Drop the Dead Donkey
If you are into animal rights and welfare you may want to stop reading now. However it's a fact of life in this city that animals are a commodity like any other, and if you want fresh meat especially on a public holiday you buy it - alive. Sheep, goat, chicken and ox trading are common sights on the streets of Addis. There is a big sheep trading place just around the corner from here and we see people using all sorts of methods to take their next dinner home - driving the sheep while holding one or two back legs (like a wheel barrow) is fairly common. if you can afford a taxi you might stick the sheep in the boot or tie it to the roof rack. Numerous chickens can be tied around the roof rack by their legs for transport purposes.
Then there are the donkeys. Ethiopia has 4 - 5 million donkeys (I wonder who counted them?) and apparently only China and Pakistan have more. They are an economical way to transport goods, carrying 60 to 100 Kg of stuff with no problem. I had to wait at a local roundabout on the ring road for a lift each morning for a few weeks before Christmas and at 8am precisely a collection of twenty or so donkeys would be herded along the path to the roundabout and straight across the dual carriageway without stopping. Woe betide any driver not screeching to a halt to let them over. The traffic police just sort of ignored them.
My recent trips to the clinic have involved going past the main grain distribution market where lorries, hopelessly overloaded with 50 Kg sacks of tef (spit out the "t" with a little explosion behind your teeth...), arrive to deliver their loads. Usually on to people's necks or heads, or on to the backs of donkeys. Donkeys mill around the lorries nibbling what little grass can survive beside this ridiculously overused road. Recently Haile my taxi driver has been picking someone up on the way to clinic and to get her we have to go past an area where donkeys are kept. Each day we negotiate a narrow cobbled road unsuitable for motor vehicles (but that doesn't stop us and numerous other cars using it) and we often battle with dozens of donkeys heading out in the opposite direction for their day's work carrying stuff.
On Monday this week we were going through the large chaotic junction sporting numerous seemingly random blue-fenced traffic islands near the grain distribution point when I spotted a donkey lying on its side next to one such traffic island. All its four legs were sticking out into the road in an apparent state of rigor mortis. We dodged it and lamented the loss of the poor animal. As a result we switched my regular in-car Amharic lesson that Haile likes to give me to how to tell my Amharic teacher that I had seen a dead donkey in the middle of the road on the way to work. (I'd tell you what I said but (a) you won't understand and (b) even if you did I sound like a 5 year old so I'm a bit embarrassed...)
I successfully described the deceased animal to my Amharic teacher, but when Haile picked me up the next day he said "You know the donkey? It wasn't dead!" Haile had driven past it and had spotted it kicking its legs. Oh dear I thought. We had to drive past the wretched creature again (this is two days later) and judging by its wiggling ears it was still alive. Just as they would for a broken down lorry some kind people had surrounded it with rocks to stop traffic colliding with it, and had hauled it closer to the traffic island so it's head was lying in such a way that it looked like it was using the kerb as a pillow. Goodness knows what's happened to the poor thing now but I would rate its chances of survival from slim to none. I now have to work out how to tell my Amharic teacher that the donkey wasn't actually dead at the time but probably now is. Trouble is to do that I'll need a whole swathe of new words I haven't learned yet. You should try building a negative verb in Amharic - it's nigh on impossible. For a five year old anyway.