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Gallina Brujas and No Thank Yous

In the "Cult of Escapism": Gallina Brujas and No Thank Yous

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gallina Brujas and No Thank Yous

This week, I chased a magical chicken and began learning an indigenous language. 

On Tuesday, during my lunch break, all of a sudden, my entire family began to mobilize in the direction of the backyard.  They put one dog in the house and sent the other after the chickens.*  My abuela turned and told me to start running.  I wasn´t sure exactly what I was supposed to do but we appeared to be rounding up the chickens for some reason, so I grabbed two lengths of plastic piping and went after the chickens, trying to wrangle them to a central location.  Being inexperienced, confused, and generally less country than my family, I was in the middle of what could only generously be called a sub par job of rounding up the chickens, when one particularly fat chicken ran past me, the dog in hot pursuit.  My host family was screaming at me to grab the chicken so I began running with the dog (btw dogs and chickens are way faster than you might think).  The chicken managed to duck under a large tree, with branches hanging near the ground, thereby evading the dog. 

Determined to be a contributing member of the family, I went headfirst into the tree and found nothing but branches.  My host mother came down the hill, holding another fat chicken by its wings, laughing at my ineptitude.  She asked me where the chicken went and I told her it went into the tree and disappeared.  She took a look for herself, then her and I (and the dog) checked the area but could not find the chicken.  Still laughing, she looked at me and exclaimed, "Es una bruja!" (literal translation - it´s a witch!, more appropriate translation - it´s magical!).  We gave up and went back towards the house in search of more chickens. 

It turns out the end goal was to catch three plump chickens so that we could eat them.  My abuela gave me a hard time for a good twenty minutes when I got back but it was a fun experience.  The next day, I had rice and chicken for lunch and my host mother informed me that I was eating the gallina bruja (witch chicken) - they found it the next day.  In an interesting twist, it was the most difficult piece of chicken I have ever consumed, with skin so tough I had to remove it just to get to the meat. I guess the magic works after death.

On a completely unrelated note, I began learning Ngöberre this week.  It is an indigenous language (think Cherokee or Apache) that will be spoken at my site. Older people and particularly older women tend to speak less Spanish and more Ngöberre, and I will be working with a women´s artisan group so I hope to get a good grip of the language (most volunteers find they can get by with only a handful of phrases but they also say that people may trust/open up to you more if you can speak Ngöberre so I want to try).  Here are some interesting points about the language that reveal a lot about their culture:
- Family and Friend is the same word
- There is no word for sibling (you don´t say, I have three siblings, you say, I have two brothers and a sister)
- There is no word for word
- There are three extra vowels that indicate a deeper, guterral sound - ä, ö, and ü
- There is no way of saying nice to meet you (mucho gusto)
- They refer to people who speak Spanish (including Panamanians) as cockroaches (sulias) and Spanish is called the cockroach language (suliare)  -  years of oppression will do this
- There is no way of saying thank you (I told my abuela this and she said, matter of factly, that I was just going to have to teach them to say thank you - reminded me of my own grandmother (hi Nana))

Next week, I visit my to-be site, so I probably won´t blog again until the end of the month.  Take care, and keep an out for brujas. 

*I would find out later that this was a security measure in favor of the chickens - one dog will round them up, two will commit mass murder.   


At October 7, 2010 at 8:17 PM , Blogger davidcic said...

that sounds awesome! abuela is my favorite!

At October 16, 2010 at 11:40 AM , Blogger Sebastian said...

The great chicken massacre. Blood on your hands Jack. Blood on your hands. You and that dog are going be called before a tribunal.


At November 5, 2012 at 11:25 AM , Blogger bama said...

Chicken chase. Tough chickens. Billie


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