“When I first saw Roshida in America, she was a different person. She had a phone. That means she had her family back.”

Every Second of the Day

Roshida grabs her phone, presses the call button, and props it up against the water bottle on the table. Within two seconds, someone on the other line picks up and a pixelated video appears.

We see the familiar face of Roshida’s husband smiling into the phone. He’s lying in bed with Roshida’s two grandchildren. Just as his face comes on the screen, Roshida holds up a piece of the “doi fida” that she was eating. “Doi fida” is one of the many traditional Rohingya snacks I’ve tried in Roshida’s home. She and her daughters were making the doi fida all day — all the while, keeping her family in the loop the whole time. 

When I say she keeps her family in the loop all the time, I mean all the time. They do everything together over the phone. Cooking, cleaning, eating meals, taking care of the children, everything. 

Her family is in 5 countries on 3 continents. It’s been years since they’ve seen each other in person. They are one of the most scattered families I know, yet they are with each other almost every second of the day. All because of a phone.

But it wasn’t always like that.

When I first met Roshida in Thailand, she had no access to a phone. Living in limbo at a temporary shelter, she could only contact her family maybe once a month. But the phone calls were limited to just a few minutes. All the other women also needed to contact their families on the shared phone that was available to them.

When I first saw Roshida in America, she was a different person. She had a phone. That means she had her family back. There were very few minutes in the day when she wasn’t talking on the phone. Sometimes she would call on multiple phones, pull up the Facetime, then give me all the phones so I could speak to multiple family members at once.

I met Roshida’s entire family over the phone. I attended Rohingya weddings over the phone. I attended Rohingya funerals over the phone. I share countless meals with Rohingya friends over the phone. My journey with her family all began over the phone.

Even as I’m writing this, I just received new photos of Roshida’s grandson on my phone.

A lot of us can take this incredible tool of a smartphone for granted. We lose touch with our close friends. We get caught up in the day-to-day. 

But not Roshida. Even though her family is on 3 continents and 5 countries, she manages to keep them caught up with her day-to-day life.

How beautiful it is to see someone use the incredible gift of technology in such a fulfilling way.

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