The phrase “TIA” (This is Africa) was made popular in the States by the movie “Blood Diamond,” of which, as a sidenote, I was a pretty big fan of. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.
TIA basically is just a way of saying that things work, or more often don’t work, differently there than anywhere else in the world. I absolutely love Africa, but it is such a non-functional place. I’m not talking about South Africa or Egypt or being on a guided safari — I’m talking about Africa. Chaos is just the general rule you have to deal with and while it can be exasperating, frequently exasperating, if you just keep TIA in mind, you can end up loving it.
And example was the border crossing we did from Botswana to Zambia, over the Zambezi River — one of the great rivers in the world. Our safari guide/driver warned us that the crossing might be chaotic. You check out of Botswana, take a ferry across the river, and check into Zambia on that side. He warned us that it might end up taking a couple hours.
We checked out of Botswana with no problem and got on the ferry. Our safari truck didn’t fit on the ferry with us, so we went over first. When we got to the Zambia side, we went through immigration. Easy. Simple. No problem at all. Maybe took five minutes for all ten of us. I turned to my companions and said, “well that was easy — guess we are getting lucky at this border.”
Needless to say, that was spoken too quickly. Our truck was on the other side. The ferry ended up breaking down right after we arrived and it broke down right were you offload in Zambia, so they couldn’t even use the other ferry. It took about three hours for that problem to get solved and for our truck, and driver, to make it across. Once he got across, he had some problem with the paperwork for the truck. They wouldn’t let the truck into the country. Five hours later. . . they still wouldn’t let the truck into the country. He ended up taking the ferry back to Botswana, driving east and north a couple hundred miles, and entering the country at an entirely different border. Before he left us, he arranged for a van to come pick us up from the town near Victoria Falls we were staying at for a few nights.
We ended up spending something like eight or nine hours at this border, just sitting around. Luckily, there was a shanty town set up right around the corner and a few of us hopped over there a couple times to wander around and have a beer or two at what passed for the local bar. And in the end, we did make it to Victoria Falls and ended up buying our driver a couple beers much later that night, when he finally arrived from his odyssey.