Waiting for the TB is also interesting, but often not in a good way. Despite the fact that everyone knows I speak at least some Malagasy, people will talk about while I'm standing next to them. Sometimes I’ll muster up the energy to respond, but mostly I just listen to see what I can pick up--the conversations are sometimes entertaining, sometimes irritating, and sometimes baffling. For example:
“I saw pictures of her, she used to be fatter.” [Malagasies don’t really get the concept of winter clothes]
“Iah, she needs to eat more rice, way too skinny.”
“She says she eats a kapoaka [1.5 cups dry, it's a lie] rice every day”
“Isn’t she cold in that t-shirt?” [77 degrees…]
“She says it’s never cold here. It must be ice in America all the time.”
“Why hasn’t she changed color? She’s still white.”
“Where does the Madame live?”
“Mademoiselle, she doesn’t have a husband.”
“Why not?” [to me] “Hey foreigner, you should marry the driver’s assistant.”
Me: “Uh…no thanks.”
“What, you wouldn’t marry a black man? You would only marry white men?”
Me: [silently] Sorry, all potential husbands must at least have a middle school diploma and teeth.
Driver's Assistant: Ah, you are beautiful!
Me: Gee thanks, I think [Wait for it...]
Driver's Assistant: Yes, a nice face!
Me: mmhnn. [Wait for it...]
Driver's Assistant: You have a husband in the America? [There it is!]
Driver's Assistant: You have a fiancee?
Me: Yup. [Lies, all lies]
Driver's Assistant: In the America?
Me: Yup. Fiancee in the States.
Driver's Assistant: Oh, but that's so far. You should have a husband here. [Do men have a perpetual hope gene I'm not aware of?]
Me: Nope, having an imaginary one 11,000 miles away sounds about right to me. [I'll just let you guess which of these responses are aloud]
Driver's Assistant: Is he Malagasy? You need a Malagasy man.
Me: Not by any stretch of the imagination. I make more money than you, anyway.
Driver's Assistant: Yes, your second fiancee should be Malagasy.
Me: So it's not bigamy if there's a Malagasy involved?
Even when I do get involved with my Malagasy, what I'm saying doesn't always translate. Malagasies have a script in their head for what white people should say, and don't always catch on when I deviate from my lines. For example:
Me [in taxi]: I'm getting out at the market. [keeps driving] Hey, I'm getting out here.
Driver: The bank is up ahead.
Me: I'm not going to the bank, I'm going to the market.
Me: I'm going to the market, it's right here!
Me: HERE. I am getting out HERE. NOW.
Driver: Oh, here, OK.
At the "store"
Me: Hey, give me some Tuc crackers, please?
Me: Tuc crackers? [blank stare] Tuck? Took? Toooook? OK, I know one of those was right, work with me here...
Owner: [hands me a pack of Good Look cigarettes]
Me: Hey, uh, no, the CRACKERS? Tuc? The yellow box. Right there. Where I am pointing. Beneath the soap.
Owner: You want Coke?
Oh, intercultural communication...