Fruits of labour?

By Published On: August 1, 2005Categories: Poverty3 Comments on Fruits of labour?

She sat on a high stool with a shawl around her shoulders, piles of fruit spilling out from her ample apron. Brilliant-red strawberries, bananas blackening in the sun, mottled oranges, polish-glazed apples.

Attracted by her smile, I approached to look at the melons. Through the gnarled tough skin, I could smell the slightly heady ripeness.

"They are very sweet," she said. I envisaged them sliced up juicy and fresh at breakfast. I proceeded to buy them together with some apples.

As she served me, I looked at her sun-splashed face which was lined with tiredness.

"What time did you start working?" I asked.

"6am" she replied.

"So when do you finish?"

"About 7 or 8pm".

She went onto explain that she works the same hours every day, 7 days a week. Unthinking, I said " But what about holidays?" and almost immediately regretted saying it.

But she didn’t look angrily or disdainfully at me. She even smiled gently: "I can’t afford to have holidays. I even work on national holidays. That’s what life’s like for poor people," she said.

Working 14 hours a day, 365 days a year.

I didn’t know what to say, but despite our vastly different worlds felt a human connection and warmth. I wished her well and walked off down the market, the weight of my fruit gently stretching the plastic of my shopping bag.



  1. Miguel August 3, 2005 at 6:18 am - Reply

    May I ask what kind of human connection did you feel?
    What do you mean by that?

  2. Nick August 3, 2005 at 7:18 am - Reply

    Hi Miguel, hard to describe really. Sometimes when I meet someone who has a very different life to me, I can listen and feel sympathy or empathy. But this was more than that. I felt that in our conversation the appreciation of each other was two-way which surprised me. I thought she might dismiss me as a “rico” who couldn’t understand her reality, but she seemed to accept me and value our short interaction. Who knows? Maybe I am deceiving myself??

  3. Miguel August 5, 2005 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    I don’t think you are deceiving yourself. To the contrary, I think you are finding yourself. Often in my interactions with indigenous people in La Paz and my interaction with people of very different cultures than mine, like African or Middle Eastern people, I found that if one just takes some time to get to know that person one migh get to a deeper level of connection. Putting aside what ever stereotype one might have and paying attention has allowed me to have similar experiences as the one you describe.
    I am willing to bet that she was as impressed with you, as you were with her. I bet she also had millions of questions she wanted to ask you, but did not trust herself to do it. I also willing to bet she was well aware of the situation.
    I often find what you talk about in this blog very interesting. Keep it up. 🙂

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