Friday, December 3, 2010

The Price of Four Condoms

If there’s one thing I’ve managed to do in the last three months, I have, in the very least, managed to spread the rumor amongst young men that I sell condoms for cheap.

My under-the-table drug store transactions started when I realized the previous volunteers had – after holding multiple AIDS campaigns and hosting plenty of condom demonstrations – left me with about one-thousand condoms and a wooden penis. Now, I know full well that a girl’s got to have a little fun every now and then, but what the hell was I going to do with a thousand condoms?

I know! I thought, I could sell them to the neighborhood kids for a cheaper price than they can argue their way out of! I didn’t want to get into the habit of giving them out for free because I didn’t want these boys to fall out of the habit of buying them – I would simply make my house a better alternative than wandering over to the drugstore where their pharmacist new them (and their parents) intimately well. Why not just cut out the middle man? And when I’ve raised enough money, why not spend it on something small for the village?

When we spring cleaned the house, I made sure to mention my overabundance of free condoms and my intention to sell them for an affordable price to anyone who needed them. I wanted to encourage their use and the fact that I wouldn’t judge these kids because they were making the right choice.

For the first few months not much happened, except that I stared at a giant box of condoms sitting underneath my writing desk. In fact, after two and a half months, I had kind of given up on the idea – maybe it was too embarrassing for the boys to buy condoms from a girl, a white girl, and a new member of the community … maybe they already got free condoms somewhere else … and then, one night at 2:30am, I woke up to the sound of someone pounding (with a vengeance) on my very loud tin door. What in the world?

It was one of the local men, in his early twenties and obviously drunk, wobbling at my door and asking for condoms – he didn’t have money, but he would pay me back; he just really needed condoms. I gave him three, for 10p (roughly around 8 cents), and told him to pay me when he could. I’m not sure what happened afterwards, though I found the wrapper of one condom in front of my latrine the next morning – I wasn’t about to judge. The important thing was that someone had finally gotten up the (liquid) courage to come to me and ask for something they all, apparently, knew I was selling. This is all it took.

Now, there haven’t exactly been hordes of men clamoring to the door in search of condoms, but, in the last three weeks, there have been three separate instances. Enough for me to turn my ‘spare change’ cup into a ‘condom money’ cup and hope the trend continues. Apparently someone, maybe that first guy wasn’t as drunk as I thought, has been letting everyone else know that the rumors were true – I do, in fact, sell condoms for super cheap and I don’t ask questions (except for the obvious ‘do you know how to use this?’).

It’s a small, silly kind of victory, but I feel like I’ve accomplished something tangible (the one thing we all search for in the Peace Corps) and I hope that those three young men told three of their friends (who will come to my door and tell three more of their friends) and, somehow, before they expire, I will have managed to sell one thousand condoms in a year.

A girl can dream, right?