“TOO EASY” –
A story about Cross-cultural communication, Emergency Food Preparation & Damn Chickens and how “never the twain shall meet”.
WARNING - This story evidences a degree of inappropriateness, excessive vernacular, wanton animal cruelty and poor taste, is irreverent and ribald. Indiscriminate readership is not advised.
Purveyors of the art of instruction will often point to the challenge of communication - What a person thinks they say, what they actually say, and what the listener understands them to say.
This communication challenge is even more difficult when dealing with different cultures.
My recent experiences in remote jungle living on a tropical pacific island could fill a book, and after 5 years, it was apparent that my communication skills were still in their 'ab initio' infancy.
My good wife was even more challenged, as the local indigenous males, who were of such a size as to be able to 'leap tall buildings in a single bound', (if not pick them up and carry them away when one was not looking), tended to break down into hearty guffaws of merriment when instructed by her on a particular task.
Indeed, if I was away for a day, I would often arrive back home to find that they had been fired by her for failure to do a task in a particular way (if not due to their riotous joy at her presumption to instruct them.)
Direct supervision was usually required. For example, if you gave an instruction to weed a particular area, you would come back to a barren landscape, which had been 'cleaned' of all living plant life, including your prized vegetables and herbs. This was often accomplished by them expeditiously setting the area on fire to thoroughly ‘clean’ the area.
As I favoured the technique of empowering others to use their own initiative, I invariably experienced open mouthed incredulity at the final result, in conjunction with a berating or 'bollocking' from my wife for being irresponsible in failing to adequately frame the job and executing poor supervision thereof.
In fact, many words and phrases soon invoked extreme caution in me. One such phrase was 'too easy', which I initially took to mean that the task I had assigned to them was considered to be of child like simplicity, and I need not worry any more, and could go and commence an early imbibing of some kava (aka grog), and leave them to successfully complete the task.
'Too easy' soon came to mean that direct supervision was required, and if I even blinked, there was a distinct possibility that the job would go 'tits up' - but as I had an almost masochistic tendency to see what would happen if I didn't, I now have enough examples to fill a disaster's book entitled 'Too Easy.'
Although my wife had unfortunately determined that my 'laissez-faire' approach resulted in disastrous outcomes, I adopted micromanagement 'vi coactus' - as is evident in any large project, you cannot be everywhere and do everything yourself.
I share with you just one of my chapters of disaster stories.
After 9 months of raising chickens in food preparation for the 'zombie apocalypse', it was decided by a committee of one (my wife), that our tropical paradise was now a hell on earth, with 24 hours a day of incessant screeching/clucking/howling, indiscriminate and voluminous shitting – everywhere!
After a long 12 months, It was decided to send them on a 3 month holiday, so that this ravenous phalanx could deforest another mountain range jungle, allowing our small patch to regrow.
I provided some card board boxes, with appropriate breathing apertures, and my trusty Fijian friend who was desirous of 200 eggs/week, then uttered the now fear inducing words 'too easy'.
When asked about the stress of transportation for these shrieking wenches and how he would achieve this stress free transportation safely and efficaciously for these food storage devices, he looked at me in amusement at my concern.
I was absent for a few minutes to secure some soothing Beethoven tunes to ease their stress of travel, to find that the chickens had subsequently had their ankles bound by duck tape, and were unceremoniously deposited in two large flour sacks.
I was extremely dubious about this, but was assured in an earthy knowing tone as they departed that this was the preferred mode of transport for these erstwhile noisy destroyers of our serenity.
At any rate, nagging doubts persisted, and I called later that day to determine on whether their one km relocation of our three toed terrorists was without incident, and whether they were happily engaged in 'the art of warfare' at his abode.
Without embarrassment, remorse, empathy or sympathy, I was duly informed that some 75% had expired mysteriously in the sacks, and had just stopped breathing (obviously due to the trauma at losing their home and not due to being asphyxiated!).
Anyhow, they lamented their future egg loss by promptly plucking and cooking the chickens in a tasty lovo, and I am sure that they asked the heavens for forgiveness for their lack of care as they licked their fingers.
We were devastated, and so were my wife's Facebook friends, as we had raised these chickens from 1 day old yellow fur balls, celebrating their daily progress and adventures.
The six remaining chickens got to produce some eggs for at least a few days until they too mysteriously succumbed to various ailments associated with new settlement anxiety.
I recount this story as an example of how different cultural frameworks, communication techniques, and gender inequality all play a role in misunderstanding (notwithstanding the lethargy induced by almost 100% humidity and heat dulled concentration).
Suggestions to overcome these challenges are welcome, however, if I was fortunate to live another 50 years in that location, my ability to effectively communicate with the locals might be raised to 'novice' level. I would hasten to add that were I to establish a course for highly effective communication across vast cultural gaps, a final exam assessing students' competency would be in observing these students overseeing a project to completion, however, a strictly no refunds policy would be stipulated!
For those city slickers, or bush capable challenged individuals looking to establish an emergency food supply, consider a ready supply of tasty freeze dried emergency food – all hot to trot when you need it, with no noise, no stench and garden destruction.
"It is not the voice that commands the story; it is the ear." - Italo Calvino