I Don’t Know What I’m Eating and Misadventures in Squat Toilets

I arrived in Beijing, China a few weeks ago, and so far, it has been a positive experience for me. I got to spend time with an old friend I hadn’t seen in far too long, and made new friends while training for my job. Beijing has a very easy to navigate subway system, and I am very impressed by how clean the stations and trains are. I’ve ridden a lot of subways during my travels and as of now Beijing has been the best. The map is almost as easy to read as the one for the London Underground, and I’ve always considered that one to be pretty “tourist-proof.” Beijing is a big city, but if you know what train stops you need, it’s fairly easy to get around. And knowing the subway is the most helpful as most taxi drivers don’t speak English, but the signs around the city are written in English as well as Chinese.

As the title of this post suggests, some of the most interesting experiences involve dining. The hotel I am staying at does not have a kitchen, microwave, or refrigerator so I have to eat out for every meal essentially. I didn’t mind too much at first, but now I can’t wait to have my own kitchen again! However, a lot of the food I’ve had has been very good. One of my first meals was oat noodles and tomato sauce, as shown below.

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I’ve been eating at the mall food court, where I’ve had a lot of rice, and some meat and vegetable dishes. I had a curry from a Korean restaurant, as well as a meat dish that I still cannot identify from a restaurant near my hotel. Sadly, I have not been able to keep track of what the dishes are called thus far, which is something I have to work on. My goal is to be able to order at least my favorites without resorting to just pointing at pictures on the menu. Thankfully the locals in this city are mostly friendly to foreigners.

A word of caution, beware of menus that have been roughly translated into English. At a very good Korean restaurant I went to with my training group, my friend ordered what was translated as “spiced lamb.” When they delivered it to her, this is what she received. The foot.

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One thing I knew was coming, but that didn’t change how awkward it was at first, was using squat toilets as opposed to the toilets I’m used to in the West. They’re even simply known as western toilets here. Or if there is a different name, I haven’t heard it yet. Squat toilets are not exactly just a hole in the floor. They do flush, but you have cannot flush toilet paper down them, all paper must be put in the bin. Typically, you have to bring your own toilet paper too, so a pack of tissues is a necessary item for any women to keep in her purse!

Total confession, since I’m not used to having to squat, a few messes ensued. I definitely peed on my leg at least twice. But the real challenge I had the first week, was dealing with my menstrual cup in a squat toilet. If you are unfamiliar with menstrual cups, here is a picture of mine below.

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Basically, it is a more environmentally friendly (and in my opinion much nicer) alternative to tampons. It is a silicon cup that you insert into your vagina and it collects your menstrual fluid. It holds a lot more than a tampon, and on most days, I can leave it in for up to twelve hours without leaks. But, this was day two of my cycle, so it was a heavy day, and sometimes that means I have to empty my cup after 6-8 hours and that was when I happened to be out, and squat toilets were my only option. Needless to say, removing it in that position was more difficult than usual (only because I’m used to sitting though) and there was a bit of a bloody mess on the floor. Now that I’m more used to it, hopefully by my next period it will get much easier.

I have written another post on my use of reusable menstrual products, so if you’re interested, you can read that post here: https://shannontricia.wordpress.com/2016/07/20/going-green-pt-1-reusable-menstrual-products/ and I also recommend the Precious Stars Pads Youtube channel, since she has videos about basically anything you want to know about them. Her channel can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5jJ_1US1DjRYJF_WU4sQ5w

So far this adventure has gotten off to an interesting start. More stories to come soon!

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