Friday, January 9, 2015

5 stars

Cuba has a very low crime rate, a very high literacy rate, and some of the best trained doctors in the world. What it does not have, however, are great toilets.

During our trip, I determined that there are 5 elements of a good bathroom. They add up to a 5 star ranking system of toilets:

1. The toilet flushes
2. Toilet paper is provided
3. Soap and water (or at least water) are available
4. A hand dryer or paper towels are available
5. The toilet seat is intact

Cuba is the 3rd or 4th country I have been to where you are not supposed to flush your toilet paper, but put it in the trash instead. The reason is that their sewage system is not strong enough to deal with all the paper. Once you get used to this, it's actually not so gross any more.

While Americans enjoy the freedom to use a public toilet for free just about anywhere, in Europe you often have to pay. The money is collected by a bathroom gatekeeper/cleaner. In German train stations, you just pay a machine. I personally think the fee is unnecessary, especially in Germany where water is cheap because we actually have too much of it.

In Cuba, though, the attendant usually earns her keep. At the same Havana corner bar with the juke box, there was a lady collecting coins outside the bathroom. This was what you'd call a 2 star toilet: there was toilet paper and soap, but no seat and a broken hand dryer. What's more, the toilet did not flush. So after each person finished, the attendant lady had to fill up a bucket of water that she could pour in the tank in order to pull the chain and make the toilet flush. When I went to use this 2 star toilet, it was occupied. The attendant lady told me to pull up a chair so I could sit while I waited. We started chatting and I talked to her for ten minutes about where I am from, what we had seen in Cuba, her job, her friends and her days off. After leaving the bathroom, I threw some coins on her tray and she filled up the bucket. I felt a little bad, like I should have been doing that myself.

Once our trip was over, it was nice to get back to high-powered plumbing again. I don't need to stay in 5 star hotels while traveling, but I do appreciate a 5 star toilet.

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About Me

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Thanks for coming to my blog. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and now has become an ongoing project. I'm an American living in Germany and trying to travel whenever I can. I write about my experiences as an expatriate (the interesting ones and the embarrassing ones), and about my travels. There are some recurring characters in this blog, particularly my husband Brian and several of our friends. The title comes from the idea that living in a foreign country means making a lot of mistakes. So the things you used to do easily you now have to try over and over again. Hopefully, like me, you can laugh at how idiotic it feels. If you have happened upon my blog, then welcome. Knowing that people are reading what I write makes me keep going. Feel free to write comments or suggestions for future posts.