Wednesday, 15 May 2013

An Investigative Essay on Toilets in Cuba

DEAR READER: I AM MIGRATING like a cute little Canadian goose, to - please visit there for new posts A-THANK-YOU, Saz xxx

I have a lot of fun and exciting adventures to share about the last few weeks, but due to what I call technical difficulties, I have been unable to write them all up. Chocolate milk was spilt (by me) onto my laptop. The laptop seems to be working, but the keyboard isn’t, apart from the z key which types continuously. Anyway, today I thought I’d share with you a topic close to my HEART, STOMACH and BUM.

Cuban toilets deserve a whole league of their own in the world of sewage. Tourists are blessed with the fortune of facing only the best of what Cuba has to offer. Tourist toilets often have running water, and nearly always a stern-looking woman who will provide you with toilet paper if you pay her, and will provide you with a sour stink-eye if you don’t.  Most Cuban toilets are not like this. The typical Cuban toilet has no seat, no running water or flush system, no toilet paper, no soap, and no door – OR, in many ways even more disturbingly, a door which is too narrow for the cubicle and leaves most of you exposed. The toilets at the Faculty of Modern Languages are the epitome of a Cuban Toilet, as not only do they have no doors, but (if you have a delicate stomach, turn away NOWWWW) they are always FULL of poo. Which makes you ask yourself: who is going into a toilet WITHOUT A DOOR and pooing!?!?!?!?!!? I believe that whoever did the poo did it before the door was removed. It certainly smells like the poo has been there a very long time. The toilets make the whole of the building stink, which – added with the lack of ceiling tiles, broken plaster and crumbling blackboards – makes a vision of dereliction quite bombarding to the senses.

The toilets are marginally better at home, where we have a certain amount of control over their cleanliness.  Our toilet is divided from the bedroom by what some poor soul may have generously once described as a ‘door’, but is actually nothing more than a kind of plastic screen.  Privacy is not an option. Linked inextricably with this theme is the unfortunate affect the Cuban diet has had on all of our digestive systems. A mixture of grease, bloating rice and ruffage-filled beans means our bowels have been in a constantly confused state since our arrival (rum may also be to blame). We’re all convinced we’ve developed chronic IBS. My stomach (and – I’m not afraid to share this with you – my bowels) have become as delicate and temperamental as the U-pipe in my toilet in the bathroom.

Needless to say, the toilet has become blocked more than once. And our maid/cleaner/homehelp lady (the infamous Ana-Maria) made it clear this was our job to fix, by demonstrating on the porch tiles how to use the crusty, moulding toilet plunger. The toilet plunger had (it’s now – THROUGH NO FAULT OF MY OWN – deceased) a fun quirk. Every now and then, it would flip inside out. This meant that, whilst you were bent laboriously over the toilet bowl (imagine in the Sims when the toilet blocks: this is what it is like when a toilet blocks in real life ,it turns out), plunging enthusiastically, it will suddenly flip inside out and shower you and the entire bathroom in shitty, pissy toilet water. After this happened twice and my pyjamas got a bit unhygienic, I took to plunging the toilet in the nude. This somehow seems more hygienic to me. Anyway, after drinking water in Trinidad last weekend we all got a furious case of ‘deli belly’ (read: the shits) and inevitably the toilet was blocked.  One particularly nasty poo-specimen proved quite unblockable. After watching Bajan-housemate toil hopelessly over it for a while, I gallantly decided to take matters into my own hands. I worked for thirty solid minutes with that plunger, putting in so much effort that I gave myself blisters on my fingers. Then, in burst of energy I plunged with such gusto that the plunger became unstuck from the stick and a huge piss-toilet-poo-water explosion occurred, covering my face in piss-toilet-poo-water. As I stood, naked, weeping silently, over the sink, using my  blistered, puss-filled hands to wash the poo out of my eye, I thought to myself: This, THIS, is what I will remember as a low point not only in my time in Cuba, but also most possibly my life.

For more info on life in Cuba: Food in Cuba


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  2. Do you live in Cuba? I think you should at least wear a mask if you're going to be plunging naked ok?

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