10 August 2007
Don't like being called Vazha
[8/3/07: Dear John, I was feeling so good about myself until she walked in the door. Just moments ago, I wrote a postcard about how I am practicing my French even though I look like a fool. I was starting to communicate, starting to feel at home. The power went off in my hotel, so I decided to go hang out in the bar up on street level (my room is two floors below the street), one building over. I heard them playing reggae music last night. I brought my book, postcards and camera to the bar since it’s 5 o’clock and I figure I might have some time to kill. I guess, in retrospect, I couldn’t have looked more of a tourist. And I’m sure my nose is sunburned to a Rudolph red, since I’ve been walking around outside all day. Here’s what I wrote from the bar:
This woman walked in a moment ago. She has stained-blonde braids in her hair and a light-blue tank top that says “BOOST STYLE” on it. I can’t tell what she’s saying, exactly, but I do know that she is staring straight at me with cat-like brown eyes, and is squawking like a toucan. This is not an “I want to get to know you stare.” I can tell because every other world out of her mouth is “vazha.” Vazha this, vazha that. She laughs, her friends laugh, then they all look back to me, and laugh again. Vazha means white person in Malagasy, and it’s not a nice thing to say. Just as the situation was making my shoulders tense up and my hands fidget, she decided to make her point readily clear: “I want for you to leave here, VAZHA.” She pursed her lips. My shoulders are now more tense. I don’t know where to point my eyes, so I am planting them, and my pen, on this page. I will drink my beer. Then leave. Don’t let her win. When I do go I will say “aza fady Madame” (my bad, ma’am, in Malagasy), so she thinks I understood everything.
I didn’t. And I don’t.
I stayed in my room the rest of the night. – John]