Zachary Fuhrer is currently studying abroad in Fortaleza, CE.
“Here in Brasil, we stare at our shit … every day.” — My Academic Adviser
My first days in Brasil were spent in an isolated compound, perhaps a rehab/Christian retreat, to the Southeast of Fortaleza, Ceara (a state in the Northeast of Brasil). The coconut-treed, flower-filled complex struck a diminished chord against a backdrop of unpaved roads and torn-up houses. The three days spent in this compound, however, have set the tone for a study abroad experience frequently spent in bathrooms.
Fortaleza is hot and sticky, just like the quebra-queixo destroying the teeth of Praia do Futuro’s Sunday sunbathers. The solution to this problem, according to my academic adviser and my host family, is excessive amounts of showering in cold water. There’s the pre-breakfast shower to clear the night’s sweat and the morning’s wood, the lunchtime shower to combat the burning 12 o’clock sun and the pre-dinner shower to protect family’s from intruding smells of B.O. and “pizza” at the table. People are encouraged to throw in the occasional “I feel a little dirty”shower, despite drought issues in the region.
While I love to shower, the real lessons learned from Fortalezan bathrooms came in the form of the toilet.
LESSON 1: SHIT//SHOWER//SHAVE//CLEAN
The compound’s bathrooms were no bigger than Matilda’s Chokee, but filled with every necessary appliance and storage unit. Best of all, there was nothing dividing the shower head from the crapper and mirrors in all the right places. I could wash and rinse my hair from the comfort of the toilet, scrub into my hairy legs while resting them on the toilet bowl, then shave and brush my teeth, never leaving the hard, cold stream of the shower. The next person to use the bathroom would have no reason to throw toilet paper on the seat, because that shit was spotless and shiny from my 3-in-1 body wash/shampoo/conditioner. Interior designers beware.
LESSON 2: DON’T FLUSH THE T.P.
Whether or not it’s a water quality or septic tank issue, shitters are forbidden to flush toilet paper down the toilet bowl. While initially it was a little awkward to throw my family’s delightful green toilet paper into a waste basket beside the toilet, the act of disposing secondary bathroom waste has become more and more liberating with each dropped deuce. This method of disposal enables poopers to use any type of paper or leaf to clean up, eliminating worries that a lubricated kleenex will mess up an entire cesspool.
Additionally, the desire to avoid staring at countless pieces of used toilet paper encourages consumers to wipe thoroughly while conserving paper. Plus, no paper in the toilet means no risk of clogged toilets, which means no sketchy plunger chilling to the right of your toilet bowl.
LESSON 3: BE CORDIAL
At a dinner/party in the United States, I would never poop in the bathroom of an acquaintance. Yet in Fortaleza, quando eu estava com dor de barriga, my classmate’s host brother, ARMSTRONG, not only encouraged me to use his friend’s bathroom, but also gave me license to use every single product stocked in the shower and medicine cabinet – with his friend’s approval. While the friend’s bathroom had sabonetes and shampoos galor, it lacked any toilet paper to be tossed in its stainless steel lixeira. Armstrong and his friend promptly stated that I should either “douche” (douche) or “tomar banho” (take a shower).
After my shower, I dried off and rejoined the company, however, my wet and slightly unkempt hair seemed to disturb Armstrong and his acaí-eating crew. Seconds later, Armstrong’s friend, a mustachioed/Brasilian Jon Lovitz, approached me with a hairbrush, yelling “Escove seu cabelo IIzaqui!” Rarely do my parents or best friends care to inform me when I look like shit, let alone some random dude whose bathroom I just pooped and showered in. Scratch that. Before coming to Fortaleza, I had never shat and showered in a random acquaintance’s house. But, hopefully with a little more hospitality on the horizon, America will smell change a comin’.