The Pit Latrine

When everything else is lacking, the bare necessities are really bare. Those coming from relatively developed countries have forgotten a human being needs only the very bare necessities. 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 resort 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 rather than crawl in 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 Law, your tent always ends up a good twenty metres from the latrine. A distance that can reach a hundred metres depending on Murphy’s degree of concentration. At night, once you’ve decided you cannot hold it in anymore, you start summoning all your energy and courage to overcome the many obstacles separating you from the latrine. You 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.

So 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 to your ultimate destination without the further frustration of having to fiddle with that damned zipper again to get back into your tent.

The second barrier is the snakes. That is, when you have a properly fenced compound where bigger animals cannot enter as 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 and you won’t have to wait in the dark for fifteen minutes.

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. The rest, though, know that the worst fear is yet to come: the encounter with the Hole!

You start imagining that some disgusting slimy creature has chosen this 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 bowels, 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! How basic dreams can be…

Story and pictures by Enrico Pausilli.
Edited by “E” and Peter Casier

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