Friday July 13, 2018
Good Evening from Thailand!
Yesterday, arrival day, was filled with our 21 students filtering in sporadically. Our first flights arrived at 9am, while our last group didn’t land until 9:30pm. Needless to say, when the last group arrived at home base most of the students were already sleeping.
It was great to see everyone coming together for the first time at breakfast, well rested (maybe a little jet-lagged), smiling, and already asking a lot of questions of what our next 20 days together in Thailand would hold.
After breakfast we got to know each other a bit and got right into our program orientation. During this time we learned about the program, the culture, and dove even deeper into why we were here. We also covered what we valued individually and as a group, and what we expected from this experience. After finishing our orientation some students got in the pool, while others did their med-checks/swim tests.
We took to the streets and went for a nice bicycle ride through back streets, fields, and small neighborhoods. Before dinner we asked the students what they noticed; some of the answers included:
- Different farming practices
- Water buffaloes
- Friendly people everywhere
- Controlled burns
- Different construction of houses
Before dinner we reminded them to keep noticing, stay present, and continue to always ask questions about they’re surroundings. Staff and students are extremely excited to take on the next 20 days of this journey!
Tomorrow we check-out of Little Village Resort and head to the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital!
Saturday July 14, 2018
A highlight of today was touring the city of Chiang Mai and exploring some famous temples. At the temple, we interacted with monks, where we all got a bracelet. In the city, we tried some local street food that was very different and exciting. Then we went to pick up necessities at a superstore for the following week.
A challenge for the group, was dealing with the heat and humidity of the climate. Also, there are still a few setbacks from the jet-lag.
Something we learned was about the lifestyle of monks, and how the Friends of Asian Elephants hospital was formed. Additionally, we learned and about some of the patients that have been in and out.
-Written by: Brooke Dubner , Sam Flax, and Dominique Lombard
Monday July 16, 2018
Hello from Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital here in Chiang Mai!
Today on the fifth day we had a very busy day filled with service, adventure, and fun! We started the day split up in our service groups to either sweep the hospital grounds, tend to the elephants, or cut elephant grass. After which, we had a nutritious breakfast and got ready for a day out on the town. Experiencing the local market and eating exotic delicacies including insects quickly became the highlight of the day. However, the heat proved still to be tiring to the students. Through these experiences in the city of Lampang, we learned how to branch out from the natural friend groups previously established. Adding to this, eating insects brought many students and teachers to get out of their comfort zones and step into a day full of adventure and new experiences!
Written by: Malia Wulbrecht, Nick Mouskondis, and Brittany Williams
Wednesday July 18, 2018
Today we all thought it was going to be a normal service day, but the weather changed the plan. We woke up to hard, pouring rain crashing on our windows that had been going on since the night before. In result of that, we lost our morning service but, we gained two more hours of sleep.
Everyone enjoyed the extra sleep and was energized for the service that was to happen after breakfast, but later was cancelled.
Later in the day, Dom and Jing taught us Thai and we even learned how to spell our names which was a good learning activity. Even though it was a very chill day, we all did face some obstacles, like being unsure of how the weather would affect our set schedule.
To sum it up, today was a very relaxed day where we all bonded more by playing games and doing various fun/service activities. We also had our first guest speaker, Dr. Preecha. Dr. Preecha was the first elephant vet in Thailand. He explained each elephant’s need and how they’re being treated.
As leaders of today, we felt accomplished of our duty and learned more about our peers.
-Written by Emma Sohn and Emilie Heller
Thursday July 19, 2018
Highlight: Planting bananas, beautifying the cemetery, planting fruits and vegetables
Challenges: bugs, humidity, and the heat made it extremely difficult.
What we learned: spiders can swim and elephants can sing
Today was quite eventful in the way of service and what we encountered. We woke up at 5:30 AM as per usual and catapulted straight into service. Anna’s group was with Boon-me the elephant, sweeping out her enclosure and taking lots of pictures J. Fernando’s group was sweeping home base and the road, right after the tree trimming. Georgia’s group was cutting grass to feed the elephants.
After morning service, we ate a combination of western and Thai food for breakfast. Just after breakfast was morning service. For 2.5 hours, we gardened, planted banana trees, and beautified the elephant cemetery. A big challenge during this part of the day was the bugs. Fernando and Georgia’s groups worked close to unattained plants and having to dig holes to make a new home for future banana trees.
Fernando’s group learned that spiders could swim. The rest of the day was very chill, with one guest speaker at 1:00 and time to rest before our evening activities and dinner.
Written by: Fernando Lopez Contia, Georgia Feinberg, Anna Kraeski
Friday July 20, 2018
Today was our final day of service at FAE. We finished up beautifying the cemetery, cleaning the pond, and working in the garden. It was very satisfying to see how all our hard work had paid off. Some highlights included seeing the finished product of the cemetery as it was our main service project and we accomplished our goal of making it more aesthetically pleasing. It felt good to know that we were paying respect to the past elephants. Another highlight was daring our friends into jumping into the grimy pond, knowing there was a chance of encountering the unknown. Three girls took the challenge and plunged right in!
A challenge of the day was that there was another large storm throughout the night. This caused branches and leaves to fall where we had been working, hindering our progress on both cleaning up the cemetery and sweeping the property. However, we worked with even more determination to complete the projects, even with the setback. We learned to persevere through even the most difficult obstacles and not to give up even when some hope is lost.
-Madi, Jadyn, and Alexanna
Saturday July 21, 2018
A most fun and interesting day today was. Unlike the past week, we slept in and woke up at 7 for breakfast as there was no morning service (though we must say, it was somewhat fun, particularly shadowing the mahouts of the elephants Boonmee and Mosha).
A goodbye-thank you poster was also created for the wonderful and generous staff of FAE. Afterwards, we were off to a cooking school in the city. There, we learned how to make staples of the Thai cuisine: spring rolls, pad Thai, soup, and mango sticky rice. Everyone found the activity fun, even suggesting that it was a highlight for the day. Everyone also felt satisfied in cooking their own delicious food. These dishes that we made later became a nutritious lunch before climbing a long flight of stairs to a temple in the mountains.
Indeed, this journey of stairs was extremely tiring, but it paid off the end as we were greeted by a great red temple with golden decorations inside and out, surrounded by wisps of clouds, overlooking the humble city of Chiang Mai (but unfortunately, with the clouds, we were unable to see the city from this angle). This experience inside the temple also became a significant highlight to some in the group, not only getting to see a 700 year old temple up close and personal, but to learn its history behind its founding. Of course, with a long stretch of fun came a stretch of nonchalance, an opportunity to wind down for the night. Following our trip, we returned to our first home base, Little Village, ate dinner, and played a game of 8 ball pool!
Written by: Malia, Pascal, and Breier
Wednesday July 25, 2018
Today was a very eventful day. It started out with a nice hike to two different waterfalls. The hike was quite slippery and ended with a few people falling in the mud. The second waterfall at which we stopped and swam in for an hour.
We then had a lovely picnic lunch of chicken and pad Thai straight from the market. We topped off the day with some bamboo rafting which was probably the highlight of the day. Here many people also learned how to steer and control a 15 foot long bamboo raft.
Overall today was a great day!
Written by: Brooke, Brittany, and Emilie
Thursday July 26, 2018
Today’s GLA adventure started off with a nice early-morning hike through some of the beautiful scenic farm lands of Chiang Mai, Thailand.
We headed out from our hotel at the crack of dawn, 8:30 am. Some struggles we were met with at the very beginning were muddy up hill terrains, some wind & rain, wet socks, and who could leave out the sudden barrage of leeches. Some people escaped with only one or two, but there were some students who reached double digits. Despite all that we hiked through the jungle up hills to reach the Hmong village, led by our normal mentors and local staff, we also were lucky enough to be lead by people who lived in this area and even in the village itself. We were humbly welcomed into the local shaman’s home and learned about his duties to the village. Also, learned about their village’s livelihoods and struggles. After leaving the village we all hopped into cars and enjoyed a gorgeous ride through the mountains, seeing other villages and impressive terraced farms. This ride was concluded by and amazing lunch that over looked the stunning valley we had trekked around that day. Because of the dreary weather the group decided to return to the home base. The day was concluded with a traditional Hmong show. The shaman, a young man who had been one of our guides that day, and some young girls from the village put on a very engaging show.
Personally this was one of my favorite days filled with interesting, engaging and fun activities, and I wouldn’t love to shout out of amazing staff and mentors. They are incredibly understanding and work with each student’s needs and at the same time are so much fun to have as leaders through this amazing experience!
– Hannah Kevin
Saturday July 28, 2018
Today we woke up, and had a good breakfast at Royal Ping Resort! We got in the vans and arrived at elephant carer home to see our four legged friends waiting for us. We all got into our ma-suits (Mahout : Elephant keeper/trainer + Suits = ma-suits) and headed over and started raking the elephant dung.
We then went to the river. After, we ate lunch, which was chicken chow fun.
Later, we planted sugarcanes in the fields as a part of our afternoon service. Mud fights have quickly become a part of our afternoon rituals. 🙂
Then, went to the river again to bathe ourselves after our mud war.
After that great day we went back to the resort, showered up and prepared ourselves for dinner and our evening activities!
Another great day in Thailand!
Written by: Georgia Feinberg
Sunday July 29, 2018
Today was a day full of amazing service and hard work! We started the day with shoveling dung and having a competition of who could throw it the farthest.
Then, we headed over to the fields to plant some grass. This was probably the challenge of the day! This was the challenge because the group struggled with having a plan to start with, too many cooks in the kitchen, and a lack of communication. In the end we were able to finish planting the grass and come together as a team to problem solve. Then, we figured out what to do better next time.
Like always we finished the day with feeding the elephants before we ended the day of service. We had a water fight, floated in the river, and scrubbed ourselves clean. This was the highlight of the day!
Overall it was a very productive day that went by super fast and did not feel like only one day!
Written by: Breier, Bella, and Dominique
If we were to put today in a nutshell, it was similar to the past few days with some exciting variation mixed in!
Our service began as usual with cleaning up elephant dung with rakes and our gloved hands. Then, unlike the other days, we helped lay the foundations for a new shelter for the mahouts. Some of us dug holes for the pillars while another group brought over logs for foundations. Indeed, both tasks were tiring, digging through rocks and clay, lifting log after log, giving our arms a workout. Though we did not entirely finish building the shelter, we provided enough of a head start for the mahouts to finish the task in the foreseeable future. Grinding labor was greeted by a delicious lunch of spicy minced chicken on a bed of rice served in the typical banana leaf wrapping.
Elephant time afterwards was met with an unpredictable downpour, but nevertheless we made the most out of once in a lifetime routine. After miry trails, puddles, and elephants snacking on bamboo, we reached the bathing site. The bathing site is a small section of the Ping River where we proceeded to splash, brush, and clean the elephants. Coincidently, the downpour let up at around this time, allowing for a dry walk back to the camp.
Dinner consisted of tempura, fried pork, vegetables, and tofu. For our evening activity we had an unofficial GLA Elephant Health and Welfare talent show. Though the talent show was rather short, there were some impressive and comedic acts. To note a few, Sandra read some poems that she wrote; Pascal showed off one of the katas that he learned from seven years of training in karate; Jadyn made herself cry and showed us her freestyle skills. Jessica made animal impressions, causing everyone to completely loose it and burst out laughing throughout the whole act. Lastly, Patrick and Jonathan told knock knock jokes while playing their guitars, and Neha spun poi. Who knew that seemingly normal people have unique talents. The abrupt talent show led to an unofficial dance party.
Tomorrow is our last day at the elephant camp. We all are headed to get some rest before tomorrow’s eventful day!
Written by: Pascal Cheung