2/28/10

Soulful shakes and the African walk-by

In Sierra Leone greetings are different from Danish greetings. I’ve come across three types. The occasional hug does happen and resemble what we do in Denmark to close friends. Other than that there is the handshake and the oral greeting.
I really like the handshake. When you meet up with someone you do this special shake. You meet the hand of the other in the normal fashion, but then both greeters twist their hand around the others thump interlocking in a new position and twist them back. This is sometimes repeated for a number of times. Then you keep hold of the hand, while you talk, for a long time having close eye contact as if making some kind of unspoken bond. A bond of trust maybe. As if you need to look closely in the eyes of the other to penetrate the blank mirror, reach the soul and communicate in a silent, forgotten language.
As intense the shake can seem as superficial can the oral greetings be. It seems like they’ve taken the consequence of just how meaningless the standard: “how are you?” can be. They still ask, but doesn’t even take the time to stop when asking it. Two people going in opposite directions can easily have a lengthy greeting session without ever slacking their pace. You start when the other is at arm’s length. “How are you?” [tu pendera?] “I’m fine, and you?” “Good – thank God. The weather is warm today (surprise), don’t you think?”… It can carry on like that for some time - the last sentences often half shouted long after the other has passed.

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