Ethiopian Soap Operas

30 Oct

Part of my job as a Peace Corps volunteer is to introduce some Ethiopian culture back to the states. What better way than sharing one of the most watched Amharic dramas on TV? My family here loves to watch a show called “Sow la Sow” which means “people for people.” The best way to describe it is as an Ethiopian soap opera. Needless to say, I’m hooked.

A combination of dramatic music cues, quick explanations and my absurdly minute grasp of the language has yielded a pretty amusing plot synopsis. Here’s what I gather is happening so far on this show:

There are two business partners. They go into to business together and somehow get some bad blood between them (fuzzy on the details). For whatever reason, one of them kills the son of the other and dumps him on the doorstep of the house for good measure. The sister of the dead son goes to university and has a boyfriend so of course the mother thinks the boyfriend killed her son because at some point they got into a fight. It’s a modern relationship so y’know… Following so far? Good, me neither.

This gets more scandalous and we find out the daughter is pregnant! Because the mother hates her boyfriend she does not want them to get married. Logically, she bribes her daughter’s friend to put “abortion medicine” (???) in her tea. Just go with it.

So the daughter has a miscarriage. Meanwhile, the evil business partner man is also a smuggler! Which is very close to “shmuggilay” which means old man, so I could have this wrong… but he goes to his warehouse to pick up the goods and the police find him. (I think one of the police is also related, but no matter). This totally stresses him out, and he has a stroke on the warehouse floor.  Now he talks with a lopsided mouth, meaning there is absolutely no hope of me being able to understand him.  We leave the scene with a random woman shoving his wheelchair into a wall. Mmmk. Clearly he has enemies.

Meanwhile… the daughter’s friend has a nervous breakdown and admits to spiking her friend’s tea with baby killer juice! Awkward.

So this is what is happening in the world of fictional scandalous Addis Ababa families. Stay tuned next week as I’m pretty sure we find out something about the mother. Also, there was a whole scene with two people in a shop who I don’t even know who they are… probably they are important.

I think my favorite explanation of the show came from my host father who summed it up like this: “Some families and good and some and bad, and they do things.” Sounds like quality TV to me!

If anything, I am picking up a strange mix of useful transportation and shopping vocabulary as well as the odd murder! intrigue! scandal! related words. I will be able to buy a bus ticket AND explain that I am running from the law at the same time. Clearly I will be fluent by the end of the year.

One Response to “Ethiopian Soap Operas”

  1. apronheadlilly October 31, 2012 at 7:41 am #


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