A common, and perhaps overly used, phrase amongst people living and traveling in Africa is T.I.A., meaning "This is Africa". Throwing out a TIA shows your acknowledgment of all things awkward, absurd, and astonishing here in Africa.
|Red roads of Jinja, Uganda|
Over the last few months of trodding across the Eastern part of the continent of Africa there have been many times where a TIA would have been the correct response, for example why the power has not been connected to a building even when the cable is sitting 10 meters away or why people are okay waiting for a bus to leave 4 hours late. However, as I sit in the Entebbe airport ready to head back to the distant lands that I call home I can only think that TIAs are in fact almost always the incorrect response. It's a phrase seeped in judgement and the belief that the way things are done in the western world are better. After weeks spent on this continent I have seen; I have listened; I have learned.
I have learned that TIA is the deep rust colored soil that stains your feet and the strong sun that deepens your skin; it is the smell of wood burning and diesel engines idling; it's the sound of Kiswahili, Luganda, Kikuyu, Amaharic, the queens English, and then some all being spoken and understood; it's the flavor of maize and beans, bananas of all sizes and colors, sweet potatoes, sukuma, and the most flavorful chicken you could ever eat. TIA is rhythm; it is dance; it is song. TIA is not feeling rushed, living in the here and now; it is family and community; it is understanding far to well that life is short. TIA is finding joy in the little things, not wasting a plastic bottle or throwing out a ratty old t-shirt. TIA is celebration, pure joy, and believing in mystical powers to explain the unbelievable.
And even though this continent has undergone, and still struggles with many hardships: corruption, poverty, war, disease, lack of resources; this part of the world still endures. So in one word, TIA is resilience.
Africans make no apologies for their lives, culture, or countries, and so if you find yourself wandering around this part of the globe you either have to take it or leave it because, This, my friend, IS Africa.