Wednesday, October 17, 2012

When Handshaking Becomes Aerobic Activity

How many times do you shake hands in a day? Or a week? Or a month?

Count ‘em up… do you have to use all ten fingers?

In Papua New Guinea, shaking hands is an important part of greeting or leave-taking, ultimately showing hospitality, trust, acceptance, relationships, and care. Thus, when you encounter a new group of people, it means that you shake hands with everyone regardless of gender and often including the children, down to the littlest babies!

When I was in Saidor village this past August, helping run a literacy course (described here), shaking hands was an important part of my daily routine. In fact, if I only count the four weeks of classes (and not the prep week), I shook hands nearly 1500 times!!

Think about it, 30 individuals x twice a day x 20 days of class = 1200 handshakes. Now add in the women selling food at the market or coming to visit around lunch time (say 4 women x 30 days = 120) plus going to church (25 people (on the low end) x 4 Sundays = 100). That makes for a conservative total of 1420 handshakes for the month of August!

Whew! Sometimes, I think handshaking should be counted as an aerobic sport!

Shaking hands is even incorporated into one of the choruses of a Tok Pisin (trade language) worship song. In Saidor, as soon as we heard these words being belted out, immediately, we jumped up from our seats and shook hands with as many people as possible (ideally everyone in the room) before the chorus ended!

Segan i go na segan i kam. Smail wantaim na amamas. Laikim narapela olsem laikim yu yet. Dispela pasin bilong God.

[Shake hands with others as they shake hands with you. Lift your countenance and rejoice together. Love one another as you would yourself. For this is the way of God.]

Today, I leave for a several-day village visit to the Markham Valley in Morobe Province in order to connect with the local people and (hopefully) visit with some church leaders.

And, of course, shake plenty of hands!