Zena and I lived together for the first time in Dili. One of my earliest memories of domestic bliss was coming home from work to find Zena with her arm (all the way to the shoulder) in the toilet bowl trying to clear a blockage*.

Now this post may not be for everyone, but I think it’s worthwhile to share especially if you are new to developing countries and inexperienced in “developing-toilets”.

I’ve just had an upset tummy, otherwise known as ‘Dili Belly’. Thus, I  became a frequent visitor and friend of the toilet in our place.

The toilet we have is a hybrid western style toilet – it flushes and does not require the use of a ‘mandi’ (large bucket or basin filled with water that you use to fill a small bucket with to do the flushing).

However, having a Western esque toilet gave me a false sense of security that I was actually using a Western toilet, I wasn’t.

After the 5th visit during the night, I could see that there was a problem.

A bit problem, the toilet was blocked.

Now I won’t post a picture here, but just know it was a mess with the water and other goodies floating ever so close to the rim. So I decided to close the lid and go back to bed hoping that it would magically fix itself by the morning. Surprisingly, it didn’t fix itself.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. I have been known to use too much toilet paper… What I should have done was place my used toilet paper in the small bin beside the toilet, but I have never really got used to that system.

The next morning, as Zena was getting out of bed and heading to the toilet, I realised that I needed to fix this problem and QUICK.  One option would be to ‘outsource’ it to the landlord, but Zena threatened to kill me for doing that.

The next option was use the plunger in the bathroom and try and clear the blockage myself. I plunged and plunged but my plunger was not good enough. If there was any chance of clearing this blokage, I’d need a new plunger or a hose!

Knowing that I didn’t know the word for plunger to ask for at the shops, I took a picture of our plunger and took my camera with me to a small Chinese run hardware shop (we went to the one located near Food-L-Do on Comoro Road in Fatu Hada).

 BINGO! The picture worked, not only did they have plungers, but it was only going to cost me $2 to buy one.
With the plunger firmly secured on my motorbike it was time to return home to fix the problem.

It took considerable pumping of my own poo, but eventually the blockage cleared!

Some takeway lessons:

  • Every home in Timor-Leste is in need of a good quality plunger
  • Go easy on the toilet paper or put it in the bin rather than the bowel!
  • If you don’t know the word of an object in Tetum, just take a picture of the thing or find a picture of it online and show that to  people

* Zena would like me to make it clear that she had a garbage bag around her arm when she had it in the toilet.

Do you have any toilet maintenance tips to share?