In the latest Update from our intern in Uganda, Kelley sheds a little light on some hilarious tid bits of life with the Sseko ladies. gosh. I love these women.
I’ve been initiated into the late night flash club. This is a big deal. You have no idea. But, it’s probably not what you’re thinking… In Uganda, a flash is basically the ding-dong ditch of the phone with positive connotations. It’s a compliment to have people dial your number; let it ring twice, then hang up. The later you receive a flash, the better (in my opinion). Let me give you a little history of my experience with the flash.
I discovered it the first night I spent the night at the girl’s school. We said our goodnights, tucked in our mosquito nets and snuggled underneath our blankets. I was starry eyed and all smiles as I drifted off to sleep. About an hour into my jet-lagged sleep, I was abruptly awakened by one of the girl’s phones. I didn’t think much of it and started to fall back asleep… until five minutes later…another ring…and then another ring…. all….night…long The strangeness of it all climaxed when the rings were going simultaneously with the rooster at 4 A.M. I couldn’t help but start laughing. I put my hands on my head, took a deep breath and tried to bury my head in the pillow and just block out Africa for a few hours.
The next morning I did some detective work and slyly went through the call history on their phones. Each of the girls had received a minimum of fifteen phone calls that night! I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t come up with a plausible explanation for why they were receiving phone calls from such a wide range of people- from Grandpa Pap to Cousin Suzie to Friend Brenda, so I brought it up casually during tea and g-nuts…
“So… last night…. Did something big happen?”
“No, not really, why?”
“Well, it seemed like your phones were ringing all night. Is everything okay?”
“Oh, sure. Those are just our friends calling to say hi.”
“Oh, of course. I see.” (I tried to act like this was perfectly normal and that of course my friends in the States call me in the middle of the night to say hello and catch up or better yet just let it ring and then hang up! They smiled and nodded and we continued sipping on our tea.)
“So…is there a particular reason your friends and family members like to call you so late at night?”
“Well, it’s because of the 99% discount. Between the hours of 2 and 6, all phone calls are 99% off so it’s about ½ a shilling to talk for like an hour. So, this is when everyone catches up on life news. It means someone is thinking of you!”
I had no response to this. I just started laughing at the absurdity of this discount policy.Those people at the cell phone company have no idea what they are doing to Ugandan’s sleeping patterns!! I mean, who wouldn’t want to have a heart to heart in the middle of the night? I realized I would have no friends and my family would hate me if I had been raised in Uganda. I’m not too pleasant when my sleep is interrupted.
I don’t know what happened, but I eventually became jealous of the late night flash. I wanted someone to flash me! The girls refused for such a long time because they didn’t want to wake me up in the middle of the night. I got flashed all day long, but never at night. I let the subject drop for a few weeks and had really forgotten all about the flash until one night… you guessed it… my phone rang at 2 A.M.!!!!!!! Mercy was flashing me. I let out a squeal of delight. I'm in! I was ecstatic to stay the least. I never knew so much joy could come from being woken up by a phone call only to have the person on the other end hang up. Welcome to the late night flash club. It’s just as good as I thought. I think I might just bring the tradition back to the States… better put your phones on silent :)