It was the summer of 2017, one heavily eight month pregnant woman meandered through a vendor stricken pavement. Its me. The pregnant woman. It was one heck of a hot summer, spotted was a heavily carrying grasshopper wobbling among little pyramids of vegetables arranged with architectural precision. It looked like an obstruction race course, perfect for the third trimester sans zero center of gravity. I tried not to topple on a mound of peas. I could feel the little beads of sweat trickling down my back. The sun was showing off at nearly 40°C. Walking in the city of Harare was proving to be an extreme sport. At a blind bearing of 3:15, a taxi was backing straight at me. I did a little jog that saved my life. Just as I was catching my breath from escaping death by a whisker, a kombi whizzed by and missed me by half an inch! I quickly crossed the road my ears deadened by my pounding heart. I swear I had mini Cardiovascular attack. On the other side of the road a possibly obese man with a gut the size of Hindenburg bumped into me. On to realising that we had matching bellies, he shook his head and walked off. No apology, oh hey you bumped into a heavily pregnant woman, oh you could have triggered labour and I would have popped the baby right there on Nelson Mandela Street! Frustrated I stomped off, stepping neatly in a puddle of sewer water. Like could the day get any worse!!!!! I just wanted to go home, was that too much to ask for? Not funny universe, not funny.
Slunched, hot and bothered, I dragged my feet disgusted by the sewer water that was slowly drying in brown flakes on my feet. Soak the feet in boiling water with all the disinfectants in the house. Oh what the hell,cut the damn feet off! Eeew! Pregnancy brain, I almost forgot to get tomatoes and onions. So I perused through the cleanest looking pile of vegetables. I was not trying to purchase cholera, maybe dysentery in the process. Although my visual criteria of sieving out cholera looking vegetables was on a all time unintelligent. That is when I saw her, sitting there actively packing a couple of green pepper in a plastic bag. She winced as she got up to hand her customer their vegetables. Heavily pregnant, sitting under the blazing sun all day, no umbrella, no shade… selling vegetables. I had to buy from her although her merchandise wasn’t exactly fresh looking. I asked for tomatoes, pepper, onions and two packs of mixed greens. As she was about to get up, I smiled at her and told her to relax and that I would happily serve myself. Just as I bent down to pick some tomatoes I felt a sharp pain searing across my back. She noticed it and helped me up, one heavily pregnant woman helped another heavily pregnant woman.it was a sight to behold! I stood there with a sheepish smile while she quickly packed my order and handed it to me. That’s when it struck me! It would be awesome to write a blog about her life as a heavily pregnant vegetable vendor.
I felt like a whiney prima donna for always complaining from a privileged place when an equally heavily carrying woman was out grinding on the streets. I thought I would do an interview but then I figured there could be a sort of bias during translation. I decided I would spend the day with her as a pregnant vendor then write about it. Brilliant idea. Coincidentally she was also eight months pregnant, what are the odds?! So two days later I met up with her downtown, where she left her vegetables for safe keeping. We had to carry boxes of vegetables from downtown Market Square to Kwame Nkrumah. Damn, she was strong, she walked briskly all the way without a break! While I waddled several metres behind and took six breaks! By the time I arrived at our designated pavement space, she was already settled with neat piles of vegetables. I was over there wheezing, out of breath, I don’t know I could have been in labour at that point.
I must admit, I admired her good natured je ne sais quoi, despite her despairing circumstances. She laughed when I could not arrange the vegetables in perfect pyramids. Smiled a lot for someone who was alone, pregnant, rejected by her family because she was in polygamous marriage. She was the fifth wife and had not seen her husband since his conjugal visit when they conceived the little bun she was carrying. She tried to reach him but he blocked her number and she wouldn’t dare ask the sister wives because they hated her. 10am I was dying from the scorching sun. An hour went by, sitting on the hard pavement and I couldn’t take it anymore. My buttocks we’re numb, my back oh my back! Not to mention the thirst! I needed water. I asked where she got drinking water and she pointed at a broken leaking pipe behind Chicken Slice toilets. I looked at her in horror, is this woman serious? She nodded and gave me a dirty grimy water bottle. I took a deep breath, crossed the road and before I even reached the pipe a stench attacked my nares. I gagged and made a u-turn. I guess that day I was going to die from dehydration. I got back on the hard pavement, there was nowhere to rest my back. I had to avoid being stepped on by pedestrians and balance myself at the edge of the pavement. Famished I asked her where she got her meals. She shrugged and said she would eat when she got home. I was shocked, I gave her $10 got on my feet and went home. I couldn’t do it.
I didn’t even last two hours in her shoes. I was depressed all day, so I took out some baby stuff for baby Riley and gave her. That’s all I could do for her. Nothing dramatic, not looking for credit here because I felt like a failure, I had nothing to write about since I didn’t survive the morning alone. What I did not realise, is that the experience was worth to be documented. I learnt to celebrate what life has given me and what I can give it in return. Also this is a shit little country and healthcare should be free!