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Beyond the Track and Fields, a Forgotten Member of the Community

IMG_2700In 10th grade my favorite course was AP World History. The curriculum was interesting, the teacher was more than capable, and my classmates were involved in the course. The only issue was it was positioned in the perfect spot to hear the tractor tilling the land around the Academy Building. Every day I would hear that tractor go back and forth, until one day it suddenly stopped. This extremely obnoxious tractor had been replaced by something much more exciting: a donkey.

I needed to find out who this donkey was. Where does she live? How old is she? When does she work? I set off on an investigation, leading me to a chain of conversation from which I discovered a little more about our young foal friend. I was led from source to source until I reached Ramadan Ahmed, a gardener in the operations department.

According to Mr. Ramadan, through the intermediary of Director of Operations Ola Bseiso, Haiffah is a young donkey who lives in a small brick house behind the nursery building, and she might be one of the hardest working members of the school’s staff. On some days she works six hours pulling a plow behind her, tilling the earth around campus to prepare the land for planting vegetables we may eat. She was also a behind the scenes star in the “It’s good to be at King’s” video produced last year for the Office of Admissions. Despite this, most of the school doesn’t know her name, or that she even exists.

One afternoon, I made the trip down to the nursery myself, where I was met by two of the staff who told me they knew nothing about a donkey, giving me some odd looks in the process. After searching behind the building, I only uncovered a declining faith in my sources. My friend Maya Abu-Ali ’18, informed me of a path I could take, suggesting I follow the newly built trench, and walk along the school walls. I followed her directions until I was met by the hardworking animal herself, resting under a tree after what might have been a long day.

Something seemed off; she was tied to a tree, with no sign of food or water. There was a brick house, although it was full of gardening supplies and fertilizer. The most worrying factor, though, was Haiffah’s physical appearance; her stomach seemed inflated from the sides (not hanging low, which would point to pregnancy) and hooves were clearly too long, as if they hadn’t been trimmed in years.

I am still not an expert in veterinary sciences, nor donkeys, so I contacted one. Mohammad “Abu-Faisal” Qteifan, a Madabawi farm man, brother and nephew of some of our Public Safety team, and a close friend to my family, told me that the donkey is completely fine. He said, in Arabic, “My brother, what are you saying, it’s a donkey! Not a horse. She is fine!” Such thoughts, however, seemed to stem from the donkey’s reputation as a humble beast of burden. I decided to consult an actual expert.

I consulted Dr. Sameh Al-Faqeeh, a veterinarian who graduated with a master’s degree in equine medicine and studied veterinary medicine for five years at Jordan University of Science and Technology. I sent him a set of pictures of Haiffah to see whether he could determine her state of health.

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“She is [a] fatty, or could be pregnant,” he told me. “Her hooves must be treated [since] they are overgrown. The fattening is mostly due to overfeeding or decreased exercise.”

He suggested that her weight could possibly be a worming issue, but the pictures are not clear enough to tell. Has the school been ignoring the donkey’s health? Whether she is overweight or dealing with worms, Haiffah is unhealthy, and her hooves’ length could mean moderate pain while pulling the plow, as she will continuously trip and drag dirt along the way.

I sent Ms. Ola some pictures of Haiffah, asking if the school is planning on doing anything about this. As of this article’s publication, my request for comment had gone unanswered.

Haiffah’s social life hasn’t been great either. She might be the loneliest member of our school, and such a feeling is a common trait among donkeys when they lack a companion. I was told that Mr. Ramadan makes sure this doesn’t happen, working by her side every day, and even that some of the staff at the nursery visit her occasionally to pet, feed and wash her, although I was unable to confirm this either with Mr. Ramadan himself or with other members of the nursery staff, who had earlier pleaded ignorance of Haiffa’s existence.

In any case, a donkey needs a companion of her own kind. Haiffah has been living alone by that tree, with nobody to entertain her after those six-hour shifts. Luckily, after her three years on campus, I’ve been told that we are in the process of getting her a male donkey-companion. The school has considered this possibility as a way of letting certain co-curriculars work with the landscaping staff. When I expressed my skepticism, Ms. Ola assured me, “We’re working on it.” With any luck, Haiffah’s life will get a lot more interesting soon, and we might even see a little Haiffah or two running around campus.

Whether through her appearance in admissions videos, her role in producing food for our meals, or simply by virtue of her lack of noise while plowing, Haiffah has made her presence known on our campus. Whether anyone is paying any attention to her is another question entirely.

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