Tong-Sia

There are so many things that we have come to love about Thailand, however there are some things that are just not nearly as delightful. One of those things, is Tong-Sia.

“Tong” meaning “stomach”

“Sia” meaning “death”.

Put them together and what do you get? Stomach-death…better known as “diarrhea”.

Tong-Sia can strike without notice and can be caused by a myriad of things including under-cooked street food, too much papaya, a random stomach bug, or the intensely spicy food that is oh so common here. Today’s Tong-Sia experience came without warning, and as far as I (we’ll go anonymous author on this one) can tell, it was caused by none of the above. Sometimes Stomach-death strikes from the mystery column.

Before going further, let me bring you into a public washroom in Thailand. Shared bathrooms are often devoid of toilet paper or paper towel. When we have questioned friends about this, often the response is that companies, buildings, and schools feel that toilet paper is too expensive to provide to everyone. The masses are so wasteful. In addition, Thailand’s sewer system is unable to handle toilet paper and so anything besides Number One or Number Two is placed in a garbage near the toilet. Folded, not flushed. So we have learned to carry a package of tissues with us. Today however… I had none (rookie move).

My language class had just finished. I was doing the 10 floor descent in the elevator heading to the lobby, when all of a sudden…it hit… Tong-Sia. I rushed for the nearest bathroom, and made it in time (it was nail-biter) but it only took seconds to realize…I DIDN’T HAVE TOILET PAPER.

Now thankfully the majority of toilets in Thailand are equipped with a spray nozzle that hangs on the wall beside the commode. While I have lived here for 6 months, I admit to never having used the sprayer. Today, I had no option. So I grabbed the sprayer and with an awkward twist took aim at my posterior. All worked as I assumed, however now I was left with a soaking wet back-side and no toilet paper to dry off with. I sat for a moment contemplating my next move. Then I remembered… I had an extra pair of socks! So into my backpack I dove to search out my socks. They were plushy sport socks, highly absorbent and soft too!

These are the moments when you just have to laugh. These are the moments you don’t ever think you’ll encounter, and then you do…and in the words of a friend, you just have to “figure it out”! So Thailand while I do not understand the aversion to providing toilet paper for people, I now appreciate the toilet sprayer and will try to remember hence forth to never leave home without a package of tissues!

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