The art of the mandi

The squat-pot and mandi bucket in my family’s home in Panawangan where I will be living the next two years.

 April 2, 2016 is the day my life changed forever. It was the day of my first mandi. I had no idea what I was doing. I made a mess. There was still soap in my hair the following day.

Ladies and gentleman who have not yet experienced a mandi, it is an Indonesian version of a shower in which you use a small bucket, a gayung, to pour cold water on yourself while soaping up and contemplate whether to shave or not (you won’t shave.) It is paired with an Eastern-style squat-pot. No toilet. If you have a special connection with the porcelain throne, Indonesia is not for you.

For my first squat-pot experience (in Indonesia, I used them frequently in Korea and Japan), I was in my Kediri home. First of all, the bathroom situation there was just confusing. They didn’t have a squat pot, they had a Western toilet with the seat removed, and so I could neither squat, nor sit. It’s a wall sit with no wall, I’ve figured it out.

Because the general toilet situation entails the squat-pot in which you crouch low to the floor aiming over a hole in order to do your business, I will be referring to these throughout the following. In using an Indonesian squat-pot, there are many different variations and techniques you can use. Of course, it is easier for males; however, we females have about three choices:

  1. Squat with our backs facing the wall and risk splashing out of the potty, but it is the safest way to aim during *cough cough* number twos.
  2. Squat with our front toward the wall eliminating/reducing splash on the feet, but potentially leaving poop sitting, staring at you on the flat portion of the pot.
  3. Leave Indonesia/never poop/pee standing like a man and gain a new respect for how difficult it actually is to aim (clearly, I’ve tried this one. I do not recommend.)

Once you’ve completed your business, the really artistic work begins— clean up. Indonesians do not use toilet paper (there’s no flushing) and that is what makes an Indonesian squat-pot infinitely more difficult than in Korea/Japan.

With this, you use the same gayung you shower with filled, again, with cold water from a larger tub. Here, there are also some options: splash yourself with the gayung, jersey turnpike your bottom up and pour, or scoop the water with your hand and wipe (with left hand only! This is a big part of Indonesian culture. It is known throughout the country to avoid someone’s left hand because it is their wiping hand.)

No matter which method you use, you will make a mess, you will get your clothes wet, you will walk away with a damp nether region, and you certainly will, at some point or other, wipe your own feces off your ass with your bare hand.

That’s the only way. No variation. And that is why Indonesians avoid the left hand. It’s your poop hand— I shit you not.

When I first left the safety of hotel toilet paper, and moved in with my family, I made the joke that the day I wipe and poop remains on my hand is the day I leave Indonesia. Now, every time it happens, I hang my head and question my life decisions, but I also smile later on (after vigorously washing my hands) because I have not yet left Indonesia.

I just now have come to the terms with the fact that I live in a world in which I held my own shit in my hand and could do nothing about it. Adaptability, man.


3 thoughts on “The art of the mandi

  1. swadelin says:

    Everybody poops! 😆 This was certainly enlightening!!! Continue to be lighthearted and you will do well! So proud of you and your never-ending zest for life and exploring the world! Love you!!!


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