How can you eat a sweet in paper?

Posted on: January 16, 2012

I was sitting at the pool on safari (like I said, Africa isn’t always that hard) and the pool man and I started chatting. Henry was sweet and smart… he asked about the upcoming US elections and who I thought would win this time around. I told him I hoped it would be Obama again. Most impressively, he knew the Republican candidates (when buying curios, the same thing happened – they told me I would get a discount if I voted for Obama. I told them they should just give me the stuff since I was already going to vote for him. Not only did I not get it for free, but I overpaid, like a total muzungu (foreigner))… I’ve been in this country a week and still can’t tell you who is president. I am ashamed of myself more times than not while here.

In any case, back to the pool – there I was in my little bikini (black with pink ties, red/pink cherries in case you’d like to know – a Victoria’s Secret special) and we got to chatting about the work I am doing here in Kenya. I told him we’re here to assist with HIV prevention and he said he used to teach students on how to use protection, when (always!) and what the risks are. Then he told me: “In the villages they say, “How can you eat a sweet in paper?” and I didn’t get it… so he explained it. If you eat a wrapped sweet, it won’t taste good/sweet, as it would if you’d unwrapped it – basically, you won’t be able to enjoy it. So just in the same way, if you have sex with a condom, it won’t feel as good as if you did it without. I laughed, because although I definitely don’t agree with the analogy, it’s one of the better ones I’ve heard — I used to have a “friend” tell me that having sex with a condom was like showering with a rain jacket on (that ‘friend’ and I spent a lot of time just talking in bed as opposed to anything else). We discussed how that attitude is the one that needs to change if there will ever be a difference made, especially in the villages.  He also said that many people believe condoms are only a ploy to make money for companies, and that they don’t actually work. ARGH! These are the misconceptions we’re up against… nothing we do matters if we can’t change the root beliefs.

On our drive back to Nairobi, I asked our guide/driver if he’d heard the saying as well, and he laughed and said he had. He said it was a popular saying among many people to justify why they don’t use protection. Then we got on the topic of prevention, and basically he said that too many people go outside their marriages because they get bored with their wives. In essence, he said that when the women are married they don’t put a lot of effort into sex. But when they’re with someone new, that same woman does a little striptease and makes it exciting. I couldn’t figure out if he was just giving examples or if he was blaming the women for what goes on… probably a little bit of both. Given that he was driving us back, I really didn’t want to press the subject and changed the topic to what kind of people he normally gets to take on safari… 

He said he gets Indians, but they never listen. SO TRUE! Freaking indian people never listen to anything. It’s so annoying. He said the French are typically rude, which is also true. And he said that he gets a lot of Americans as well.  He mentioned that one of the biggest misconceptions people have is that the muzungu that come to visit are rich and just leave him all the extra money when they’re done – and how everyone thinks that since they are rich, they should buy something from all the vendors and stands. This proved to be true when I bought some plums from a road-side stand and as we drove by, a little boy yelled out, ‘MUZUNGU! Buy me one!’ Meaning, he wanted me to buy plums from him as well. I really didn’t need three bags of plums though, so we didn’t stop, but we did have a good laugh.

We were in clinic one day and this little boy, about 5 years old, was waiting for his mom to finish working. He was coming over, showing off, and not talking at all. I tried to get him to chat in the little Swahili that I do know and even in English. He later told our Kenyan coworker, “That muzungu talks with a funny accent.”  I totally cracked up when my coworker translated that for me. I guess it’s true, I do have a funny accent.

In any case – “how can you eat a sweet in paper?” I think the answer is “pretty easily” if you knew that doing so could possibly save your life… we just have to work harder at getting everyone to believe the same thing.


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