Thursday, August 24, 2006


I lived in Zambia for over a year beginning in January 1994. On Wednesday, I heard a radio program recorded in Lusaka, the capital city where I worked, and I was instantly transported back to sunny Africa. I was listening to NPR podcasts as I walked in the rainy woods and heard, spookily, animated Bemba and accented English in silky voices, speaking seriously about high rates of maternal and infant mortality.

Yesterday there was an article in the NY Times about child labor in Zambia. You can read it here and from there you can click on a narrated slide show about a boy named Alone. The photographs are excellent.

I loved the names in Zambia. It is an Anglophone country, meaning the official language is English but dozens of tribal languages are spoken and most people speak at least two. I worked with a woman named Tebby who had a son called King. Other co-workers were named Boniface, John, Moses, Steven, Friday and Chabala. A hotel clerk in Zimbabwe wore his name badge on his chest; it read Telephone. Motomoke was a consultant. Timbu cleaned the office.

I went to a dinner party at the home of some American Embassy types. The name of the man who served the food was Tuesday. A woman asked the hostess "Tuesday is fabulous! Where did you get him? Can I have him when you move?" I left right after dessert.

I don't know very much about what happened with the people I knew in Zambia. I get an occasional e-mail. I know Hellen, a village girl who married a Peace Corps Volunteer, now lives with him and their three beautiful children in Massachusetts. I heard Moses and John both died of AIDS. Moto returned to Zaire. Boniface got fired for stealing $10. Chabala's daughter, Mofya, is a medical student in Pennsylvania.


Several years later, we had a son and we named him Raymond for two grandfathers, for my sister, Alicia Rae and my brother, Carlos Ray. But Ray and I like the Spanish translation, Reymundo, which to us means king of the world. I suspect Tebby was thinking the same thing about her son when she named him King.

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