Day two in Korea, still jet-lagged, I had a 9:30am health check appointment at the hospital. A vision test, hearing test, lung X-ray and four vials of blood later, it was time to pee in a cup.
After being pricked and poked in front of what seemed like half of Seoul, a little urine sample sounded relatively painless.
I was wrong. My first public peeing experience—in a hospital mind you—ended up being in a ceramic hole in the ground.
What way do I face? Do I take my pants off? And if so, where do I put them? How am I going to pee in this damn cup with my skinny jeans around my ankles?
So many questions and so little time. My new boss was waiting for me outside the bathroom. So I planted my feet around the hole in the ground, shimmied my way-too-tight pants down to my knees and peed.
And not a drop of misplaced urine.
After the hospital I was off to see the school for the first time. And somehow, by the time we reached the building, I had to pee again. No ceramic holes, just miniature western-style toilets built for 5-year-olds and a few pairs of shower shoes placed at the entrance. I’m still not sure what they want me to do with these.
A few more facts about the bathrooms in Korea: There is no liquid hand soap. That’s right, these people wear masks everywhere they go and don’t allow outside shoes even at a gym, but they’ll happily share a piece of bar soap at their local watering hole. Sometimes you’ll even see it attached to a metal stick protruding from the bathroom wall.
Toilet paper, if there is any, is usually available outside of the stall. I’ve learned to carry tissue paper with me just in case. I’ve also learned that no matter what the bathroom may be like, sometimes you just gotta go.