Rumble: The Pit Latrine

And once more, here is Enrico, reporting from Bor, South Sudan:

When everything else is lacking, the bare necessities are really bare.

Those that come from relatively developed countries have forgotten the very bare necessities of a human being. One of those is a proper toilet with a flush. I always loved camping, but camping for a living, and especially in a non-tourist place has never been my dream. The best you can find as a humanitarian worker in most places in South Sudan is a tent (the lucky ones have the type where you can simply walk in without having to crawl after a long and tiring day) and a pit-latrine. What’s wrong with a tent and a pit latrine? Nothing, if it wasn’t for some small details.

According to Murphy’s laws, your tent always ends up being at a good 20 metres from the latrine, distance that can reach a hundred metres depending on Murphy’s degree of concentration. At night, once you’ve decided that you cannot hold it anymore, you start summoning all your energies and courage to overcome the many obstacles that separate you from the latrine. Y
ou often wonder whether it wouldn’t be less painful to simply forget about it and have a good shower the next morning.

At any rate, unlike you, mosquitoes and many other unknown creatures love your tent, and getting out of it without being bitten to death is the first obstacle. Obviously, this doesn’t come without stress, since your tent’s zipper is usually broken and you don’t want any unwelcome tenants to swamp in. When you are lucky, you haven’t forgotten your torch so you can proceed without further frustration to your ultimate destination.

The second barrier is the snakes, that is, when you have a properly fenced compound where bigger animals cannot enter! Yes, in this part of the world a lot of animals still move around freely and undisturbed. If your journey proceeds without unpleasant encounters, you can finally open the door to the pit latrine. Since you have at least another ten competitors for the same latrine, you always walk the last five metres praying that nobody else has had a similar pressing need.

At this point, the inexperienced, the optimistic and the careless might think that all their troubles are over (or at least, 50% over since the return journey is still awaiting them). The rest, though, know that the worst fear is yet to come: the encounter with the hole! You start wondering whether some disgusting slithery creature might have chosen that unusual place as its den. In those moments, you are still tempted to go back to your tent with your business unfinished. However, after a few seconds of realism and the pressure from your bowls, you decide to lower your trousers and get it over with.

Every night, the average humanitarian worker over here, in South Sudan, dreams of his or her own toilet where they can read the Sunday Times undisturbed!

Pictures and story by Enrico Pausilli


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