Skills Acquired on the Eastern Frontier

by Michael Ujifusa

The Exquisite Art of Pooping Into a Hole

When I first arrived in China I avoided using a squatter for over two months. Fearing a messy accident, I reluctantly experienced my first squat toilet on the 28-hour train ride back from Beijing. My stubbornness to adapt to the squat was out of fear. You must understand that squatting requires skill, balance and preparation. If you are not in the proper position or location above the hole, stinky tragedies can occur. Furthermore, toilet paper is considered a luxury in public bathrooms. If you do not remember to bring TP, you’re taking off a sock or calling a friend. Because my apartment is equipped with a western toilet, I did not fully appreciate the squat toilet until I was traveling the back roads of Southeast Asia where western toilets are rare. Despite their apparent downfalls, the squatter has many advantages over the sitter. Public bathrooms are pretty disgusting in China and Southeast Asia. I’ve actually deferred to the squatter on Chinese trains several times. I would rather hover over a hole than expose my cheeks to god knows what gets left behind on the western toilets. There are also health benefits to the squatting position. During a Stumbleupon binge I found out that squatting instead of sitting positions your colon in a better angle for defecation. With less mess and effort, squatting may even lessen your chances of colon cancer and hemorrhoids.

Tips for the Perfect Squat

-The most important aspect of pooping into holes is placing your weight on the back of your heels. For Americans this is counter-intuitive to the traditional “catchers squat” which entails balancing on the balls of the feet.

-For beginners, squatting with a wide stance is crucial for balance and decreasing the strain on the quadriceps and shins.

-You must also be wary of pooping directly into the hole, for splash-back is always a threat.

-Pants placement is also critical, you never want them to touch the floor or be in the direct line of fire.

If you follow these simple guidelines you will be able to poop anywhere; into holes, in the great outdoors or even perched over the sunroof of a rival’s car.

Drinking Gasoline

Baijiu may be the foulest tasting liquor in the entire world. The noxious taste that bombards the palette upon contact can best be described as paint thinner that has been strained through hay for several weeks. Baijiu, which literally means “white alcohol”, is China’s interpretation of hard liquor. Most of the stuff is at least 100 proof and has a strange propensity to leave an intense burning sensation in the mouth and throat. Traditionally served at banquets and other formal affairs and celebrations, baijiu is roughly the equivalent to whiskey in America. Men mischievously proclaim “gan bei” (bottoms up) as they go around the table toasting with small ceramic cups filled to the brim with baijiu. I had the misfortune of getting into an informal drinking competition at a wedding I recently attending. To my surprise, I gulped down a double shot of the rancid concoction without vomiting or going into shock. Perhaps it was years of training at the West End or my now defunct Fraternity’s legacy as the house that almost got Everclear banned in Iowa, but the taste of baijiu has become tolerable to me. Despite my relative indifference to the taste, I still avoid it with a passion. What most people don’t realize about baijiu is that the havoc the white liquid wreaks on the body is far more painful than the actual consumption. The Baijiu Burp is an disgusting after effect of the vile liquid that occurs during the hangover. The smell of processed, festering, 100 proof liquor bubbling up from the bowels may be the most disgusting emanation that the human body can produce. Furthermore, what happens in the toilet the next day is too graphic for description… needless to say, I’m bringing several bottles back and terrorizing unsuspecting drunkards at the bar.

Eating Bones

"I will haunt you from beyond the grave"

Most of the meat and all of the fish in Guilin have bones. The Chinese believe that cooking meat with the bone in produces a higher quality and better tasting dish. Learning to eat meat in China was quite challenging at first and I would regularly stab my gums with pieces of dead chicken ribs. Undaunted by the challenge and thoroughly addicted to meat, I have become proficient at eating around the bone or if necessary through the bone. Several weeks ago I accidentally ate an entire fish, bones and all, during a late night BBQ session*. I honestly couldn’t tell at the time and I was horrified/proud after I realized what I had done. Looking into the eyes of the helpless animal that was slaughtered in order to provide you with sustenance and than proceeding to literally pick through said animals carcass takes some getting used to. This may be a PETA activists worst nightmare, but knowing exactly where your food came from because you saw it walking down the street hours earlier is much more satisfying and primal that shoving sterile, processed, pink slime down your throat.

*I was very drunk.

 Tuning Out

China is a very loud place. However, I had not experienced Loud until I began teaching 9 and 10 year olds at my second job this semester. For 6 hours every week I attempt to talk over the din of 50 Chinese children screaming bloody murder. My prepubescent disciples are absolutely out of control and I leave the school partially deaf and craving alcohol after every session. After two weeks of dealing with these pint-sized hellions, I learned an invaluable skill, tuning out that which should infuriate. While my assistant tells them to shut the fuck up in Chinese, (which is incredibly humorous especially when she starts hitting their desks with random objects) I put on my angry face, cross my arms and stare ominously at the wall. Little do they know, I’m actually zoning out and thinking about what I’ll eat for dinner or why the general management of the Minnesota Twins failed to acquire any starting pitchers from free agency during the offseason*. The Zen-like trance I fall into during these times is a welcome relief from my regular lesson plans which consist of repeatedly shouting a handful of English words at a class of deceivingly adorable banshees.

*As of today, the Minnesota Twins have the worst ERA in baseball (5.59), the worst record in baseball (6-17) and are last in the MLB with 4 quality starts. (and Jason Marquis doesn’t count as a free agency pickup)