Before I left the states for the tiny kingdoms of Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet I was told to pack my already bulging Big Red suitcase with a  lot of 3 ply. I was well prepared.

When I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with a farmer and his family, Yeshey, my guide,  gave me  a tour of their meager surroundings including the bathroom. Here is an excerpt of that moment from Big Red: How I Learned Simplicity from a Suitcase.

 He leads  me to a balcony. At the back of the balcony is a little partition, behind which I get a close-up view of the pit hole. Bewildered, I look at him. “Where does the waste go?” not sure I want to know the answer. He points down. “They are called long-drop toilets.” I gawk. Apparently, the crap drops three stories to the ground. Jesus, I think, how much worse can this get? Then I see a pile of flat sticks that look like tongue depressors lying next to the infamous pit. I’m hoping they’re kindling. Nope. “Ouch,” I mouth silently. With no toilet paper, I guess they must improvise. “How in the world do they use these?”

He replies with a slight smile, “East to West.”

I guess that makes sense to me, but wouldn’t a handful of leaves be a softer choice? I wonder, do they give a heads-up before they drop their load—like yelling duck or run? Oy gevalt is all I can think. It’s Yiddish—look it up.


Don’t bother to ask your family or friends, who have already stock piled their cabinets, closets, and cars to loan you a few rolls.  If and when you get desperate there is always the option to call your doctor. No doubt he or she has a plethora of these!