Recently, I was talking to friends about the best birthday presents that we had ever received and there was the usual list of expensive items or those little things that are so full of sentimental meaning that you could never part from them. Well, it got to my turn and I knew what my answer would be straight away. I told my friends and there was a general look of confusion about my response and an exclamation of ‘No way’. I assured them that yes I was telling the truth the best birthday present that I have ever received was …….a BOX OF TAMPONS.
When it comes to body stuff, in my opinion, we ladies have been given the short straw. Boobs mean that finding a button up shirt is nigh-on impossible. I’ve never been pregnant or given birth but seeing what my friends have gone through and it doesn’t seem like a party and if you aren’t pregnant your body punishes you for being a terrible woman and not reproducing with mindnumbing cramps, mood swings, crazy emotions we don’t know how to deal with, and not to mention the period itself. There’s that line from South Park, “I don’t trust anything that bleeds for 5 days and doesn’t die”. Yeah well, Mr. Garrison imagine that once a month for about 40 years. If there are still any guys reading, I’m going to let you in on a secret. We know we are crazy when we are on our periods. We don’t need you to mention it.
In most (I’m assuming) western countries, tampons are readily available. Sanitary products are not considered a luxury product or at least they shouldn’t be, sure you can get the fancy ones with wings, skirts, cable tv and and season tickets to the opera but the general standard pads/tampons aren’t usually that expensive. Once you get overseas, specifically for this article, South East Asia; tampons ARE a luxury item and they are THAT expensive. In the Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and backpacking blogs they always mention that sanitary products are available in SEA, sure they are. You can get everything in SEA if you look hard enough for it. Girls travelling long term are probably going to be in need of some kind of sanitary product at some point in their trip. When I first went to Bali, I didn’t bring anything with me having believed the guides and blogs assuring me that I could get whatever I needed over there. When the time inevitably came and I had to go to the store on the hunt I was shocked at the price of these products that every woman needs. A box of 10 tampons was almost $15 Canadian!! Yes, pads were available in the store and were considerably cheaper but let me explain my preference for tampons. They just feel cleaner and especially when it’s 36 degrees outside and humid you don’t really want an extra layer of something that’s going to get hot and sweaty. I was hot and sweaty enough, I didn’t need my vagina cooking too. Also my objection to SEA pads, they are like the ones your mom buys you when you first get your period; the big, fat training pads that make you feel like you are wearing a diaper and self conscious that you in fact look like you are wearing a diaper. But alas I had no choice, I had to pay the pads. I was on an Indo salary and I couldn’t justify spending a tenth of my rent on 10 tampons.
Waddling into work wearing the padded bike seat the next day, I brought this up to my friends and they had the same experience. Together we came up with an ingenious plan to buy tampons in bulk from Amazon and start selling black market tampons to western women in Bali. Sadly, the plan never actually came to fruition but I still think we could have made a fortune.
So…birthday tampons. I’d been in Bali for about 6 months by the time my friend, Ariel was due for a visit. She was coming on her first solo trip to Bali and would by random chance be there for my birthday. Since she was coming from Vancouver, she asked me if there was anything from home I wanted. I gave her my list:
- Granville Island Winter Ale
- Kraft Dinner (I’m so fucking Canadian it hurts sometimes)
- Tampons. Lots of tampons.
I got an email in response asking if I was serious about the tampons and I replied of course I was. Ariel’s arrival day came and I don’t know if I was more excited for her to come or for the beer and tampons. Okay….her visit was more important, of course but the beer and tampons ran a very close second. I think there is a picture floating around of me hugging the gigantic Ziploc bag of tampons she brought me. I’ll try and find it. Best. Birthday. Present. EVER!!
Ovbiously over time, the tampons were used and I had to go back to the diaper but by that time I was going to Australia, a western country. A haven of cheap tampons. You know in cartoons where Scrooge McDuck swims around in his vaults of gold…that was me with tampons. I wasn’t even having my period and I would buy tampons…okay…that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. But when the time came to leave Oz and go back to SEA I knew what to expect, if SEA was a prison movie, tampons would be cigarettes. These were currency. The girls who were fresh off the plane had no idea why I had so many tampons but the longtimers totally got it.
So if I can offer one piece of advice to girls going to SEA on a long term trip, stock up. Put them in a Ziploc bag or compression sack to save space and shove them in your pack. Because yes, they ARE available in Asia but if you are on a budget and you have to decide between an extra day of travel/food or a $15 box of tampons…..I know what I would choose.
Peace K xxx