Sunday, April 01, 2007

Pan-Atlantic Telephonaphobia

First of all I want to preface this blog by saying that I’m really not as bitter as this may make me seem, I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad or give any kind of guilt trip and I truly do appreciate the emails that I get from people. I’m simply remarking on a behavior pattern that many PCVs have found that their friends and loved-ones have in common. Plus I have the chutzpah to post it on my blog and so the others who may not be so forward, but miss talking to their friends, will just link their blogs up to mine.

Besides fellow volunteers who had returned home or were on vacation, I have received phone calls – wait, no, one phone call from someone who was not immediate family in the past 18 months. Most volunteers, in fact, don’t get phone calls from anyone but family and possibly significant others. So, in the style of “Sex and the City,” I couldn’t help but wonder; why is it that American extended family and friends are so hesitant to call over-seas and particularly hesitant to call Africa?

Every volunteer I know has a cell phone and most actually have decent reception or a tree in their village under which reception is better. People may be freaked out by the cost, that is a valid concern, but how much does a 15-20 minute phone call to a cell phone in Senegal cost? About $4 - $5. To be fair, since we do have phones, we could be calling the states more too, the same phone call from our cell phones to the U.S. costs 4,500-5,000 CFA which is about $9-$10. Money that many volunteers don’t really have as disposable income. Now, I do realize that getting the rate mentioned above often involves buying a phone card; either a schlep to the store or buying one online (which involves a whole different phobia), but hey, aren’t there occasions when you are already going to the store, or already shopping online, heck there was probably an annoying pop-up ad trying to sell you a calling card while you were reading this entry.

Timing may be another concern. We are always one Greenwich Mean Time, always. That means 4 hrs difference from the East coast in the summer and 5 hrs in the winter, and 7 and 8 hours respectively from the West coast. So even with the maximum time difference we are probably sharing 8 of our waking hours. With the timing, you may be concerned that you would be interrupting something. You aren’t. If you haven’t caught this yet, please refer to past entries on my blog or any of the linked blogs to the right. In short PCVs have a lot of free time, not to mention that if they were doing something, they’d just answer their phone in the middle of it like every Senegalese person – we’re culturally integrated! If it makes you feel better, set up a time to call over email.

Anyway, there is a lot more that we’ve discussed in our ever-so-slight bitterness, but I’ll spare you the details. However if you take anything away from this blog it should be this: We know that you are busy but we miss you and love you and it would literally make our month if we heard from you.