It was the little things that signaled a sharp shift in reality for me when we first moved to Africa. One of my first earliest memories on the continent is seared into my brain for just such a reason: I remember running out of our new house to get the gardener after he had just welcomed us and then left to go home. It couldn't wait until tomorrow: I had no idea how to use the toilet. As he probably did many times after, he thought I was crazy for sure.
People talk all the time about the different pieces of culture, language, and nature they find in their travels, but sometimes just the little things related to infrastructure can remind a person they are in a new reality.
Here stand a row of "toilets," as they are called. If these toilets look like they are in the middle of a field, that's because they are. They belong to a large rural school a kilometer away. What is a kilometer for a student to walk for the bathroom when they have already walked 15 kilometers to get to school?
Except for that Halloween my junior-high self somehow thought it would be a good idea to dress up like a Puffs Kleenex box, here is the most unattractive picture of me ever taken. But it's pretty much one of my only pictures of a Shona "chimbuzi" (toilet). Set away a few dozen meters from the rest of the homestead buildings, the toilets at many Shona homesteads are separated by sex. For men it's "varume," and for women, like above, it's labeled "vakadzi." These bathrooms are literally a tin roof on top of a flat cement slab with a hole in it. Soap and water sit outside for hand washing.