Needs or wants?

So... Uh.. No toilet paper?

Upon arrival to Ghana, I quickly learned not to expect there to be toilet paper in public toilets.  Still, I was surprised when I went to use the bathroom on the flight from Tamale back to Wa and there was none.  That was one place I was really expecting to find toilet paper.  

No, this isn’t a chronicle of my Ghanaian bathroom experiences.  Instead, this is a reflection on creature comforts and what is actually important.  Before this trip, going into a bathroom and finding out there was no toilet paper sparked a little bit of panic in me.  Toilet paper in a public bathroom is something you just expect in the U.S.  It is important for an establishment to have toilet paper in the bathroom otherwise we think less of them.  But is it really important to have toilet paper?  After this trip to Ullo, I realized the answer is no. Toilet paper is not that important and here’s a short list of other things that are not that important:


  • Washing Machines -- your clothes will be crazy clean if you hand wash them correctly
  • Showers -- a bucket and a cup does the exact same thing and saves a lot of water
  • New things -- Americans are pretty obsessed with always having the newest, nicest version of just about everything, but really, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it
  • Deodorant -- trust me it’s not necessary
  • Starbucks -- as much as I hate to admit it, instant coffee with some condensed milk does the trick
  • Mirrors --  even though there were mirrors I actually did not look in one for over a week because it just really was not that important

The truth is you don’t really miss every single thing that you don’t have.  Sure pumping water is tiring, but goofing off with the other travel team members and kids while doing it is a blast.  Also, I’m pretty sure it counts as a workout.  And yes, it is nice to find some 2-ply (or even 1-ply) when you have to pee on a plane, but a little shake works just fine too.

Does this mean I’m going to stop using toilet paper, deodorant, or washing machines? No.  What it does mean is that Ullo taught me to appreciate the luxuries we are lucky to have back home and that I’ll be just fine without them.