I found myself on my knees one day cleaning not only a bidet, but also a urinal (so elegantly called a pissoir by the French). This event took place in Moldova where I lived my expat life at the time, and it was a new experience for me. Being of the female persuasion, I’d never had a close encounter with a urinal, and although foreign hotels and houses in Italy had given me an acquaintance with bidets, I’d never been in a position to have to clean them.

I think I hear your collective gasp from the far corners of the world, but not to worry. My man had not disposed of me, rendering me destitute and forcing me to join the honorable brigade of house cleaners and hotel workers to make a living. I was safely ensconced in what was then my new house in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova (yes, that is a country).

It was tucked away in a small mews near the centru and was shiny and brand new. It was a small and modest place by American suburban standards, but it boasted three bidets among its plumbing fixtures, features not usually found in American suburbs.

We’d only recently moved into our new abode. Boxes and suitcases were only partially unpacked. Heaps and piles perched on beds and floors. Because, well, I’m sure you can guess: This new house was lacking in closets, cabinets and drawers. What to do with clothes? Towels and linens? The beautifully appointed bathrooms on the upper level had no place to put the towels and there was no linen closet anywhere. However the place was rich in wasted space as well as nooks and crannies. I was gobsmacked when first I wandered around the professionally finished house with its gleaming hardwood floors and beautifully tiled Italian-style bathrooms and wondered if anyone remotely female ever looked at the design and layout of the place. Surely not.

Now, allow me to show you the bathroom, washroom, WC, the toilet, whatever they call these facilities used by visitors when mother nature calls. In my native Holland they call it the toilet or the WC (and yes, those midget sinks in them are ridiculous).

Now, see the photo below? That’s what you would find when you visited Miss Footloose at home in Moldova: A generous sink (not shown), a toilet, a bidet, and a urinal. And if this was not good enough for you, well, you just couldn’t be my friend.

What was the architect thinking? What was he (definitely not SHE) thinking when he sized out the minuscule kitchen? It had a single sink with a tiny piece of counter next to it and a cabinet above it, the only cabinet in the place. The big island separating the kitchen from the dining area had cubbyholes on the kitchen side, but no drawers. I repeat, NO DRAWERS for utensils such as knives, forks, a can opener, a corkscrew, a stun gun, a cheese grater. However, the stove and oven combo was a joy to behold. I could cook a meal for a multitude with this appliance, but what to do with the dishes afterward? The baby dishwasher only did dinner for two.

I’m sorry if I sound like a whiner, but I must confess that I would have gladly traded in le pissoir for a standard-sized dishwasher. (It’s not every day you can say that, can you?) I’d have gladly thrown in the bidet to make the deal. What would visitors be doing with a bidet when just coming over for a cup of oolong? I really don’t want to think about it, do you?

So, I asked myself, what to do with that bidet in the WC? (Or the urinal for that matter.) I could stack the dirty dishes in it after a dinner party so they’d have a place to hang out while waiting for their turn in the dishwasher. Or I could fill it with water and start a goldfish farm. I decided to put a plant in it. A big fern. It would make a charming, artistic composition, don’t you agree?

Conclusion: To bond with your bidet then, you first get on your knees and get to know it, then you put a plant in it.

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I’d love to hear if you have any interesting experiences with bidets and/or urinals. Other bathroom or plumbing adventures welcome too, just keep it cleanish.

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Are you an expat shopaholic? Me, not so much. Unless I find myself in unfamiliar and exotic places, and then I love discovering the kind of funky things for sale I would never find in the shopping emporiums of America or my native Holland. You want to see what I mean? Okay, but be warned! This is a post about poison, juju, magic potions, drugs, sex, and worms.

 

A jar of pickled hemlock! I bought it in ARMENIA, where it was sitting happily on a grocery store shelf, looking all innocent. How could I possibly pass this up? No, I didn’t eat it lest I perish like Socrates, but I had fun looking at it.

When I lived in GHANA, I once went shopping with friends in the juju market in Accra, the capital. The place is not easy to find, hidden away down wandering tiny alleys in the center of town. One of my friends was looking to buy a couple of live chameleons (don’t ask). Most of the things for sale however were dead: Dried lizards, animal bones and skulls. All manner of mysterious items were on display — talismans, juju dolls, porcupine quills, dried herbs, thunder stones.

The gods had conspired against me and I had forgotten my camera, so I’m offering up a photo by Dan Sloan taken of a juju stall in the huge Voodoo fetish market in Lomé, just over the border in Togo. Tempted as I was, I did not buy any of the items on offer. Sadly, I couldn’t find anything that fit my decorating style and color scheme. And needless to say, one must consider the importance of creating good feng shui. You know what I mean.

Have you ever eaten fried or stewed mopani worms? I once spent a few days in ZIMBABWE, accompanying my man on a business trip. While he labored away, I spent a day in search of these worms, which are actually caterpillars.

Photo by Johann du Preeze | CC

Very pretty don’t you agree? They are high in protein, and a delicacy in this part of Africa. I was eager to try this gourmet delight, if only so I could brag about it.

My research told me these critters were (are) for sale fresh as well as in dried form, and for those local devotees away in alien climes they’re offered for sale online. I called a number of restaurants to see where we might dine on mopani worms that night, but unfortunately my quest was unsuccessful. and I ended up eating crocodile instead. It occurs to me as I write this that I could go online and order a package. Then again, I’m busy. I live in France now and I’m toiling away at the project of trying every one of their 365 cheeses.

While domiciling in INDONESIA I often saw women vendors in the street selling bottles of jamu, traditional herbal medicinal drinks. They’re made from roots, seeds, leaves and fruit, as well as spices such as ginger and turmeric. Each recipe is unique and passed on from mother to daughter.

Photo by Katja Dutka, used by permission

Jamu is also industrially produced, much of it in dried form. The packages have interesting and colorful covers and I actually had a small collection of them to give away as fun presents to friends at home. They look rather decorative on a bathroom shelf next to the sober bottles of Prozac. These natural tonics and pills offer remedies for all manner of ailments and conditions – for slimming, for stomach pain, for feminine odor ‘down there.’ There’s jamu for men to improve vitality and passion, and pills for women for ‘enhancing and tightening the breasts.’ After all, ‘It is not perfect to have a beautiful posture and pretty face without the complementary exciting breasts.’ So there you have it.

And I found this one day, free for the picking–just weed(s) growing by the side of the road in Chișinău, MOLDOVA, where I lived for some time not long ago.

I’d strolled by this lively patch numerous times without ever noticing these shapely leaves until a friend pointed them out to me. Which reminds me of a time in my more clueless younger years when friends in the US showed me and my prince their clothes closet which had a plant growing in it under a lamp. A plant in a closet? Under a lamp? “What is this?” I asked, me the innocent.

Mannequin for sale! Just right for your hallway to impress all your visitors. This doll was looking for a loving home at an antique market in the south of FRANCE, where, as I said, I now live.

I was so impressed by this fabulous femme, just standing there in all her (almost) naked glory–she, not worried at all about the innocent little French kids walking by and morally corrupting them for life. Just think of her on display in a flea market in the United States, say in Alabama.

I’m thinking it’s time to close this up.

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Tell me about your shopping adventures, what funky things have you (not) bought in your expat life?

 

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