Friday, February 16, 2007

Indonesia, Part 1

JC said she really, really didn't want to know how one could deal with not having toilet paper. Therefore, this post is dedicated to her. There are whole chunks of the world that only recently discovered indoor plumbing. And there are some who invented indoor plumbing of an entirely... foreign nature. Back a few years, I got the opportunity to do a music tour in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. I was the bass player in a 40-member touring group. We had some amazing musicians and singers, plus a dance team, and spent a week in support of churches in a place that is often very hostile toward Christians (and not just calling them names, either). We played in a variety of settings and configurations, but the coolest place was this giant palace of a building. It made the Orthodox church I visited last week look like a cheesy Vegas wedding chapel. The floor and walls were tiled with marble (the place was e-NOR-mous). The stage had huge marble columns and carved frescoes in the walls, a kind of architectural artistry that I have never seen in America. They do have McDonald's and other American-ish food (Texas Chicken was a big chain there - doesn't exist anywhere else, as far as I know) but you will not find a restaurant that doesn't serve rice. I didn't go to McDonald's while there, but someone on our team did. They got McSpaghetti - lo mein in a thin red sauce - and pieces-parts chicken nuggets. One thing I noticed was the absence of Starbucks. Having made a career in construction, I was very interested in how they did things 12 time zones away from me. There were a few projects underway in the area, and I'd always stop to watch as much as I could. Bamboo scaffolding and concrete forms would sprout from the ground and be crawling with small, limber people with bare feet and straw hats. They have never heard of OSHA or laser levels. Everything was done in concrete and marble and dark-stained wood, and while there were certain idiosyncrasies (like stair steps not being uniform from one to the next), I witnessed a high degree of hands-on craftsmanship. Now, this trip has enough material to fill several posts and I intend to milk it for all it's worth. But, the thing that inspires toDAY's installment is their plumbing customs. Our hotel was the epitome of tropical resort goodness. I didn't realize how much I would come to appreciate it, but the hotel was outfitted with western appliances. They had bottles of Air (Indonesian for water) in the washroom, because the tap water was infamous for causing a condition called Bali Belly. There was no vent fan, but a little stack of candles and a book of matches. That was thoughtful. This view is my room, and roommate Stu. That's marble tile on the floor. Verrry nice. Now, the other places we visited, whether restaurants, orphanages, homes, stores, or churches, had the more traditional Asian plumbing. Known as 'squatty potties,' they consist of a porcelain bowl set in the floor with foot pads along the sides. You stand on the bowl and, well, squat. They feature a 2" drain, which is woefully inadequate for carrying the Cottonelle, so (here's the part that JC's gonna love) they don't use toilet paper. There is a kitchen vegetable sprayer on a hose, that's all you get to work with. Oh, and don't offer anything to anyone with your left hand. It's seen as an insult. Upon this discovery, I saw to it that all business was carried out in the hotel room. The view outside the room A small group of us enjoying the shallow end of the 1/2 mile long pool - I'm the pale one in the one-piece ==================== Programme Update! It's official, Spiffytown will be overtaken by a band of pitchfork-wielding villagers next week (some may be bringing the Throwing Spoons), while I'm in foreign parts (Alabama) for training. MagnifiTiff, SuperHeroine, will be administering justice and lining up the posts in my absence, and I trust that you will be highly informed and entertained. BE HERE! I expect you to visit and comment profusely, for there be some stars lining up to unload their greatness upon you.

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