When you gotta go...
We haven't traveled much; outside the US, that is. But we did travel twice to Russia.
We were in the process of adopting a beautiful girl and we were excited to get to finally meet her. First we had an eleven hour flight to Moscow which was followed by eight hours of sightseeing. I don't know who's big idea it was to put jet-lagged, bleary-eyed, non-Russian-speaking parents-to-be through a torturous tour of Red Square, but despite our excitement to be there we were too exhausted to truly appreciate the personal tour complete with interpreter. Good thing I took lots of pictures to help me remember it. Then they put us on an overnight train - without the translator - to the region in which our daughter lived. Our next translator helped us to check in to the hotel which was another two hour drive from the town where the orphanage was and we were to travel back and forth between those two towns every single day until we returned to Moscow.
I saw all sorts of toilets during those travels, but never a one was like the one I have at home. Some looked familiar, but there was always the challenge of figuring out how to flush it (push or pull this whatchamajigger?). Some toilets were stalls with a hole in the floor - but no door. Some were porcelain placed at floor level; the best I could figure was I should place one foot on either side and aim for the middle. One high tech version required payment to the attendee; apparently, it self-sterilized it's entire tiny room after each use. And some, like on one cross-Atlantic flight, had a sink that did not function at all so I was SO glad I carried that bottle of hand sanitizer with me at all times.
I did learn that Russians do not flush toilet paper; they use it, but
they put it in the tiny trash can next to the toilet. Something about
the plumbing being old. Having been made aware of the plumbing problem, I tried to be respectful by using less paper, but I
could not bring myself to stuff stinky, soiled paper into the trash and expect the maid to carry it away.
Our driver for all those two hour trips between the hotel and the orphanage was Marina. She was wonderful. But I think I must have been her most challenging client ever. I was used to drinking lots of water and I always carried a bottle with me. On about half of those two-hour rides I had to ask her to stop someplace because I had to go to the bathroom. Now, every time we loaded everyone into Marina's van, I tried to find a privy and empty my bladder before starting up the van but sometimes when we were in meetings with government officials there were just no public restrooms nearby. Worse, when we visited the orphanage we were always invited to have tea with the orphanage director - always a pleasant experience and it would have been rude to refuse, but it was not kind to my bladder. At those times it didn't matter that I used the facilities before I left, I was going to have to "go" at some point on the way back to the hotel.
You will think it is weird, but I actually didn't mind when Marina had to pull off the road for me. See, we were in the middle of nowhere. We were in a region covered with birch trees and evergreens. For several dozen yards between the highway and the tree line there was nothing but patches of snow and ice. I never saw any four legged critters at all. And since traffic was very light, my only difficulty was obtaining privacy from the folks traveling with us in the van. So on our first Russian journey which took place in winter my DH would walk way off the road and would hold up a coat in front of me to provide some privacy. Now THAT is love! Marina was scandalized whenever she had to stop for me, but she was always really nice about it. The only bad experience on a hotel-to-orphanage run was when she decided to help me out by stopping at a petrol station. I thought it was so nice of her until I realized there was no public washroom there. I was told to go around back. I did, but I did not like it one bit. Lots of other people had done the same thing and had left their deposits on either side of a stinky, slippery path. It was really gross. And since the path sloped down from the station and back up the hill beyond, I felt like I was on public display even though I did not actually see anyone. Thankfully, my DH was there to shield me from at least one direction.
I got some important advice before we made our second journey to Russia. A missionary friend and I were sharing and giggling over bathroom stories when she said to me, "Oh, honey, I never travel without an umbrella. Just get yourself one of those little ones that fit in your purse and you will have privacy wherever you need it." She was SO right. That second trip took place in the spring and the area between the highway and the trees was now covered in tall grass. That grass and the umbrella were all I needed to experience some of my pleasantest personal time in Russia. Well, I those AND the roll of toilet paper I never left the hotel without.