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Haiti Storms, Cholera and You

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I have a new best friend. She’s cool and smooth and adaptable. Kind of like a Dragon-Tattooed-urbanite who can deal with any situation, from a tweaking guest at a rave, to the post-modern gut-angst of intellectuals. She’s slow to rile too – give her a nudge and all she does is gurgle at you.

She’s the toilet in my house.

I’ve been feeling the love ever since I recently got back from Haiti. At night, when the rooster began his panicky crowing at 3am, I got up, pushed through my mosquito netting and stumbled past sleeping co-workers to our iron-gated front door. Everything in Haiti is locked behind metal. I’d fumble for the key on the nail in the dark (thinking, yet again, about how we’d all die if there was a fire, locked inside as we were), to open the doorway’s Adams’-Family-creaking gate. Then, once outside in the still-hot Caribbean night, I’d turn on my headlamp and weave my way to the “bathroom.” Despite being closet-small, and covered, over every square inch, in unspeakable fluids, and reeking worse than an ancient, abandoned alley-side Port-a-Pottie, it too was tightly locked behind a metal gate. After fumbling with keys and getting the deadbolt to slide, I’d do my business by hovering over a deceptively-normal looking toilet. Perched on a ledge was a pre-sliced SkyMall magazine thoughtfully provided by our host – to be used as toilet paper. I got, from the experience, a new perspective on in-flight gadgetry ads, once I had the opportunity to choose several times a day which one to use to wipe my bottom.

And after the unavoidable juggling act of keys, paper, and hand sanitizer, came the bucket pour. You couldn’t just pull a handle. Well, you could, but nothing would happen. Instead, you had to scoop a bucket of dubious water out of a large plastic bin (while trying to not think about what might be growing in that much-handled bucket). And then you needed an aggressive pour to get the water from the bucket to force the contents of the toilet bowl down a pipe to who-knows-where. No one warns you that splash-back is an inevitable fact of life. Hence the perpetually damp, unspeakable floor.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.