An Ode to American Toilet Paper

15 Sep

WARNING – this post is rifled with too much information on bathroom habits, and just a little bit about culture. Proceed with caution if you have a weak stomach, or at any point you ever thought I was attractive.

First, do NOT send me toilet paper. I can buy a roll here for the equivalent of 50 cents at any suk on the side of the road, and that space would be much better served housing a chocolate bar. BUT, when one of my friends left for America after finishing up her research here last week she dropped off a bag of goodies – Clorox wipes, a few shirts, some olive oil, and… American toilet paper.

Oh the joys of double ply quilted. I always knew ye, but I had forgotten. When I got a cold last week, you were there, not chaffing my nose. When I had “the gas” that injera eaters know all too well you were a comfort. When I reveal too much information about anything body related on my blog, you will still be there, soft and … well, soft.

Ironically, toilet paper here is called “soft.” It’s not. But, like I said I can get a roll for the equivalent of 50 cents… you get what you pay for.

Toilet paper is funny. To an American, the first thing I would update in a home would be the bathroom, or kitchen. To an Ethiopian, the first thing they would update is the main room or bedroom. I have been to so many houses with mud walls, rat holes, and a tarp ceiling, with a giant maple cabinet that holds their china dishware. I don’t get it. I would have put in a toilet, or a water heater, or a propane stove.

But, toilet paper is the metaphor for priorities – most Ethiopians don’t use it anyway, and they probably think I’m super gross for not using water… though a little water, tp combo does the trick. I really think it’s a North American thing. I’ve used squat latrines in Italy for pete’s sake.

The point is, small pleasures are so worth it. And I’m pretty sure an American grocery store is going to blow my mind when I get back. Multiple brands of toilet paper?? That I can buy in bulk?? Don’t even take me to the toothpaste aisle.

So for now I’ll use the roll Kristin left for me. And when it runs out, I’ll go back to “soft.” But the few weeks I could mooch off Morgan’s hot shower when she was homeless (rats… don’t ask… or do) was heavenly, and I only wanted to die a little bit taking that first cold shower again.

These are never the reasons people have a hard time. I’ll take power outages, pit latrines, and water scarcity over harassment any day. But that small feeling of home, reminds me I’m not living here forever… and I think I’m ok with that (sorry Peace Corps).

Maybe when I go back, I’ll appreciate the toilet paper (read everything) a little bit more.




2 Responses to “An Ode to American Toilet Paper”

  1. joyce dowd September 15, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    Love your “Ode to Toilet paper” We don’t realize that what we can buy here is a luxury in other places BUT sarah you have asked for it! Don’t be surprised when you get back to the USA that one of the homecoming gifts will be large packages of TP

  2. apronheadlilly September 16, 2013 at 4:12 am #

    We take a lot for granted here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: