Friday, June 06, 2008


Today we are formally introducing you to a very important part of our vocabulary here in Haiti.
T.I.H. stands for: This Is Haiti. 

There are actions that go with this saying. In order to use T-I-H properly, you must lift both shoulders up (a shrugging motion) and raise your eyebrows at the same time. It is all one fluid motion. 

Try it.  

Now try it while saying the letters – T I H.

Got it?

If you have seen the movie “Blood Diamond”, set in Africa, you might remember this saying as T.I.A. (This is Africa). It can apply anywhere really; if you live in a weird place where things happen just because it is locally accepted you might say, “T.I.S” (This is Small-town, USA)

We hail from Zimmerman, MN where having a broken washing machine, and maybe an oven on your lawn is totally acceptable. When your friends visit and ask you about said washing machine, we would just shrug and say, “T.I.Z.” Actually, as long as you don’t live in Texas, Tennessee or Tulsa this works.
There is nothing derogatory about using TIH. It is simply a way of saying MANY things. If something happens for which there is no great explanation you might shrug and say “T-I-H” If nothing went as planned and cultural norms kicked your rear-end, you might throw your hands in the air and say “T-I-H!” If you’ve just been beat-down by the way things work here - and you’re aware of it - yet slightly annoyed; “T-I-H.”

Below are just a few “TIH” examples to help you fully understand.
Troy buys Coke, Pepsi, and Sprite by the case in glass bottles. This pop is all produced here in Haiti. It is pretty cheap but you must return the glass bottles when you go get a new case. We go through a ton of it when teams are here, and would probably be considered a high volume customer, if such a classification existed. There is a guy on our road about a half a mile from the mission that sells it. There is also a much bigger and more reliable place that sells it about three miles away. The man on the road that sells it is named Rudy. Troy and Rudy have a pretty decent working relationship. Rudy trusts Troy to bring the empties back and will sometimes give him a new case with just a verbal promise that the empties will be brought to him within a day or two. For quite some time now Rudy has not had Coke or Pepsi, only Sprite and Teem. Troy keeps telling him that he will need to go to the other vendor to get it. Rudy keeps saying, “It is coming tomorrow.” This game has gone on for a while. Tomorrow never comes. Finally, running out of patience, Troy goes to get Coke from the other vendor. We have to drive by Rudy to get home. Rudy is very upset that Troy went elsewhere. Rudy says, “I thought we were friends!” Because this is a cultural thing, where relationship matters more than a need for Coke, Troy broke a cultural rule. Rather than be annoyed with Rudy, Troy shrugs and says, “T-I-H” and we hope next time Rudy actually has Coke so that we can be friends again.
When we’re out and about and we see something that absolutely defies logic or safety, it gets the “T-I-H” stamp. Brief examples:
  • A Donkey carrying a very large Television
  • A motorcycle carrying one adult and five children
  • A man sleeping on the top of a bus as it barrels down the bumpy road at 50mph
  • A truck so loaded down with people the back bumper drags at times
  • Grocery stores without bread, meat, or cheese
We’ve learned that Gas stations don’t necessarily have gas. The name “gas” station is misleading. True. When the station is out of gas, Troy might ask them when they expect to have Diesel delivered. Their response never varies, “Demen si Dye vle” which translates, “tomorrow if God wants”. Rather than be annoyed at that response that means something all at the same time that it means nothing … you just give it a good old, “T-I-H!”

Now you are in the club. Keep practicing the motion along with speaking the letters,  put your own hometown spin on it … and enjoy!