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More Toilet Tales

I know, I know.  I thought I was done with my bathroom rants, but alas, I had forgotten about something.  Though I had my sights set on Europe, with all her nice bathrooms, I had forgotten about Zanzibar.  Oh Zanzibar, with your idyllic beaches and lovely people.  Oh Zanzibar, with your crappy hostels and filthy bathrooms. 

We had planned to meet up in Stone Town (aka Zanzibar City) with our friends Erica and Brian, who are finishing up a year of volunteering in Malawi.  Seeing that none of us are actually employed, we all agreed to stay at budget hostels.  Much to our dismay, we have learned that Zanzibar is surprisingly expensive. Whereas in SE Asia one can get a room at a guesthouse for $10, adding an extra $5 for various luxuries (such as a/c, pool, etc); in Zanzibar, a dorm room at a crappy hostel starts at around $12 a person.  And that’s without a private bathroom!  Are you beginning to see the source of my anxiety and distress?We booked the first two nights at the St. Monica’s, a slave trade post turned hostel:  2 rooms with a shared bathroom for $25 each.  Because of a mix up the first day, we ended up with a private bathroom, but paying the shared bathroom rate.  As we walked into the room, visions of roughing it in SE Asia suddenly flooded my brain.  And there it was:  ants crawling in the bathroom, towels that feel like cement against your skin, floors that make the soles of your feet black.  I thought that was pretty bad.  Until, that is, the second day, when our miser budget forced us to share a bathroom with the rest of the second floor. 
Now, I may sound unreasonable or picky, but I have paid my dues.   I have braved my way through some pretty disgusting bathrooms, including a communal trough-like toilet in China, where there were no walls and you squatted right next to your neighbor, with all the waste  exposed in a long, shallow ditch, which was supposed to be washed off with running water, but which, needless to say, had no water and instead, where all the waste  just sat there.  I thought I deserved more.   Not only that, I have just come back from Japan, the land of pristine, self-cleaning, seat warming toilets with water jets, perfume sprays, etc.  I have just come back from the cleanest toilet in t world, the one cleaned by my sister at her house in Seattle.  And although I’ve never mastered the skill of crapping on a squatter, I found myself asking why, oh why was I thrust in this predicament again when I have already paid my dues??? 
And this time in Zanzibar, I didn’t even have my own toilet.  In addition to having to use a filthy bowl, I was now also faced with the added stress of having to rush my business, lest somebody came knocking on the door.  I was being denied my unalienable rights of PP (private pooping).  So I did what anybody else would do in my place.  I held it.  I was determined.  I was looking forward to the next day, when I would go to a nice Western restaurant and enjoy the facilities.
But then, at 4am, in a bout of desperation and a triumph of the call of nature, I found myself, yes you guessed it:  sitting right on top of the filthy shared toilet (but with LOADS of toilet paper between me and the seat), with my eyes tightly closed, imagining I was at my own house, sitting on my own toilet, cleaned by me.  After all was said and done, I quietly returned to our room, where I celebrated my small victory in silence and shame.
And then came Monday.  And with Sunday came the search for another hostel and with it, the possibility of a happier life.  Since St. Monica’s was booked that night, Erica and I were sent out on a mission to find a new place, which was quite strange, because both of us have a terrible sense of direction.  We met an old man in all his Muslim garb, who was very friendly and gave us many tips on what to do on the island.  He also helped us find accommodation, although most of the places he contacted were way out of our budget.  One of the more modest places he called, Adam’s  Inn, offered to meet us at our current hostel and take us to check out their place.  Little did we know that the desperate Inn would show up with two taxis to pick us up and a plan to lure us to stay.
We arrived at the hostel and after checking out the place, decided it was ok for how cheap it was ($30 per room) and the fact that  the rooms had private bathrooms.  Our decision probably also had to do with the fact that three staff members, two cab drivers and a maid were all staring at us while we made a decision.  It is funny (and sad) how you make split-second decisions like that and immediately regret them.  Adam’s Inn gets the trophy for dingiest hostel EVER on our trip.  Between the dirty polyester sheets, the black grout between all the bathroom tiles, the “guest bathroom flip flops” covered in mold, the crusty bathroom fixtures, the mosquito net that is too small for the bed (and therefore sorta suffocates us), the toilet with NO seat, the peeling walls full of yellow stains, the fake a/c that doesn’t work, the fake TV that doesn’t work and the fake hot water faucet that produces cold water, Diesel and I have had it.  And the most hilarious/revolting part is that this hostel has the NERVE to sell its own line of souvenirs.  In fact, they have a whole price list for mugs, T-shirts, vests, even bras!  I mean, do I really want to sport a T-shirt advertising the crappiest hostel  I’ve ever stayed at?  I’d rather forget about it.
Right before he went to bed, Diesel said that he hoped he would fall asleep right away so that “all of this would be over.”  And there we were.  Lying very stiff on our bed for fear that the polyester sheets would come undone and expose us to the even nastier mattress.  Getting greasier by the second.
But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining.  As it turns out, this hotel has a plug converter (US plug to Tanzania plug), which we have been needing, but will not buy since we’re only here for a week.  So I’m using it to recharge our computer.  And I might even steal it, just out of spite.

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2 Responses

  1. Just an FYI: Under the automatically generated possibly related posts, the first listing is “On Bowel Movements (Again)”. If you reach your target divorce weight, at least you know you have another soul mate out there somewhere!

  2. Hey now, don’t you think you’re being a little rough on the last hostel? Sounds like they make up for slightly imperfect accomodations with exceptional service. I mean who else offers two cabs, a few staff, and a maid to welcome guests? Plus, it IS called Adam’s Inn. Doesn’t the name alone make you warm and tingly inside. What I wouldn’t do for an Adam’s Inn bra….

    My very limited experience with African hotels was that they aren’t so cheap. Just not enough backpackers to keep the prices down. I think it has something to do with supply and demand. Since so many people are so poor in Africa I expected cheap sleeps…Alas, it wasn’t so for me either, though I don’t remember toilets being so bad. Then again, I have squated over a few questionable cesspools over the years. Still, nothing quite tops the story of the Peace Corps volunteer who was squatting in her latrine when the entire thing imploded, and she found herself, well, kind of swimming in a pool of nastiness. Now that’s an image we should all try to forget as soon as possible.

    Anyway, it was an interesting post. I should read this thing more often. It’s fun.

    Enjoy the rest of your stay in Africa. Adam.

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