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1/18/13: Cell phone stories from Sudan

There are regularly stories in the news about the ways that cell phones are transforming communications and economies in Africa and other modernizing regions. Here are some stories from the trenches.

Look carefully at this photo of our driver Mouaz. He has not been doing much during our work day, so he decided to dig with us. Headscarves like the one he is wearing are really useful in a hot and dusty environment—they keep you a bit cleaner, keep the sun off your head, and you can wrap them over your nose and mouth to keep dust out (it also makes you look a bit like a part of a western posse, but it’s a small price to pay). If you look carefully at Mouaz’s headscarf, you’ll see that he’s tucked his cell phone into it so that he can talk to his girlfriend as he’s carrying dirt around the excavation. She is supposed to be studying for exams, but according to some of my friends here, they spend so much time talking on the phone together that the only subject she would do well in is Mouaz.

One of the Sudanese here has three cell phones—one for work calls, one dedicated exclusively to calls from his girlfriend, and one for calls from other girls. Not what you might expect about what goes on in an Islamic Republic, but this is life on the ground in Sudan.

A final story. Another Sudanese (identities are being protected here) gets in trouble with his wife if he leaves his cell phone at home when he goes out. Not because she can’t reach him, but because she answers his phone when it rings, and gets annoyed if he gets calls from other women. So one of these calls came through from a woman, his wife got angry, and then…it turned out the woman was actually his mother, and she was teasing his wife by pretending to be one of his friends. So in-laws can be tough here too.