A Dying Donkey in Aq Tash


Map Courtesy of WikiPedia


The fortress at the entrance to the village of Aq Tash

Sometimes, surreal is the norm, not the exception.

Our team was visiting Aq Tash Village in Khanabad District, Kunduz Province a while back.  As we pulled up to the town, we were greeted by the somewhat unpleasant view of a dying donkey  on the dry ground. He weakly called, while lying on his side with his feet still running like animals that are on their last legs tend to do.  I’m an old farm boy, so while this kind of thing is disturbing to watch, I have developed the ability to ignore it.  Unfortunately, friend Holly is a city girl, and has a tender heart, so she went over to see what she could do to help the donkey.


It was bad enough the donkey was dying right next to where we were trying to talk to people, but having to explain to friend Holly that there was nothing we could do about it, kind of broke my heart.  But we ignored the poor beast and went off to meet with the people we’d come to see.


As usual, we were greeted by the children first.  Like small places everywhere, new and strange people are always the center of excitement.  After making all the appropriate introductions, we got down to business.


Some students from the girls’ school come to see what is happening

We’d come there to see the new girls’ school; while there, we also took a look at how the freshets caused flooding that damaged the school and other buildings nearby. The girls’ school was in relatively poor repair, as the new school was put to use as a boys’ school instead, and the girls were given the old and decrepit boys’ school.

When we asked about the floods,  the village elder showed a talent for hyperbole, when asked how high the flood waters came. Seems that ISAF had build a gambion walled drainage ditch, but now they wanted a concrete or stone one.


While it was obvious that the high water mark was about three feet on the building we were shown, he decided that five feet would make a better story.  But go figure; he’s a politician, and his job is to wield hyperbole, if it gives an advantage.


While we were standing listening to the village elder, the local construction crew came over to listen and to show off a bit.  The one gentleman wanted us to take a picture of his muddy legs, and explain how he mixes mud and straw to make and repair local buildings. We listened attentively, and even learned a bit about mud/straw or “pakhta” construction from him.


Houses in Aq Tash

I continue to be impressed at how well designed and built Afghan architecture tends to be.  And how poorly some Western designs adapt to Afghan conditions.

As we got back into our vehicle, I noticed one other, extremely odd thing; the “dying” donkey suddenly became still.  He lifted his head, looked around and then got right up.  He dusted himself off and went running off at a rather rapid rate.

It seems that not only local politicians are guilty of using hyperbole.  Friend Holly looked at me and actually looked angry that she’d been deceived.  I took it somewhat more philosophically, and felt maybe the donkey was convinced he WAS dying, but had become bored with it, so went off to do something more interesting, or perhaps needed a snack. This vignette was just one more weird and memorable thing that happened to us in Afghanistan.


About hotmilkforbreakfast

I am a researcher, a writer, a former soldier, an academic and a lifelong learner. All text and pictures are copyrighted and are not to be used without express permission of the author.
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5 Responses to A Dying Donkey in Aq Tash

  1. foldedcranes says:

    Clicking “like” never quite seems the appropriate response on these posts. I hope you can interpret it as “I enjoyed having my horizons broadened, and found this topic interesting, and would like to read more”.

    Keep it up, please! =)

  2. Spot on regarding ‘modern architecture’. Western homes generally tend to be built with ease and uniformity of construction in mind, seldom taking into account the track of the sun, the seasons, or anything else – except the view! If there is one.
    We in the west could do much worse that take a close look at the indigenous architecture of so-called developing countries. Let’s just hope they don’t ‘develop’ our taste for angular boxes planted with little or no regard to climate, local customs or traditional materials.

    • I most heartily approve of this comment. In my locality, “stone” is not consider up to code. So anyone wanting stone appearance has to build a crappy house out of green 2×4 pine and house wrap that one could put their hand through, and face it with phoney stone made of fiberglass.

      • That is so true. For the past 9 years I have had the good fortune to live in log cabin well over 100 years old, but here in America, and particularly in and around Aspen, they are tearing down houses not 30 years old. Of course, many are assisting the process by actually falling down right on cue!
        However, it’s not the flimsiness of modern housing that astonishes me, but their design… as if they hold the weather, the compass and the occupants in complete contempt.
        Having said that, I do feel a sea change coming and articles like yours not only confirm that suspicion but actually cheer me up. As a humanist its reassuring to know others feel as passionately as I do for the world’s glorious and oh-so-fragile cultural heritage.

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