Ululating vs Screaming

I’m a light sleeper, and I suffer from a bit of insomnia, especially when my internal clock is off due to travel time changes. Sleeping medications can help, but I’m also taking Mefloquine, a weekly malaria pill, which lists “insomnia” and “vivid dreams” as a side effect. I have a small white noise machine that I drag to Africa as a necessary part of my life, and I add earplugs. All to even out the night sounds of the place I’m trying to allow my brain to change gears and sleep.

Apparently it is working. On our second night there was screaming. I didn’t hear a thing. One of the bunk beds (they call them double deckers) broke, and Ayen, the student sleeping on the top bunk, slid and then fell. She didn’t injure herself, and the bed didn’t land on the girl below, so there was no real disaster, but it scared them to dickens and roused the staff and all the other students.

The initial cry of the girl who fell set off a round of screaming and “calling.” The word we use to describe the high-pitched calls of African women is “ululate.” It was sort of like that, apparently, but Dau explained that this sounds different when the call is joyful, than when it is a call of fear.


Debra Dawson
Empowering Orphaned Girls
African Soul, American Heart Board President


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