Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Word About Thomas Crapper's Adventures in Ecuador

As you no doubt know, it was English plumber Thomas Crapper who, in the late 19th Century, popularized the flush toilet. His contribution to civilization is immortalized each and every time someone says they are going to the crapper or exclaim, "Crap!"

Because England is a long way from Ecuador, Mr. Crapper and his marvelous contributions were slow getting to Latin America. In fact, at one point in Ecuador's history, international ships refused to dock in Guayaquil because the smells from improperly contained human waste were so foul. As recently as September of 2013, the World Bank was still making loans in the millions of dollars to provide the most rudimentary sanitation systems in the poorer parts of that city.
A very helpful sign in the restroom of
a restaurant frequented by Gringos in Cuenca.

While there are flush toilets in all the parts of Cuenca or Guayaquil you are likely to visit as a tourist or expat, that doesn't mean you're going to have an All-American experience in the privy.

For example, you will notice that virtually all the restrooms you visit have a large trash can sitting right beside the toilet. Don't look in it. You won't like what you see. You may even call out to the ghost of Thomas Crapper when you do. Or even to the ghost of Nathaniel Shitzinger (whoever he is).

If you decide to move to Cuenca, you will want to station one of those trash cans next to your toilet and make good use of it for the waste that comes with each wipe. The fact is, the sewer lines in most of the city are simply not big enough to handle paper waste. They are barely big enough to handle the solid waste from humans, much less the paper that accompanies it.

We learned this the hard way. No one wanted to bring up this rather delicate subject, especially when they were trying to convince us what a wonderful place Ecuador was to relocate. Therefore, we had the plumber out numerous times during our first few days because the toilet kept backing up.

You may think you are pretty good at Spanish, but you'll find out for sure when the plumber is trying to explain to you, in the most kind way he can and using very indirect language, why your plumbing lines are completely clogged.

Ecuador is a great place. But it isn't the United States of America. This is one example of the lack of infrastructure that comes with a lack of taxes. Of course, it's not a deal breaker. But if the idea of keeping used toilet paper sitting in a recepticle next to your sink grosses you out, you might want to think twice.

Quite frankly, no one we've met thinks it's that big a deal. Nor did we (once we got used to it). It also explained to us why many people from Latin America have the rather interesting habit of not putting their used toilet paper in the toilet in public restrooms back in Texas. (This is not strictly an Ecuador problem. Lots of developing nations have the same issues.)

I'm told some of the newer areas of Cuenca actually have plumbing lines big enough to handle the crap and the wrap, too, but I haven't seen any. Nor do most people want to take the chance of a major spill to find out.

If you do live in a part of Ecuador where narrow plumbing lines aren't an issue, let us know. You will make your neighborhood very popular and greatly up the value of the rentals there.

Until next time, happy crapping!

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