Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Parallel Universe of Donkeys

For people who have never been to Botswana I must explain a bit about how donkeys behave here because I believe it is behaviour that specifically occurs within the borders of this country. Donkeys are free to roam where they like in Botswana. I’m not sure if this is by law, but the donkeys’ attitudes make me think that they may believe that is the case. This attitude of entitlement is problematic, as you might imagine. Let me give you an example. If you’re driving down the A1 highway, the main road linking the south of the country to the north, going 120 kph a donkey will, for no apparent reason, decide to cross the road when you are a just few metres away from it. You will slam the brakes, squeal your tyres, and swerve dangerously trying not to bounce across the road like a pumpkin. The donkey, on the other hand, will then continue at its leisurely pace as if you are not sitting in your car thanking God for saving you and wondering if the life that just flashed across your mind is really yours since it seemed significantly duller than you remembered it.

Before I made my home in Botswana I liked donkeys given the amount of information I had on them. It mostly revolved around the nativity play. Donkeys, for me, were the beasts of burden that gladly carried the heavy weight of a pregnant Mary to the manger and then stood in the background with a slight, holy, smile on their faces, waiting patiently to bear witness to the birth of Jesus. I mean how could you hate such an animal that has only the goodwill of humanity deeply embedded in their little, hot donkey hearts?

Well, that has all changed. I hate donkeys. I believe that whole nativity story is a scam, likely created in the evil mind of a donkey because indeed evil minds are all that they have. I wonder if a donkey was even involved. It was likely a camel; I’ve met camels; they’re much holier, in my opinion.

I wonder sometimes how many donkeys there are in Botswana. It was once commonly said that there were more cattle in Botswana than Batswana. I imagine that it still true. But what about donkeys? Has anyone done a survey? I can accept that cattle outnumber me and my species members, but somehow the thought that donkeys are more than us seems menacing. What do they all want here? There are just so many donkey carts. What else are they doing? I fear for the worst.

A group of donkeys is a whole other story. It seems that in the donkey universe, which I believe is independent of ours; a tarred road is synonymous with a conference room. If a meeting is to be held, donkeys are called from far and wide to meet on a tarred road, usually the one leading to the village in which I live, Lecheng, and usually in the night. Imagine for a moment if you will the delight of happening upon a donkey meeting in the pitch dark on an unlit road. Now there is a heart stopper! Hooting, shouting, creative cursing- nothing will move them. They will occasionally turn and give you the ubiquitous donkey smile, you know it- that grey lipped one that just makes your blood boil, but they will not move. They are in a meeting. I had a friend who in complete frustration decided to move his car forward ever so slightly and give the nearest donkey a nudge, just to get it moving not to harm it in any way. My advice to you- don’t try it. The donkey gave a precisely executed back kick and put out my friend’s left headlight. And then of course got back to the meeting without so much as a second look.

Stubborn, arrogant, vicious, Mephistophelian (yeah that’s a thesaurus word- nice huh?) and grey. Botswana’s donkeys- you’ve been warned.


Anonymous said...

Being half Irish I have an innate affection for the humble donkey. There are plenty of them in Ireland too, although they tend to stick to fields and meadows. This is a charming, delightful tale. I am sure they are nuisances but I would rather come across one of them on the road than a 6 foot, 200lb kangaroo!

Karen said...

Oh my goodness! That has to be one of the funniest pieces I've ever read.

Back when we traveled to Ireland, we discovered sheep also believe they must have meetings in the middle of the road, preferably just over a hill or around a corner. SURPRISE! The only way to get them to adjourn was to lean out the car window and bark like a dog, or bleat like a sheep.

So maybe the next time you come upon an impromptu meeting of donkeys, you could bark or bray and see if that gets them to move.

Lauri said...

When I'm in my husband's much stronger 4 x 4 I often stop next to them and shout like a crazy person- more for me than anyone else BUT Karen, I will tke your advice and begin braying at them. I'll keep you posted.

Yes, Selma, I think a kangaroo would be a differnt kettle of fish altogether. We once travelled north to Kasane for a funeral. It was just after dusk when we entered the Nata- Kasane road and I told my husband- Watch out people say there are a lot of elephants on this road. His response- There are no elephants here anymore. Before he could take in a breath to replace the one used to utter that bit of wisdom, there was a huge elephant right in the road. The thing about elephants is that when you're driving you don't see them as the road is clear ahead as you are looking between their legs. The other nice thing is that they actually pay attention to the fact that you are there- though you'd rather they didn't. If they don't like your smell or model of car or whatever gets up an elephant's trunk, they let you know it. Flip your car or trample you to dust. Needless to say I like donkeys better than elephants. I'm beginning to think I m a grey-ist.

groovyoldlady said...

OK...Groovy, who adores animals, is laughing hysterically.

I DO love a well-behaved pet donkey that belongs to someone else. They're sweet and cute and furry and adorable.

But herds of them? In the road? Wandering freely. No way!

We visited a nearby animal rescue farm. Most of their animals are exotic: tigers, hyenas (ick!), camels, etc. But they also have a few domestic creatures like goats (always welcome, in my book), a cow or two and yes, donkeys. And the donkeys are reportedly the most problematic animals they deal with. They are loud, demanding, and bossy.

I say get yourself a nice riding crop and just whap 'em when they get in your way.

Lauri said...

Yes there are quite a few animals that should be kept as pets only by other people GOL. I'm thinking of a monkey. Only nice in theory. I think Micheal Jackson can likely contest to that.

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