Tuesday, June 3, 2008

China Day 04: Come On, Get Happy!

Because we arrived in a deluge, Fred and Lilian rearranged the schedule: we would eat first, then maybe the rain would have slacked off by the time we were due to stroll in the gardens. This was a great idea, and worked out fine.

Lunch was very tasty, and the on-site restaurant had lots of atmosphere: because the Summer Palace is strongly associated with the Qing dynasty (who were the last ones to use it), the waitresses wore Manchu garb:
including traditional Manchu shoes which are a kind of hybrid between high heels and platform shoes: picture a ballet flat with a sort of a wide kitten heel coming straight out of the middle of the foot rather than the heel end. Well, you don't have to picture it, really. Click here. Manchu women didn't bind their feet, but these shoes made them walk with a similar swaying gait.

After lunch, it was time to brave the "Happy Room". I haven't talked about the Happy Rooms a lot, so maybe it's time.

In the hotels, we always had Western-style toilets, and we learned that many Chinese people - most? I don't know - have Western-style toilets in their homes. However, the general Chinese attitude is that public toilets don't get cleaned near often enough for a person to just go and sit on the things! Therefore, they mostly put in "Squatty Potties".

We had a multi-stage plan for dealing with the potties.

First, do everything possible AT THE HOTEL.

Second, when out and about, make sure you have some toilet paper with you. We'd read this book before we went that made us think not even the hotels would have toilet paper, but this turned out to be false, at least at the foreigner-centric places we stayed. However, there wasn't any at many of the public toilets.

Third, and this was only for us ladies, the first one into the Happy Room scouted the place, located the Western-style potty if there was one, and gave a report indicating its location and quality/cleanliness. "It's a very happy Happy Room. Try the first on the left." Or possibly "Dogs barking. Can't fly without umbrella." The gentlemen, with their more efficient natural plumbing, didn't seem to go to such lengths.

Fourth, if there was no Western potty, you basically had no choice. If you had had a choice, you wouldn't have been looking around in there for "the good potty" in the first place.

If you really, really want to know, you can read a funny and accurate description of the necessary maneuvers here.

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