Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sad News From Zambia

Richard and Friends the day we visited Prince Takamado School

Over a month ago I received an email from Zambia titled "Sad News." I was reluctantly compelled to open it, not sure I wanted to know the contents of the message. Life is harder in "developing" countries than we here in the US can understand. I was fearful that the sad news was the death of someone I had met while I was there in October. Fortunately, that was not the case but the title "sad news" was still very apt. Richard Lungu, the gardener I had met and become friends with was in trouble.

Richard and his family live in Bauleni, a compound that we might call a slum or shantytown -- very small houses, many poorly constructed, nearly on top of each other, garbage strewn about the landscape, high unemployment, etc. etc. (For a detailed description of Bauleni and how I got to know Richard see the Oct 22 Blog Entry)

Richard was more fortunate than many in that the house he rented was sturdily built, and he had a steady job working at the American International School of Lusaka. He and I quickly became friends when we met and he acted as my liaison and guide in my visit to the Prince Takamado School in Bauleni. He had a warm and outgoing personality and a generous, gracious manner. I really liked him and was grateful to know him.

The "sad news" was that Richard had been caught stealing from the faculty and staff at the international school and that he had lost his job and may be facing very serious prison time for the offences. When my friend Kate sent me the news she wrote, "I can't imagine why he would risk such a good situation for short term gain?" In my reply to Kate I wrote, "I can't imagine either, but I also can't imagine what it is like to live in Bauleni, or what his motivations may have been." As of now, I don't know what has happened to Richard. He didn't answer the email I sent him a few weeks ago. In the meantime, I did learn from Kate that he had passed along something for me. It was a phone number for the school. I suspect he knew he wouldn't be able to a act as the go-between any longer and wanted me to know how to contact them.

A painting I photographed in a hotel. It seems to fit this entry.

He may already be in prison, which according to Kate would be a very difficult experience to go through and overcome. Not knowing enough details to have an opinion as to whether "justice" is served by imprisoning Richard I can only hope and pray that he gets a chance to make amends, and work to regain the confidences he had enjoyed in the past. I also hope that he and his family can find peace and comfort.

It truly is "sad news" when your friends are in trouble.

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