Toilet Adventures: Sentient Mosquitoes

Men probably can’t fully relate but for women, going to the bathroom abroad can be its own adventure. Today, in my search for suitable accommodation, I make the case for sentient mosquitoes.

Cambodia, like much of Southeast Asia, is the land of squat toilets. This type of toilet is far more common across the world than the ones found in the U.S. or Europe. What is a squat toilet you ask? Well, in Southeast Asia, it’s a shallow porcelain basin flush with the floor. Both sides have ridges so your feet don’t slide. (the floor is always wet)

Squat Toilet

If you’re lucky, there’s a hose in the stall with a sprayer head. This is the Cambodian version of a bidet. Since toilet paper is a rarity (virtually non-existent), spraying off your undersides is a step above dripping dry. More often, there might be a cistern of water outside the stall with a bucket. To flush the toilet, you scoop water from the cistern and dump it into the squat toilet hole.

water barrels for toilets

I’ve always had some issues with squat toilets. I mostly dislike splash-back. If you’ve really got to pee, there’s almost no way to keep drops from splashing outwards from the toilet onto your ankles (another good reason for a sprayer). If you’re on your period, well good luck. There’s no place to put used feminine products while you replace them and, remember, the floor is nearly always wet.

Consequently, I’m often on the prowl for western toilets. Doing one’s business in a comfortably seated position definitely has it’s advantages – especially if you’re a woman.

It so happens that there are a few western toilets at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. One is in the library and……

it has toilet paper and……

a sink and……

(usually) soap.

The problem is the mosquitoes. Maybe this toilet is rarely used (why sit and have toilet paper when you can squat and splash?) so mosquitoes breed in the toilet water. Or maybe they make their way in from outside knowing their prey is defenseless while seated. Whatever the cause, there are nearly always about 4 of them buzzing around.

What’s the case for sentient mosquitoes? Well, just about every time I use this toilet, two of them go for my ankles while the other two go for my backside. Not very relaxing. This coordinated attack seems a bit beyond random.

There is another western toilet near my office. This one was set up by Sister Luise Ahrens who gave me a key. It’s quite nice – even has a towel that’s washed on a regular basis. Even though this toilet is in a separate building, the mosquitoes use the same strategy – several go for the ankles while the rest go for the backside. Evidence for sentient mosquitoes? I think so.

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