another fun fact: some of the local women seem to regard the squatting event as a social occasion and do not feel the need to close the stall door.
The rain, a light gentle downpour, began as we made our way to our hotel and did not stop the whole weekend. The hotel was a beautiful, modern conference facility which had a luxurious front reception area and comfortable rooms by any Western standards. We spent the afternoon mingling with the fellow travellers and registering with our hosts. In the evening we were served a buffet banquet with an amazing variety of foods...if I keep eating like this, I will need to buy all new clothing!
Good thing the "forcign" teachers have arrived!
We had an early night so that we were ready for our day of exploring Nanjing.


  1. Hey mama!

    That story about the toilets was funny! lol

    Write some more so I can see more pictures :)

    Miss you!

  2. The toilet experience is definitely unique...I agree with Shelby...want to see more pics...glad everything is going well...can't believe you are actually in China. How's the teaching?


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