Living in an Iso village for years — with mostly beans and rice as your daily grub — forced me to think out of the box. Decided to build a chicken coop, raise chickens, so we could have chickens AND eggs to eat. Great idea. Got a few chickens, fed them regularly, and waited for the eggs.

Nothing.

Got only desperate crowing in the early hours of each morning. The rooster became quite apt at crowing, even during the day. Started talking about ‘That Chicken’.

Egg-less chickens

To make things worse, the chickens wouldn’t lay eggs. One day, my neighbor Deena came over to check up on the chickens — she was also waiting for some eggs — and I started lamenting about the egg-less situation.

She just knowingly replied: those chickens are “Akam chickens”, not “Iso chickens”. That’s why they won’t lay eggs.

Profound. And very racist! Why? The Akams were another people group in the same area, and the Iso looked down on them.

When things get tough, the tough start giggling, right? So good when God gives you a giggle to ease the stress. His joy literally strengthened me physically many times.

Feather rain

‘That Chicken’ slowly started to get on our nerves crowing at random times of the day. I put my foot down: ‘That Chicken’ had to go. We would eat it and be happy!

Now we were confronted with some practical challenges — I was a city girl, a librarian-with-glasses. How do you kill a chicken? Outsourcing, of course. Some brave Iso came over and did us the favor.

One moment ‘That Chicken’ was crowing, the next moment a chopping sound, then blessed silence. Trying not to think what happened out there. And then, beautiful feather rain started drifting past the windows. We were all mesmerized. What was that?

One day a chicken and the next day feathers

And then dinner time: chicken and rice. Strangely, none of us were very hungry. The feather rain was etched into our minds. Besides, couldn’t really distinguish between the bone and the meat — had more or less the same color, texture and taste!

Decided to give the surviving Akam chickens to our neighbors. Saved them from the chopping-plucking experience.

Long-eared chickens

Friends who lived more inland from where we were, also grew their own food. Decided to go down the rabbit hole, so to speak. They started raising rabbits, which became quite a delight for their kids — they played with the rabbits during the day ... and ate them at night. Of course, the kids did not know they were eating their pets. Their parents told them they are having ‘long-eared chickens’ for dinner.

That’s a form of euphemism, right? It’s the same as talking about your best friend as ‘big-boned’ instead of overweight, or calling your second-hand car a ‘pre-loved vehicle’.

Eggs and a recording studio

The Iso are oral learners, and most of them are functionally illiterate, which just means that they prefer not to read, and learn through concrete examples and stories, singing and through relationships. We quickly realized that it would be of limited benefit to them to present them with literature. We decided to record the Bible, and other chronological Bible teachings we had, and put those on solar powered machines and mp3 players.

A recording studio in a sand-street village, with neighbors pounding their rice on the one side, and a body shop for cars on the other? Didn’t Jesus say, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”? (Matthew 19:26)

We got stacks and stacks of egg cartons from a chicken farm in another town, and a work team from our church drove up to help us. They built a bamboo frame which was placed inside one of the bedrooms, and then they had the arduous task of gluing hundreds of egg cartons to one another, and fitted those to the frame. These were used to lessen the echo.

It worked!

The news quickly spread to others also working with oral people, and many came to look at this studio — by the way, ‘studio’ is perhaps a rather grandiose term for what we had there. One day, a couple came to have a look. My husband gave them a demonstration of how we did the recordings. Usually, we got a lot of technical questions — and a few compliments too. But the lady was very quiet throughout the presentation. She was obviously observing this “remarkable achievement”, and I expected her to come up with something quite succinct. And so she did.

Her one and only comment: You must have eaten a lot of eggs!

How to pluck a chicken 101

Back to the basics.

Rule number one: Get someone else to pluck the chicken, put on your earphones and listen to Cheryl Crow’s music or the band ‘Jimmie’s Chicken Shack’ to distract your attention.

Rule number two: Watch this video clip, and become hysterical. You will forget you were hungry — for a very long time!

Rule number three: Become a vegan, and write articles on the moral implications of processing chicken feathers into biodegradable plastic. That would be a feather in your cap.

More tips

I have more exceptional tips on important things, like unconventional uses of toothpaste and peanut butter. Will share them with you someday. Have to prepare dinner now. Something without feathers.

Reflection

Nehemiah 8:10b “ … the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

How do you keep your giggle going when things are tough?