The Hardest Job You’ll Ever Love — Included Peeing On A Stick

But it’s not the job you think

Dawn Gernhardt

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From Pink Panther Magazine, Volume 12, Number 2 pages 38–39.

“Take one if you’re a wh- - -,” on a neon sign may have been a more subtle way to start the overseas volunteer orientation.

We flew from all over America to Philadelphia the day before. Thirty bright-eyed and bleeding-heart education and community development recruits met for the first time in a hotel ballroom. Clustered in auditorium-style chairs facing forward, orientation staff set our expectations for the two-year commitment. After the one-day orientation, we’d be flying to Cape Verde, West Africa. For me, the island nation held even more significance because I’d be the first in several generations to set foot in the homeland of my great-great-not-so-great grandfather.

We’d nailed the lengthy application, interview, evaluation, acceptance, and assignment processes. Until they set one last-minute surprise hurdle — for only the women. The international development agency didn’t want to send pregnant female volunteers overseas for two years, but couldn’t they have whipped up a more confidential method to find out?

One of the presenters rolled in a cart filled with twenty-five brown lunch-sized bags and mini plastic water bottles. Not enough for everyone. The cart wheels squeaked to an abrupt halt at the front.

“Ladies who’ve had sex in the past forty-eight hours,” the staff member boomed while directing her cold eagle eye towards the more “experienced-looking” women in the group. Visible bra straps. Thong panty lines. “Grab a bag and a water bottle. Staff will meet you outside the restroom when you’re done.”

Pregnancy tests were hiding deep down in goodie bags of shame. The women with carnal knowledge were separated from the herd under the watchful eyes of the less promiscuous, indignant, or embarrassed women who remained seated. The broad smiles of the single men. The penetrating stares of the orientation staff. They warned about moving too quickly in the country — due to culture shock. Would they write down our names and hand out chastity belts during the in-flight entertainment?

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Dawn Gernhardt

A writer: nonfiction in Random Sample Review and Pink Panther Magazine and humor in Defenestration, Wry Times, Funny-ish, and The Haven. Working on a novel.