On our first trip to China in February we found ourselves with an entire day to fill. There were no scheduled realtor appointments or any need to show up at a government-run clinic to prove we weren’t diseased folk trying to infiltrate the Jiangsu Province. Free as birds. It happened to be a Sunday, which in China is “just another day to make money.” (In other words EVERYTHING is open with extended hours, seven days a week.) Between the guidebooks and the internet we knew there had to be something of significance just a walk from our hotel. Strapping on our best walking shoes and strolling down the ‘sunny side of the street’ we headed east on Hanzhong Lu and in thirty minutes arrived at an historic spot, The Presidential Palace.
Having once been the capital of China, there are a number of historic pagodas that pop up out of nowhere in Nanjing. This was one of them.
We toured ourselves in and out of buildings, through rock gardens and large rooms. There were barely any display cases with interesting artifacts. Dr. Sun Yat Sen had lived there once with his young wife and some things had been recovered from that time period; his eyeglasses, a writing pen, lots of photos, but this was little more than a ‘walk-through’ experience. I was underwhelmed, having been through ALOT of world-class historical museums in my day. In addition, the Chinese feel electricity is a very expensive luxury. Displays were poorly lit and steps uneven and treacherous. A theme throughout China seems to be, “watch where you plant your feet, silly!” There are often inclines, steps up or down and uneven terrain for no particular reason. Why everyone isn’t hobbling with canes or sprained ankles is frankly, a miracle!
After an hour and a half of sightseeing I decided a trip to the WC (Water Closet) would probably make sense before trekking back. With my right hand I unpocketed the necessary tissue. My USA Mandarin instructor warned me that 9 out of 10 times there is no toilet tissue available in the stalls. I gave up my backpack to the Big Guy and went in. Oh look! There were sinks and private stalls… great! I opened a stall and had my first look at a Chinese toilet. This is a porcelain feature, like a toilet seat that is flush (no pun intended) to the floor. (see photo) I walked in and did the necessary squat, facing the door that wouldn’t latch. Thigh muscles and sure footing was the key here. All was going well until the door opened. Looking at me was a young, Pretty Chinese woman. She smiled apologetically. Oh well, could have been worse, I thought to myself. Yes, the tissue was necessary, and naturally being the mother of an Eagle Scout the slogan “Be Prepared,” echoed through my head. Up and out I went to the sinks. Pretty Chinese woman smiled at me again and brushed by me to the stall. I was so happy to wash my hands after the experience, even if there were no paper towels. I reported my success to the Big Guy about using my first Chinese toilet as he returned my backpack. I was pretty pleased with myself, gloating, even....as he hadn't done this yet. I also had an empty bladder, so good news all around. This will be remembered as our first sightseeing adventure in Nanjing without an interpreter. Good Job!
Back in the USA my Mandarin instructor, Eva, asked me all about our first trip. She asked if I experienced a Chinese toilet while there. "Yes," I said proudly and then told my story. She put her hand to her mouth rocked back into the sofa in my office and “LOL!” (laughed out loud.)
This is not the response I was hoping for after my superior adventure, that’s for sure.
“What’s so Funny? I thought you would be proud of me,” I said.
She laughed even louder.
“Oh, but you were facing the WRONG way!” exclaimed giggling Eva.
No wonder the pretty Chinese woman smiled….or was it a smirk?
Yet, another lesson learned, in Nanjing!Thanks for Reading,