Monday, October 18, 2010


Cell phones were just beginning to hit the market when I left Zambia. It drove me crazy to see people in my village buying cell phones when they couldn't even afford to feed their families. I get that it was a status symbol (and the argument can be made that we do the same in the States), but COME ON!!! You have children to feed and clothe and send to school. And you beg me for things everyday. Buy some maize meal. Not 'talk time.'
When I got to Liberia, the first thing Peace Corps told me was that I needed to get a cell phone. I had one in my hands less than 5 hours after my plane touched down in Monrovia and I only had to walk 1 block from the hotel to get it. It didn't take me long to realize that EVERYONE here, Peace Corps or not, has a cell phone. Granted, there are no land lines because they were destroyed during the war and it was decided it wasn't worth the money to restore them when they could just go cellular, but I was still surprised. We even have a phone number column on our attendance sheets for all the meetings we attend.
Name Position Phone # Signature

I must admit that the popularity of cell phones has made my life much easier. Rather than walk 30 minutes to the hospital to ask someone a question or set up a meeting, I can just call them (or email them, but thats another story that I will eventually get to). But, on second thought, I like the walk. I like the person to person contact. I like showing my face at the hospital because it makes me a real person and people get to know me. And on a slow day, there is nothing else to do but walk. Unless its raining. Like it is now.
Being the white person, I get "flashed"/"beeped" (calling someones phone, letting it ring once and hanging up, hoping they will call you back so you don't have to use any of your minutes) constantly because everyone feels that I will be willing to spend MY talk time (and my hard earned HUGE Peace Corps salary), when they don't want to spend theirs. News flash- if you 'beep' me, I will NOT call you back. If the conversation is important enough to you, you will spend the 10 cents a minute to talk to me. If not, send me a text message. Or even better, walk to my office. Walking is nice. Unless its raining. Like it is now.
Surprisingly, even though EVERYONE has a phone here, it still seems to be a status symbol. Ring tone volumes are always set to maximum levels (so everyone can hear it ring within a 5 mile radius and then look your way) and phones are never picked up on the first, or second, or third, or fourth, or even sometimes fifth ring (you want to make sure everyone has heard and acknowledged that someone is calling you and the max volume may not be enough by itself. But surely if you let it go for 10 or 15 seconds no one will miss the opportunity to pay you the attention you deserve). Don't get my started on hands free calls.
I have actually gotten used to all of these things (while still finding them annoyingly humorous), but something new happened today.
I received two emails from a guy I work with at the hospital. These are not the first emails I have ever received from him, but they were the first ones that I had to read a few times to really convince myself that I was reading things correctly. Here the emails:
1. I have d 1st assessment copies from d OICs of 11 clinics. I'm following up with my bosses for d real request for dat program (DOTs centers). B4 d day ends, I'll give u a call & d copies from d clinics. I'm not pay death ear 2 d progress of d program.

2. Andrea,
Dis is why I'm in d office since 7:am dis morning. Pls wait on me 2morrow morning. ASAP when we meet in d morning I'm going 2 make sure that Netus do these letters b4 anything.

Now, after ignoring some of the crazy English (I'm not pay death ear?! I think he meant hes not turning a deaf ear, but who am I to say? ), do you see what I see??
He has completely pushed professionalism aside in favor of text messaging lingo.

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