Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
So many headlines were competing for space in my head about this brief write up. “Condom beyond sex”; “Messaging condom”; “Many merits of condom” and so on kept coming but I decided at last to pick the title you just read. In my part of the world, specifically in Yoruba land of Nigeria, condom is always associated with immorality. It is almost abominable to buy it openly especially if you are a gentlemen or people view you as religious, and many Nigerians are really religious. That is even for men. For a woman to be carrying condom about, it is sure she needs another husband because the one she has at present will immediately send her parking, going to court for a divorce will be time wasting. A man with condom in his pocket needs a lot of explanation if found by his wife not to talk of a wife having it in her bag!
I have to do the above narration so that you can appreciate my feelings when one of the resource persons told us in the Rotary Peace Class 26 at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand that, we would be going for a dinner on a Thursday evening at “Cabbages and Condoms restaurant”. Cabbages and Condoms?! Did I hear well? What a name! This is immoral and confusing after we had been repeatedly told how severe sexual abuse will be treated at Chulalongkorn University…all these thoughts were going through me. They had to because we were repeatedly told of those things that would be considered sexual as offences, very many things. No sexual comment, joke, story, example, etc. You must not touch the opposite sex. You must not compliment her/him when well dressed. You must not invite her to lunch or dinner repeatedly. The most intriguing of the law is the one that says you must not look at her too much! Even as I was writing this, I still did not know what will determine “too much”, appropriate or too little look (if that could be an offence too). So, to now go to Cabbages and Condoms! The thought of the name kept prompting me to see the place. And alas! Days rolled by and the Thursday deal became sealed. I could notice how excited my colleagues were, I would not know why. We went by train following the direction instructions earlier given.
As soon as you appear at the restaurant’s gate, you are silently welcome by condoms. No cabbage was even seen in site. From the signpost to chandelier lighting system, decorations, images, donation boxes, statues, section names, menu book and sweets after meal; all are in condom images and souls.
A museum of condom
The founder really means business about condom. There were images of condom from various countries- Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Germany, Australia, USA, UK, etc. There is also a compendium with 42 different types of condoms in various shapes all advertising safe sex and healthy family
Complete meal courses with condom
At Cabbages and Condoms, there could be three to five course meal depending on your pocket. However, at least two pieces of condom must come with your bill or change as desert/sweet. In fact, you will be informed that they don’t have sweet and you should take condoms instead.
Condoms beyond sex
The use of condom here virtually has nothing to do with sex! Though, there are messages encouraging save sex, the condom concept appears to be more of an attraction to go to the restaurant and learn. There are a number of messages being passed across including but not limited to the followings:
a. Thailand’s yearning for democracy: There is military rule in the country at present. Elections have been slated for March, 2019. There had been coups as well. As such, a box with bold inscription saying WE HAVE NO ELECTIONS PLEASE TAKE CONDOM INSTEAD, with four compartments was placed at a corner with three of them filled with different types of condom. Each of the compartment was labelled military size, politician size, coup d’etat size and democracy size. While the military, politician and coup d’etat compartments were filled with different types of condoms, the democracy compartment was covered with a phrase “being designed” inscribed on the cover.
b. Condom as a fundraiser gimmick: At another corner stood a platform soliciting for donations to train children in the northern part of Thailand how to swim. Why? Several reasons were advanced including the high rate of drowning among the children in the north put at four children per day; the rate of drowning children in Thailand is said to be 5 to 15 times higher than that of the developed world and the message was concluded with “The Condoms and Cabbages Restaurant will match your donation”.
c. Healthy family campaign: Several other inscriptions calling for the use of condom to be healthy and free from unwanted diseases also adorned the place.
This place eventually turned out to be cuisine that cares for the stomach but condoned by condoms. As a Rotary Peace Fellow in Class 26 at Rotary Peace Centre of Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, I had been repeatedly taught to always look at issues critically and be wary of single stories. I have been tutored to always hear all sides. So, when next a place or something is mentioned, don’t judge it by that name! After all, there is neither dog meat in hotdog snacks nor sand in sandwiches!!
Hammed Abodunrin – Nigeria
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 26