14.09.2009 - 16.09.2009
Anybody that works or travels much in sub-saharan Africa comes across TIA. Sometimes it is introduced to them with almost un-African haste. Other times, it slowly grows on them, or dawns. Yet others have their light bulb moment. For some, it needs to be explained to them. But in the end, pretty much everybody comes across TIA.
It's even hard to explain exactly what constitutes a TIA moment. Small things like the drinks delivery truck turning up without either Coke or Green's (Carlsberg green, by far the most popular drink in Malawi) on board. Traffic logjams with no police anywhere, except for 4 all directing traffic at the only junction in the entire city that has traffic lights (which are being ignored by the police). A scheduled bus which is scheduled to leave at 5am or 6.30 or maybe 3pm, or maybe 9am: Basically nobody has the faintest idea what time it leaves, although all agree that it is a scheduled bus and leaves on time. The shipping company that basically takes out adverts to announce that its main ferry is not seaworthy, but continues running anyway; The thieves that stole the double mattress and took half-bikini's but left more portable and expensive items? All incidents of 'TIA'
TIA is used for all those small incidents, issues, problems and kind of 'shrugs. Sh1t happens' moments, and things which just don't make any kid of logical sense, but happen -or not - anyway. Any one incident might happen elsewhere, and bring small amusing stories passed on to friends and families at a later date, but the sheer number of them that you come across leads to TIA. I have had occasion to
To take one small example, i am currently in the Scottish named commercial capital of Malawi, Blantyre. My idea – after the hopeful conclusion of my fight with the Mozambiquian officials, anyway – is to head to Harare in Zimbabwe. It is the next logical destination, and (though I have no intention/interest in avoiding it) to avoid Zimbabwe completely would involve a detour of 6days of solid travel, and significant expense. I really don't have much time left and so could just go straight through to Johannesburg, but as I would still need to pay the required 55usd visa fee to cross Zimbabwe, that seems a little silly. But it isn't as simple as all that. I have so far found nine separate bus companies who operate services between Blantyre and Johannesburg, who offer between 1 and 4 services a week each. Combined, there are at least 20 weekly buses to Johannesburg. All services use the same road through the Tete corridor of Mozambique and then pass through Harare. It is unavoidable. But here's the thing. None of them – not one – offers a service to Harare or is prepared to drop passengers there. I have even offered to pay the full fare to Jo'burg and just jump out early. But none of them will accept that. By now you will have guessed that I haven't managed to find a single company that is prepared to take me to Harare – or offers a Harare service – despite the fact all buses to Jo'burg must go through there, most almost certainly stop there somewhere for a comfort break, or the fact that it is a good 18hours or so closer. Instead, at the moment I am reduced to a trip which at a minimum will consist of 4minibuses and a taxi, 3 currencies, 2 European languages (and countless local ones) in a mammoth of a trip which will probably take me two days. Yup, TIA.
And as for the Mozambiquian incident described above, it could become a book in itself. Suffice to say that I had found 4 different locations/addresses for the consulate, visiting of which took me 1.5days to visit, only to discover that 3 of them had never had anything to do with the consulate or Mozambique, and the 4th was the consulate – until 5years ago. No taxi driver had any idea where it was (although two happily drove me at random around Blantyre and Limbe for over an hour each hoping they would get lucky and I would pay them lots. We didn't and i didn't). I eventually discovered the consulate is now in a small office block in the centre of Blantyre (with no sign or flag) and which I had walked past at least 6 times during my previous fruitless searches. If that was bad enough, the fight to get the visa I want (It's only a double entry, which is on their price list and so shouldn't be *that* hard to get) is still ongoing, wearying, and seems oddly unsatisfactory to both myself and the consular officials – it is one of those depressing long running 'discussions' in which the only agreement is that we are all unhappy about what is happening, and can't see an end in sight. TIA. There will be no winners here.
As an almost unrelated aside, todays Newspaper watch comes from the Malawian Daily Times. In an article entitle Wife cuts hubby's parts, you can pretty much guess the story and what happened, so i'll spare you the painful (especially if you are male) details. It's the sort of story that does come up every few months even in Europe and is not all *that* uncommon. What makes this one special though, is a throwaway comment near the bottom of the story, which states '... Mverani [the Police officer in charge of the case] said Ndilowe [the wife and scrotum cutter] has in the past been arrested on similar charges but was released on demand by her husband...' . Yes, re-read that. The wife has more than once in the past cut her husbands testicles, yet he has demanded – demanded – her release. My guess is that for that kind of leniency, she either has an absolutely brilliant blackmail photo of him, or is stinking rich and he desperately needs her money. And for the record (just in case you were contemplating it), if anybody happens to deliberately cut my balls – especially more than once – i will not be demanding your release back to me: rather, I will be paying people to keep you away from me for much, much longer....
Yup, This is Africa