The world is an amazing place and here in Kibaale there is no exception…..I was truly surprised to discover that there is a cell phone in almost everyone’s pocket….. each of the clinic staff as well as many of the village folks have a cell phone. There are no land lines….. this infrastructure does not exist. Just like in Canada and in the United States, there are many companies each wanting your business….. unfortunately, Kibaale is only serviced by one company at this time and that is Uganda Airtel. I have no contract with this company…. no bills come to my door…..they do not have my credit card number and therefore can not bill me…. It is very different from how I did it in Canada. What I do is buy the amount of air time I want when I want it. First of all you buy your own phone…. all the companies will sell you a phone and for a good price starting from about 35,000 shillings ($14 US) upwards. Just behind the battery in the back of the cell phone is a spot to put in a very tiny chip you obtain from the company you will be using. Then you buy the amount of airtime you wish…. it is a small card like a lottery card which you then scratch and see if you win…no, in Uganda you scratch and then input the 15 to 20 digit number into your phone which then gives you the amount of airtime you bought. It is truly an inspiring idea… no bills and you pay as you go with no complications …. a very simple process and it works. Most of the Ugandans I know buy between 1,000 and 5,000 shillings of airtime…. I buy between 10,000 and 30,000 shillings. The reason I buy large amounts is because I have discovered that I can call Canada and speak for about 45 minutes for 10,000 to 15,000 shillings ($4 – $6 US)…. I have been told that that is very expensive but to me the cost to hear the voice of a friend or a family member is priceless…. I just have to remember to check the clock and count backwards 7 or 10 hours depending on where I am calling.

In Kibaale, there is still no electricity…. unless you have a generator like the centre has. When you go into Kibaale town you will see small notices letting you know you can have your cell phone charged for only 500 shillings or 20 cents US. BUT the clinic staff get their cell phones charged free….. when the generator goes on to provide the clinic with power each day from about 9:30 to 1:30 the staff find a outlet and plug in their cell phone. I will find a cell phone being charged in the pharmacy, and another one or two or even three being charged in the laboratory and then another in the triage room, the consultation room and at the reception desk and sometimes in my office. You see the clinic has 12 employees and they all want to have their cell phone charged when they are at work…. BUT what amuses me that most is that with all these cells phones everywhere in the clinic… only a few of them will have any air time. What they do have is music…. there must have hours and hours of music on each one of the phones…..I get to enjoy the various genre of Christian music depending who is working in the pharmacy or who is helping in the Lab.

I had no idea how valuable this resource would be in the middle of Africa…. a cell phone in the pocket of everyone I need to speak with. What a simple, quick and easy solution to contacting someone….. I will never have a land line again waiting by the phone for a call…..

I love this idea and carry my phone with me everywhere I go….not like when I lived in Canada and forgot it much of the time….but like everything there are times when the network is down… for minutes, hours and occasionally days… but then this is Africa.