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Dogs And Donkeys

[We welcome Yohannes Abraham to the family of awate.com writers. We are excited to have a talented writer, in both Tigrinya and English, and we are sure he will have many satisfied readers]

After he gobbled up a plateful of processed beef and licked empty a bowl full of milk, he once again realized how lovely his life was. He then flapped his long tongue against the big black nose which was dipped in the milk, polished it several times and finally, wriggled his tail cheerfully.

Taking that as an expression of thankfulness, the woman came with a smile, bent down, stroked his furry cheeks and kissed him on the forehead.

“We will go for a walk now, are you ready for some fresh air?”

Of course, she didn’t expect an answer from the dog; nonetheless, she grabbed the leash from a drawer, knelt on the carpet, and gently hooked it to the collar on his neck. Her delicious breaths blew in to his face as she passed both her hands behind his head. He longed for the time when he would once again be reborn as a man, to have that breath by his side for full night. Upon contemplating this fantasy, he mumbled something in his excitement which came out as normal dog wails. Having misunderstood it as a discomfort, she stroked his head apologetically and said, “I am sorry Bucci, but we have to do it, you know the rules.”

Bucci thought he was the luckiest donkey not only in Eritrea, but anywhere in the world. Although he has been reborn as a dog now, he still vividly remembers almost everything from his donkey life; in fact, his ‘donkeyness’ seems to exist somewhere buried in the backyard of his present consciousness; and there are brief moments where he mentally becomes a donkey again. He has always believed that he was very lucky to be reborn as a dog with a living memory of his miserable past. “But…” he thought, “even if I was not endowed with this rare gift of remembering past life, I would still be living by far better than even the dogs in my country.”

She locked their big house and led him through the familiar route where they both went for a walk every evening. A ten minute walk through ‘vaihinger strasse’ and then another ten minute through ‘Rohrer park’. The park has a narrow path and a young couple coming from their front stood aside to let them pass, making an appreciative smile. It’s always like that – people give him priority, people smile at him, people stroke him, ask what breed of a dog he is…etc. And he loves it. He always thinks Germans are the sweetest people to dogs and that he was particularly lucky to be reincarnated there from being a donkey somewhere in a dusty and dry land called Eritrea to somewhere green and serene.

They met Tom and Azani in the park. Tom was a bulldog with a large spreading nose and falling piece-of-blanket-like ears. There were extra folds of skin on his forehead which gave him the look of an old and sad creature which in fact he was. He wasn’t happy like Bucci. He told that he was a wild ass in a safari of Kenya called ‘Massai Mara’ and unlike Bucci, had quite free and abundant life.

“I remember that flat green meadow and the fresh smell of the grass as we grazed through it. I remember the fresh waters, the bright sun and the blue skies.” He would tell his friend in Kenyan accent Doggisch.

“The only discomfort that could be mentioned if so, is the occasional attack of the hyenas and leopards. But then, they were nothing in comparison to our numbers and thus, the possibility of getting eaten by one was no more likely than the bad fate of getting hit by lightning. That was the only fear I can remember from my previous life” he concludes pensively.

The two women greeted each other and sat on the concrete bench; both letting loose of the two dogs to go astray for a while. The dogs sniffed in to each other’s noses and started to chatter.

“It is a beautiful evening!” declared Bucci in his typical excitement.

Tom growled indifferently. “It is always beautiful for you. How can you love it every day – being a dog somebody controls? I am not even allowed to bark without getting a burning electric shock through my brains! And when is the last time you had sex? A non-barking and celibate dog! Oh, the sound of it!”  he laughed out loudly. “…what kind of donkey life did you have, brother?!”

Bucci was silent for a while. His hazy wide brown eyes momentarily seemed to be swimming in dreamlike melancholy.

“Yes, like yours, my last life was not what I would remember with longing. But I am grateful that I remember it as it was. My sad past memory makes possible my present happy life.”

“…let me tell you what my last owner did to me one day – which is also the last memory of my last life…” he went on, sitting straight on the asphalt with his tail laid on one side looking like a reptile creature in itself; and repeated the story which Tom had heard too often to almost confuse it with his own experience.

“…the previous day, I had carried all the corn up a hill of more than five kilometers alone; and when I got home, while the oxen were munching on a load of hay, I had to again go carry water from the village well until nine in the night in an empty stomach. I didn’t even show a slight protest; though I knew what They did was not fair. I wanted to make The Family happy and to be honest, I didn’t either believe that a Donkey had to be treated equal with oxen. But, as I returned to the stable in the dark, I was expecting a little leftover to be offered to me for my toiling the whole day; but there was none.”

“And the next morning, you had to pull a horse cart!” Tom jammed in . He looked too bored listening to the story.

“Cut it out Tommy!” cried Bucci. “…it is ‘my’ story! Let me tell it!”

“Ok brother, please tell your ‘great’ story!” answered the other with an obvious sarcasm. As he sneered, he displayed a set of long sharp teeth on the side of his chubby bull-dog mouth.

“Yes, the next morning, that fool was found dead where he slept and they had me take his place. Imagine a donkey pulling a horse cart! In an empty stomach!”

He paused and stared at Tom as if to see the effect of his words. The other was, however, following another reddish brown female dog with a very narrow waist and ears erect like a goat’s. She kept glancing back with her bubbly eyes which were frightened and flirty at the same time.

“Wow! Look at that bitch! I don’t think she is a pure German; she must be some African hybrid. Oh mine! What a gorgeous tail she has got!” he exclaimed, his mouth wide open in appreciation.

Bucci was clearly annoyed, “Would I please finish my story?!”

“My apologies, please go on…”

“Yes, like I said, I was going to take the horse’s place. I must say I wanted to make Them happy even then. I didn’t resist or kick my heels; I just consented willingly. When They put the bit in my mouth or They put the blinders alongside my eyes, I deprived myself the slightest flinch of discomfort lest they should be offended.(Neither did I trust my eyes, too; so, I even thought the blinders were for my good)  Thus, I pulled a hundred Gallons of milk from Adi-gombolo to Enda-achi, Asmara. I can’t tell you how terrifying it was to drive through that awfully smooth dark asphalt. Sometimes, in my drowsiness, I would see it as a dark river and leap in fright. Anyway, I pushed myself to the limits and finally made it to the milk factory.”

“…but was it over for me?”

“No” snapped Tom. “….you had to pull a ton of bricks up the Hazhaz hill”

“Quiet true, my friend”, said the other in a deliberately gentle voice. “…but I don’t think you know what that feels like. Because, at that time you were probably sniffing the piss of a lady ass and unfurling your ugly mouth in to the air!”

Despite this offense, Tom laughed. “Yes, probably. I miss those times” was all he said.

“It felt like I was pulling a solid wall…” continued Bucci. “…my limbs were shaking, the metal bit digging painfully in to my tongue, and the whip constantly flogging me around the ears inflicting sharp pains.”

“Nevertheless, I wanted to make Them happy. Thus, I gathered what was left of all my strength and pulled on that devilish stuff up that devilish hill. Then, I was done. They flogged me even harder and shouted with anger. Bu at that point I knew I wouldn’t be able to pull an inch further. I knew even if they started stabbing me with a knife I wouldn’t flinch. That is the first and last moment I regretted my Donkeyness. Then, They got down and beat me with a heavy stick on my cannon bone until I felt it crack. I couldn’t even hold to the spot I was standing after that. My legs gave way and the weight started pulling me back; the cart rolled backwards down the hill dragging me along!”

The pain in Buccis eyes was palpable as if he was physically experiencing it. He exhaled a long breath, with his eyes turned in to his past. He was looking forwards, but not really seeing anything.

“…I might have been dead instantly or had been handicapped and thrown away to the hyenas. I am not sure. Anyways, either way, I was dead all the same. But thanks to reincarnation; here I am now, as are other compatriots from previous donkey-life. No wonder many are deliberately facilitating the end of their donkey-life, and some are even committing direct suicide to join us.”

“Yes, that is the last I remember of my donkey life,” he finally uttered.

This time, he had retold the story a bit differently. Tom couldn’t say which detail of the story had been altered, or which sigh or groan had been more pronounced. Yet, this time the story was better felt and had a more outreaching effect. He felt slightly guilty of not ever caring to listen to his Eritrean friends stories of pain.

A few minutes later, the two women stood up and summoned them by their names. For Bucci the sound of his own name (as sounded by that angelic woman) was so strangely delightful that his whole body quivered with inexplicable feeling from head to tail. Before they even knew it, the two dogs instantly found themselves wagging their tails under their beloved ones’ legs. (the two pillars of safety, as Bucci calls them)

“I pity all the Eritrean dogs who can’t remember their donkey life.” He murmured to himself. “…otherwise, what is the advantage of being reborn?”

She once again pulled him up by the neck and attached the leash to his collar. As she did so, her delicious breath once again blew across his nostrils and almost impulsively he threw his tongue out to leak her face. She darted back in disgust, “Bucci! I told you not to do that again! That is unhygienic!” she scolded him. He withdrew and sank his head down, ruefully. But, in his heart, he wished for the day when he would be once again born as a man to kiss that small rosy mouth.

About Yohannes Abraham

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  • Addis Gust

    Dear all, greetings:

    I am a regular reader of current affairs of our region. The whole
    political dynamcis in Ethiopia and Eritrea can be seen as an issue of an old-new
    one as a new-old, or vice versa. The problem and challenge especially
    between/and in Ethiopia/Eritrea is interlinked and at times feeding each other,
    as of now in unspecified direction with UNKNOWN destination. The Ethiopian
    government houses most of the Eritrean Opposition and acknowledges that there
    are all types of problems in Eritrea; and the Eritrean government houses almost
    all Ethiopian Opposition personalities with rifle fire power. Both governments
    are exposing/exploiting the weakness of the other without addressing the real
    concerns and issues of their own society and people. This pattern of behavior
    is unlikely to change unless there is a real push-environment created on each
    of them.

    I would think the shortest possible way to fix the
    governance challenge in Eritrea would be to create an independent and all-inclusive,
    and the 1997 constitution based, parliament by the OPPOSITION on the basis of regional
    candidate allocation (for the formational process) as stipulated in the 1997
    constitution of the State of Eritrea. The best place for this new parliament
    would be Assab, Eritrea. For this my reasoning is as follows: 1) Assab is very
    close to Ethiopia and Djbouti, but far away for the Eritrean government. 2) Once
    a reliable and trustworthy activity is taking place in the direction of
    building a new parliament, I fully believe that the Eritrean army, stationed
    around that area, will eventually side with it, with the new Eritrean
    Parliament. 3) Assuming this can be done, the Eritrean nation building will
    take its own new healthy-life irrespective of the willingness/non-willingness
    of the Asmara regime. 4) Once things move this direction either 1) the Government
    in Asmara resorts to military from the very beginning, this will cause
    stretching of power and a sudden internal turbulence (because the important
    strategic locations for the government in Asmara viz. Nakfa, Asmara, Assabare
    far apart from each other), or 2) a long process of mainly non-violent-military
    attrition between the parliament in Assab and the government in Asmara, I would
    say 5-7 years due to the slow economic activity in the country, will take place
    and eventually an all-inclusive system of governance will prevail in Eritrea.

    My home take point is: if the opposition could create and
    install a Parliament with its core based on the 1997 constitution, then it will
    also learn itself what governance, coexistence, rule of law, and democratic
    principles in a nation means. By this, the dynamic of nation building will be
    taken away from the bad guys in Asmara to those who want to be ruled by the
    1997 constitution, as a corner stone. Once Assab is secured, there will be no
    more need to beg for money from foreign sources; Assab is economically viable
    and can generate the needed cash for survival of the Democratic transitional parliament.


  • sarah ogbay

    Dear Yohannes,
    I was one of the people who read this one or two minutes after it was posted. I loved it! Although I am tryiing to stay a reader (trying refrain from giving comments), I cannot simply let go of this beautiful, literary work. It reminds me of an Amharic book ‘ye insesat agelglot’ in my elemntary school years. We were made to memorise the poems on all domestic aminals and they ‘agelglot’.
    Your work, however, by far excels ‘ye insesat agelglot’ and gives us insight into the what’s and why’s of the things going on with our youth and us.
    Therefore, it would be very useful if you could translate it or have it translated into tigrigna and Arabic and published it or make it accessible to many.
    Thank you for teaching us through parable.

    • Yohannes

      Dear Sarah,
      I am glad it motivated you out of your reader’s corner. As Mahmud Saleh said, a temporary break off between the straining political debates is not bad.

  • Yohannes


  • Kokhob Selam

    Dear yohannes,

    I keep reading to understand the moral of this story, it is not that easy to capture such Ideas for ordinary people like me, but awate team introduce as nicely saying “[We welcome Yohannes Abraham to the family of awate.com writers. We are excited to have a talented writer, in both Tigrinya and English, and we are sure he will have many satisfied readers]” I knew I am not catching well your aim, I waited comments and only then I start to learn. thank you Yohannes.

    awate team said “in both Tigrinya and English,..”and this was my dream – to see someone talented putting ideas in Tigrinya. hopefully I will see your articles and you will find feedback from me. tks.

  • Yohannes

    I have had a little
    hesitation on whether to put my say, but, I have decided to do so now after
    justifying to myself that this post, though, a work of creative writing, is
    posted under ‘Awate’s political articles’ and not ‘creative political articles’,
    and thus it wouldn’t be regarded as the author’s interference but a discussion.

    Dear Amde, since the message
    is now the priority and not the artistic merit, here is the synopsis:

    The donkey and the dog could
    symbolically represent the life of the Eritrean youth in and out of the country,
    respectively. The donkey says, “I didn’t resist or kick my heels; I just
    consented willingly. When They put the bit in my mouth or They put the blinders
    alongside my eyes, I deprived myself the slightest flinch of discomfort lest
    they should be offended.(Neither did I trust my eyes, too; so, I even thought the
    blinders were for my good)” I think this is self-explanatory of the faith we
    had in the leadership; but, as told later, he is killed at last. (most of us
    leave Eritrea after moral and intellectual death)

    When we reach the western
    world, we are reborn as dogs. Not ‘dogs’ in the Eritrean context, but the patronized,
    sympathized, well-cared for but dependant dogs of the west(or the western life,
    to put it better). Although having a better physical life now, the dog is nevertheless
    under a restrained life(the leash), it becomes hard to achieve a complete self-actualization(about
    which Bucci day-dreams ie. Becoming a human). However, benchmarks for Bucci and
    Tom differ. Bucci is still amenable and comfortable in his dog life as he
    compares it to his previous nightmare………etc(I should stop here)

    Lastly, I am also excited to
    join the Awatistas, whose intellectual analytical discussions have always
    impressed me. However, I would also try to contribute with what interests me
    more – namely – creative thinking and creative writing (of course within the
    political endeavour). I believe Awate.com has the capacity to incorporate and
    foster this dimension of writing and discussion which I believe is very very important
    to Eritrean intellectuals.

    • Mahmud Saleh

      Dear Yohannes
      Thank you so much. Such a literary respite is badly needed to help us “think” and give us a temporary break off the monotonous political discussions.
      I was going to reply to Amanuel H yesterday when he was having difficulty figuring out the message of the article, but then tes gave similar to what i thought was going to post.
      My only addition: what’s true is the fact that once we break lose the feeling of homesickness and problems related to assimilation, we are welcome. We are not asked if we are citizens or not, but if we are voters or not. We are able to vote for the first time. We are not particularly discriminated. In general, my son faces the same problems the children of other native families of the same Socio-economic status face. So, I don’t know I did not like the leash and the master – servant relationship of the dog and the owner. I would rather symbolize the reincarnated donkey by a bird or something that symbolizes a much freer relationship. Just an opinion. Beautifully written, please come back with similar works.

    • Amde

      Dear Yohannes

      I really loved it. Plus, usually creative writing types don’t try and explain things to their audience. Thanks so much for following up with your theme.


      • Yohannes

        Thanks Amde. Honestly, I hate to explain a creative story, (and it is not appropriate had it been in an art page). but this website has no space for that as far as I know(the target is creating political awareness and not promoting Eritrean art – if I am right). That is a slight discomfort where artistic writings are concerned; still as I believe in ‘art for change’ it could be done within certain boundaries and some sacrifices of losing the flexibility and mystery.

    • saay7

      Welcome to awate Yohannes:

      Here’s our welcome present: the diary of a dog and the diary of a cat. From these diaries, you will be able to tell who are the “cat people” and who are the “dog people” here at awate.


      • Yohannes

        Thanks Saleh. As a guest, though, I am better off regarding everyone as “people people” right now. adaptation strategy, you know.

      • Yohannes

        ok, time will tell. lol. but I hope there are less of the cats. The cat diary has bitterness.

    • tes

      Dear Yohannes,

      Welcome to this lovely university. For sure you will have wonderful mind here including the Newtonians. I am happy that I understood your message.

      Keep on telling us through parables please. Parables help the mind to think and contemplate.


      • Yohannes

        Hello tes, I was also glad about your creative reading skills. I will count on you next time.

        • tes

          Dear Yohannes,

          I happen to be so sensitive in readsing between lines. Some bashed me as if I don’t undertand; And many considered me as if attacking them on purpose. The truth is, I read lines to my level best before responding.

          Yours, I found it refreshing and a different angle of telling the tale. I am follower of Beyene Haile’s philosophy and son of Hamid Idriss Awate. Beyen Haile wrote three books: one when he was only 19 years old and the other two in 2003 (Deqwan Teherh) and 2006 (Tisbit Bahgu). When my firends and me read his books, we tried to interprate his writings and mobilize th youth. We had a wonderful discussion at that time. And Hamid Idriss Awate thought me how to stand for the rights of the people.


          One of our favorite say was, “በየናይ ዓይኒ ኢኹም ትርእዩ፧” can be translated as, “Using what eye do you see?”. We were very deep in to those philosophies. Haile Beyen talked a lot about the failures of PFDJ using parables. He expressed his frustration through his creative skills. He even went further to establish school of management. he gave extensive trainings but PFDJ policies helped none for implementation.

          By having the inheritance of the two, I try my level best to understand things and interprate ideas.

          Through Beyene Haile, I see things and from Awate I protect my identity.

          I expressed the above saying just to express the power of parables and protection. Through parables, wisdom is attained and through identiy honour is built. And through wisdom love and caring is obtained. From love and caring, we have peace and prosperity. These are the chains of human prosperity.

          This is how I felt when I read your article. Come please as much as you can and help our mind to think beyond.


          • Yohannes

            Wow tes! to my surprise, you accidentally stumbled across one of the next things in my mind – which is , introducing one of the greatest Eritrean political and social analysts and visionary, Beyene Haile, to Awate.com(I am not sure if he has been explored here, before)

          • tes

            Dear Yohannes,
            Wow, wow, I am too surprised; Go please, even if awate.com did introduce about Beyene Haile, they can’t navigate the ocean for years to come. Beyene Haile has left millions of worth legacy to be interprated bu the youth. He loved the youth, he cried for the youth, he wrote foe the youth and prophesized for the youth.

            Go and help us to swim in his ocean please.

            I am alwas fond of “Dukan Tiberih” and Abdu, the camera man. Oh man, please help us to be uplifted. We need his phisolophy to be revealed. Onlly then we can have a rejuvenated Eritrea.

            And if you can, include Amanuel Sahle’s philosophy too. These two people are the “unheard saints of Eritrea”. The former is not with us physically but the later is still crying from the mountain peaks hoping someone to listen him.

            A stoop for you my man.


  • Kokhob Selam

    Dear all,
    please don’t be disturbed and keep reading till the end .

    The writer left us to think in different directions, from different era to other different era. I am sure some of us have created a story out of the article above. I have my own. let me give you the first main part and sure you will have similar complete story ready in the mind.

    – being under European colonialism for some Ethiopians was considered as being dog. so those few Ethiopians call Eritreans “ክብረተ ውሻ ” Lol
    – being under European colonialism for some Eritreans was considered development so those few use to call Ethiopians ” ኣድጊ” Lol
    Hey, I am saying few in both, I am not generalizing.
    now, go ..reincarnate as you want as you like and create your story.

  • Amde

    Dear Yohannes

    You open and end the story with the man. Was the man a pre-donkey existence? Did the man get re-incarnated as a donkey, only to die in unappreciated toil? Why doesn’t Bucci tell of his existence as a man, a life he clearly still cherishes and wants to get back? Is the dog finally only good for selective narration of his miserable donkey existence, willfully suppressing his human incarnation, while presently living a life of impotent leashed luxury?


  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Dear awatistas,

    Did someone understand the moral message of the article as intended by the author. I have no any clue what so ever.

    Amanuel Hidrat

    • tes

      Dear Amanuel,

      With my poor english skills, let me try to solve this parable for you (Remember, great tales are told through parables).


      “…I might have been dead instantly or had been handicapped and thrown away to the hyenas. I am not sure. Anyways, either way, I was dead all the same. But thanks to reincarnation; here I am now, as are other compatriots from previous donkey-life. No wonder many are deliberately facilitating the end of their donkey-life, and some are even committing direct suicide to join us.”


      ““I pity all the Eritrean dogs who can’t remember their donkey life.” He murmured to himself. “…otherwise, what is the advantage of being reborn?””

      Hint: those who are now in the diaspora during the PFDJ era, they were all treated like a doonkey, enslaved (national service).

      Once they left the country, they are free (being reborn). But some forget what life they had. Some tell their story (like that of testimony given to COiE (…Yet, this time the story was better felt and had a more outreaching effect.)


      • Abi

        No one explains reincarnation better than You , tes. The donkey died as “D” , reincarnated as a dog “d”. Sometimes unless you have firsthand experience, it is difficult to understand things.
        Thanks tes ! That was a great help for those of us who were confused by the story. Nothing like experience whether lived or died. You beat us big time . You have unmatched experience in this regard.
        Thanks again.

        • tes

          Dear Abi,

          Trying to cover one mistake is letting you to indulge into another mistake. Just accept you confusion. There is nothing more than accepting.

          I am so sorry to see you losing your credibility (if you have any).



  • Solomon Haile

    Selamat Awatistas,

    Dear Beyan Negash, The sucker punch in the movie Selma and anger…

  • Solomon Haile

    Selamat Awatista,

    Though it is a bit spookier than usual, I come back not bombastically… I would like to point out and or ask the author to indicate to me and the rest of the awatistas who is the dog and who is the donkey? In my usual perhaps quick read, I am presuming these two domesticated and very familiar in our homelands of both Eritrea and Ethiopia, the reader is to associate one of both animals to each country, Again this silence has me a little scared and nervous as if the 6th offensive by the Derg is about to commence in which East African revolutionaries of the time 1980 defended the mountains of SaHil that has me in this very lonely room. Good morning to you all. Solomon

  • Solomon Haile

    Selamat Awatistas, Kemey Hadirkum? The technical errors have been debugged that had me away from my favorite Eritrean website despite my political outlook disagreements with a few. Good to see Awatista Nitric was playing the role of Hagerawi DiHnet along with Tegadaly MaHmood. Good to see you guys one again. Ab Adina komou knbehahl ina. Time for SYNERGY now. Solomon Haile