Saturday, July 30, 2016

Our Donkey needs a Doctor

Today's cars are yesterday's donkeys. Just look at the width of any village street. No one ever expected anything larger than a donkey and a cart to pass through them.

The donkey was a means for transporting goods as well as people and according to one very well-known Margariti citizen (though it may be only me to whom he is well-known), a donkey elevated one's status in society. And rightfully so. If you had one, you had more freedom than others, a mode of transportation. Thus, it was essential to care for said-mode of freedom.

I've always felt a great sense of camaraderie with the donkey owners of yesteryear when it comes to this idea of autonomy. When my brother-in-law finally traded his motorbike for a car, I sensed a moment of power with the prospect of having a possible escape vehicle, albeit not my own and not one I could drive. I never learned to drive a manual stick shift. But it clearly was a means to escape when escape from the village was necessary. All I needed was a driver.

As I recall, the family donkey was eaten by wolves, a horrible story. He was tied to a tree down on the farm one winter night and when the unlucky family member who was supposed to retrieve him got to the farm, only his half-eaten carcass was left, and of course a frayed rope. Oh the horror! To have lost a loyal and reliable member of the family in such a way but also to have lost so much more.

Supposedly a horse is more valuable than a donkey, however, and it raises one's status to a higher degree than those who own a slow-moving stubborn donkey. So when a horse was purchased from a seller who lived higher up in the mountains, the family was elated at such a lift in status and also enamored by the lovely prospect of traveling at a greater speed while mounted upon a proud stallion. However, no one told them not to let the horse eat too much of the valley vegetation until he got accustomed to the change in diet. The horse gorged himself on valley grass and then died.

When my brother-in-law moved away from Margariti and took his car, we relied on the few taxis in town but it was never the same. So the addition of our family car that was transported from the U.S. to Margariti some eight years ago and the completion of the Egnatia highway created the ultimate transformation in my Margariti life. With it came the freedom to travel to such places as Ioannina where I found a wonderful university with several English speakers. I enrolled in a class that allowed me to leave the village every morning, the music blasting, the windows open. I wasn't really interested in working too hard and I didn't learn as much as I could have, but that was never the point.

A few days ago that beloved family car began to buck and kick as my husband, Nick, and I sped along the highway.

I've taken full advantage of this car over the years but I've also become complacent in its assumed indestructibility.

Feeling the motor jump and tumble beneath us, a sinking weight pressed against my chest as I swallowed hard and asked Nick, what was wrong with the car.

He looked at me and smiled. "Our Donkey just needs a doctor," he said, "It'll be fine."

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