Moving onto week 11 here in Africa, we all have habituated ourselves to the normal everyday occurrences that present themselves each day…that actually are really not so ordinary. It’s funny, we’ll casually advise each other, “Guys, bring a flashlight to the bathroom, clans of elephants have been hanging out behind the water tank all day.” …as if that’s a routine warning to give someone. A few minutes after making statements like this, we usually just laugh at how ridiculous we sound…”The monkeys behind my banda stole my pants from the clothing line.” or “How many pens do you think that bracelet is worth?” Thus, we invented the saying TIA (This is Africa). TIA replaces the lengthy justification for any nonsensical statement you may make. Yes, you could explain to someone that we judge a bracelet’s worth by pens because here in Africa we trade and the Massai love pens and you usually can get a bracelet for about 2 pens on a good day but sometimes if you bring a Sharpie…etc…you get this point. So this phrase basically rationalizes any bizarre statement. It means, “Life is beyond different in Africa, accept it, and get over it.”
I know I posted a Culture Shock 101 course back in TZ only a few weeks into the program. Since then, we have compiled quite a lengthy list of “TIAs” beginning on Day 1 of this crazy journey. Hopefully it gives you a better sense of how Africa has made us, one could say, more open to the “treasures” that life has brought us here. Enjoy.
1. I changed a flat tire 3 meters from a sleeping lion, TIA.
2. It is Saturday. It is 7:30 AM. I am in class, TIA.
3. I haven’t seen a napkin at any meal since August, TIA.
4. I went on a one km drive and had to stop for 6 different cows, TIA.
5. I’ve seen one paved infrastructure. It was not a road but the lining of an irrigation canal, TIA.
6. Every time I consider taking a shower, I have to think twice: Am dirty enough that exposing my body to the black mambas in the ceiling is worth it? TIA.
7. It is 90 degrees and I am shampooing my hair in an outdoor shower while watching a blizzard swallow the summit of Kilimanjaro, TIA.
8. Awkward silence is a beautiful thing, TIA.
9. I have never eaten dinner without a headlamp strapped around my forehead, TIA.
10. I’ve eaten peanut butter & jellies at 7 different national parks, TIA.
11. Seeing men armed with rifles at dawn and dusk is an everyday occurrence, TIA.
12. Instead of saying, “She’s pregnant!” I said “She is in her gestation period.” Instead of yelling at you guys for not saving me a seat in the land cruiser yesterday, I said, “You displaced me from your habitat.” TIA.
13. I got invited to a wedding in Rhotia and wore a skirt to my toes, smartwools, and hiking boots, TIA.
14. When I wear flip-flops at night, I worry about either A) potential death by snake bite or B) jigger infestation, TIA.
15. Hyenas are like raccoons, elephants are like deer, baboons are like squirrels, and dik diks are like chipmunks, TIA.
16. I think I’ve talked about diarrhea, at least once, with every single student here…during breakfast, TIA.
17. I live in a place where flies give you acid burns (Nairobi flies), caterpillars leave fiberglass material in your skin, and monkeys steal lunch from your hands, TIA.
18. Our Directed Research “prep talk” consisted of a professor telling us that last session a student ended his transect count early because he was chased by a cheetah, TIA.
19. Our pet dog’s name is Rabies, TIA.
20. I woke up in the middle of the night because my mosquito net had collapsed and was suffocating me, TIA.
21. I haven’t spent more than 5 minutes alone (sleeping excluded) in 2 ½ months, TIA.
22. I have 27 roommates, TIA.
23. You don’t need toilet paper, TIA.
24. We listen to “ABC, 1, 2, 3” during breakfast crew because that’s the most recent CD our campsite has, TIA.
25. Today we taught Maasai mommas the electric slide, TIA.
26. I forgot to wear my seat belt in the car once and I got an egg sized bruise on my head, TIA.
27. Lions cubs will hide under the car if you stop for longer than 5 minutes, TIA.
28. I was given the cold shoulder last week for 3 full days because I killed a beetle, TIA.
29. I crutched through the Serengeti, TIA.
30. I haven’t showered for 17 days, TIA.
31. My leg hair is longer than my boyfriend’s, TIA.
32. I am anxious because the internet hasn’t cut out for a full hour, TIA.
33. The first day here, I was sold a black shirt that said mzungu [white person] in cool white writing. The vendors told me it was just a popular Swahili word that they liked! Immerse yourself into the culture right?? …Now because I only have 2 t-shirts left, I have to wear a shirt 3 times/week that says “I am a white person” on it, TIA.
34. I forgot my water bottle one day and was then sick, from dehydration, for three, TIA.
35. I brushed my teeth using sink water one time and got dysentery, TIA.
36. I prefer to go in the woods over the latrines, TIA.
37. Every single letter I have gotten from the US either says “Hakuna matata!” or “Tell simba hello!” TIA.
38. Today I spent 3 hours explaining that head balls actually are executed using your forehead. And that “football” really does mean using your feet, not your hands, TIA.
39. Our site manager said that if you ever feel like you need some alone time, turn around, close your eyes for 5 minutes, and then you should be fine, TIA.
40. I just made reservations at a hotel on the coast for a 4-man “tree-house” TIA.
41. I’ve gotten fleas twice. And yes, I am a homo sapien, not a canine, TIA.
42. We’ve been sitting here for 3 minutes and I’ve already seen a spider the size of my palm, TIA.
43. This is where we hang out between lectures, TIA.