Stories from Afar & Up Close

Current topic: contraceptive techniques.

My boss (a single man nearing his 50s) and I are writing a report about our project on Reproductive Health in one of the villages in the South. The women have been tested, poked, tickled, and listened to, and now is the time to look at the results and decide what to do next. However, the data have been collected in Arabic and those paying for the project (the World Health Organization) need the findings in English, so our lack of Arabic-English dictionary means we have to do some creative translating. My boss: Ok, so there is this thing that women use, it goes inside and the Arabic word means it is twisted. Me: What is it made of, rubber? Metal? Could it be a diaphragm, is it shaped like a little bowl? Yes it is made of rubber, but it is not shaped like a small cup, it really is more like a, well, ehm… An IUD – Intra Uterine Device then, maybe? But then it is not made of rubber, those are made of copper, I believe. Copper? Contraceptives made of copper? Alright… Anything else? Well, there is another method, it is, well, you count, you know? You count? What do you count? Well you count the days that you can and that you can’t… Ah, yes, let me look this one up… ‘periodieke onthouding’, ehm… here it is, ‘the rhythm method’. Any others?

Yes, there is also, when you stop. ... Celibacy? Abstinence? No, you stop while you are busy… in French it is called ‘ejaculation extra uterinaire’ … … Do you mean coitus interruptus? That you end it just before you get there? Yes, yes! In Arabic we call that, ehm, you know, when you have diabetes and your hand or foot is so infected it has to be cut off… what is that called? Do you mean amputation? That’s it! That’s what it’s called in Arabic. Amputated intercourse.