The Luxury of Living

“One must be poor to know the luxury of living.”–Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas

One of the ladies in the WAR office is 5 months pregnant.  I just found out this morning.  I had no idea she was pregnant because her belly is barely visible.  I have never seen her eat lunch.  When I ask her why she doesn’t eat, she tells me she is not hungry.  But if I brought snacks to work to share, she is not shy to eat.

Today I brought a small block of cheddar cheese and some crackers to work.  She pointed to the cheese and said that is very expensive food.  I was a little bit taken aback.

I paid about C$4 for the small block of cheese.  I didn’t think twice about putting it in my shopping basket last night at the supermarket.

Here’s someone who is carrying a baby in her belly, and she won’t buy cheese or any dairy products to supplement her calcium intake because it costs too much.  I wonder if she skips meals just to save money.  It broke my heart.

I have noticed a few other indications of the living standard.

If a roll of toilet paper is sitting in the washroom, someone will unroll it and take it home.  To prevent this, there is just no toilet paper provided in the washroom.  You either bring your own, or ask the receptionist for some each time you use the washroom.

If I gave someone a piece of candy, then everyone else wants to know if I have some for all of them.

A few of the ladies live in houses that are fairly standard in this country.  That means there is no hot water in the house.  You have you boil hot water on the stove to take a bath.  One lady lives in a house with no running water at all.  She has a large plastic tub at home to store water from the public tap a mile away.  The water jugs are hauled home on top of her head, or on the donkey cart.  They use pit toilets about 20 or 30 feet away from the house, because there is no indoor washroom in a standard house.

I don’t know what to make of these observations.  I’m still in shock that the thin-as-rail lady is pregnant.


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