Friday, April 12, 2013

Santa Barbara

I got a notice the other day "SB on DVD" started following me on Twitter. That would be the soap opera Santa Barbara, from the 1980's. This triggers many questions... The primary one being how did I get on THAT "friend/follow" list? I think Santa Barbara was off the air before I even knew what a soap opera was. So, you'd think that there is no connection whatsoever.

But, SB on DVD must have some powerful marketing researchers because they found a connection I'd long forgotten.

Part of my college education was a semester spent in Ivory Coast, West Africa. I was part of a group of about 20 students living with African families in various neighborhoods of the capital Abidjan while taking language and culture classes for six weeks before being relocated to various communities throughout the country to live with African families and participate in daily life - farming, working in local clinics, teaching in local schools, working with refugees... (this story could get long so I'll leave it there... Suffice to say I'm not going to run out of stories anytime soon!)

A huge part of living with families was learning the language, French. (Another story - Ivory Coast was a colony which means French was the "trading" language, not the language spoken at home when tribal languages worked just as well with a longer history and grasp...) Each day we'd take classes and struggle our way through the intricacies of trying to learn a language that was interspersed with multiple tribal languages, up to 2 or 3 additional ones spoken in the homes we were staying in. Then we discovered one common learning tool.

At 7pm each night, regardless of the neighborhood, rich or poor, the world stopped for 30 minutes and everyone tuned in to the national past time (or so it seemed to us as we compared notes each day in class.) The melodramatic strains of the Santa Barbara theme music would play and it was time to catch up on the latest antics in Hollywood (no need to worry that the episodes were 15 years old...just the fashion stereotypes being solidified is staggering!) The love of this show was so universal that you could hear the music from anywhere in my neighborhood. Open the windows and the show was broadcast in stereo, emanating from every house and corner store. We were late coming home one night from the tailor but we didn't miss a second of the show as we passed one house after another playing it full blast.

Each morning we students would gather to piece together the plot from the dubbed show none of us had ever seen in its original form but was adding to our eclectic french vocabulary. 1980's Hollywood glamour, intrigue, and scandal, translated into french for African families with tribal connections 100s of years old.

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