Americas

Adventures in Underwear

Homemade Solution: A Sand Toilet!
If you are queasy about “girl things”, don’t read this article.
I was feeling horny as hell in Haiti. There’s really no other way to say that. Hormones are hormones and mine were raging.
I breathed a sigh of relief when my period finally came on. I knew the urges would ease again and that I would make it through what was accumulating into some pretty rough nights. But now I had bigger things to worry about- bigger fish to fry, you might say.
Like this question, for example: how the hell do you survive with a period in rural Haiti??
I know there are millions of women in this country that do it so I know it can be done. But let me tell you something- you aren’t a woman yet until you’re battling a heavy period while squatting over a cockroach-infested hole, doing everything you can not to pee on your feet and using your cell phone as your only light source at nine o’clock at night in one of two of the whole town’s only bathroom stalls (I use the term “stall” lightly).
Well, I take that back. I suppose you’ve been a woman regardless. But you certainly haven’t been a woman in Haiti.

Homemade Solution: A Sand Toilet!

I’m a little afraid to ask but certainly very curious about how all of this works here. Do women purchase pads over food? How do they keep clean on minimal toilet paper and water? Do people look at them funny when they go to the bathroom too often? Why is there not a line out the door for bathroom use in this town? Are women just squatting and letting the blood drain down their legs wherever they please, or where are they going? A part of me wonders if that’s why there are so many children around. Maybe it’s just easier to be pregnant and not have to worry about it. But I still want to know.

WHERE ARE THE WOMEN WITH PERIODS???
Chris, one of the principals at the Matènwa school and from the USA, has been teaching the women around town about tampons. They have never used tampons in their lives. I ask her what they use instead and she says “Oh, pads, rags, whatever they have really.” I think about the informality of life here. People are comfortable with their bodies and themselves. You shower behind a few palm leaves and a curtain (if that), but no one really cares about nudity anyway. Women play with my hair regularly and work to scrape my scalp of dandruff, unaware of the fact that I might be ashamed of my psoriasis. We have already talked about my facial hair and their near praise for it. People just don’t worry as much about other people’s bodies. They accept each other as they accept themselves.
Sometimes I pee in the shower. I don’t know if this is culturally acceptable yet. Or what I mean by that is, I pee in the palm-surrounded area while dumping cups of water on myself because it all runs into the ground anyway. I’m just waiting for someone to come around the corner and catch my naked body peeing. But it hasn’t happened yet.
Yesterday we were traveling all day. There were no bathrooms in sight. Desperately needing to change my pad, I didn’t know what to do. I was surrounded by about six men in the middle of a beach. They were my travel companions and I needed to do my woman thing pretty badly.
I opened my big shoulder bag and took a pad out of the pocket. While keeping my hands inside the bag, I carefully opened the pad and pulled off the paper. I casually walked around to the other side of the building that we had all been leaning against, as if to survey the ocean scene. There was a person in the distance who wasn’t looking in my direction. I sat on a wall and as I sat, I slowly spread my legs. I was lucky to be wearing a skirt that day. Taking out the pad as quickly as possible, I reached under my skirt and lay it on top of the other pad. Then I stood up and adjusted through my clothes.
Whew.
I came around to the other side.
“Doing a little scouting?” Bill asked me.
“Yup,” I said, resting my arms on the cement wall. I was wearing two pads and I’d made it through day two of five or so. They are my adventures in underwear.
Beth Santos
Founder and CEO of Wanderful, creator of the Women in Travel Summit, enthusiastic lover of ice cream, picnics and art.

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