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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Routines (Or the Three S’s – Part I)

Warning –The Three S’s refer to Shit, Shower and Shave. If you don’t want to read about any of these things, STOP HERE. I don’t get to the Shit portion until the very end so feel free to read until the last couple of paragraphs or so.

In the US you (and by you I mean you, me, Nobel Laureate President Obama, everyone) have set routines that you don’t really think about, you just do them. Take the Three S’s for instance; you wake up, walk bleary-eyed and barefooted to this gleaming white thing in the bathroom, take a piss, take a shit, push a silver lever and, presto, the shit and piss go away. Where? Doesn’t matter. Don’t worry about it. It’s taken care of. Two seconds later you wash your hands with warm running water coming out of this other gleaming white thing next to the first gleaming white thing.

Routine 1 disrupted - Here it’s a little different. You sit on a toilet (not so gleaming) without a seat and fire off your deuce. The toilet paper goes in the waste basket next to the toilet. Never throw your toilet paper in the shitter because it will clog up. To flush, grab a bucket, dip some water out of the 55 gallon drum in the bathroom, walk over to the toilet and pour it in. Repeat as necessary. If it clogs up for whatever reason, there’s a plunger under the stairs across the courtyard. Go get it, walk back, plunge and pour. In the US, I would shit at will; home, library, restaurants, parties, baht mitzvahs, Conference Room D in the office, everywhere. Here, you choose your time and location very carefully. Now that I’ve been here a month, S #1 has become nearly routine, thankfully. I apologize to my readers. I meant to put this at the end. Oh well, the worst is over so you may as well go on.

Shower – In the US you run water and adjust the temperature so that it’s just right, turn on the shower, step in and wash yourself with warm soapy water. (I’m a top to bottom guy myself) Been a long day? Stay in there a little longer and let the nice warm water melt away some of the stress. Relationship problems? Wash that man right out of your hair. When you’re done, dry off, kick on the exhaust fan, put on some deodorant, get dressed and you’re on your merry way.

Routine 2 disrupted – Here the water here only comes for one hour in the morning every other day so you have to make sure that you have enough water to last the entire shower. Hot water? Not a feature at my house. The mission is simple, get in, get clean, get out, don’t waste water. Since the water is cold, I’ve adopted the poco a poco (little by little) method. With a washrag, wet myself part by part, turn off water, lather up and hit the important parts first and if I’m not freezing my ass off yet hit the rest. By then I’m somewhat used to the cold water so it’s OK to turn on the shower and rinse off. Done. Towel off. I didn’t have the presence of mind to bring a towel with me so I bought a towel here for 6 soles ($2). It dries like a towel that cost me two dollars so I mostly air dry. (I just washed my towel today and, unlike the American flag, these colors do run.) I’ve been showering about every 3rd day or so depending on how long I can stand myself. Key to not smelling like complete ass? Generous applications of talcum powder.

Shave - In the US I’d run some warm water, lather up with Neutrogena Skin Clearing Shave Cream and shave my face and head with a Mach III Turbo with the help of the mirror that’s right in front of me. Rinse. Towel dry. Apply a dab of Nivea for Men Revitalizing Lotion with Q-10 to face, head and neck for a nice soothing finish.

Routine 3 disrupted – Here the sink in the bathroom sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t, so I wind up using the shower to shave most times. I stick my head under the shower, wash my face with regular soap and shave by feel since the mirror’s about six feet away. No strong jet of water to rinse off the razor so it kind of gunks up. I've tried to tap it out on the shower wall but then I just get small pieces of concrete stuck in the blades. I thought I’d been doing a pretty good job of shaving until one of my fellow trainees pointed out that there was a fairly good size patch on the back of my head that I’d missed for quite some time.

I gotta say, as much of a pain in the ass it is to take care of the 3 S’s since I’ve been here, there’s an odd sense of accomplishment when you fire off a successful, uneventful deuce or take a refreshing shower. Now that I’ve been here for a month, the 3 S’s are becoming routine again.

I also want to make it absolutely clear that I am very thankful to even have a shitter, shower and sink in my bathroom. When I get to my site I’ll likely not have any of these luxuries. That’s when I’ll have to develop a brand new set of routines which will be covered in Routines – Part Deaux (Or the Three S’s – The Revenge of Sith).


  1. You should just let your hair and beard grow. A few crab lice to the face never killed anyone; maybe driven them insane, but never killed.

  2. I recommend just tapping out your razor against the heel of your other hand (carefully). It's not as good as a sink or shower wall, but significantly less concrete.

  3. Man if i was there with you i would be cheap and smelly. Bathing and clotheswashing would be accomplished in one fell swoop buy a headfirst leap into the nearest body of water on a daily (give or take) basis.