Looking at Simon de Witt beside his students, Zula Mlilo didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Whereas the university students were dressed in typical Himbayan tunic and jeans, de Witt was decked out in the traditional cloths of his homeland, Bozima.
Zula can accept the puffed long-sleeve shirt and black trousers, but the brown coat and tall hat were a different matter. Zula understood that the coat was great in Bozima, a very cold and wet country, but it’s next to useless in Himbaya’s hot sun and oppressive heat. Worse, the coat was trapping the heat close to the body. It’s not so bad now while they were in an air-conditional classroom, but de Witt had constantly refused to take off the coat even while he was out in the sun.
De Witt told Zula that it was a custom of his homeland to wear a man to wear a coat when he’s out of his house, but looking at him Zula was reminded of the old Trisban saying, “Comedy and tragedy are two sides of the coin.” Trust a country of traders to come up with a saying about money, but those guys had a point. Zula don’t know whether to admire or pity de Witt for sticking to his country’s dress code so far from his homeland.
He guessed this was what you called the pride of a new people. Unlike the 3,000 years of history Himbaya has, Bozima was a new country seeking its own identity. Born out of “Alzima Civil War” 18 years ago, Bozima was a new country desperately seeking recognition for itself. One of the ways they are using was the “cultural exchange” program their government had initiated. However, everyone knows culture has very little to do with the program. In return for international recognition, Bozima would send its’ numerous doctors, teachers and engineers to other countries for free.
It was a good deal for Himbaya. Lacking natural resources, Himbaya’s economy was based largely on tourism. However, the government has been trying hard to expand on this. Increased focus has been put on education in the past decade as Himbaya tried desperately to climb up the technology ladder. Although Himbaya had traditionally adopted a neutral stance for all its’ international affairs, the government made an exception for Bozima. In return for recognition from the oldest country in the world, Bozima agreed to send education experts to Himbaya. De Witt was a robotics specialist, and thus highly welcomed by the Himbayan government.
Zula’s role was to be a sort of tour guide/culture expert for De Witt. However, De Witt had ignored his advice for clothing for suitable for Himbaya’s climate (which for Himbaya men would be a light tunic with shorts) and insisted on wearing the coat. Comedy or tragedy; a question unanswered.
While Zula mulls, the class was dismissed. As the students filed out of the class, Zula went towards De Witt. “How was the day Simon?” For some reason, De Witt had insisted that Zula used his first name. Zula wasn’t sure why, but it was a minor matter and he now only called the Boziman by his first name.
“Better than expected. Your countrymen are eager students.” It’s not the first time De Witt commented on the fact that he was pleasantly surprised that he was in charge of eager students. Evidently this was not always the case when he was in Bozima. “So what are we doing today, my good man?”
“Remembered how surprised you were when you saw female students coming to school?” In Bozima, women were banned from any education above what they called the primary school level. De Witt was shocked when he saw female students coming to school on his first day, and more than a little worried he would be teaching females. When he saw that he only had male students in class, he naturally asked why that is the case.
“Yes, but you had already explained that.”
“Like we say in this country; seeing beats knowing.” Zula flashed a smile at De Witt. “Come, I got permission from the principal to show you what female students do while in school.”
That’s all De Witt needed. A teacher and a curious man by natural, he was more than a little interested in the Himbayan education system. The short walk to the fields was not what De Witt had expected.
“Physical Education is the correct term,” an amused Zula said. “You are aware of our society’s division of labor Simon?”
“Men do the thinking; Women do all the manual labor.” De Witt added, “A unique and strange custom found only in Himbaya.”
“Why do you think we have this custom Simon?”
Looking at the girls jogging along the track, De Witt guessed, “To add to the allure of Himbaya so that more tourists will come visit and spend money?”
Zula burst out laughing, he couldn’t help it. “That’s a good one but totally wrong.” Zula took a moment to look at the class of females who were running laps around the track. “The custom came from ancient times when Himbaya were still divided by tribes. Men had to be trained in warfare, so women were in charge of everything else from cooking to building huts.”
Waving at the track, De Witt asked, “What does that have to do with all this?” Not only was he surprised at the education the girls were getting, he was also a little put off by the uncovered faces of the girls. In fact, outside 3 teachers who were covered with the brown hood of married women, all the girls were unveiled. De Witt knew that only married women needs to veil in Himbaya, but its’ one thing to know; another to see it for yourself.
Keeping calm, Zula replied, “Physical works is hard, so our system requires girls to come to school for physical training. Boys come to school to train their mind; girls come to train their body.” Zula pointed at a small building on the far side of the track. “That’s the female’s building over there. Outside running, they also lift weights and do gymnastics; to improve strength and agility.”
“So the girls don’t study at all?”
“They are taught to read and write. But outside some social studies classes, most of their time in school is based on physical training.”
“Social studies?” De Witt asked. “What sort of studies?”
“Mainly they are taught the rules of Himbayan society, that it’s their destiny to be the mud of the earth.”
“I never heard of that,” De Witt conceded. “What is this ‘the mud of the earth’?”
“You know how our women put mud on their body?” Zula asked.
“Yes, but that’s to protect the skin from the sun isn’t it?”
“In times past, but nowadays sunscreen would work just as well.” Zula nodded towards the girls, “The real reason for the mud is the Himbayan belief that women are of the earth.”
Zula smiled at De Witt’s unasked question. “We believe that whereas men are superior in the mind; the body and earth belong to women. Women are the one who give birth to life; as such they have a stronger connection to the earth.”
“But ‘the mud of the earth’…”
“Is not a bad thing, not to our way of thinking,” Zula explained. “Mud is soft, easily shaped, and very important. Where would the civilization be if the ancients had never discovered the way mud can be used to make pots and huts?”
“So ‘the mud of the earth’…”
“It isn’t an insult, but a compliment.” Zula smiled at De Witt confusion. “Yes, men rule in Himbaya, but women are the backbone of our society. They are our cleaners, farmers, even construction workers. As the old Himbayan saying goes, “Men are the mind, but women are the hands.”
“I…see,” De Witt’s shock was all over his face. “I’m sorry, but this isn’t what I had expected of Himbaya.”
“It’s okay,” Zula replied. “You come from a different culture, a different continent even. I too have many questions about their country.”
“What’s the question?” De Witt asked, more than a little happy to shift the talk to something beyond women’s importance to society.
“You have questions?” De Witt smiled, “Just ask and I will answer to the best of my merger ability.”
Zula was truly tempted, but…“Well…I’m not sure about this?”
“It’s okay, just ask away?”
“Well…is it true that your women have to wear diapers?”
“Yes, but we prefer to call them chastity belt.”
“Chastity belts?” Zula was surprised. “I never heard of anything about chastity belts.”
“We called them chastity belts in my country,” De Witt replied. “But most people called them diapers.”
“Ha. Never heard of that one but I guess it fit.” After looking at the face of Zula, De Witt decided he better explain. “You heard of how restricted our women are?”
“Yes,” Zula nodded. “Corsets, posture collars around the neck, and hands chained to the body.”
“That’s all correct. In my country, women are restricted in their every movement. The dress of women in my country is a long-sleeve blouse with a petticoat. Their hands are then chained to the corsets around their waist. Chained tightly I might add so they can’t reach down to their…well, you know.” De Witt looked down just below Zula’s waist. A smile from Zula answered that he understood. “Because of this, women can’t go to the loo themselves. And men have better things to do than to go with them every time they feel like going.”
“So the dia… chastity diapers!” Zula wondered, “Why not you just extend the chain?”
“Because women are creatures who can’t control themselves,” De Witt’s voice brokered no argument on this.
Zula just nodded. It’s better not to argue about another people’s culture. “So the restriction…”
“To control their mind, body and soul,” De Witt nodded. “In my country, women are not allowed any of the freedom your women have. Even in their own house, women are to be gagged and veiled. Some families even blinded their women with hoods.” “I’ve heard of that, but it seems very…extreme.”
“It’s necessary,” De Witt countered. “Freedom for women just causes unhappiness for everyone, including themselves. In fact the only time they are not hooded or gagged in my country is during mealtimes, baths, and maybe sleeping…for some families.”
“Isn’t that very troublesome?”
“Not really,” De Witt explained. “Their head are covered by a lace bonnet with rectangle wings on either side of the face. Usually the wings are moved across the face and buttoned up to each other. Just unbuttoned the wings and you can take the bonnet right off.”
Zula was getting more curious by the minute. “Oh…but what about the chastity diapers? I know I wouldn’t want to wipe my woman’s ass everyday.”
“In Bozima, the whole family live together; sometimes 4 generations under one roof. There are a lot of women in the house.”
“So they wipe each other?” Zula smiled.
“No, they licked each other with their tongue.” De Witt smiled as Zula’s mouth opened wide. “Most families have a system in place on how this is done. It’s a complex system which ensures that each woman in the family has to lick and be licked by every other woman in the family.” Zula’s mouth was still opened. De Witt added, “They take turns licking the shit off each other. Maybe one day you would like to come to Bozima and see that.”
Zula’s mouth closed instantly. Watching women hooded, unable to move their hands or head, expect when it’s time for them to lick each other. Despite himself, Zula could feel his excitement growing. Maybe there’s more to the cultural exchange program than he thought. “Yes,” Zula agreed. “That’s surely something worth crossing the Sea of Blue Snow for.”