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Seven Continents

The Living Toilet

GHANA | Saturday, 1 August 2015 | Views [431]

Sven with about 3K worth in local currency

Sven with about 3K worth in local currency

I spent a month in Ghana working on a documentary some years back. At one point, the crew and I stayed in the Volta region with a family who was related to our subject. Everyone in the village was extremely friendly and excited that we were filming their locale. No matter where we looked people had big smiles on their faces, making us feel welcome and right at home.


Albert, our host, built his house out of mud bricks that they molded and dried in their own back yard. The second story was framed, but the brickwork had not yet been completed. Construction occurred when there was time, or if there was a need, or not at all. The ground floor was concrete and we were told that the graves of the grandparents were under the living room. This was the area allocated for our sleeping bags. The grandparents didn’t seem to mind.


The sparse house had electricity, but no plumbing. Our documentary subject brought a television and VCR so the kids could watch some videos. Water was gathered from the local river and stored in large plastic buckets and tubs throughout the home. The toilet was a four-foot by four-foot square pit dug into the earth a few yards away from the abode. The hole was covered with logs lashed together with rope to create a platform; a small three-foot tall straw hut sat on top for privacy. To use the facility, one had to crouch inside, open a one-foot-square plug in the floor, and take care of business. By releasing light down into the abyss below one could see the entire world crawling over itself.


One morning I awoke with the intense urge purge unwanted matter. I exited my sleeping bag and tiptoed out the front door. I entered the straw hut just as the sun broke into the yard. When I opened the plug, a few dozen flying insects shot up into my face and bounced around my claustrophobic enclosure. I dropped the plug and ran, resisting the urge to scream like a little girl. There was no way I was going to hang my rump above that hole. I wound up relieving myself in the jungle. It was not the environmentally correct thing to do, but the thought of a bug flying into my sphincter made it impossible for me to use the facilities at that time.


“How did you sleep last night?” Albert asked me with his thick Ewe accent.


“Very well, thank you,” I replied.


“And the latrine?” He smiled in the way that any good host would address a guest.


“Spot on.” I did not want the man’s smile to melt.


The next day I used the “bathroom,” but only after staring down into the crawling mass to be sure nothing had the impetus to go spelunking in my colon. 

Tags: bathroom, documentary, ewe, ghana, togbe, volta region



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