I’ve been far too terribly busy and important these last two and a half months to give you folks some of my time :P So since it would be silly to try and tell you guys everything that’s been going on chronologically, I’m just going to talk about what I feel like and what you guys might find interesting. So if the timeline gets confusing, I apologize in advance, but here goes…
It just so happens that my suitcase full of practical clothes and paraphernalia largely sports the Facebook logo. On any given day I can be seen modeling my Facebook track jacket and guzzling from my Facebook nalgene bottle. If it gets warm, as often times it does, I unzip to reveal one of many Facebook T-shirts. Now, when I actually get down to listing all the Facebook shwag that litter my belongings it doesn’t seem like much – track jacket, t-shirts, nalgene, stationary, and City sweat shirt, which in my defense isn’t exactly a company wide thing, more an Online Ops quirk, and unlike the other stuff, wasn’t free. In fact I remember from the packing effort, making the conscious decision of leaving my Facebook blanket, sweatshirt, and two other T-shirts behind thinking it would be a tad overkill. What I didn’t realize is that all my shwag makes up half my wardrobe here and the other half are completely devoid of any sort of logo. Basically what this means is that when I meet new volunteers or folks US savvy, Facebook is our favorite topic of conversation, more specifically their many grievances with Facebook. I’m sort of a Facebook counselor, and on the rare occasion when we’re in the vicinity of Internet connection The Facebook Whisperer.
Don’t think I’m bitter about it though. I actually quite enjoy the attention and find it all amusing (as do the other volunteers). In fact when in my ‘sessions’ a faithful user tells me how he hates when his profile is all blocky and shifted to the left or rants about his frustration with buttons not working I launch into my spiel about clearing cache and upgrading from Internet 6.0, I get warm fuzzies inside and reflect, “Ah, Janzer would be proud”. I also love having the freedom to spew some mumbo jumbo about Java script and type-a-head as the cause of all internet related problems with out the fear of being outed by some know it all engineer (degree shm-egree) or worse a fellow UO-er who was actually paying attention to one of Ezra’s rambles. The best though is when other PCV’s bemoan their state of poverty and I get to shrug my shoulders empathetically and allude to a ‘nest egg’ and say stuff like ‘stock options’ and ‘portfolios’. I don’t actually know what qualifies as a ‘nest egg’ but either way anything I had resembling it definitely went into purchasing ‘stock options’ and when someone says ‘portfolio’ I imagine a red 3-ring binder filled with many colors of construction paper. Still I love dropping those words – they’re just so grown up sounding.
I must admit though, all these conversations about Facebook have definitely revealed my biggest regret about my time working there. Never sending Zuck a friend request. When people ask me if I know the man personally, I have no concrete proof to fall back. All I have is “oh yeah we hung out at a couple of parties”, when really it was just one company party and really it was me well on my way to wasted demanding where my new hire paperwork promised lunch meeting was from a very sober looking Zuck (which after being scheduled and canceled twice sadly never did happen); or I can do the, “ uh… yeah we were on the pink team together. The Pinking Rich team pride! w00t. w00t.” when in reality he never made it to Game Day cuz he was on some v. imp. business trip to Istanbul. Although, it appears that best buddy of mine, Boogs, has begun playing epic rounds of Risk with dear Zuck, so I’m probably going to start telling people, “Zuck? Of course I know Zuck. We used to play Risk together” and hope to God no one asks me the rules to the damn board game.
While my former job is a common conversation topic with other PCVs and sorts, it’s more a matter of confusion for the Malagasy host family and sorts. They ask what I did before Peace Corps and at first I tried telling them that I worked for an internet company called Facebook but seeing as how I don’t know either the word for internet, computer, or technology and my French terms for these didn’t add to any sort of comprehension, my efforts at explanation just resulted in an assumption that I don’t love/ my therefore choose to live and work so far from them.
The point of interest that did liven up broken conversation was the fact that I am of Indian ethnicity or ‘Karana’ as they call folks who are of Indian background here. It started over dinner one evening early in my 10 week stay in their home with them whispering to themselves. At that point the only phrase I understood in their conversation was ‘Karana mitovy Indienne?’ (Karana is the same as Indian), so I basically broke in with the Malagasy equivalent of ‘Hey what’s up?’ and, oh boy, of all the questions they could have asked about me being Indian, their first question was why do Indians burned bodies. Now, realize that I only figured out after ten more minutes of broken Malagasy mixed with broken French that they were actually asking why it was that Indians (I’m assuming more specifically Hindus) cremated their dead rather than bury them all in a family tomb and, if you have the money for it, bring them out every year and re-wrap them in cloth and basically try and make sure their earthly bodies are as comfortable and ergo their spiritual existence is comfortable, as many Malagasy families do in a rite called Famadiana. But anyways somehow through my limited Malagasy and their limited French I managed to give them an answer they were able to understand and accept.
Then the next week they asked me what the difference was between Indians and Indonesians, the week after that they asked if Karanas in the States only married Karanas in India, and basically every week after the questions became more and more specific and relatable, so that by the last week I spent with them my Karana conversation consisted of ‘yes Karanas eat really spicy food and wear a lot of jewelry’.
One nice thing about not being white though is that I can pass by unnoticed much of the time. A lot of other PCVs have to deal with having ‘Vazah!’ (foreigner) shouted at them when they’re out and about. They’re also more obvious targets for annoying beggars. But yeah in general I get harassed considerably less, usually it only happens when I’m shopping or using public transportation as my limited ‘gasy outs me. I also don’t get hollered at as much and even then it’s usually a confused ‘Karana?’ rather than a ‘Vazah!’.
I swear in this week and move to my new beautiful house in a small village near Antsirabe and one of the things I’m really curious to discover is how I’ll be perceived without the cushion of other PCVs to broadcast I’m American. I’m thinking in personal life and day to day living it’ll be easier as far as integration goes, but I can see it posing some really interesting challenges in the workplace. We’ll see though, and of course I’ll keep y’all posted.
Thanks for reading. Love, N.