Savong and the giant mystery chicken


I pictured a giant fibre-glass chicken. What would it be used for? Did it have religious significance?

I make weekly calls to Savong in Cambodia, and this way we catch up with news and he tells me what’s happening with his school and children’s home. Over the years our communication has got a lot deeper thanks to Savong’s increasing familiarity with English.  But one day, three years ago, he totally floored me.

“Brother,” he said, “we need some money.  At the children’s home we need to build a big chicken.”

“A chicken?” I pictured some fibreglass model.

“A big new chicken. It needs to be big.”

“How big? How much money do we need?”

“Oh very big – we will need $2,000. The old chicken is too small, we need to build a new one.”

I wracked my brains. I know roosters are a powerful symbol in Cambodia – the bank we use ACLEDA uses the symbol of a rooster – but really, $2,000 for…what exactly?  I was dubious. Was this to play some part of a religious ceremony?

“Two thousand dollars…” I began.

“Oh sorry brother,” said Savong. “I meant kitchen. We need a new kitchen.”

Problem solved!  We were able to get the money right away.  You know, in nine years I think this is the only case ever when Savong and I have been lost in translation. We have our differences perhaps, and our different cultural perspectives, but that is the only time when things just didn’t make sense.

More about Savong who it the director of the NGO: Click here.

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