SA Library Week with ‘Help 2 Read’

It is SA Library Week (19 – 23 March 2018) and I have been doing my part by reading Mpumi’s Magic Beads to primary school learners. As you know, my book is about some girls who are also school pupils and I hope that my audiences this week will be able to relate to that special detail.

I started the morning at Kgololo Academy in Alexandra where I read for two Grade 2 groups. What a special little school. Some of the kids were really into the story so, they would mimic my gestures (which I loved because they’re all so adorable!) so I incorporated it into how I tell the story from now on. Thank you, learners!

As part of the ‘Help 2 Read’ organisation’s reading tour, I visited Iphuteng Primary School in Alexandra. I had so much fun with this vibrant group of learners. My bit of improvisation from earlier worked really well because I don’t believe in making children sit dead still while listening to a story. Let them wiggle and giggle and listen with their bodies too. It makes learning memorable, I think. I certainly believe that this was memorable. They had a lot of energy and I had the best time with them.

Next stop. Diepsloot Primary School!

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Thank you, Kgololo Academy, Help 2 Read, Iphuteng Primary School.

Come through, menstrual cup. Bye, pads & tampons.

You may be familiar with this. One moment, I’m calm and unbothered. Then, I become a sudden mess of cravings and nastiness as a week of non-stop Kit Kat and Triple Choc Sundae snacking (I don’t even like sweets, abeg!) ensues while fighting back the urge to swing on everyone. On sight. All the time. On top of that: break outs, bloating and general discomfort all over my body. From placing a folded towel beneath me at night to sometimes wearing two pairs of underwear in the attempt to combat sleeping-and-leaking, the highly hormonal and messy time that is my period gets bloody annoying. And although the troubles are many, I still choose pads over tampons, any day.

Scenes. Legs open on the toilet, pulling on the blue-green string of my full tampon slowly, slowly with just the right amount of tension so that it slides out gently and doesn’t immediately plop out and swing into whatever is closest (which is usually the inside of the bowl). Or, when I’m doing the pull while my bladder’s super full and I’m already impatient and I need to pee and it’s taking so long and then just a little… Actually. You don’t need to know. I just don’t like tampons.

Of course, the worst of all is when this biological regularity just completely slips my mind and I’m caught unaware with neither of the things and I have to improvise with tissue until I find the nearest place to buy a full pack because, as Muneera pointed out on Twitter, retail places haven’t yet had the lightbulb moment of selling them in singles. Wow, pls.

It’s in these moments that I realise how bloody expensive pads are and the guilt of their impact on an already polluted planet eats at me, month by month.

Enter, a menstrual cup.

I bought mine for R530 and word is, it will last me for about 3 years. Here’s the math:

  • +/- R45 x 12months = R540 a year. So: R540 x 3years = R1 620.
  • +/-15 pads x 12 months = 180 pads a year. So: 180 pads x 3 years = 540 pads.

Not only does my decision save me money, it also saves the planet just a little because my +/-180 used pads per year among all of our (global, our) +/-180 used pads per year end up in landfills and sometimes in the sea. You can just imagine adding tampons to the equation. How bloody awful?

For insertion: a C-fold.

You only need two things to successfully wear a menstrual cup: 1) clean, clean hands and 2) being at ease with getting very intimate with your vagina. I recommend that you squat fully with both knees bent to put it in. I tried the method of standing with one leg placed on a chair and a full squat just works better for me. I wet the cup, part my labia and push the cup inwards and upwards until I feel it’s open. One option, is for it to sit lower than a tampon so I only push it high so it unfolds and then I use the stem to pull it down low. In the pictures, I’ve cut my stem because it shouldn’t ever stick out of your vagina. It’s a little longer when you buy it. The other option is to wear it up high so that it cups around the opening of your cervix. I’m actually finding that that may be the key to non-spillage. I’m also getting used to the fact that I always feel like peeing after I have been handling it. It’s weird and interesting.

There are several ways to fold your cup for insertion. Above, is the C-fold which happens when you fold it in half twice. Then, below, there’s the pushdown where you push it down on one side and squeeze it together.

For insertion: a pushdown fold.

There’s also the 7-fold which happens when you fold it in half and then take that half and fold it down to (loosely) resemble the number 7. The menstrual cup is manufactured out of medical grade silicone so it isn’t exactly as malleable as origami but, you get the picture.

For insertion: a 7-fold.

I’m in between experimenting with the folding methods because it’s important for the suction to set in a specific way so that the blood doesn’t bypass it and end up leaking onto underwear. Once it’s in, there’s some twisting involved too squeezing a finger in and around the thing just to make sure that it has opened fully and is sitting in place. I haven’t perfected this yet and I realised that I need support. My first thought was to use panty-liners but that obviously just defeats my entire mission, doesn’t it?

The reusable pad clips beneath your underwear.

Enter, reusable pad.

I bought mine for only R30 and wearing it with my cup has been a great, comfortable and guilt-free experience. Of course the goal is to no longer need it and I will get to that point, one day soon.

Both the cup and pad are comfortable. The cup is available in two sizes and yours is determined by your age and history of child birth. It can be washed with unscented soap (I use plain, glycerin soap) once a day and rinsed with drinking water in between use. It can also be boiled in water after one’s mentrual cycle and stored in the cotton bag provided. The pad is also easily washable.

You’re welcome to further do your own Googles for any other questions you may have. I know that one of them may be “Well, where can I buy it?” and I can’t tell you that here because [redacted brand names] would have to run me my money. I’ve just given you some of my experience because I recommend it and I think we could all do a bit to make the planet just a little greener.

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Thank you to Alyx, whose tweet about the menstrual cup initially made me go “Hmm…”

Podcast: Poetry & Jazz

Photographed by Monique Stander. (I took my other ear stud out because it was hurting me with the earphones on.)

Last night, I was invited to SA FM’s The Mash Up, a show about poetry and music collaboration hosted by Naledi Moleo. When the producer of the show asked me which musician I would like to collaborate with, I immediately thought of Mpumi Dhlamini, a talented multi-instrumentalist and (fun fact) my uncle. Music is my go-to device in my work and it just made sense to be accompanied by an actual Jazz man.

I would say, “Mpumi this poem will be better with saxophone, like a Fela Kuti vibe” or “something Miles Davis-y” or he would just listen to the words and just start playing. The whole point of the show is to encourage spontaneous collaboration so, no rehearsal. Just a few words about the theme of the poem and sometimes, just starting with the poem and meeting in the middle.

I really enjoyed this experience. I usually get nervous about collaborating with musicians because it could easily throw me off but Mpumi and I clearly work great together. We have to do a show together or something one of these days. I mean, the host even said that our collaboration has been her favourite in the history of the show. What a compliment!

Below, the podcast has been split into parts and I think that’s great because you don’t have to hear adverts, news and cricket updates. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Part one.

Part two.

Part three.

Part four.

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Thank you for the invitation, Monique Stander!

The Reading Club presents Mpumi’s Magic Beads

The Reading Club meets regularly on Saturday mornings at African Flavour Books in Braamfontein. The sessions are interactive and the children are encouraged to engage their imaginations (and confidence) to also stand at the front and make up stories for their peers. I think this is a great way to spend the morning with your little ones.

Thank you to Lorraine Sithole of The Reading Club for hosting Mpumi’s Magic Beads. Thank you to all the grown ups and little ones in attendance. This dream gets to have wings because of you and I appreciate you all for being there yesterday.

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Thank you for your support!

#ComeSeeMe: Mpumi’s Magic Beads

Art Work by Thato Mongale

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, The Reading Club will be hosting me for a reading of Mpumi’s Magic Beads. Please brin your little ones. Entry is free and there will be books on sale. You’re welcome to bring your own to read along with me too. See you then!