Pooping in Japan

As I’m about to embark on my next holiday – this time to Hong Kong – I realised I never wrote anything on my blog about my last holiday to Japan (at least I don’t remember writing anything… you never know!). So without further ado, here’s a short write up of my favourite thing in Japan: toilets.

Last July my crazy little sister packed her bags and left Chicago to spend a year in Japan teaching English in remote areas of the country. For the past year I’ve had the privilege of laughing in hysterics as I read her emails on Japanese cultural experiences. In early May I met my parents and sister in Tokyo to see all the purple food, crazy socks and lace umbrellas for myself. While all that was pretty funky, what really fascinated me was their toilets.

Yes, toilets. Poopers. Cans. Dunnies. Loos. (No, this isn’t Kenny writing the story.)

big toilet

Japanese toilets are quite possibly the coolest gadget I’ve experienced. And yes, that includes Wii, iPhones and even self-parking cars. Let me paint you a picture.

It’s winter. There’s a chill in the air. You have to go. You walk into the stall and sit down and the cold seat doesn’t feel at all pleasant to your skin. Not in Japan! All the toilets have bum warmers! With adjustable temperature! So if you like things toasty, that’s your choice.

But wait, it’s a public toilet so you may be a bit embarrassed or scared of germs. Nah-ah, not in Japan! Toilets come fully equipped with multiple noises that mask the “natural” sounds their users make (Quick random fact: The sounds were added after Japanese ladies repeatedly flushed toilets to make noise, thus wasting lots of water. The pre-recorded sound does the job, but is a bit more eco-friendly). You can play a pretty song or a sound of running water, for example.

But it doesn’t end there! There’s a built-in bidet for ladies and a bum washer (with adjustable pressure and temperature) for everyone’s enjoyment. And yes, you guessed it, a bum dryer is there too. It’s a completely warm, hands-free, clean bathroom experience.

Now, you may think I’m completely weird to have written this post. If you do, then I have one thing to say to you – don’t knock it till you try it!

Top 10 places I want to visit

I haven’t traveled the world nearly as much as I would have liked to by now. I’m not complaining… I’ve loved the places I’ve seen and I feel very lucky to have experienced them. Still, there’s so much out there that I long to explore. As of today, here’s my top 10 list of places I want to visit, in no particular order.

1. Rwanda – I’d love to go tracking gorillas in the jungle. Kinda scared of doing this one though… Civil unrest, Ebola, massive apes. hmmm… scary.

2. Istanbul – Ever since reading The Historian I wanted to explore Dracula’s home turf. The book has a great imaginative section in this city. If you haven’t read it, it’s a bit slow but bloody brilliant.

3. Iceland – Flying horses, hot springs and ice hotels. What’s not to like?

4. Antarctica – I want to see the penguins before Global Warming melts all the ice…

5. Mykonos – Every photo I’ve seen looks so absolutely idylic that this must be paradise on Earth.

6. Machu Pichu, Peru – Everyone who’s been there says it’s stunning. Will need to get in shape before this one. I’m embarrassingly unfit right now… I also want to see the alien crop circles nearby.

7. French Riviera – When I was little I loved the Le Gendarme de St. Tropez movies and wanted to go to the South of France ever since. I’m scared to watch those again in case they don’t seem as funny anymore…

8. Tuscany – Ummm… Gaja wines… Is that not enough?

9. Netherlands – During tulip season. I can’t even imagine how beautiful it must be.

10. Petra, Jordan – Because it looks like something made up for an Indiana Jones movie. It must be pretty cool in real life.

For now, I’m off to Hong Kong (thank you Blake!) and back to see a bit of Poland later in the year. Woo hoo!

What’s your dream place to visit?

A lake in the Australian desert

Every now and then when La Nina hits and there’s an especially wet season in Queensland, water collects in what’s then known as Lake Eyre. When this happens, this body of water becomes so big it looks like an ocean when you’re standing on the shore. The last time the basin was flooded was back in 1989 so seeing this spectacular sight in 2009 is quite a treat, even if the lake’s only at less than a quarter capacity. When all the waters recede, the basin will return to its normal state, that of a pink salted plateau.

You can check out up to date information on where the water is up to on the “>Lake Eyre Yacht Club website. If you’d like to visit, you can do that from William Creek, but hurry before the water dries out.

Lake Eyre, when flooded, as seen by satelite
Lake Eyre, when flooded, as seen by satelite

Cheetah Conservation

Magda and Blake petting baby cheetahs
Magda and Blake petting baby cheetahs

The fastest animal on land (and one of the most beautiful!) is one of the most endangered. The Cheetah Outreach program in South Africa’s Stellenbosch region is one organisation doing its part to protect these stunning animals. Last year in October I was lucky enough to pay a visit to Spier wine farm, where the outreach is located. We got to experience a short cheetah encounter, which was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

In addition to breeding cheetahs, Cheetah Outreach also breeds Anatolian Shepherd Guard dogs. These dogs are experienced cattle herders and they aid farmers in protecting their livestock from becoming cheetah food. By supplying the puppies to farmers, Cheetah Outreach ensures that cheetahs will be chased away by the dogs instead of being shot by the farmer. Pretty good solution, don’t you think?

Check out their website and make a donation.