TIA, if you could do anything, what would you do?

TIA. This is Africa. The phrase first surfaced in my life during the beginning of my application process to UKZN. I was required to list potential courses I would take abroad. The problem was, I couldn’t open the handbook online to search for module offerings. Upon complaining to someone from the school, the response was, “TIA, it probably won’t get fixed.”

The joy of my experience here is that it did get fixed, (actually, I was just looking in the wrong place) and my classes are my personality in a class schedule. I have a class that lets me work with sick children, a class that allows me to have deep talks about humans and the way we work, and a class that allows me to express my theatrical side and write. The only thing I’m missing is a math class, which I am happy to take a break from. While the workload is hard, I’ve never had a class schedule fit my personality so well in the states, but TIA. (I might have used the acronym wrong here)

It doesn’t matter if you’re the boy who hates the phrase because it credits life’s adventures to a continent, if you’re the girl who loves it so much she entitled a Facebook photo album in honor of it, or if you’re the local who uses the phrase like American’s use the phrase YOLO, you have to recognize and accept that TIA is an acronym that is used daily.

TIA is used for many reasons on this continent. I think it was intended to be form of YOLO (You Only Live Once), but it’s used for many different things now. Some of the most memorable are:

-Having a washer and dryer and a toilet in the same room, with no light, toilet paper, or soap. BYOE (Bring your own everything).

-Having someone walk in on you using said toilet and start doing their laundry, striking up a conversation, while you’re on the pot.

-Spending all of your money to a point of almost starvation because experiences are more important than eating.

-Having a teacher tell you to skip class as often as possible to travel because you’re an international student and that it’s expected of you.

-Having a holiday where you get school off that’s entitled “Women’s Day” -Participating in a poetry slam despite the fear.

-Going to church continuously, even though you hate church and religion.

-Horseback riding even though you’re allergic to horses.

-Driving around for two hours, continuously changing plans, until you reached a destination that was only five minutes away from where you began.

-Doing things you’d never try at home. (like paragliding)

-Waiting around for an hour when you were told to meet someone at the gate, “Just now.”

-Seeing a little boy walking around holding a dead bird whose mother is completely aware and okay with it.

All of these stories when explained or asked for the reason, the response was TIA. (Note, many of these weren’t experienced by me personally).

So, if you went to a different country where everything that was thought of as weird, irresponsible, scary, exciting, or frustrating was passed off as TIA, what would you do? It’s interesting to see how the group of internationals here have adapted to the term. Personally, I’ve seen myself lighten up. Typically I live a life style where I plan everything. I have thousands of lists and I write down time schedules for the day. I never follow them perfectly, but I always make them. Here I’ve learned to just live life. I don’t need to have plans because things will happen. I’m still getting everything done that I need to get done, but I’m not as stressed by it. In the beginning, when the unorganized free flowing life of the South Africans was stressing me out, a friend just kept saying, “TIA, calm down.” Eventually I did and it’s a much happier way to live. One that might not work in the States, but for here, it’s nice.

Sarah Caulkins, DUSA Blogger

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