Much Ado About Poo

Jenni Ho-Huan
5 min readSep 6, 2023
wooden figurine sits on edge of toilet bowl
Giorgio Travato, Unsplash

Universal Dislike

Even if you work in a laboratory and study it for noble reasons, I doubt you would like the subject matter, in a personal kind of way.

Eww
Yuck
Stinky

are more words we associate with this waste we all eject from out of our bodies.

Funnily, I recall a time when I thought my nostrils could not possibly be more assaulted. This happened on a visit to an older part of China nearly thirty years ago. Back in the day, the facilities, or rather, lack thereof was pretty legendary. Since many Singaporeans are of Chinese descent and travel for relatives and leisure, it’s common that the opening salvo of any post-trip conversation goes something like this: “Wah, the toilet was just so terrible! No doors!”

I would discover this was true and that even holding my breath was a futile effort, I could smell the arena from fifty metres away. What is astonishing is how the facility actually had a small concrete building where a few ladies were sitting and relaxing. I wanted to ask how they could tolerate such conditions but thought better and hurried off so I could breathe again.

Another time, I was on a four-hour bus ride in West Africa. That’s a long enough time to need a toilet break. The bus was driving out from the city into the bush. I was standing the entire duration because one packed such buses, of course, the experience was enriched by the company of a small goat and large obtrusive bags of purchases shoved in all available spaces.

The bus came to a stop along the dusty road, and people started debussing. They walked right into the grassy patches and did their thing. The ladies simply hiked up the long skirts and squatted down. I am grateful that my scant diet meant I was in no hurry. After a few moments, everyone returned and we continued, and I kept my many questions about hygiene to myself (as I was traveling with two men).

So maybe, the universal dislike strikes us to varying degrees.

Targetted Disdain

Later I was to find out that in countries where the caste system is still practiced (despite being outlawed), entire groups of people are assigned the dangerous jobs of dealing with poo. What is worse, they typically live in places where toilet…

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