I can’t say I’ve ever wanted to be on a reality TV show, or even watched much reality TV. I also never have been nor likely ever will be famous enough for people to want to know and comment on every tiny thing I do every day. However, I feel like I have experienced the judgement of reality TV just by living in Madagascar. People watching me do things makes me uncomfortable. I used to wait until my college roommate was out so I could put my clothes away because I didn’t want her to watch. (ok so I’m a little paranoid) I don’t like when people watch me cook, or clean, or drive, but for the most part it’s not something that has had a large impact on my life, until I came here.
In my village I’m watched from the moment I open my door, until the moment it’s closed. (and sometimes even more as living in a stick house isn’t the most private dwelling and the kids know when me and my soccer ball are hiding) They watch me sweep, wash my face, cook, brush my teeth, eat, read, nap, everything. I find this unnerving, annoying, and uncomfortable. I know for a fact that watching me read for over an hour is just as boring as watching paint dry.
However, I also recognize that since there isn’t any paint to watch dry, I guess I’m the village’s main form of entertainment. Generally I’m stared at by kids. Adults will pause and watch whatever I’m doing as they pass by, but they either have more important things to do, or don’t find me truly fascinating. Kids, especially those that don’t go to school, have nothing to do, but watch me (and hide from whatever chore their parents have asked them to do).
The worst part of this is the teenage girls. (is this a good age for any culture? could we just make it go away for everyone?) The little girls follow me like tiny silent shadows, the boys just want to play with the ball, but the teenage girls take the cake of vazaha watching. They not only stare, but will both narrate and judge everything I’m doing or that they think I should be doing. I have also been told I’m not good at laundry, I don’t know malagasy, I don’t know the proper time to start cooking rice, I don’t know how to light a charcoal stove (which is true, it takes me forever), that I’m generally a terrible person for not giving them everything the demand (which is just about the contents of my house), and many other things that I have forgotten or blocked from my memory. I understand why no celebrity would ever read anything printed about them. I know why I could never post something on youtube, because I wouldn’t be able to not read the comments. I could never be famous.
Or could I? I mean I’ve survived this long at site. I don’t have the option of not hearing what they say and yet I still haven’t killed or even maimed any of my “fans”. I don’t even tell them off in a language they understand (but when I get really annoyed I correct them in english) Maybe after being here for another year I’ll be able to take any judgement the world has to throw at me. Perhaps my post Peace Corps life will just be a reality show where Obama, Biden, and myself travel the world in search of the best ice cream. (I can dream right?)