There comes a time in every man or woman’s life when they poop in their pants. During the average life course of a human, this normally happens when they are a baby and have yet to be potty trained. It also tends to happen at old age, when control over our movements are not what they used to be.
Well, it just so happens, that if a person is to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, their chances of shitting themselves increase exponentially. Not only are they at risk during their infancy and old ages, but also during what some might call their ‘prime.’
Yes it is true that majority of PCVs are young, healthy and emotionally stable. However, the irony of this ‘prime’ time is that when the moment comes to poop your pants, it is anything but ‘prime’. In fact, it is often incredibly uncomfortable, embarrassing (especially if other people are in the area), and unpleasant.
Some of ya’ll might already know that I have had my fair share of close calls. Some wet farts, sharts, and last minute toilet explosions. But why do so many PCVs struggle with this reality? It almost always has to do with food and water. Often times, food preparation and storage is not as hygienic as our bodies are used to. Sometimes refrigeration doesn’t exist or is not utilized. This leaves time for bacterias (normally coming from flies, humans and other animals), to find their way onto the food we eventually eat.
Water treatment is also hard to come by sometimes. Most of the water that gets consumed in my community (as tea or coffee for example) gets boiled beforehand. However, there is still a lot of water that goes untreated during the food preparation process. Mostly commonly during the washing of fruits and vegetables. The frustrating part is that the water doesn’t always wreck your system. I have gone weeks and months a happy and healthy volunteer. But it takes just one bad serving with enough bacteria or viruses and your body goes into complete mayhem.
I have no solid idea of what got me sick and made me shit myself. However it was probably the papa rellena that I bought from the bus station or the ensalada de chocho that I prepared for myself a few days ago. If it was the papa, it was probably the oil that frigged me up. Either that, or the chicken inside. If it was the chocho, it was probably the water that gets used to wash the onions or soak the beans.
Okay, so what happened? Some readers might be dying for details. It not like you just eat something and then you poop yourself. There’s always a process. The development, the crisis moment, and the clean up. Well in my case, everything was fine and dandy until I woke up from my nap. I woke up with a combination of violent bloating and constipation. I wanted to let the gas out of me, but I couldn’t find a way. If it weren’t for gravity, I would have floated away.
At this point, it was night time and almost time for dinner. So I politely tried to drink coffee and eat bread with my family, but anything going in made me feel worse. I paced around and tried to make myself feel better. I didn’t think it was a big deal until I started getting waves of nausea and these disgusting sulphuric burps. They always come out with the same flavor that makes me dry heave after.
My reality is that the bathroom is far from my room. And when its late at night, it is also behind locked doors. So I do not even try. So when I am sick and think I might have a rough night, I get my bucket ready. It’s a blue bucket and works just like a toilet, minus the flushing part. I dropped some sweet orange essential oils in it to add an aroma therapeutic element and readied my wet wipes and toilet paper. Ask any PCV and they probably have a poop/pee bucket, but they probably don’t use the essential oils– that’s something special.
The first half of the night went swimmingly. I was up every 30 minutes or so. Clenching and looking for my headlamp. But there was no mishaps. No misses. Eventually however, I got to the point where I was so exhausted, that the next moment of gastric distress did not wake me up. Normally the gases rumbling in my stomach is enough to shake the bed and hear from the next room over. I am not even kidding. When this happens, I know I am ready. But like I said, I was asleep. So my body relaxed and just pooped.
This immediately woke me up. Flashbacks to peeing the bed when I was a kid came rushing back. I think I even audibly cursed. I shimmied out of bed in a way so as to not spread the poop or make any further contact with it. I wiggled out of my shorts and underwear (luckily I wasn’t sleeping naked that night) and cleaned myself the best way I could. A shower, unfortunately, was out of the question.
Once the crisis moment had passed and I was done with the clean up process, I was able to get back into bed. I think the only good thing that came of me pooping my pants was that afterwards, I was so utterly exhausted, that I slept like a rock until 10am the next morning. From there, I disposed of the ingredients in my bucket and cleaned everything one more time.
So why do I write about this experience? Well, partly because I’ve been running low on blog material. Also because, in a gross way, it is a right a passage for a lot of PCVs. I am honestly surprised I made it this far.
Pooping your pants is definitely a low. You feel sick, vulnerable, disgusting, dirty etc. However, after the fact, you almost always feel better (just as long as you have an adequate clean up process). You feel relived and the pressure of not wanting to poop your pants during your PCV service is over. It’s almost an accomplishment in a weird sort of way. You feel like you could do it again and it wouldn’t be so bad.
That, and I think it’s funny. At least now I do. In the moment and day after, it was anything but funny. But I think it’s important to share these types of things and laugh about them. They are real and raw. Comedy (misery) is always better with company.