I wrote this post during PST, but somehow never really got around to publishing it, but since there’s a new class in PST in Tanga right now, I thought it might be a good time for it.
So this may be just a “part 1” type thing, or it might be the only post I ever do on the topic – somehow I doubt it. I wanted to talk about some of the unique challenges of being a female away from home in a very different culture. Hence this post.
If you are lucky, you’ve already got the hang of using menstrual cups by the time you land in-country. I started using mine 6 months before I arrived and had already worked out technique kinks by the time I needed to use one for realzies. Or so I thought. The nice thing about western toilets is that if you drop something non-electronic in it you can usually get it back again, even if you then have to disinfect it. Let me give a bit of wisdom here – drop toilets and even flushable choos are not like that. If you drop something in there it’s gone for good. If it’s a flushable porcelain choo you may have less than a second to grab it, but more than likely it’s gone. So when you are removing your menstrual cup, be very careful not to drop it. That would be bad. I very nearly lost mine that way upon reinsertion.
On cleaning it when you empty it in a shared toilet: invest in some kind of spray bottle. It’s worth it. Then carry it around with you and you can clean it.
Second, invest in reusable menstrual pads. Seriously. And when you change them out, put them into a bucket of water Right Away! Not in an hour, not a day… immediately. You want to get to it before a stain sets. Then wash it either that day or the next. Don’t be lazy about that or you will regret it.
If you are taking PeptoBismol for diarrhea, do not do so while on your period if you are prone to bloating and cramps. I took a really small dosage and then spent 3 hours curled in the fetal position on the floor of my CBT. The combo of blocked pipes, bloating, and excruciating cramps left me with a whole bunch of trapped gas distending my abdomen and pressing on a cramping uterus. I was tender and sore for about 2 days and now I am incredibly paranoid about ever using Pepto again.
Men will be asses. Most of the time they won’t even realize they are doing anything that might make you uncomfortable due to cultural differences. PST is your opportunity for a trial run of how to handle cat calls and over familiar comments and touching. Even if you don’t have language skills to explain why, learn the phrases to ask them to back off or tell them no. Always remember that confidence can do a lot for you. If you act scared and mousy you might be a target for further harassment. If you continuously laugh it off even though it makes you uncomfortable, they might persist because they think you are having fun too. But also be somewhat cautious of going straight to aggression. Get a feel for the situation and start off politely telling men to go away. If they persist in harassing you, ramp it up. If the mamas around you see that you are getting upset and scared they will most likely come to your defense. Tanzanian mamas are nothing to laugh at and even the vijana (youths) tend to steer clear of an angry mama.
Practice standing up for yourself. Practice telling the overly friendly piki piki drivers to:
- Stop it! – acha!
- Don’t touch me! – usiniguse!
- Leave! – taka!
- Go! – nenda!
- Are you serious? – unazingua?
- Really? – kweli?
- I don’t want! – sitaki!
- Not okay – siyo sawa.
- Give me respect – nipe heshima.
- Leave! – ondoka!
- I don’t like! – sipendi!
- I have a husband. – Nina mume.
- I don’t want a husband – Sitaki mume.
- Behave yourself. – Shika adabu yako!