Pangolo Junction
Life, arguments, and kunu... with Max, Nat and Zack

Friday, March 02, 2007

Shalanga International

Dear Reader,

Before you get down to the business of the day, a couple of announcements.

I really do enjoy writing these posts - doing so provides an outlet for a creativity that I don't get to use while doing my day job. But unfortunately it takes of a fair chunk of my time as well, and it's over the last few weeks, it's become obvious that I can't sustain this. I'm also thinking of starting a new blog to comment on economics, science and technology stories pertaining to Nigeria/Africa, and I know that my work here will definitely take a hit.

So this will be the last weekly post for now - from next week, I'll be publishing roughly every two to three weeks from now on, but never longer than three weeks at a go. Hopefully, things may change and I may be able to get back to a weekly schedule, but we'll see.

Now I should warn you - if you are about to eat, are eating or have just eaten, you may want to stay away from this post for a while. You have been warned once! You have been warned twice!!

Still here? All right - let's get down to business...

(Nat and Zack are in the Junction, waiting for Max to turn up.)

Nat: Very odd... I rang him on my way here, and he said he'd be here tonight.

Zack: You're sure? Has he fully recovered from the incident of
Chief X and his henchmen?

Nat: Yes... I got fed up of him staying in my flat so I called
Jonah and got him to speak to him to clear up that issue. Apparently, the mysterious chief has his sights trained on some other hapless fellow. (Grinning) Jonah wanted to give him the full story, but I think he has learnt his lesson - he rang off before Jonah could say any more.

Zack: So what could be holding him up, I wonder?

(Just then, Max enters.)

Zack: Ah-ah, what took you so long? Were you listening to some smoking hot gist? (Max pretends not to hear, but Zack just grins wickedly and carries on.) Perhaps the story you were listening to was one about this guy who was so terrified of being beaten up by men of the underworld that he hid in his friend's wardrobe for three days and three nights? (Laughs out loud.)

Max (shrugging): No... I hadn't heard that. But then again, I guess that peddlers of such baseless rumours know that I don't believe everything I hear, so (fixes Zack with a knowing look) they look for some other gullible person to pass them on to. And they couldn't even have found me if they tried, because I was having a change of scene and spending some time with my good friend Nat. (Turns to Nat) Abi not so?

Nat (thinking to himself): It's not me that's going to be the grass that suffers when these two elephants fight. (Aloud) So, Max, what happened? I'm sure you said you were already on your way when I set out from work.

Max: Well, I was... but midway, I got caught short, and I needed to ease myself. So I looked for a hidden corner to do the business.

Zack (in an indignant tone): I can't believe you actually did your business in public! And tomorrow, you'll be the one complaining about how stinking the environment is.

Max: Relaaaax! I was just urinating, that's all. And I did say it was a hidden corner - it's not like people pass by the place I was urinating regularly.

Zack: That still doesn't make it right. You sound like a thief who, when caught stealing says "Well, the person who I stole from is rich enough not to miss his money."

Max (irritated): All right, what should I have done? You know that we don't have public toilets in this town.

Nat: Well, you could have used... (he stops suddenly)

Max (mockingly): Go on - finish what you were going to say - "...the toilets in the Junction", right?

Nat (sheepishly): Actually, yes.

Max (in the same caustic tone): And you know why you stopped before you finished, don't you?

Zack: All right, no need to make a song and dance about it. We all know that the toilets here are known by names such as 'Sewer Central' and 'The Zone of A Thousand And One Stenches'. We all know that the flies in this town hold their annual conventions there. But you know what I blame for this?

Max and Nat (together): The government!

Zack: All right, apart from the government, you know who else I blame for this?

Max and Nat (together again): The President!

(Zack glares at them.) Are you guys going to be serious about this? All right, I'd better tell you. I blame the fact that we have blindly and foolishly thrown away our traditional systems of sanitation in favour of what the West has to offer. Look at us - we can barely maintain our roads and our infrastructure. And yet we are stupid enough to install in our houses plumbing fixtures as fragile as water closets - fixtures which break under even the mildest of usage.

Max: I don't see the problem. In the West, they seem to use these fixtures without any fuss.

Nat: Haven't you been listening to Zack? In the West, they have the money to maintain and replace these fixtures - we don't.

Zack: True. And besides, in the West, they eat light food like cornflakes, salad and rice, whereas we eat heavyweight food like eba, fufu, amala and pounded yam.

Nat: Not forgetting pupuru and lafun.

Zack: True. So you can imagine that when we sit down on the toilet seat to 'do battle', we have to exert a considerably larger force on the bowl rim to expel the denser matter.

Max: So what are you suggesting? That we return to shitting in the bush?

Zack: Come on, no need to go that far back. Don't you know anything? In the days of our forefathers, we had the shalanga - the pit latrine. It was a simple affair - you went, you squatted, you dropped, you washed, you left. No need to worry about leaking pipes, no water for flushing or blocked waste pipes. Zero maintenance!

(Max leans forward and squints at Zack as though trying to make out something from his expression. After a while, he leans back.)

You really are serious about this, aren't you? (Zack nods his head emphatically.) So you're suggesting that people who live in on the fourth floor of a block of flats should dig their own pit latrines, eh? I can imagine that being very popular with people on the third, second, first and...

Nat: What is the matter with you, Max? Come on - Zack isn't suggesting using the pit latrine in its pure form. The idea is to customise the design so that it's like a squat toilet. In other words, you do away with all that expensive bowl-and-cistern nonsense. Instead, you just squat and do the business in a shallow pan on the floor - like you do with a shalanga. Then when you're done, you clean up and use a small bucket of water to flush away the waste. The waste will travel down a hole in the pan which is connected to the same waste pipes as you have with conventional WC fixtures, so people who live in multi-storey buildings will still be able to use them.

(While Nat has been talking, Max's face has been screwing up into a tighter and tighter grimace, and when Nat is done, he bursts forth.)

Max: That is absolutely disgusting! You are actually telling me that my shit will be in this pan while I'm squatting - within actual touching distance of my behind? And there will be no water to mask the smell? That's even worse than a traditional shalanga!

Nat: It's not that bad. It is a pan, so there will be a slight depression which means that your 'job' will still be some distance from your behind. And as for the smell... come on, Max - tell me the person that doesn't mind the smell of his own waste.

Zack: And if you think that is disgusting, I could tell you a story or two about what happens when you use the WC system in our dear country!

Max (doubtfully): Do I really want to hear this?

Nat: Oh, go on, Zack.

Zack: Well, this is about the toilets in our hostels back my university days. Usually, when we had water supplied to our toilets in the hostels, things weren't so bad - but on the many frequent occasions the water supply dried up, man - I tell you, the state of the toilets would definitely give the Junction toilets a run for their money.

Anyway, when the toilets got into this state, most sane people would avoid the place altogether. But of course, there were some hardy souls who still insisted on doing their business there. Obviously, there was no question of sitting on the seat, since the whole of the WC was overflowing with... well, I'm sure you can imagine. So they would do something called a 'Spiderman'.

Max: Huh?

Zack: No, I don't know why they called it that, either. Anyway, you know that the WC is located in stalls whose walls are near each other? Well, what the guys would do would be to stretch their arms and legs, push against the walls and carefully manoeuvre their way up the stall up until their backsides were directly over the 'target'. So in effect, they were suspended directly over the WC without touching it at all.

Nat: Interesting... and I can see why they called it 'doing a Spiderman' now.

Zack: Anyway, one day, this fellow was in the toilet doing his business after having done a 'Spiderman' to get into position high over the WC. I should mention that this particular toilet bowl was in a particularly disgusting state, even by the low standards of the university toilets. There were even maggots... all right, I'm sure you get the picture. I don't know exactly what happened, but I'm guessing that this fellow must have been trying to expel the remains of a particularly heavy meal, so he must have had to use some extra push. Whatever the case, unfortunately while dropping the bombs, he slipped and...

Nat and Max (in horror): NOOO!!!!!

Zack: Absolutely. It was said that for days afterwards, he took no less than five baths a day with strong disinfectant to scour himself completely of the faeces and the experience - and remember, this was during a water shortage too. I don't think he was ever the same person afterwards.

Nat: This is why we should reintroduce shalanga-style toilets in public buildings at least. If your university had had these kinds of toilets where the flushing requirements are minimal, this wouldn't have happened.

Zack: Not only that. Shalanga-style toilets promote squatting as opposed to sitting - and this is a much more optimal position for expelling waste with minimal effort.

Max: That is just nonsense. How do you expect people to feel comfortable if they have to squat for long periods of time in the toilet?

Nat: But that's just the point - squatting will reduce the period of time you spend in the toilet. I mean, what are you doing there, anyway? Remember we're talking about public toilets here - other people are waiting, so it's even good if the toilet makes you feel so uncomfortable that you can't wait to get out.

Max: I still say it's nonsense. Let's fix the water supply and drainage system instead of going back in time and reintroducing technology that the whole world has left behind.

Zack: Well, you're wrong about that. There are many other places in the world where they use these toilets. Apparently, they are quite popular in Japan.

Nat: Don't mind Max. Leave him to his broken-down WCs and walls in hidden corners. Instead, let us celebrate the reliability, utility and versatility of the shalanga.

Zack: You know? Perhaps we should even form a society to celebrate the virtues of the shalanga.

Nat: Yes... we could call it - 'Shalanga International' - just like the human rights organisation call themselves 'Amnesty International' - to celebrate the universal nature of the shalanga.

Max (dismissively): If you want to know what I think of your idea, just take the first two letters of the first word and the first and third letter of the second. In fact, I think that would make an excellent acronym for your proposed society...


  • I'll miss your weekly installments, but if it's taking too much time for now, I understand. I loved all the posts, if I have to wait 3 weeks to read another episode that's fine. Thanx for all the posts, and special thanx to Max :-)

    I'm looking forward to your new blog. When will it start?

    RE: Shalanga Internationl

    lol @ 'Sewer Central' and 'The Zone of A Thousand And One Stenches'

    Pit remember going to the village.

    Max - tell me the person that doesn't mind the smell of his own waste.
    Ehn?? I

    What Zack said about the toilets in the hostel is so true...the things we had to go through in boarding house {sighs}

    The pan system won't be useful to me, just because I like reading in the toilet ;-)

    lol @ Max's last line.

    This was funny. Great as usual.

    Have a wonderful week.

    By Blogger Nilla, At March 02, 2007 7:40 pm  

  • Funny as usual.

    Reminds me of a story I once read. A man being pursued by police stepped on a dilapidated soakaway. He fell in and was pulled out.

    The police insisted on taking him to the station, but they put him in the back and all seven of them squeezed in front ;-).

    Let us know when your new blog comes up...

    By Blogger azuka, At March 03, 2007 8:05 am  

  • Nilla,

    The new blog should be up by end of the month. Check back round about then - I should have a link to it from this page too.

    By Blogger Atala Wala Wala, At March 04, 2007 2:56 pm  

  • ok

    By Blogger Nilla, At March 05, 2007 4:16 pm  

  • Yuck! did u really have to be that descriptive? LOL..anyway nice one...and will surely miss reading ur blog on a weekly basis.

    By Blogger tolted, At March 08, 2007 9:55 am  

  • lol, shalanga international!Great blog! Check me out sometime bro.

    By Blogger Mr.Fineboy, At March 16, 2007 5:42 am  

  • I love the concept of your blog, and very interesting content too.

    Will be reading moreps. thanks for stopping by my blog.


    By Anonymous Kemi, At March 28, 2007 9:08 am  

  • I finally went through all your posts. How did you come up with the idea you've adopted for your stories?

    By Blogger BBA, At April 18, 2007 4:28 pm  

  • "How did you come up with the idea you've adopted for your stories?"

    Gosh, BBA - that's like asking "How did Fela come up with the tune and lyrics for 'Yellow Fever'?".

    If I'm to attempt an answer, I'll say that I'm the kind of person who likes looking at all sides of an argument... so it was a natural progression from there to giving flesh to each side of an argument as a character in a drama. Besides, I find it easier to understand something when it's presented as a dialogue rather than as straightforward prose.

    By Blogger Atala Wala Wala, At April 19, 2007 4:55 pm  

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