(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Monday, September 5, 2011


One of the nice things about living or traveling in foreign countries is that it's often sprinkled with these endearing little moments that probably only seem endearing because you're not used it.

I am sitting in this Greek restaurant not far from the Kigali house after a long day's work. I'm going through work emails and a soap opera is on a TV in the corner and Greek music is blasting behind me. The soap opera is called "Untamed Women" and appears to be one of the many that appear in Africa dubbed over into English. It is serious cheese but, unlike the title would indicate, it's not porn. It's just pure, over-the-top Latin American drama at its finest. In fact I think my current evening's mix of Latin America, Greece and Africa would be cause for a blown cultural fuse if it weren't for the fact that I've spent considerable time in all three places. The drippy, emotionally-charged Greek music takes me back to sitting in a Thessaloniki café, sipping on an ouzo and watching a passionate live performance while having my friends tell me how unfortunate it is that I don't understand the profound lyrics. The soap takes me back to sitting in a Brazilian restaurant with waitresses pausing while taking your order as their eyes are glued to a TV mounted in the corner. Will the troubled handsome rebel finally embrace the beautiful, poor, young woman as she has so patiently hoped for so many episodes? Or will he fall for the rich, mean blond that has successfully marginalized the poor, young woman during those same episodes? Or will the waitress finally take my order?

What's surprising is how many Africans watch these things. They have their own as well. Nigerians have a well-developed culture of soap operas and they're watched all over the continent. They are also loaded with drama and bad acting but the themes are quite different. One that I watched occasionally while traveling in Tanzania, limited to a single local channel, usually involved some sort of scam. One episode that sticks out in my mind had a guy selling out his girlfriend as a prostitute. She was also supposed to drug her client and rob him before leaving. When she would resist doing these evil deeds, the boyfriend would accuse her of being selfish and not loving him enough to do this to support them financially. I think the Latin American ones make me a lot less sick to my stomach because I can picture the Nigerian ones really happening.

No comments: