Friday, August 3, 2012

A "Peace" of Chicken...

I am not going to do it.  I promised myself.  I would not write about 'chicken gate 2012'-nope, not going to do it.  However, I am going to write about chicken and what it means over here in Liberia just to give everyone a different perspective on the fowl.

The perfect spot for a ride!

You see, things in Liberia can be simple and yet complex, but there are aspects of this culture that I wish I could take back to North America.  Take for example the GIFT of a chicken to a visitor.  Over my 8 years here in Liberia-I can't even begin to count how many chickens I have been given from numerous rural communities throughout Liberia.  My people, this is no small thing-you may be thinking "Big deal in Africa they have chickens all over the place!"  Actually, there was a time right when there were not so many chickens around-when we first arrived in 2005 there were hardly.  The war had literally wiped out anything that could be eaten-you don't want me to list those items, just trust me that chicken was near the top of that list!

I am used to the chaos of half the village running around to catch a chicken on my or others behalf.  At first I found it hard to accept-everyone has so little and here I come in land cruiser, granola bar in hand, bottled water-in the other -I have so much.  I remember telling the chief that they didn't have to give me a chicken-and that I felt bad because they had so little.  But I was sooooo wrong-and this is why I am so blessed and grateful for our amazing staff-who were able to excuse the crazy white woman and explain to me what the gift of a chicken really means.

Accepting the chicken...

Two Chickens!

It is a gift.  A thank you.  An offering of gratefulness and peace.  A symbol that  says -from this moment on I am ALWAYS welcome in this community.  Why do they give it to me or others?  Because I came to their community.  That's it.  I came to see them.  I didn't come with any promises, I didn't come to tell them how SP was going to help them.  I just wanted to sit with them and find out more about them.  This is something that took me time to learn.  To learn to just sit and listen.  Shake hands, smile, hold a child (even if they have peed or worse through their clothes).  The fact that I took the time to drive way out into the jungle on crazy roads warranted a gift.  A chicken. 

SP Staff member Joseph telling me that the village wants us to stay!

Our Foya base manager, James, helping me with the crazy chicken!

There is certain 'chicken protocal' that I had to learn.  Some poor young boy tries to catch the chicken and gives it to the chief or elder of the community.  Then they give a speech-stating their thankfulness for me or others with me for coming to see and be with them.  They then give it to one of our SP staff that are with me.  Then the SP staff member either translates or reiterates why the chicken is being given.  Then it is passed to me-and I respond with a short speech thanking the community for their generosity, and for allowing me to be there.  If there is a team or 'outsider' guest, or someone of higher SP rank than me (like Joni, Kendell, Winstone or Dorothy..:) I then give the chicken to them.  Basically, the chicken's journey through our hands ends with the most honoured or 'top' person. 

And another...

All of us have some sort of crazy chicken story.  Like when Joni and I watched one get its head cut off and it ran around like something out of a horror movie!  Or when I was given one and had to tie it onto the handle bar of my motorbike-and every time I hit a bump it's head came up and it pecked me on the arm! Or just recently, with the team from Salmon Arm, we were given a chicken and put its bottom half in a bag as we put it in the back of the truck.  Every time we hit a bump (lots!) it clucked it's displeasure and my boys giggled with delight over the plight of this poor chicken.  Well, we must have hit a big bump because it literally scared the poop right out of the chicken!  Ah yes, the joy and laughs that chicken bring us.

Love'n me some chicken!

All that to say, chicken in Liberia means more than food or a political stance.  It is a free gift of friendship,peace, love and acceptance (Hmmm... I know another story about a 'free gift' of love-hello? Jesus!).  When I run to raise funds for our projects-it's more than just the number of wells, latrines or cassava farms.  At the center of our projects are the people. The people that give me a chicken, a gift-regardless of my political stance. They are why I run. So what do I do with all of these chickens?  I go back to our base and give it to the cook-and she takes it and makes a fine lunch for our hard working staff. My gift to our SP staff who work so hard to make Liberia a peaceful nation.