Yesterday I was just starting on my way home from a day at the office when I saw my new acquaintance, Angela, at her shop a few stores down from The Source (the café our office is connected to/in back of). I had spotted her on my walk to the office earlier that day, but she was busy helping a customer so I didn’t say hi. I did however, notice her protruding belly. I had no idea she was pregnant! I was racking my brain trying to figure out how I could have missed that fact all the times I had passed by throughout the previous months. So naturally, when I stopped to chat for a bit later in the day I brought it up saying, “I didn’t know you were pregnant!” and immediately wished I hadn’t when the response I received started with, “I’m not.” OH. NO. PLEASE tell me that didn’t just happen!! I did not just insult this woman, did I? Please say no, please say no, please say no – I think to myself as I’m internally executing a GIANT forehead slap while inserting my foot in my mouth.
It isn’t until after Angela finishes her reply that I wish with all my heart I could have just insulted her, or better yet, not have said anything at all. What could possibly be bad enough to make me wish I had insulted someone I don’t know very well?? Learning that Angela was indeed pregnant earlier this month, having given birth on the 10th, and then finding out that her child was dead when it came out, that’s what. Apparently she was way late in delivering, going 10 months! About two weeks before giving birth she went to the hospital for abdominal pains and was sent away, having just been given pain pills. I couldn’t believe my ears! I felt terrible about unintentionally bringing up such a devastating topic, especially because this was Angela’s first child. What a horrible first experience! Unfortunately Angela’s situation and situations similar are quite common in Uganda. This is a hard concept for me to wrap my mind around, coming from a mindset and culture that never expects children to die before reaching adulthood.
After steering away from that topic as fast as possible and offering my heartfelt condolences I found out some interesting things about Angela as well as how tough life here can really be. I would like to share that with you now, so for the rest of this post, welcome to Angela’s World.
Angela is the oldest of 6 children and just 1 of over 20. What does this mean exactly? Her dad has 4 wives. Between the four of them they have over 20 offspring. I asked Angela if she knew all of them. She said she did but some I guess were (for whatever reason) sort of shunned from their particular family so she’s only met those siblings at events such as burials – you know the really uplifting things (that’s total sarcasm right there, in case you were concerned). If hearing of four wives wasn’t enough to increase the size of my eyes, then 20+ children would certainly do the job. I can’t even imagine that situation. Would it be weird meeting these other siblings that were not the fruit of your own mother? Maybe it would be like meeting cousins, you’re related but it’s not like you’re expected to be best friends or anything . . .
I also asked her if she had a good Christmas, somehow forgetting about the previously discussed tragedy, and despite that unfortunate event she told me she had a very nice, relaxing holiday. Probably because Christmas and Boxing Day were the first days off Angela has had since the last nationally celebrated holiday. That’s right, the first days off; meaning she works 7 days a week, 11-12 hours a day for sometimes months on end. I can’t even imagine doing that. I don’t know if I would physically be able to endure that exhaustion. But somehow Angela manages to, and has for almost 4 years. Being able to do that alone makes you pretty incredible in my book, but being able to work day after day for months straight while you’re pregnant makes you look darn near superhuman. If you ask me, Angela is amazing. Period.
The rest of our visit was filled with stories of the funny or strange things she has seen while sitting at her shop all day (such as a big group of muzungus running away down the street as fast as they could to escape tear gas dispensed to break up an election riot. Man, how I wish I could have seen that…) as well as an update/rundown of the election and political situation currently in existence. She told me there are going to be more elections in Feb. so if I’m lucky I might get to see a riot! My words, not hers - and while I know I shouldn’t WANT to see a riot, I just can’t help it, so I guess we’ll see what happens in a few short months.
I asked her if she gets bored sitting in her shop all day sometimes waiting quite a long time for customers and she replied with a resounding affirmative. Then, before I left she told me that I made her day because if I hadn’t stopped by and talked for a few hours she would have been so bored just sitting there quiet. I’m glad that I was able to make her day better, even if it was just by talking for a bit. I’m definitely going to be making that a habit now, if I can help it. I told her I’d try to stop by more if I get bored – I hope she doesn’t get sick of me!