We saw an example of this as we headed back from the defunct bridge. A rusted sign was set in amongst the fields near the road. Put up by the local community it said “Open Defecation is not allowed. Please use the latrine, latrine use is free”. It seems bizarre to most people that a community has to be told not to defecate anywhere, and that the idea of the dirt and spread of disease is not an innate reaction (and I imagine my disgust to know you might walk in human faeces almost anywhere is not just a western learnt reaction). I suppose the habit comes from past years where communities were small and you could head off into the bush and defecate and by the time you next went back to that area natural processes had cleaned away the evidence. Also the connection between faeces and disease may not be clear amongst at least some of the community. But as populations become larger and more tightly packed it is no way to deal with sewage. I found the number of hygiene and sanitation projects around staggering and still surprising that there was a need for reinforcing the messages so often.
As much as there was a serious point to the sign, I must admit what most attracted me was the Krio translation of the English. It was much more onomatopoeic and lyrical “Nor scatter Kaka Fita-Fata”.
There was nothing to be done; I just hoped my Malarone tablets could form a second line of defence against the malaria parasite. I arose, picked up my washbag and towel and went into the bathroom. I took off my shorts and took up a quart jug from one of the buckets. I scooped up some water and poured it quickly over my head. I had to bite my tongue as the coldness of the water reacted against the hot sweat of my body. I had to repeat this to wet my whole body; then I reached for the washbag and soaped myself vigorously down as fast as I could. Then I had to repeat the process with the jug to rinse of the soap. I cleared my eyes and reached out for my towel and quickly rubbed myself dry. It was a relief to be clean but by no means a pleasurable experience.
I came out and we had some breakfast – our cook had laid on some hot water and we made coffee, ate some bread and some fruit we had picked up en route from Freetown. I then had to face the latrine; this time for the serious end of business. I picked up the key and a roll of paper that we had left next to it, and I headed out back. Unlocked the door, then pushed the bolt across to stop anyone following me in (including the goats that were browsing a few feet away). I looked at the small hole I had to aim at. It was less than a foot across, and of course being a triangle there was not a lot of leeway. I dropped the trousers, but made sure they did not hit the floor and did the most intense squats I have ever done. It is remarkable how good that is at moving the bowels and it did make me wonder that it is more efficient than the western bowl style toilet where you bend only to 90 degrees. But of course the problem with this method is that unless you relieve yourself quickly you have to deal with cramp, stiff limbs and, if you have an itchy nose, no way of scratching it without going off balance. As I rose I saw I had hit the target cleanly; I did not want to deal with the consequences if I had not, and beat a retreat from the latrine as fast as I could. While the smell from the pit was not overpowering, nothing about this place was pleasant. Not just the smell; the austerity of the surroundings including the concrete floor, but also the wind whistling under the gaps in the walls and the activity nearby was enough to put you off your evacuations.
I replaced the key and the paper, washed my hands and got myself prepared for the day. Gray was heading off to do some surveying in the nearby Kilimi National Park and would take our driver and vehicle with him. Kofi and I wanted to train some people to use GPS and survey sheets to record the property rights of the villagers of Fintonia. We could not start the work until we had permission from the village elders so our first order of the day was to go and have a meeting with them.