My Story: The Language of Shoe-Scuffing

Go. Serve. Love is stoked to welcome David Armstrong today. A handful of unexpected facts about Dave:

  • He has taken off in an airplane one more time than he has landed in an airplane.
  • His current favorite character in the Bible: Balaam’s donkey.
  • He could eat black beans and rice with hot corn tortillas every meal of his life.
  • He’s set foot in 15 countries.
  • He already has his ticket for 4 days straight of playing table games at “Geekway to the West” coming to St. Charles, MO on May 17th.
  • He can shoot a rubber band 50% further than anyone else.

It was after church in Bogota one Sunday, all of us standing around and talking in the way so many Latino cultures love. Outside, one of the young college aged guys–with a big ol’ grin, no less–scuffed my new pair of kicks. On purpose. Like he was doing me an awesome favor.

Growing up with brothers had long ago convinced me that when you scuff a friend’s shoes, you run. Fast.

But Luis just stood there, beaming like a chrome fender–genuine, even innocent, if it were possible. The other guys looked on as if he’d just bought me a burger.

What in the world was I missing?

Well. Anyone’ll tell you that when you buy a new car (or, yeah, pair of shoes), which scratch is the most agonizing? Which one do you spend the most time rubbing with your finger, wishing there were a Magic Eraser for cars or Chuck Taylors?

The first one.

So, my Colombian friends reason, that one is best done by a friend.

Gotta admit–it took me awhile. (The shoes I like aren’t all that easy to come by in South America.) And yet, it was my wake-up call: An action could mean something totally different to them, the opposite of what it meant to me. And yet somehow it wasn’t wrong. Just different.

For the record: My US friends are less-than-understanding of the great wisdom and depth of friendship involved when I scuff their shoes. Better run.

Like this post? You might like 28 Signs I Might Be Living Overseas.

7 thoughts on “My Story: The Language of Shoe-Scuffing

  1. Abigail Dus says:

    I love this! Makes me smile, the cultural little differences are the smallest but most meaningful things! Even growing up in America, I never understood the whole “wear shoes in the house 24/5” thing!

  2. Asher Sarjent says:

    Great reminder to always be a student of culture. I have traveled extensively and when I am abroad I am always looking for my cultural moment each day, a time when I discover something that is new and different. This is especially important when I am in a place I have been many times before, because just when I think I have it figured out, I learn something new. It is really next to impossible to not look like a foreigner, but I sure try, not in how I look per say, but in what I do. I was just in Japan last week and one thing that really stood out was how people ride the trains and subways. They are very respectful of others, they are quite. It was so obvious who the foreigner’s were. They were the ones talking loud, laughing and totally missing the fact they were the only ones doing so.

    • Rebecca Skinner says:

      This is a great example of cultural differences Asher. Observation is key when stepping into a new situation or culture. We are wise to observe, ask questions respectfully and follow the example of the host people or country that we are privileged to be visiting.

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