Latin American Soap Operas in AfricaRabat, Spring 2010

[gallery link="file"] The orientation phase of the program has begun.  Fez will be our new home for the next two weeks.  We are attending Darija (Moroccan Arabic) classes and lectures addressing history, language, religion, and gender in Morocco.  While formal instruction has provided us with an introduction to Darija and Morocco, our host families have played the greatest role in enriching our language skills and cultural understandings. During the orientation, students are staying with host families in the medina.  The medina is crowded with mosques, hammams (bathhouses), shops, artisan workshops, public fountains, and houses.  It is easy to become lost in the winding, narrow streets of the medina.  The streets are too constricting for motorized vehicles, but the occasional donkey makes its appearance and forces pedestrians to balak (get out of the way) as soon as possible. Within this ancient city resides a wonderful Moroccan family.  The Bakkali family has welcomed another IES student and me into their home for the duration of the orientation.  The Bakkalis have been hosting students for years and have cheerfully shared pictures and stories from their past host students with us.  Moroccan cuisine, afternoon tea, multilingual conversations, Darija lessons, and soap operas have preoccupied our evenings together. During our first evening with the Bakkalis, our nine year old host sister introduced us to the medina at night.  She took me by the hand and guided me through the dark corridors, bustling markets, and lively cafés.  We enjoyed taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the medina at night.  When we returned home, we sat down to dinner. Dinner is not a silent affair with the Bakkalis.  The television is on and the family converses animatedly as I try to become engaged in the multilingual conversation or complex television drama.  Television during mealtimes has played an integral role in my study abroad experiences.  I remember avidly watching a soap opera from Brazil dubbed in Wolof (one of the dialects of Senegal) with my host family last spring while this semester I enjoy watching a Mexican soap opera dubbed in Darija in Morocco. While I rarely watch television in the United States, watching overly dramatic soap operas dubbed in local dialects has become a favorite pastime while abroad.  Since my understanding of both Wolof and Darija are limited, it is necessary for family members to explain the complex storylines of the soap operas to me in French.  Complicated relationships involving murder, illegitimate children, and love triangles fascinate and appall us.  We exchange dismayed looks as the plot unfolds and I gain new, interesting phrases in local dialects.  Critical soap opera terms such as crazy, affair, and murder have entered my Darija lexis thanks to the French commentary provided by my host family.  While I am fascinated by Latin American soap operas, the real reason I enjoy watching television in the evenings is to laugh and learn with my host families abroad.
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