Twin Toilets in Sochi? Is There A Double Meaning For Global Travelers?
Now here’s a topic every traveler can relate to… we’re talking about the world’s toilets- objects of intense privacy, curiosity, modesty, and discomfort for most travelers, whether seasoned or novice.
As global expats, most of us have seen our fair share of the good, the bad, and the downright ugly!
Today, let’s go for the downright weird.
The Twitter-verse lit up last night over the leaking (wink~) of this photo of a new Men’s room with its Twin Toilets in Sochi, Russia.
These toilets are located at the cross-country skiing and biathlon center for the upcoming 2014 Olympics being held in Sochi, Russia.
While this may be unsettling to some of you gentlemen reading this, I can tell you that communal toilets aren’t all that unusual in the former Soviet Union, a place where individual concerns and considerations were routinely subjugated in the service of the masses.
This photo generated intense interest as well as humor…
“Russians jested that the toilets in Sochi were designed for a “tandem,” the name used to describe the duo of President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. One popular blogger altered Rosenberg’s photo to put in a framed portrait of the two leaders above the toilets.
In a nod to the tight security measures imposed in Sochi for the Olympics, another joke has it that the second toilet was for a security officer.”
But, in the category of “It Could Always Be Worse Guys…” we have another photo, this time of a university toilet (referring to the bathroom, restroom, men’s room- all euphemisms for Russia’s more accurate but blunt term, the Tyalet).
This is just the kind of photo that puts off less intrepid travelers.
Many are afraid of the unknown and the unexplored.
Having spent 10 years living as an expat in the former Soviet Union, beginning around the time of the collapse, I got to see some of the original cultures that made up this enormous conglomeration of republics before western media ignited the rush to throw off the old and adopt anything new and shiny that belonged in the west.
It was a fascinating time and a period that I wished could have lasted a bit longer. As expats, we always want to keep as much of the local culture intact as possible, yet we also make no bones about hoping certain features are as modern as possible.
When it comes to hygiene, modern is good, specifically as far as toilets go. Potties, privvies, crappers, outhouses, johns, loos, WCs, men’s room/ ladies’ room, latrines… by any other name would smell as, as, well they would still smell. Every country does it, and wherever you go (travel-wise), you’re likely to want to know what to expect when you go (the “other”-wise).
Toilet-Guru.com, a disturbingly fascinating website, gives us a wealth of information concerning what we’re most likely to find when we visit specific countries. Interesting tips and history… a few good reads virtually guarantees the next time someone tells you that you don’t know crap, you will be able to say, “au contraire, mon ami! I know all there is to know about crap… literally!”
Thanks to Toilet-Guru, Bob Cromwell, we see his, uh, “interesting” Web header image below. More than a few of the toilet models, below, look more familiar to me than I would like. And, what’s more distressing is that the majority of toilets were in that condition or even less desirable.
When I first arrived in Baku and had secured a lease for my new office at the State Library (read about the surprise here) I thought the ladies’ toilet room on the floor where my office was needed some major sanitation. The problem with squat toilets, not to be too indelicate about the whole thing, is that sometimes things don’t line up quite right (let’s just say, they could have used Hobo Andy’s instructions).
One Sunday afternoon when the offices were closed, I went to the Library and headed up to my floor with a bucket, some soap and bleach, and an industrial push broom that I planned to use to scrub the floors, walls, and anything else I could reach.
I may have misjudged the amount of soap to use, being a little over-zealous about using a clean toilet. I was ankle-deep in suds, scrubbing away, when three librarians came in and wondered what in the world I was doing. Assuming I was “helping” I said, I wanted to help clean the toilets. The ladies were mortified.
I had actually committed the cardinal sin as a guest in a foreign country. I had presumed “my way” was the right way (the only way) and proceeded to help them see the error (or lack of sophistication) of their ways. I realized this too late, and there was no going back. These were proud people. They could privately be embarrassed about the collapse of the government and complain about the lack of goods and services, but never let a foreigner talk down about the same things.
Fortunately, I was able to apologize for my faux pas and rebuild our relationship over time.
Will Russia be so lucky?
I wonder how President Putin is going to repair Russia’s image after this faux pas? This latest misstep could be bad news.
The good news? … At least with these Twin Toilets, he’s got a “second chance” to get it right!