No, No, Not a Squatty Potty!


Elizabeth Willis Barrett

“No, No,” Claire almost shouted.  “I hate squatty potties.  No.  I just won’t go.”  And she sat with defiance in the airport as we waited for our flight from Xian to Beijing.  My sentiments were most assuredly with Claire’s.  No squatty potties for me either, but I couldn’t yell my disapprobation as appropriately as seven year old Claire could.

China has the greatest of walls, the most forbidden of cities, and their terra cotta warriors are incredible, but China does not know how to do bathrooms.   The Chinese have an aversion to sit down toilets which they think are very unsanitary.  Well, when you use the squat method with a sit down toilet, they are very unsanitary and you never want to be the one to have to follow a squatter.   But when one is considerate and careful and uses the provided butt gaskets (as Brad calls them), a sit down toilet beats a squatty potty all to porcelain smithereens.

Both Claire and I were in crisis as we sat waiting to board with her family and my beloved Brad because we each were in positive need of a bathroom.  The airplane bathroom was an option but it didn’t sound much better than a squatty potty since most of the people around us were definitely squatters and I’ve had to wipe down an airplane bathroom or two before I’ve been willing to use them.  Besides, it would take too long to board and get situated.

“Come on, Claire,” I cajoled.  “Let’s just see what the bathrooms are like here.  Maybe they aren’t all squatty ones.”

So Claire and I went on a quest which seemed a little fruitless.  Yep, every closed door was hiding a porcelain hole in the ground that one was supposed to squat over. I don’t know how anyone does it gracefully without splashing all over feet, walls and clothes.  Actually, I don’t think it can be done.  The Chinese have much stronger squatting muscles, I know, since they have been squatting for a very long time.

After we passed door after door of the squatters, we came to the end–and there in all its relieving glory was a sit down toilet!  They called it a handicapped toilet and it was set in the far corner of the very long bathroom.  It didn’t even have a privacy door.  I think the handicapped should have something to say about that.  At this point, neither Claire nor I was as finicky about privacy as we would have been with empty bladders.

“OK, Claire, you go first.  I’ll guard the way so no one will see, then you can do the same for me.”

We first had to run to the front of the bathroom to grab toilet paper from a general dispenser.  Thank goodness, it wasn’t empty since it was the only source for the precious commodity.  Claire took care of her business and then just as I was going to run for more toilet paper, two little girls came up.  They, too, were looking for anything but a squatty potty.  I had to beg for their patience.

“Our plane is going to leave in just a minute,” I explained with a whine.  The girls were very kind and waited till I could replenish my toilet paper supply as they charitably kept their eyes averted.  Claire wasn’t nearly as faithful a guard as I had been for her.  She was going to leave me there in the open till I shamed her into turning her back and standing as a sentinel.  I should have asked her to be a Terra Cotta Warrior for me since we had just “oohed” and “awed” over thousands of them.

Modesty had to be flushed, so to speak, for a few moments, but I was speedy.

Enormously relieved, Claire and I washed our hands and shook them dry as we ran to the line that was beginning to board.


Mother, Daughter as in “grand”

Share many moments hand in hand

But none shines more on memory’s stone

Than when we paid homage to the throne!







A Lot to Learn

Ireland 1 036


Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I wrote in my blog about my four-year-old granddaughter, Bella, wanting to know how to play the piano after one lesson.  It reminded me of the time in Ireland when I wanted to do the same with photography.  We had taken a trip to China the year before with Gilbert’s Sister City program and two of the men in our group were very good at photography.  They each had a much nicer camera than I had and I figured that I was missing out because my camera was a point and shoot.  So before we went to Ireland, again with the Sister Cities program, I insisted on buying a Canon Rebel.  It was a lot of money for me to spend on a camera especially when we were also paying for the trip, but since I’m in charge of the minutiae of our family finances, I bought it anyway. Now my pictures were going to be phenomenal, too!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time before the trip to practice with the camera and my reading up on its functions during the long plane ride to Belfast didn’t help much.  At least I knew enough to choose the auto setting and I took pictures of everything: doors, castles, cathedrals, grass, water, children.

At one of our stops I saw a member of our entourage taking pictures with an over the top camera.  “Ah,” I thought.  “He can teach me everything I need to know in a few minutes and my pictures will turn out better than what I’m seeing on the view finder review.”

So I took my camera to him and asked him to teach me.  I can still see the quizzical look on his  face and as I think back I realize what an idiot I was.  He might as well come up to me sometime while I’m playing the piano solo “Charge of the Uhlans” and ask in a hopeful voice, “Do you have a minute to teach me how to play the piano?”

Playing the piano takes many years of learning and practicing.  So does photography.  I wanted to know something without paying the price.

That happens often to all of us, I suppose.  Whether we want to learn the piano or photography or how to post a blog or how to be a good friend or grandparent or even how to be a sober individual, it takes learning and practicing and we have to be willing to pay the price.

One  of the things I want to be is a good photographer.  I have a lot to learn, but I’ve taken some classes, bought some great books and hopefully, some of you out there won’t mind me asking a few questions.  I’ll keep them simple.