I Need The Toilet

Written By: The Lowdown - Dec• 31•12

About three years ago, when my second child was nine months old, I went to New Zealand on holiday.  One of the first things that captured my attention was not, as one might imagine, the disproportionate number of sheep to humans, but the abundance of baby-changing facilities.  They have what are termed ‘family rooms’ where, to be quite honest, you can do just about anything short of ordering a four-course meal.  The rooms are large with comfy chairs in which to breast feed, ample space (with comfy mats) on which to change baby, and they have child size toilets for little kids and adult size toilets for adults.


For someone who once changed her baby’s nappy while balancing her on top of a suitcase on a trolley at Lusaka International Airport(not known for its baby changing facilities) this was like a dream come true.  In fact, I could have stayed in one of these rooms for a whole day, luxuriating, not only in the space and sense of privacy, but the feeling of dignity that I felt bestowed on me: someone, somewhere was acknowledging that being a parent is often a hard and thankless job and it is nice to be rewarded occasionally – even if it is in the form of a decent toilet!


Thankfully, we are now out of the nappy stage, but I am still always on the lookout for places with nice clean toilets and child-friendly facilities.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find any place in Zambia that offers baby-changing facilities.  The closest I ever came was at Kilimanjaro before they moved out of the Manda Hill centre, although I was never sure whether the little ledge which stuck out in the ladies’ loo was for changing babies or was just missing a pot plant or two.


On the subject of Manda Hill, I did get quite excited when they opened their new toilet facilities and I spied what might have been the equivalent to theNew Zealand‘family toilet’.  Still no baby-changing facilities, but at least one can enter the same toilet cubicle as one’s child and both make use of the facility without being crammed into a tiny space as is usually the case.  The very fact that there is a sink which is accessible to a child is a major step forward in human development.  It’s no use impressing on your child the importance of hygiene when they can’t reach the taps most of the time!


I often feel you can judge a place by its toilet.  There’s nothing worse than finding out that what you thought was a most respectable establishment – inferred, of course, by the wide menu replete with words such as ‘panini’, ‘drizzled’, ‘mocha’ and ‘latte’ – has a restroom where you are afraid to wash your hands!  Dripping taps, a stained basin, cracked soap (liquid soap is a must for any public convenience) and a towel with a runaway ecoli count.


On the other extreme, however, it can take you forever to get kids out of a toilet that provides three kinds of liquid soap, various hand creams and taps that switch on by themselves.  Whichever way you look at it, using public toilets can be an experience you’ll never forget!


 by Bryony

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