Relearning How to “High Five”

4 Jan

After an incredible experience in South America, I am now back in the good ole U.S. of A. and going through reverse culture shock–again. It’s funny how every time you reenter mainstream US society after being on the outside for any length of time, you are struck by little things that you never gave much thought to before… like the “High Five.”

I just returned yesterday from a ski trip in North Carolina with my co-conspirator and some other friends. It was strange being surrounded by so many native English-speakers again–playing board games, watching our country’s version of “football” (a sport virtually unheard of in Chile), eating good old American foods like pancakes and spaghetti, and, obviously, skiing–and it was also strange that at random intervals during the trip Mr. Joe the Scholar would extend his opened hand to me. I assumed this was an invitation for a congratulatory handshake, a gesture not unheard of outside North America, and thus graciously took his hand each time in the firm, powerful way that I’ve been rehearsing ever since the third grade (when my teacher, Mr. Jennings, accused me of a “spaghetti-arm” handshake that demonstrated a weakness of character). Apparently this was not the expected response, but Joe managed to conceal his disappointment until our final day together. “So what, do they not give high fives in South America?!” he finally exclaimed, and suddenly CLICK! I was almost knocked over by the force of the high-five-related memories that came flooding into my brain.

Of course! The “high five”! How could I have forgotten that beloved gesture, which transcends all differences to express concisely the ideas of success, victory, elation, and/or recognition of a well-placed or well-performed “burn”? My hand trembled slightly as I extended it, palm down, fingers uncurled in the motion of my very first High Five of the second decade of the third millennium. And once again, all was right with the world.

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