Saturday, October 8, 2011


The topic, generations, covers two item:

First, “Generations” is the name of a widely popular soap opera on South African TV.  In general, soaps are a pretty big deal here, and Generations is the most popular soap, as best I can determine.  It comes on at 8pm every week night and many people plan their evenings around it.  I have seen it many times and I have to admit that it is interesting (when the host family watches it every night, you kind of HAVE TO watch it).  Daily in class during training, many of the PCVs would talk about what went on during the previous night’s episode.  Generations has all the required soap opera components: love, sex, secrets, greed, back-stabbing, conspiracy, relationships, suspense, hospital scenes, dramatic music, and long, pensive expressions at the end of each scene.  The dialogue is extremely interesting as it is in a mixture of English, Afrikaans, isiZulu and Setswana (I think), all within a single sentence. What I find amazing (besides the storyline, of course) is they somehow manage to sub-title only the non-English parts of the dialogue.  Therefore, one ends up listening for the English parts and then reading the rest at the bottom of the screen.  Sounds complicated, but after a while, you don’t even know you are doing it.

The other topic related to ‘generations’ has to do with family structure in SA.  From what I have seen, a typical SA family will have several generations living within a single household.  In the first home where I stayed, there were three generations present.  In the next household, there were four generations represented on most days (it changes from day to day and as I was never really sure who was going to be around at supper time or bed time).  The elder mothers here in SA are referred to as the koko or gogo (aka, grandmother).  Our second host koko, Florence, is actually a great-grandmother, and her daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter stay with her off and on throughout the week. (Note: Florence’s mother is still alive and lives in a neighboring town, so her family actually has five generations alive and doing well). This scenario appears to be very typical from what I have heard from other Volunteers discussing their home stays, with koko, daughter and grandchild being the most common persons present.  It generally seems very easy-going and supportive with no one particularly accountable or concerned with who is coming or going at any point in time.  We certainly have multi-generations represented in families in America, but not nearly so consistently under the same roof.   Below is Florence and her great-granddaughter, Kia:

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