I needed to buy bed sheets. My neighbor, Flovan, insisted on accompanying me for the hunt. One afternoon we took our bikes and went downtown to different tailors, asking for pre-made bed sheets and their prices. In fifteen minutes we had visited three tailors before going to the market. At the market we were walking our bikes under tents and in between vendors selling produce and household items when a woman called to Flovan.
“Hey, Flovan!” she said. “So you’re out buying bed sheets, huh?”
They talked for a moment and then we continued on our way. I was puzzled by how the woman knew we were buying bed sheets and I asked Flovan about it. Flovan smiled.
“Somebody told her you were buying bed sheets,” he said. “She also said you’ve been buying a lot of things at the market lately. She said your new home must have lots of things inside it.”
The word for slander in Sakalava is “tsikotsiko,” which is a derivation of the word for wind, “tsiko.” Slander’s brother, gossip, also moves as quickly as the wind in Madagascar. Fifteen minutes of my looking for bed sheets and many strangers already knew about it. For how ordinary my everyday life is—buying vegetables in the market, eating at hotelys, strolling along the beach and riding my bike—I’m still apparently the most interesting thing in town.