What’s On Your List?


Have you ever stood in a supermarket line with a years supply of tampons? That was me, yesterday. The annual pilgrimage to the supermarket aisle labelled feminine hygiene to check out the latest in floral packaging and wing placement. Ever had to declare your  tampons at customs? Or perhaps you’ve stood in a crowded foreign airport (using a mixture of broken English and sign language) explaining what you do with your tampons and why you’re currently carrying hundreds of them? If the answer is yes, chances are you’ve been away from home for an extended, ahem….period.

I think most traveling women have learnt how to strategically pack 10 boxes of tampons in their suitcase, (they make great shoe-fillers), it brings a whole new meaning to “fill your boots”. One of our readers Liz described flying back to her expat location with a suitcase full of tampons and a single thought running through her mind “Damn…if this bird goes down I’m gonna dry up the South China Sea with my stash!!!!”

It wasn’t until I started traveling that I realized women differed so dramatically in their choices. All of us, at different ends of the globe, have been given different information, usually handed down by the women in our life. As young women we listened and followed the customs of our surroundings.

As a new expat, within my first few months in Jakarta I soon learnt tampons weren’t for everyone. My Indonesian teacher warned me it was unnatural for anything other than my husband to go “in there”. I’m sure she didn’t speak for the entire Indonesian population but it was definitely the belief of a lot of women I met. Even though tampons were taboo, the subject of Aunty Flow coming to visit was one to be shared with everyone. Lets discuss it at breakfast, at lunch, at dinner. Lets discuss it at the office, lets just talk about it all day long. “I’m sorry, I wont be at work today, I’ve got my menstruation”. Okay, thanks for that, I’ll see you and your menstruation tomorrow.

A girlfriend of mine who was working as a journalist in Jakarta, got more than she bargained for on a trip to interview the President. On passing through security an entire discussion was had about her tampons. With no idea of what they were holding up to the light, an intense conversation developed. What sort of weapon was she carrying? Was this to be an assassination by tampon?

While our American friends statistically prefer an applicator one of my favourite Aussie bloggers describes the use of an applicator as “feeling a bit like someone else putting your glasses on for you”. This may be an irrelevant discussion in years to come as there’s a few new players in town for the travelling woman. The cup, the sponge, or if one wanted to investigate more drastic measures the IUD (many Mirena users are period free for the five year warranty, erm, here I go again, period). While the benefit of the cup or sponge has you both saving money while saving the planet.

While tampons feature prominently on “the list” for many expat women there’s the day to day items that just can’t be found. I have a list in my phone that add to throughout the year: hundreds and thousands for fairy bread, tins of passion fruit syrup for pavlovas. For my fellow podcast host Sarah it’s a $2 set of kitchen tongs. Aussie expats talk of bringing back Pawpaw cream, Golden Syrup, Vegemite and Fantales. For the Brits it’s often a trip to Marks and Spencers for knickers and “proper” chocolate.

What about you? What’s on your list? What do you buy on a trip home?

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