Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bathroom in Bohican, Benin - The Cool Place

I have traveled to 12 countries in Africa over the last 11 years...and I can still be slightly startled by one's stance on privacy. I was traveling earlier today from Parakou, in northern Benin, headed south on the main road to Cotonou. We stopped in a town called Bohican, where a fairly modern 4-story hotel faces a self-described bar/restaurant/ice cream/catering service called "Cool Place." Emerging from some rough roads and near head-on collisions with big rigs and goats, we stretched our legs, and trotted over to the bathroom, a one room W.C. with a toilet and a sink. I heard a lot of splashing in there; it sounded like someone was taking a shower. We all stood around our table as cold Coca Cola was served in the old-fashioned glass bottles, anxiously shifting from one foot to the other, to see who would make the nonchalant sprint to the bathroom when it was vacated.

One of the waitresses came over to me, the only woman in our group of nine Americans, and told me to go knock on the door. I did, and a woman in only her panties opened the door and motioned to the toilet. Realizing that the woman was trying to share the only available bathroom with me, and I had already seen her nearly naked, I decided quickly it would probably be rude to turn down her offer. The toilet seat was wet with clear water. I guess while she was getting water from the sink and putting it in a plastic bucket with a plastic cup, she must have splashed a bit while taking her "bucket shower." So I quickly squatted over the toilet, as there was no toilet paper nor towels to wipe off the seat, rinsed my hands in the sink, and vacated the room. It seemed perfectly normal to her to share her space with me, and I guess her sense of privacy is different from mine, although I guess mine has changed a bit over the years as well. I'm not sure I would have been comfortable doing that 10 years ago.

I have a few pictures of the "Cool Place" to share, though not of the bathroom, of course! I just need to wait until I can download the pics on Monday when I'm back in the USA.

And if you're going to Africa soon, consider buying Lonely Planet West Africa. I actually have time to go sight-seeing tomorrow and I can't believe I didn't bring my copy from home! Too bad two-day shipping wouldn't work from the US warehouses to Parakou, Benin!

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