T.I.A. If you plan on traveling in Africa, this is a term you need to know: This Is Africa. You can use it for many things. For instance, when you get to the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, and see Ocean spread out forever in front of you, framed by Lions Head and Devil’s Peak, you might think: TIA: beautiful, majestic, untamed, inexplicable.
Or (and sorry to say this may be a more common usage) you can say it when, after a 13 hour flight delay on your 14 hour flight from JFK to Johannasberg, you arrive to find that, contrary to what the none-too-friendly South African Airways flight crew has assured you, there is no one at the airport telling you – or your two exhausted children, or your fast-losing-patience husband, or any of the other 263 passengers – what to do about your missed connecting flight, or where you need to pick up your luggage, or where, in light of the fact that Heathrow airport is closed, stranding thousands of travelers around the globe, you might find a hotel room.
Yup, TIA, an acronym that all by itself, conveys the dichotomous nature of an entire continent: fabulous and frustrating; rich in beauty and resources, with poverty everywhere you turn; peaceful and untouched and fraught with war and corruption. TIA.
And my family has just arrived.
Our journey took more than twice as long as anticipated, so when we finally arrived in Cape Town in the early morning, I was surprised at the industriousness of the South African people: so many were off to work on a Sunday. And then I realized it was Monday. We had lost a day.
No matter. Table Mountain loomed outside the window of our super-chic, two-bedroom apartment in the boutique More Quarters hotel, off of fashionable Kloof Street.l Kloof Street is the heart of the the hipster Cape Town scene. Seemingly,the legal age of occupancy in the neighborhood is between 20 and 26. My entire family sticks out like – well, like Americans in Africa.
Table Mountain is to Cape Town, what the Twin Towers were to New York: a symbol of the city, an international icon (now vying to be named one of the seven new wonders of the world), a geographical lodestar: wherever you are in Cape Town, Table Mountain is there, rising out of the sea like a giant reminder of the power, beauty and unpredictability of nature, and – like the Towers – orienting you in a city that twists and turns and climbs and dips like some wild ride at a carnival made by the hand of God.
We had to tackle that first. And here, for once, I’ll stop writing, and just let you look at how beautiful it is.
At least until tomorrow – when I’ll start yakking again.