The Girl Sickness

A long time ago there was a very smart woman somewhere in Kiribati who told all of the men that when she had the "girl sickness;" she shouldn't wash, cook, or clean out of fear of contaminating things.  Well, at least that is how I imagine the custom came about.  However, that wise woman overlooked one thing... now all the young girls had to tell everyone when their time came for the monthly visitor.  And thus began another tradition of having a village celebration on the 3rd day of a girl's first menstruation.

About a year into my service on the island of Maiana I was invited to a botaki (party) to celebrate the coming of age of a minister's daughter.  I came into the mwaneaba and sat down next to an older gentleman as we waited for the celebration to begin.  The nice old man chatted with me asking how I liked Kiribati, how was I enjoying my time, and other small talk.  Then, he wanted to know if I had had my first menstruation and if my family had given me a party.  I informed him that, yes, I had had my first menstruation but no, alas, in my culture we didn't have parties to commemorate the occasion.  Lucky for me the kind old man said that next time I had my period to tell him and he would make sure that I got a party too!  Needless to say I thanked him, but never took him up on his offer.


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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.