Peruvian Plumbing and Bathroom Balancing Acts

Traveling around Peru for nine days made me grateful for the plumbing system we take for granted here in the states. I didn’t even realize I took it for granted until I found myself having to wipe my vagina with my bare hand on three separate occasions. Upon arriving home and sharing my travel stories with others, there was one question I was asked more than once.

“Are you moving to Peru?”

I suppose this is because of my tendency to up and move my life across the country (Kansas City to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to New York, and back to Los Angeles) but I have a hunch it’s also because of my intense disdain for the so-called President who shall remain nameless on The Road Linds Travels. Anyway, my answer to the above had more of a simple answer with an evenly simple explanation.

American Plumbing vs. Peruvian Plumbing

I like American plumbing too much. Show me a city and/or country comparable and maybe I’ll consider settling down there. Better yet, let’s install modern plumbing everywhere in the world. That’s the idealist in me speaking. There are very few things in life that could deem me high maintenance. I suppose a Peruvian, like my friendly tour guide, Miguel, might look at someone like me and think, geez, she’s basing her decision on where she lives on whether or not she can flush toilet paper down the toilet. This man, who has probably never flushed anything in his life other than human waste down a toilet, probably has no issue with any of my stated qualms.

I can understand how this might make me seem high maintenance, but it wasn’t just the inconvenience and unsanitary obligation to place used toilet paper in a trashcan. Sometimes there just wasn’t toilet paper available at all! Other times, I had to pay to use a public toilet! No, of course, it wasn’t expensive, but that’s unheard of in the states! If one good thing came out of it, like I mentioned above, it’s a deep appreciation for these luxuries. And yes, it’s a luxury. Travel to a third world country, stay there for a week or more, wipe your genitals with your bare hand, and then try and tell me that Charmin Ultra double plus rolls aren’t a damn luxury.

And since we’re on the topic, let’s talk about the time I had to pee in an outhouse at over 10,000 feet in elevation with the full on flu. There was no toilet paper in sight and absolutely nowhere for me to wash my hands. I made the conscious decision to drip dry. I thank my lucky stars (whatever the hell that means) that I was carrying a small tube of hand sanitizer. That handy little tube was my hygiene savior on that trip.

Admiring the view from Pisac, Peru Ruins before utilizing Peruvian Plumbing
Right before using the outhouse at Pisac Ruins

How about the time I had to use my hand while using one of my legs to keep the bathroom door shut? I was eating delicious ceviche at a restaurante in Urubamba and the bathroom door would not close all the way. The balancing act and lack of toilet paper actually made me giggle when I realized this was going to be the status quo whilst in Peru. High maintenance, maybe, but at least my sense of humor was still intact!

ceviche in Urubamba, Peru
The delicious ceviche I consumed at Los Delfines before the bathroom balancing act

I accidentally tossed toilet paper down a toilet about three times during my holiday. I cannot express to you how badly I felt. Three times in over a week is actually pretty good when you think about it. I thought about it way too much, however. The first time I did so was at the first hotel I was staying at in Cusco. I thought to myself as the toilet paper was sucked down the hole, “Great! I’m going to be that American who clogs up the subpar plumbing system and all the other tourists are going to roll their eyes in disdain!” This, thankfully, did not happen but it really was a cause for sincere anxiety.

Great! I’m going to be that American who clogs up the subpar plumbing system and all the other tourists are going to roll their eyes in disdain!

Upon touchdown at Los Angeles International Airport, I had to use the bathroom. I cannot express enough how grand it felt to wipe with toilet paper. Tossing it into the toilet that I had just peed in without hesitation and flushing it sans the anxiety was equally as grand. Furthermore, I felt blessed to have a bathroom to call my own and a toilet to flush my own toilet paper down. We are blessed, Americans – truly blessed.

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