Cowabunga, Dude

Since I went to Scotland, I have been fascinated by the way that hand gestures vary from country to country. In Scotland, adding the index finger to the middle finger means the same thing. In Nicaragua, to express anxiety you take your hand, open and palm up, then pull it downwards while bringing all your fingertips together (you don’t want to know where that comes from, I promise).

Here in Botswana, I have noticed two. First, hold your hand in front of your chest, palm in, and wave it back and forth a few inches. That means “I don’t know” or “I don’t have any,” depending on the context. Second, Batswana (particularly younger ones) give a thumbs-up instead of a wave in order to say hello.

The second, I have decided, is in need of some Ninja-Turtle-style modification. I have added the pinky to the thumbs up (as well as a little shake-shake). And, just like that, “hello” becomes

COWABUNGA, DUDE

I anticipate that if I give the COWABUNGA on a regular basis, I will have little Batswana children giving it back before I leave in two months. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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