Never in my life have I been more dizzied from cultural differences than the afternoon I saw the Girls’ Bathroom in a 4,000-student school of Yunyang, China.
It wasn’t that the bathroom was rather run-down and dirty that shocked me. No– I’ve been a teacher in large urban schools in Boston for seven years and have seen (and smelled) my share of dirty school bathrooms. I’ve also squatted in all sorts of nasty toilets around the world, like (click for photos) hole-in-the-ground-in-a-hut toilets in Ghana, and filthy toilets in Thailand.
BUT all of those toilets around the world had one blessed perk: PRIVACY. The giant shock for me about the China school toilets we toured was the fact that everyone is supposed to “do their business” with other people walking by and looking!
Study the first photo of this article. See those low walls? Those are the “stalls.” No door. No front of the stall to shield you. You just walk right in and squat, exposed.
Now here’s what REALLY made me almost faint: this is the bathroom the TEACHERS use, too! This would be my absolute worst nightmare: to be squatting, exposed, while my students walked by. It’s like a nightmare come to life.
Now, it would be one thing if this were a poor school we were visiting… but it wasn’t.
Not only did this school have a new computer lab, but it had a gorgeous, 20-foot-tall steel electric entrance gate.
Clearly the school had money… they just chose to spend it on the outer, most visible aspects of the school.
What a massive cultural difference! It’s not necessarily good nor bad; it just highlights what is and isn’t valued by each of our cultures.
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