Before starting this class I had no idea what the bathroom situation would be in other countries than my own. When we started the class we had a guest speaker, Tate Rogers, come in to talk to us about the global sanitation issue in developing nations. He told us how many people would defecate in rivers or on roads and contaminate the water people would drink, leading to diseases in many communities. To solve these issues pit latrines were developed so that people would have a more private and sanitary place to use the restroom. The only thing is that when the latrine got full it would have to be emptied, which was usually an arduous task. This is why Tate invented the “Excrevator” so that these latrines could be emptied more easily. Though it is still not fully ready to go into the world market, Tate has refined the product so that it can be realistically used in different communities across the world. Hearing about Tate’s experience got me interested in observing that different toilets that existed in both the urban and rural areas of Belize.
In landing initially at the airport Belize and getting the chance to use the bathroom, the first thing I noticed is that they have trash cans for your toilet paper, as Belize only has septic systems that can not handle toilet paper. This was common all across Belize and even at the hotel there was a sign on the toilet that said do not flush the toilet paper. This was hard to initially get used to because it is such an unconscious thing to just put the toilet paper in the toilet. I did get used to it toward the end because I would always worry I would flush toilet paper and destroy the pipes. This issue was something I had never faced in America. I think we definitely take it for granted that we have such nice bathroom facilities where we can flush the toilet paper.
Going into the rural areas was a different experience altogether. Here I finally got to see the pit latrines we had discussed in class. Typically they were in little sheds with no light and there would be some concrete seat and sometimes there would be a lid. There was never any toilet paper in them so we would have to remember to bring our own. This made me wonder if people in these areas also brought their own toilet paper in too or what they had for that. While doing house visits probably 9 times out of 10 people would say they used an outdoor bathroom with no cover. This was asked so that we could gauge if the illness or other problems they had could be derived from the lack of sanitation in their homes. We actually had several people in Xaibe who had nice homes and who would say they had indoor facilities, while in San Victor we had maybe one or two people say they had an indoor bathroom. Bathrooms that were in the more urban areas like Corozal or Orange Walk were usually flush toilets (never toilet paper flushing however). Especially in areas where there may be higher tourist concentration there was the nicest facilities. It was weird to think that I was in a country where they had both ends of the spectrum when it came to bathroom sanitation. They had both pit latrines and even bathrooms similar to what you would see in America. Getting the chance to use the latrines really helped me understand what we talked about in class and the global health perspective on the subject.