For almost two and a half years I taught English in Taiwan. Life was certainly different and difficult for me to get used to on many levels. I had not done much travelling before then, so I was a wide eye Muppet, attracting as much attention with my six foot blond haired frame as a drunk giraffe in a mall. I got used to the staring, and the picture taking, spicy food, how to stand up on a subway, and never finding shoes big enough. But something I really had a hard time getting used to was the squatter style toilets, pictured above. These toilets had to be squatter over on the floor and took some serious random tries and positioning to get used to. But the biggest thing was you had to bring your own toilet paper, public and school stalls never had tissue, and you couldn’t flush the tissue, you had to put it in a garbage can. Next to the toilet. Shit streaked toilet paper. Next to the toilet. For the day. In 35 degree weather. In a public washroom.
I had always been a little freaked out about washrooms, making sure one was near, usable, toilet paper provided. This fear was much better after Asia. I can get through any toilet experience now. Hell, I am pretty comfortable in the woods, or on the top of a volcano in the Philippines by this point! Plus people say squatting is better for your rectum. Ha!
I taught junior high students English as a Second Language. I often made my students write one page compositions on some topic I would give them as homework. One week I had a title like, “My Biggest Regret” (or something to that nature). I can’t really remember. I can remember however, Johnny’s essay.
Johnny was one of those students I liked. He actually has a personality, played basketball, cracked some jokes in class. I was one of those teachers, still am one of those teachers, that can appreciate a good joke. I will put up with a little sass for a laugh.
I always remember Johnny’s essay in my mind, at the strangest times, like when I am looking at the Nova Scotia winter side of the highway, slightly hungover and angry in the back seat, it comes to me.
The gist of it basically being that Johnny had to go poop really badly, he had eaten bad food while at school, and he really, really had to go. Well he did not have any tissue. He explains how he had to poop, for a long time and it was a mess and he did not have any tissue, so he took off his favourite underwear, his Superman underwear and used those to wipe himself. Then he had to throw them out in the side garbage can. He finished his essay with something like, “so sometimes poop ruins your favourite underwear but in the end sometimes everything turns to poop and you have to move on.” “Also in the future, try to be prepared.”
Which I want to take as some Sun Tzu shit and think that sometimes you just have to let things go. You just have to say “Fuck it” like the book I am reading now tells me. Sometimes a situation is just always going to feel like shit, and rather than holding on to those dirty underwear, or dirty feelings, thoughts, things you can do nothing about, you should just let them go.
Put them in a dirty garbage can next to the toilet and leave them behind.
And hope to be better in the future.
Maybe you won’t make the same mistakes again.