Five More International Destinations–Heads-Up

Important information for the first-time traveler to Africa, Asia, the Middle East or Europe

Globe Africa, Europe, Asia

Courtesy of 123RF stock photo/1xpert

The cyber-savvy teen has already read myriads of Google offerings in preparation for his or her Summer international mission. The prospective traveler may have learned cultural information about the specific geographical area of interest, such as food, language and medical services provided abroad, but how about details on just what bathroom facilities will be available? Having considered The Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and East Africa last week, I’m sharing five more international destinations—heads-up for rookies below:

1. West Africa—Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, I stayed in a home that had been built in the colonial era. Here, I saw what I’d only read about in books—a water closet (WC).

Five International Destinations–Heads-Up for Rookies

Map of North and Central America

Map of North and Central America (123RF Stock Photo/Michael Schmeling)

For many teens or young adults living in America, Summer brings the opportunity for service-related travel. Google provides a ton of information on even the most remote spots on the globe but have you checked on the restroom facilities you may be using? My own globe-trotting assignments have yielded these five international destinations–heads-up for rookies:

1. The Caribbean

The gorgeous island of Puerto Rico introduced me to the first of many unusual bathroom facilities. While the city showers proved the same as those in America, the sewer system couldn’t accept toilet paper. You need to drop the used paper into the wastebasket next to the toilet.

As we traveled the steep, winding roads up to the mountain village, my mind raced to envision the wealthy man’s villa. He rarely occupied the home, but his elderly mother resided there year-round.

Tony had the only home on the mountain equipped with running water. Once darkness engulfed the island, however, it offered the usual tropical features.

By the end of the three months of mountain weekends, I only cringed a little to shower with green frogs and enormous black cockroaches. I laughed as I sang “La Cucaracha,” never imagining I’d ever watch cockroaches running up and down the walls while I showered.

2. Mexico

In Mexico, our rural hosts had a sit-down potty that resembled the outhouses of pioneer America, but it had no lock. The entire time one used the facility, one needed to sing, or speak if not given to singing when on the toilet.

For a nominal fee, showers could be taken at a public bathhouse. Those few minutes of cold water in the cement cubicle also provided a delightful respite from the heat.

Because it took so long to bus our large group over to the public shower, we improvised an option. The tarp strung between trees made a small, but efficient, cubicle. A large plastic bucket, with holes punched out of the bottom, dangled overhead. The family’s garden hose provided the flow of water through the holes.

Our next stop made this one seem a picture of modern plumbing.

Three Most Unforgettable Flights

Airplane above clouds at sunrise

Airplane at sunrise (Courtesy 123RF Stock Photo/06photo)

Leaving my job at the Medical Center, I plunged into a new career on the foreign field. I had never anticipated the stories I’d have to share just getting to my assignments and back.

Here are brief accounts of the three most unforgettable flights during the first four years.

Most Amazingly Unique

Eight months after the career change, I marveled at this first flight to a foreign assignment. What a contrast with the retired school bus that transported us from Los Angeles, through Mexico to Belize and back months earlier.

I remembered that hot, dry journey, as I sat in the jump-seat directly behind the pilot of Eastern Airlines’ L-1011 jet. Resuming the itinerary, we’d taken off from Cairo in the early-morning hours.

Find Blind Help Under L

garden shrub lilacs

Lilacs (courtesy of 123RF Stock Photo/Marjorie Bull)

At the age of forty-five, darkness suddenly enveloped my every waking moment. Since I lived and worked in a West African jungle village, assistance in independent living skills couldn’t begin until my return to the States. Had I known to find blind help under L in the phone book, I’d have received assistance nine years earlier.

For the first three years of blindness, I utilized improvised aids with the help of my mission colleagues. I unscrewed a short-handle from our mop to serve as my cane. Mostly, the tapping of the thick, round stick provided the noise I needed to ward off reptilian ground-slitherers.

Soon, a Sacramento friend sent the real-McCoy, which sprung to life at the opening of the padded envelope. Of course, I had no idea at all how to use the white cane properly. As it turned out, my ignorance of local nomenclature interfered with my search. I looked under B, not realizing I’d find blind help under L in the white pages.