In case you haven’t been obsessively reading every Facebook post and blog posting here, I am departing on Friday, as in three days from now, on another epic adventure (I like to think optimistically) back to Tanzania. First, I’m climbing a 14,000 foot mountain, which wasn’t even on my bucket list until it became a possibility, and then I said, “Oh yes, I have to do this.” Because life is about testing your limits, and I find the older I get, paradoxically the further I seem to be pushing them. It’s the right thing to do.
But the main reason I’m going, because there’s no way I could have justified another jaunt across the globe this soon just to climb a mountain, is to document a project with World Vets helping the donkeys in Arusha. I’ve admired Cathy King’s work and dedication to this amazing organization for years now, and I can’t tell you just how tickled I am that of all the projects I get to do as my inaugural World Vets trip, it’s this one.
Now I will grant you that I am not a donkey expert. I was honest about this going in. My purpose will be mostly photojournalistic, though I’m sure the chance will probably pop up for me to get my hands dirty and do a little doctorly stuff too.
In Tanzania, the donkeys are used as beasts of burden, and much of their medical needs are centered around the abrasions or injuries that result from their labor. I may not be a good floater of teeth or other things particularly equine, but wound care- well, I can rock that just fine. Bonus: the trip is sponsored by Vetericyn, which I’ve heard lots of great things about, so I get to check out that new product as well and get to try it out.
Now here’s the interesting thing. I have done plenty of volunteer veterinary work at this point, and the usual reaction from people when I say I’m doing volunteer work is this:
Person: Great! Dogs and cats?
Person: Very cool!
Now, the reaction I’ve been getting from this trip is altogether different. Maybe because I’m emphasizing “The donkeys OF THE MAASAI” as if the donkeys are somehow magically imbued with the general imposing awesomeness of this nomadic group of people, as if the very nature of belonging to a Maasai gives them super powers or something. I don’t know. All I know is this: I have been telling people I am going to Africa to do volunteer veterinary work and this is the conversation I have been having:
Person: Great! Dogs and cats?
Me: NO! I’m working on DONKEYS! And they belong to the MAASAI!
Person: (eyes light up) NO WAY!!! I LOVE DONKEYS! WOW THAT IS SO COOL!!!!
I’m not sure why this is, but it has been a repeatable phenomenon, particularly among males who are usually at most polite about my canine adventures. They go nuts over donkeys. They think this is, perhaps, the most amazing volunteer adventure they have heard of and they want to go too. Note to the single ladies: you may want to add this to your resume. I’m just saying.
I’d love to know what it is about donkeys that has so tickled the collective imagination of my acquaintances. My first experience with a donkey was that delightful Christmas special Nestor the Long Eared Donkey, you know, that light hearted holiday animated special where his mother freezes to death then he gets beaten? So my first experience of them was, they are kind and you need to keep them warm at night.
The actual living ones I have met have been pretty great too. Like horses without that pesky ability to peg you in the orbit and fracture your skull, or trample you. They seem to be pretty low key, no reports of marauding rampaging donkeys roaming the streets or anything. All the cuteness of your favorite canine with no expectation that you need to get them a fancy bowl or a bed or dress them up. They are utilitarian, but still have a personality and an affability.
When I get back I will be happy to give you my impressions on why donkeys rock, though whether or not that gives me any insight into why everyone else thinks so too, I have no idea. I guess we will have to wait and see.
But really, guys sure do love the donkeys. After listening to my realtor yesterday wax poetic on how cool donkeys were, I leaned over to my husband and said, “I had no idea there were so many ass men out there.” And aren’t you glad I didn’t make that the title of this post.