News item

The ‘social toilet’ - By Joost Lammers

Xi'an, September 20, 2016

Today was a very cultural and exciting day for the STORM team. It already began right away when we woke up. We slept at the student dormitories of the university together with the rest of the Chinese students. They even temporarily moved some students to other rooms to make room for our team. Unfortunately they also moved their own mattresses and we had to sleep on wooden planks, but luckily we travel with our own easy to make mattresses and we could set them up. Of course we didn't complain because we received the accommodation for free!

The toilets were also quite different than what we are used to. We had already experienced the simple 'hole in the ground toilet' in Iran but here in China we have seen what I like to introduce as the 'social toilet' or Dutch 'sociaal toiletteren'. It is one room with about 8 different toilets. They are all connected with one large gap where one can deliver their dump by hanging above this gap (there is no toilet seat or whatever). The automatic flushing of the toilet sometimes sporadically tries to get rid of the dump but actually never succeeds, leaving the dump in the gap. This leaves a very nasty smell… However the most noticeable about this toilet is that it is social. There are walls of one meter high separating the toilets and there is no door leaving some space for you and the others to make eye contact or even have a social talk with each other. Quite different than what we are used to….

The ride today was in a different landscape than we had seen before. In large parts of Central Asia and China we had seen a lot of desert looking landscapes. However, today we got to see a lot of trees on the mountains and large cliffs in between them. We didn't have those boring straights and flat highways but actually had a lot of turns, climbing and descending. We also entered another province in China and that meant different rules. No motorcycles are allowed at the expressways (highways). But after some trying we managed to ride the expressway anyway. It is much safer and a lot more convenient than the national roads!

We were speeding up quite fast on the highway giving us some time to do some extra sightseeing with the team! We went to the terra cotta army near Xi'an. It is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. The sculptures were buried together with the emperor in 210 BCE with the purpose to protect the emperor in his afterlife. It is a collection of life size terracotta sculptures of army people and horses. It was only discovered by accident around 40 years ago and they are still digging up all the sculptures! It was really fascinating to see!

But the highlight of today actually came unexpected just after our visit to the terracotta army. Some team members spotted a KFC! We couldn't be more excited. Since we left Europe we had eaten kebab, rice, noodles, spicy food and things alike. But we were so happy to have a burger ones again. It might sound strange but it was so delicious!

Thereafter we arrived at the old capital city of China: Xi'an. We were welcomed by the Xi'an Hi-Tech International School. Together we ate very good local dishes and had an enjoyable evening at the student dormitories. All with all it was a very exciting day. We had experienced the Chinese culture in ways every tourist would do but also by going local at the universities together with the students. Tomorrow will be another exciting day with two events!

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