Privacy, or the expectation of it anyway, is a conceit of my privilege, a byproduct of my sense of entitlement. The notion that what is mine, tangible and otherwise, is mine…my garbage, the act of washing my clothes, or reading on my porch…merely an illusion in Liberia.

My frustration at being forced to share the intimacies of my life with the myriad of children that press their noses against the screen of the porch or the glass of the window, the intent stares as I haul water or shop at the market, is wasted. I can rail against the idea that I should warrant so much attention, that I should not be granted the courtesy of an averted glance, but I’m not unique in this.

As I walked from Cuttington University one evening my eyes passed over a man completing his bath, outside, only sheltered to mid chest by an enclosure of bricks. He paid me no mind as he wrapped a towel around his waist and disappeared into his house a few steps away. Further down the same narrow path I was greeted by a colleague sitting outside his house in a pair of long boxer shorts – no shirt. He smiled, shook my hand, and wished me well as I continued home.

It was in that’s moment that I realized that privacy is a luxury not everyone is privy too. In my village in South Africa my outhouse was a pretty good distance from the house. Every morning while I made my way there my neighbors would greet me and often, begin conversations that could not be completed before I reached the little metal house room. I’d acknowledge and tell them I’d continue when I was finished.

Of course that meant they knew when I was finished.

And when I was sick – they knew that too. But there, as in here, it isn’t just me. True, the kids don’t press their noses against the screens of my neighbors and I doubt they go through their garbage looking for oddities, but everyone sees everything – hears everything…went to town, sick with malaria, dating a married woman…

Realistically, I probably garner more attention than the average person in my community. I’m easier to spot and am prone to do far stranger things. Children sometimes cry at the sight of me, my accent is at once discernible in a crowd, and I’m temporary.

But my bathroom is inside so…

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