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

Internet won’t be what you’re used to… ;)

Wise advice from the DUSA blog coordinator.  I would almost say that it was an understatement.  Internet here has been one of the biggest headaches of my experience.
Problem 1: I have a Mac.  Apple Macintoshes have become common throughout the states.  They haven’t fully made their journey to South Africa yet.  My Mac wont pick up the wireless.  I took it to I-Tech every day for two weeks before they got it to work.
Problem 2: The wi-fi here likes to not work.  It likes to not work a lot.  It’s rather lazy actually.
Problem 3: Half of the online sites, such as Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress, and Spotify are blocked from the hours of 7am to 7pm.  I thought becoming nocturnal was an option until I realized the entire campus of PMB already made that decision.  The Internet at night is so slow and so bad that you can’t properly get onto those sites using the wi-fi because everyone is trying to use it at once.
Lesson of the month:  The computer lab is your new best friend.
As expected of a different country, there are other things I’m not used to as well.  For example, Denver has squirrels – South Africa has cats.  There are wild cats everywhere.   They are pretty too.  They don’t look wild or mean. They look like house cats.  Except that there are a lot of them and they live outside.
Also, Denver has hotdog stands – South Africa has outdoor convenience stores.   All along campus, about a three minute walk apart, are little stands.  They sell candy, chips, cigarettes, and knick-nacks made out of beads.
There are tiny things that I notice too.  In the states, when you’re walking in the street and a car is coming at you, you move to the left.  Here, that gets in the car’s way.  Also, when you’re walking through campus or on a sidewalk in the states and you come across another person walking towards you, you move to the right.  Naturally, they move to the left here.
Food.  There are things that never change.  Like McDonalds.  KFC is actually really big here too.  But then there are the things missing from America.  Like Indian food and Naindoos (a chicken place). And America needs to steal the recipe of Iron Brew and get it in the states. I can’t describe this drink.  It’s so unique in taste. One of my good friends asked me to bring back the best candy, and I wish I could bring back this soda instead.  Large amounts of it.  A lot of people here don’t like it, but all of the Americans on my program are in love.
The trees are out of this world.  I don’t know if South African trees are mountain-like jungle trees or a jungle-like mountain trees.  But they are both.  A part of the tree is a type of tree I would find in Colorado and the other part reminds me of a tree from the lion king.  And monkeys roam around in them.  I really like the trees here.
My favorite cultural difference is the language.  We all speak English, but obviously it’s not the same.  The simple way to put it: Americans are lazy.  In the states it would be common for a college student to say, “When are the other kids showing up?” if you’re waiting for friends to arrive.  As a college student, they clearly aren’t “kids” anymore, but we will often use that term.  When I first said that here the response was, “What kids?”  Likewise, we all go to “school” in America.  It doesn’t matter what grade you’re in, you’re in school.  I was shocked when I first asked, “Do you go to the school?” And the response was, “No, I go to the Varsity,” their other word for University.  Here, a school is a place where children go.
People are very friendly in South Africa.   It’s common to hug people when you first meet them.  It’s also common for you to get stopped by strangers who just want to say hello and ask how you are.  It’s refreshing in comparison to the States were life is too busy to have time to stop someone you don’t know in the street.
Sarah Caulkins, DUSA Blogger