i know exactly what africa needs. vibrating cell phones. it seems everyone has the loudest, most obnoxious ring tone ever, incapable of ever being silenced. i have not seen one person with a vibrating phone. it's a rule that they must all ring louder and wilder than a discoteque in Ibiza. the etiquette i've seen so far (and quite often, so i know this) for mobile phones goes like this - whether you are the moderator of a workshop session, or a photographer following the minister of environment around, this is how it goes:
set your phone to ring and blink and scream loud carnival music whenever you receive a call. if you're in a meeting or somewhere important, well, just pretend it's not yours. shrug, look around, check your watch, it's not my phone making all that racket! when the person stops calling, sigh relief. back to the meeting. oh, but don't worry, they will call again 2 seconds later. voicemail? what's that? now when your phone rings, rummage through your front pocket and react with surprise when you find your phone, like oh! it's a 20 dollar bill! the person calling you will invevitably be an unknown number. look at the number, think, do i know this person? should i answer? all the while your phone is doing a meringue in your hands, echoing off the walls. but you can't take it for long. why is this person calling me? who are they? i must answer. don't bother leaving the room, just answer it right there. it'll be someone you know, it's always someone you know. you gave them your number. but the connection will be bad. you will need to say hello? allo? allllloo? about 10 times before you can communicate. the network is probably down, tell them to call you back on your other phone, which is on another network in your other front pocket. this phone will now ring even louder than the first. this one might sing celine dion or be a loud mariachi band. let it riiiing! and then answer. at last: "allo! mon frere! comment ca va! i am in a meeting and cannot really talk right now..." but before you hang up, you must have a very inappropriate conversation, "how did that rectal exam go?" "someone told me your sister is sleeping around!" and so on. never, ever leave the room, no one can hear you, because in your world you are talking really really quietly, you are invisible!
now imagine this scenario happening about 20 times in a giant hotel conference room. this is our workshop.