By Janine Milliken

Have you ever been to a toilet outside of Zimbabwe. Oh my word, the problems I have with them. The toilets in Dubai have mirrors everywhere, so you actually do not know where you walking. I have walked into the mirrors many times, left my lipstick mark on there to prove I was there. Felt so embarrassed, tried to pretend I was actually looking at my face up close. When I have orientated myself and actually found the toilets that are around the corner, behind the mirrors, down the corridor. I then have to look for a western toilet. Meaning the western toilets are like the toilets we are used to and the non-western toilets are a hole in the ground. I have still not figured out how to pee over a hole, I will let you all know when I have figured it out.

There is also a shower spray by the toilet. This took me a long time to figure out what it was for. It is for cleaning yourself after a no 1 or no 2. However, my husband in his curiosity thought he would spray me and see if it as a shower. Later, I asked and found out it was for cleaning yourself after you went to the toilet. Thank you husband!!!! I was horrified that I had just been sprayed with a toilet spray and he did not hear the end of it for about a month – ok he still hears about it.

When you arrive in the toilet, it is clean but does have water over the floor. This is because the Arab culture do not use toilet paper as they use the toilet spray. Although they do cater for us western people and do put toilet paper in the toilet. I wade through the water, wrenching to get to the toilet, squat, finish my business. Next order of business is how the toilet flushes. I think I look like a ninja. As I am pressing buttons, waving my hands over red lights and sometimes just stand and stare and tell myself I can flush this toilet.

The toilets are very clean, it is just a different culture which I am not used to. I wave my hand over the red light, I pull a button, push a button, jump up and down, wave at the toilet seat, hoping against all hope that something will happen. Usually I can figure it out, after an hour in the toilet. Now that I have finished with the toilet I have to figure out the taps and the soap. Is the soap on sensor, is the tap on sensor or do I pull the tap up or push it down? Eventually this is figured out too. Now I move to the tissue paper to dry my hands. Yet another sensor, I have figured that if you move your hand under this contraption a piece of toilet paper exits, which is not big enough so you have to do this action about 10 times before you have enough to dry your hands.

On some toilets, I just stand up and the toilet flushes, making me jump out of my skin and thankful I had a pee first, other times it takes me about half an hour to figure out how the thing flushes.

The best toilet story I have was in Spain. These toilets were for men and woman. Firstly I had to get over this story. A man in my toilet! Then I found a toilet, securely locked it (twice), I did not want a Spanish man interrupting me doing a number 1. I have to say this was the quickest wee in history as I was scared I was going to be interrupted. I quickly jumped off the toilet and I heard a ‘wherring’ noise. I now jumped clean out the toilet cubicle, unlocked the door in one motion, with my pants round my knees in a toilet full of foreign people – I did not know them, so who cares. Unknown to me, when you took your bottom off the toilet, the toilet seat would turn around while self-cleaning, getting ready for the next person. I thought the toilet was about to eat me up and spit me out. Having got my composure back, pulled up my pants, mumbling about the stupid toilet, I now had to go and wash my hands. This all feels like a task out of hell, as I am flapping my hands, playing with buttons and under my breath saying ‘oh shit’.

On finding my husband, after the ordeal, I told him that next time he comes with me as I am sure one day I will fall down the toilet and I need help figuring out all the functions, that are totally foreign to me. I am also in awe of all the vending machines they have in the toilets and what you can actually buy when you are in the toilet. This takes me another half an hour to look at everything, the whole time talking to myself that ‘this is amazing, wow’. The one time, there was a basket of free condoms, my husband did not need them, but they were free, so I came out the toilet with about 50 in my hand, pockets etc to give to him. He was so embarrassed but I thought I had been so clever because they were free.

In Spain, I also had to figure out how to get out the toilet area. It had some sort of train station like stands and you had to exit through the turnstile. Now the turnstile would not move for me. I tried every one of them and still I was stuck in the toilet. So I just jumped over them, hoping I had not been seen, I had made such a scene by now, I am sure everyone was watching me. My husband wanted to know why I took so long, I told him to take a wee and I will time him. Which he did, and he was done in 5 minutes. Obviously I am a bit stupid with all these gadgets and so need someone to come with me to help me.

When I am in Dubai, my mom and I go to the toilet together, because we just know it is a nightmare. Firstly, we get lost inside the toilet. We do not know which door we came in. It feels like we are in the circus inside the mirror exhibition and everything is an illusion. Then we help each other flush the toilet, wash our hands and find our way out of the maze. On finding our way out, we still have to figure which side of the mall we entered the toilets, as we have taken the wrong turning and ended up in China Town.

I can literally tell you about every toilet, in every country I have visited. I have a phobia of needing the toilet when there is no toilet. So even if I do not need the toilet, if we stop, I go to the toilet. I have been known to use the men’s toilets as well as the woman’s toilet always have a queue, and as I walk into the men’s I cover my eyes saying ‘sorry, sorry, sorry’.

My husband and I were in Scotland or Ireland, one of those, cannot remember. No it was Ireland. I desperately needed the toilet and we were at a mall. We went to the toilet and we had to pay a pound for the toilet. We had no money. In typical Zimbabwean style, I had to pee in the pot plant, while my husband kept watch. After I had finished I saw there was a camera firmly placed on me filming me. We quickly left that mall, with a hop, skip and a jump!

While we were touring Ireland, I am a bush woman after all, born and bred Zimbabwean. We were in a hired car and I asked my husband to pull over so I could pee – again! He is kind of used to this behavior. I went behind a wall. Then the wind picked up. I was squatting behind a wall, my wee was being blown above my head by the wind and I could not stop giggling. My husband on the other side of the wall, just saw this spray and wondered what I was up to. I was too desperate to wait and luckily the wind stayed strong so it blew it away from me.

Having been brought up in the bush, I am used to doing a number 1 in the bush, very comfortably and as I have a weak bladder, I have to do these things when I leave the house.

When we used to travel to Cape Town, by car, as a family, everyone would say, ‘oh Janine knows all the toilets from Harare to Cape Town.’

I have to say the Spanish toilet with a moving toilet seat gave me the biggest fright of my life. While also in Spain, in a rural area, I had to use a hole. We shall leave that story as that. I proceeded back to the tour bus, turned on the loud speaker and told everyone not to use that toilet, please.

While at a friend’s birthday party she had ordered some portable toilets. I asked her if she could give me the key for her toilet as I have a phobia about those toilets swallowing me. Finally when I got the courage and was desperate, I went to the portable toilet. I talked myself through the whole procedure. Just as I was finished, I slipped, fell into the toilet, screamed and ran out with my jeans around my knees. Thankfully, this was not witnessed by anyone, but I had to go home and have a bath as I was purple and smelt of wee. I think I have a phobia of toilets.

While at my cousin’s house, I went to use her very old toilet which had a chain that was attached to the water tank near the roof. I managed to finish but was convinced I was not alone, as I was sure she had a ghost. I pulled the chain, the whole chain ended up in my hand and the toilet did not flush. By this stage I was convinced there was a ghost watching me so screamed for extra help.

An even better ghost story. While in Bulawayo, staying with a very good friend of mine, I went to the toilet at 0400 hours. While sitting on the toilet, the door burst open and a little blonde girl walked in. I started talking to this girl and said to her that I would be finished any minute, if she could just wait. Then I carried on chatting while I washed my hands and she got on the toilet. In the morning, I said to my friend, ‘who is the little girl that stayed the night?’ She told me that there were no children in the house, but the little ghost girl had been seen by a few people, so I was not completely crazy. I said to my friend, ‘but I had a whole conversation with her, while on the toilet……’

Years ago when my Uncle had a ranch, the whole family went there to have time away. I had just given birth to my daughter, so was tired, fat and grumpy. I got up in the middle of the night to have a wee. While on the toilet, I heard a hissing sound. If I stayed still, the hissing sound stopped. When I moved the hissing sound started again. I screamed to my husband, to come switch the light on. When he did, there was a cobra, in the roof, watching me. In one swift motion, I ran out the toilet, out the cabin and was outside before my husband had noticed I had moved. My husband was now stuck in the toilet with the cobra. Thankfully Cobras are slow moving, so he managed to escape as well. We changed lodges that night.

So now I have a fear of snakes being in the toilet at night. I have to wee at night and I always switch the light on, check the toilet and then have a wee. I have seen that pythons do like toilets, I have a friend who got bit while on the toilet by a python. So to say I am terrified of peeing in the night is an understatement.

I cannot help it, I need a toilet wherever I go. While skydiving in the bushes, I also had to go to the bushes for a wee. However, I took about 5 woman with me as I was scared of the puff adders, that do not move out of your way and having that attached to my bottom, would not be the way I would want to be remembered in death.


Toilets, snakes and Janine...

Beautifully Broken
by Janine Milliken
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