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Look before you squat on an Indonesian toilet

Torrential monsoon rains had pursued us relentlessly for two weeks throughout Java. At Malang, with floodwaters up to our thighs, we waded to the bus station and made haste to the port of Ketapang to catch the ferry boat to Bali; we needed to seek a refuge to dry out.

At the picturesque artist colony of Ubud we found a perfect haven at which to rest for a few weeks; it was a well-built bamboo cottage in the garden of a local architect. It had a thatched roof, elaborate carved and gilded doors, cool white tiled floors and a covered veranda. The rock wall of the enclosed alfresco bathroom was draped with lush tropical plants from which a small waterfall poured forth as a shower – it was straight off the pages of House & Garden magazine. All this, plus breakfast, afternoon tea and the services of a houseboy for just $7 per day. It was too good to be true!

We soon settled into lazy days of reading on the veranda, painting the verdant jungle view around our haven and generally enjoying our good fortune.

On the second morning, I got up and went drowsily into our designer bathroom, lifted the lid of the rose pink toilet and felt my eyes somersault and do a double flip. Silently, I closed the lid again.

I stood and stared incredulously at that throne of contemplation for what seemed like several minutes, waiting for my brain and my eyes to connect. Had I seen what I thought I had seen? or was I still drunk with sleep?

My eyes were beginning to ache from not blinking. Confused, I tentatively lifted the lid again and took another peek, and then gently lowered it again.

Zombie-like, I walked back into the bedroom and passed Jean en route: “I shouldn’t use the loo this morning if I were you.” I said as casually as possible.

“Why not?” she asked.

“Well, Roland the rat is taking his morning bath.” I replied.

Jean, bless her, knows me far too well to take the slightest notice of my sick sense of humour, particularly first thing in the morning.

What should I do? Too late! A blood-curdling scream, enough to wake the whole village and half the cemetery, emanated from the bathroom. Jean rushed out glaring daggers at me. We then both fell into a heap of nervous laughter at the absurd truth of the matter … we had a rat calmly doing the dog paddle in the toilet bowl.

We had a situation that obviously needed dealing with. Our options, as I saw it, were:

  • Treat it as a problem, complain like mad, demand our money back and leave our little paradise.
  • Treat it as an inconvenience and get the houseboy to deal with it, or
  • Interrupt Roland’s bathing routine, hand him a towel and tell him to sod off!

Being ever the diplomat I chose the middle course, then watched our totally bewildered houseboy spend half an hour trying unsuccessfully to fish Roland out.

Eventually, in desperation, he wrapped his hand in a cloth and tried to grab him, but in doing so, found he had pulled his tail off and in the ensuing panic had pressed the flush-lever. The now tail-less Roland had disappeared into the depths of the sewerage system and presumably out of our lives.

Later that morning I completed my ablutions, during which I sat on the loo reading a chapter of a travel book. I then washed my hands and halfway through cleaning my teeth I heard: “Squeak, squeak.” I thought it was Jean trying to get her own back on me so I ignored her … brush, brush …
“Squeak, squeak.”

… splash, splash … “OK Jean, I know it’s you,” I said and turned around to find her, but there was no Jean, she was outside, busy painting.

“Oh, no! I don’t believe it.” I thought, and gingerly lifted the lid to the toilet … there was Roland, back again as large as life doing the breaststroke with what I swear was a silly grin on his face!

“My God!” I thought. “I have just escaped a fate worse than death.” Had I dallied three minutes longer on the throne, Roland could have grabbed me by the ‘dingly-danglies’ and made his escape. I slammed the lid shut, broke out in a cold sweat, threw myself onto the bed and watched the room swim round and round. I swore Roland and Jean were in collusion.

I called Jean. She called the houseboy. He called the owner who then called a crowd of neighbours and a passing ice-cream vendor to help solve the problem.

After much debate and disagreement, we ‘solved the inconvenience’ by using a deadly concoction of bleach and poison. Roland disappeared, never to stick his head around the bend again, leaving us to enjoy our little paradise. Mind you, I gave up reading on the loo and took to hovering a good three inches above the seat … just in case. One can never be too careful.

Much more by this author on his rather good blog.

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