The highlight of my first week at site was probably bringing Internet to a small village in Kazakhstan. As noble and sexy as that sounds, it really means I just reinstalled the drivers to a modem that had not been functioning since August. Two months of broken Internet service and reinstalling the drivers is all it took. (For any non-tech-savvy people, that’s pretty much step three to fixing any computer problem after restarting the computer and checking all required connections.) However, as much as I enjoy telling that story, it is not the one that people seem to enjoy hearing the most.
That story occurred on my very first day in my village. I had been reading inside when I felt the need to use the bathroom. I asked my new host family where the toilet was and they pointed to the small shack in the back of the yard. I had suspected it, and my suspicious were confirmed. I had an outhouse.
Seeing that its door was open, I knew that the facilities were free to be used. I walked up to it confidently, closed the door, and did my business. (Not that business; that would come later in the week. Way too much information, but I would say the first time one squats in a squatter is a proud day for any Peace Corps volunteer.) I turned to leave and pushed the outhouse door open. Or rather pushed against the door. It didn’t open. It would budge, but it would not open. Something on the other side was blocking it. I was trapped in an outhouse.
I stood there wondering what exactly I should do. It was not comfortable in there. It smelled (obviously). It seemed dirty (obviously). And it was rather cramped (again, obviously). I pushed against the exit again and tried to peer through the small crack that I could make between the frame and the door. I saw that half way down there appeared to be a piece of wood preventing the door from swinging open. I pushed harder, but still, nothing. I tried to figure if there was a way I could reach what was blocking the door, but not surprisingly there wasn’t anything I could find to accomplish this task. I really was trapped in the outhouse.
I did not want to ask for help from my new host family. If there is anything more embarrassing that dropping your underwear off your fifth story balcony, it may be being trapped in an outhouse. However, after finally acknowledging there really was no way for me to get out of the outhouse by myself, I accepted the fact that I would have to call for help. I stood on my tip toes and peered over the top of the door into the yard, just half of my face visible between the door and the top of the frame, my eyes scanning. No one was there. I lowered down back on my heels and stood there. I again raised myself on my tip toes and scanned the yard. There. My new host mom was visible bringing in some clothes from the line.
I raised myself a little higher on my toes so my mouth would be above the top of the door. “Pomogite, pomogite, pomogite,” I said. Help, help, help. I managed not to yell, but it had to be loud enough to hear from across the yard. She looked up and saw my face peeking over the top of the door. She quickly rushed over and undid the latch that had been holding me captive. I was free!
Later I realized that what had kept me locked in this outhouse is an outside latch that is used to keep the door shut while no one is in there. Keeps the smell in; animals out, I guess. And I had closed the door with such force that it had shook this latch into falling down, thus locking me inside. I can only imagine the horror that this latch has brought countless siblings in Kazakhstan who have tried to use to the bathroom only to discover their older brother thinks it would be a great joke to lock the door from the outside. Or maybe this is avoided by the simple fact that the older sibling must eventually use the same outhouse. Regardless, my simple advice: Never slam the outhouse door.