I have been regularly surprised by the nether garments of my patients at Kakumbi Rural Health Centre. Some people wear multiple layers, others nothing at all.
One lady who needed a gynaecological exam wore a chitenje (colourful wrap), over a skirt. Under the skirt she had on a pair of cut off jeans, black tights and finally a pair of panties. I asked my interpreter if this was normal and she said, “Of course, doctor. If she accidentally falls down in the village, she does not want to show off her private parts.” Not much chance of that, then.
The boys favour second hand underpants, with the waist band advertising their favourite football club, usually Chelsea. Stands to reason, really. Chelsea are pants. Sorry.
Other brands are obviously fake, such as “Kalvin Clines” or “G&D”.
A little girl, who always greets me with a wave from her compound when I am driving to the clinic, was caught short one afternoon on her haunches in mid pee. She stood up, panties round her knees, to wave and shout out, “Dok-Tah!” Unfortunately she kept on peeing.
Little boys just wear baggy shorts. Last week, I noticed a gang of four boys sitting on a bench outside the male ward at the health centre. I wondered why they were still there at knocking off time, when an old man told me that they had been waiting all afternoon to have their post circumcision checkups. I marched them into the nursing sister’s consulting room as she was packing up. “Let’s sort these boys out before we go home,” I said.
We lined them up and pulled down their shorts. The dressings on the first three boys had fallen off, so it was just a matter of having a look at the suture line and giving them advice about hygiene. The fourth lad at the end of the line was the smallest. Thanks to copious amounts of zinc oxide tape, his bandage was still attached. Rather than slowly peeling the tape off, the nurse decided to rip the dressing off quickly. The little lad gave a high pitched yelp and we looked down. Unfortunately, the “non-stick” petroleum gauze had been adherent to the head of his penis. His glans was red raw. The other boys hooted with laughter at his discomfort and tucked their tackle away. He fought back the tears, but couldn’t bear to put his penis inside his shorts. He left it hanging outside his pants, pulled down his tee shirt, and went outside to greet the world.