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Monday, May 18, 2009

The Out-house

Have you use an out-house before?

There was one about 100m away from my cousins' attap house. Four families shared this out-house. When mom told me I would be living with my cousins in Singapore, she didn't tell me much about kampong life and I was shocked to know I had to do my big business in that stinky hut. I live with my cousins for 1 and half years. I was 9+ then.

Our attap houses were built on a hill. That wooden out-house was situated at the end of the hill and standing on stilts! 2 to 3 pieces of wooden planks were placed on the grassy ground leading to the out-house like a bridge. When you stepped inside the hut, you had to be careful not to fall into a cut out hole in the middle of the wooden flooring that lead to the bucket below. Since the bucket was only collected once a week, you can imagine the offensive smell that rose up from there.

The odour was not the only thing I had to 'tahan'(endure). As I had to be careful not to step into the hole, I had to look where I was stepping. And no matter how hard I tried I couldn't avoid seeing what was in the bucket. Human excrete of multiple of ochre and brown. Hard ones, soft ones and cravvy like ones. I will never forget the time I saw the bucket covered with white, wriggling maggots! I screamed so loudly, I could hear it echoing through the hill. I still get the hee-bee-jee-bees and goose pimples recalling those fat wriggling white maggots.

Once a week a blue truck with many doors would come by. My cousin told me in Hokkien it's called the "sa-jap-larg-mng-jia" (36 doors truck). Whenever I see it passing by on the road, I would try to count the doors but could never be sure there were 36 doors on it cos I could never finish counting them on time before it went out of view.

Anyway, there were 2 persons in the truck. A driver that drove it and a skinny Chinese middle-age man with a cigarette hanging on his lips. I would always peek from my neighbour's house behind their wooden fence to see how the skinny man did it. I was curious if he would gag from the sight and smell. First, he would walk up the hill with 2 empty buckets with covers taken from behind the many doors from the truck. The buckets were hung from ropes at each ends of a pole which he balanced on his shoulder. The slopes he had to walk up on was just bare ground not cemented or anything like that. He would then set the buckets down on the ground unhooked the attached rope. Took a cover off an empty bucket and put it over the one under the out-house. Changed it with an empty bucket and hook the stinky one to the rope. He would then repeat and change the bucket of another nearby out-house shared by other families. Finally, he would walked down the slope with the buckets of excrements to the truck waiting by the road. Placed them into individual compartments behind the doors, climbed back onto the front seat and the truck would roll slowly to the next location down the road.

I often wondered if the skinny man had ever slipped or tripped on the way down the slopes while carrying the heavy filled buckets. That would be ugly (shudders). Anyway, he didn't gag even once! The smoke from the cigarette probably helped mask the smell. The sight of poops probably helped him keep his skinny figure. It's amazing what a man would do to feed his family! Very admirable don't you think?

1 comment:

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