Sunday June 17, 2018
We are so excited to welcome this amazing group of globe-hopping, world-changing, adolescents to Thailand! Although jet-lagged, they’ve powered through a half day of orientation, goal setting, and team building.
We’ve gotten to know more about their individual strengths and what they can bring to the team! We have a diverse crew that is learning about their upcoming service projects: having an authentic Thai school teaching/learning experience and volunteering at an ethical Elephant sanctuary by prepping food and maintaining the grounds.
Through learning about teaching techniques, elephant social/psychological development and issues within the tourist industry, we are certain these youth will come back to their home community with a new series of skills and ideas of local and global issues to begin addressing with passion, commitment, and targeted determination.
We look forward to a great session and will keep you posted from tomorrow’s Leaders Of the Day: Ryan and Austin!
Monday June 18, 2018
Say Cheese! or Say Pepsi! (as the Thai kids do)
Today we visited Mae Chan School, just five minutes down the road from Home Base, and taught kids from grades 1-8 to expand their English through math, science, and language arts. The Thai students were all very energetic, and teaching them was an experience that will never be forgotten. During lunch we were able to overcome the language barrier by participating in games and bonding. Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves, especially because we felt that we were helping the teachers and encouraging the kids to be more comfortable with speaking English around people from different cultures. Compared to America, the students were given much more freedom during their lunch and seemed to act as more of a community, as opposed to breaking off into separate cliques or friend circles. An interesting fact we learned today was about feet in Thai culture: Since they are the lowest part of the body, they are considered dirty and it is considered rude to point to something with your feet. Today was a blast and we can’t wait to go back to the school and teach different age groups! We are also really looking forward to helping out at the Elephant Sanctuary next week.
There is no doubt that this will be an amazing adventure!
Signed: your leaders of the day
Ryan & Ashtin
Our quote of the day was: “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life,” -Richard Bach
P.S. For parents who want a sneak peak of what their Group B students will be doing next week during their elephant service, check out the blog from Group A who is currently working with the elephants and will switch to the school next week.
Wednesday June 20, 2018
Hello! Today is Wednesday June 20th, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. In the morning we woke up for some great breakfast and hopped on the bus to go to the school. We spent the morning and afternoon teaching with the same groups we had yesterday. My group (Rachel) taught third grade Math and English. To teach English, we played a game of bingo which the kids seemed to recognise and love. By the time our teaching was done, the students were surrounding us with group hugs and begging me to take a picture of them with my camera. My group (Alex) graded two PE classes final assessments and timed students 15 meter dash. We then briefed them on tomorrows activities.
After all of the GLA students had lunch, we went out to the recess field to play with the kids. The kids began to swarm us, asking for our signatures and to be held or picked up. One of the obstacles we faced today was helping the students understand how to play the games we prepared for them but we persevered and eventually they understood and had a good time playing. We learned how to say hello in Thai which is “Sawadee” and how are you is “Sabaidee mai”. We are really looking forward to this weekends activities which includes the waterfall hike and camping on Saturday along with the hot springs and the Hill Tribe observation on Sunday!
-From the Leaders of the Day, Rachel & Alex
Thursday June 21, 2018
To begin the day, we observed the kids during the flag raising ceremony as we have for the previous two days. After having spent so many hours with the kids yesterday and the day before, they have gotten used to our faces––enough so that they enjoy yelling our names as we walk by (for example, yelling “Teacher Anna” during the opening ceremony). Next, we proceeded to the classrooms where we began working with the Thai teachers for the first time during this experience. We both taught middle school students a variety of food from around the world in English. The Thai teachers thoughtfully presented us with beautiful Chinese ornaments as a gift of appreciation.
Since this was our first time working with students and teachers who weren’t confident in their English speaking abilities, we faced some challenges along the way. We were compelled to use more hand gestures and body language to communicate with them. Overall, it was a really rewarding experience because we were able to establish meaningful relationships with the students and teachers despite the language barrier.
During our free time, most of us were swarmed by young students who begged for our autographs. At some point or another, all of us signed both scraps of paper as well as body parts (to clarify, arms). We also had the pleasure of witnessing the boy scouts and the girl scouts practice their traditional routines, since the school schedules these every Thursday. Most of them marched, yelled, and did synchronized group squats. Some GLA students participated in this event.
Tomorrow, we’re highly anticipating the exciting waterfall hike in the morning. In the afternoon, we will be venturing around Chiang Rai and visiting multiple temples.
-Written by Leaders of the Day, Zoë and Anna
Friday June 22, 2018
Today started out with a challenging walk through the Thai jungle to a beautiful waterfall. The walk itself was filled with interesting greenery and insects, as well as the occasional shishi-odoshi (water fountain). The waterfall was an absolute blast. It felt great to finally unwind after three days of service, and although swimming meant wet socks and muddy clothes, everyone agreed it was worth it. Following the decent back to civilization, we got our fist glimpse of the elephants at Elephant Valley Sanctuary.
The group was ecstatic to enjoy lunch whilst elephants roamed around us. Needless to say, we are all incredibly excited for next week. After lunch, we made our way to Wat Pra Kaew, home to the jade Buddha and an assortment of turtles. While some gained Buddhist wisdom from the resident monks, a few others made the pragmatic choice to utilize the temple’s wifi. This was succeeded by an excursion to Wat Huay Plakang, which featured an explorable stature of a Buddhist deity and a nine tier temple, each tier representing a stage of enlightenment. The day was concluded with another delicious Thai meal and a great final night at Chang Garden Resort with our newfound friends.
– Zachary Shuter and Cameron Nowel
Saturday June 23, 2018
Today, we started our journey to see the Black house. The Black house was very unique and almost satanic. It consisted of many animal skulls, horns and skins. Then we set off to see the Blue Temple which was much different from the previous destination. The temple was absolutely gorgeous, I found it so extraordinary that someone could imagine something like this. There was a massive Buddha in the back of the temple, as you can see from the picture bellow. There were also paintings of the naga, a sacred figure in Buddhism. We then had “Somtam” for lunch at the local staffs family restaurant. Many of the campers had catfish for the first time and I enjoyed a mushroom dish which was surprising considering I don’t usually like them. After that delicious meal we made our three hour journey to the mountain of Phu Chi Fa to camp. At the campsite we made our own meal which consisted of soup for vegetarians and meat for the others. The day was then concluded with some card games and gazing at the night sky. I look forward to being with elephants in the days to come.
Leaders of the day – Jared Shuter & Serena Trousdale
Sunday June 24, 2018
The day started at 4:30 AM at Mt. Phu Chi Fa. In hopes to see the sunrise over the cloud cover, most of all of the group woke up to rain seeping through the tents and clanging on the roof. We all threw on some warm clothes and climbed onto the bus. After a short ride, we reached the trail head. After a slippery climb filled with lots of challenges, we reached the summit. Despite the trek, the fog was so dense we could not see 100 feet in front of us. Half of the summit is in Thailand, and half is in Laos. Lots of jokes were thrown about being in 2 countries at once. Later, we climbed down the summit with meticulousness in hopes of our feet not coming out from under us.
The second part of the day consisted of going to a local market. Although there were not many souvenirs available, we got to see real Thai street action. There were foods most of us have never seen before, as well as authentic Thai clothing, immune to Americanization. The market further allowed us to see the country not just through the eyes of American tourists.
Monday June 25, 2018
Today was our first day at the Elephant Valley Thailand. This morning we revisited our goals that we had set last week, and discussed whether or not we had accomplished said goals . We had a long discussion on how we could generate change at home and raise awarness about elephant cruelty and rehablilitation. We talked about possible solutions to create future change for elephants here in Thailand and how we could use social media to advocate awarness for elephants after we’ve left Thailand.
After lunch, we went into the forty acres given to the elephants here at Elephant Valley Thailand. We met the six elephants and learned about their pasts and how Elephant Valley Thailand was working to accommodate each elephant’s journey back to rehabilitation. We saw that the elephants coated themselves in mud to protect themselves from insects and the sun. At the end of our walk around the property, we fed the elephants bamboo and leaves, which they enjoyed. We ended the day playing a ping-pong tournament at the home base and Ashtin won.
By: Sydney Garman and Marco Lunetta
Tuesday June 26, 2018
The day started with a rainy breakfast of fresh mangoes, diverse jams, and whole wheat toast. Our group was divided by what side of the table people were sitting. We then tackled our first task at the service site. Once both groups finished their service for the morning, we had a break. After cleaning the elephants bathing area, I really enjoyed watching the elephants walk around us as we worked. After cleaning the bathing area where many of us got soaked, we headed to the other side of the camp to strip grass, dig rows for planting the grass, and then planted grass in the rainy mud. This task lasted until lunch where we had another delicious meal. We finished our tasks by 4:00 and wrapped up our labor with feeding the adorable and mesmerizing elephants.
Everyone in my room took a hard nap for free time. After dinner, we hosted an activity as our Leader Of the Day activity (although some members were not very involved, others, like myself, enjoyed themselves!). To wrap up the night, John (regional director) shared his adventures outside of America and answered many of the kids questions about ex-pat life. His wondrous stories inspired us to explore the world and discover the other colorful cultures around the world.
-by Elizabeth and Carolyn Reid
Wednesday June 27, 2018
Today we leaders of the day, Kaleigh and Ruthie, made sure everyone was up by 7:00 and at breakfast by 7:30, so we could get ready to start the adventure-filled day. We started off with our usual clean up of the elephants’ night area. As today being our second day doing this, it went by a lot faster and a lot easier. Then we had a quick break, which was followed by another day of planting grass for the elephants food.
After providing food for the elephants, we were provided with delicious food from the staff at Elephant Village. After lunch, our two activities included elephant observations and elephant feeding. Elephant observations was new today, and what we did was sketch and learn more about the individual elephants and their patterns. After dinner, we had soooo much fun with our adventure to the market. We all were assigned to purchase a small gift for someone and at the end of the day we all went around and presented each other with their gift. It was very funny and made everyone extremely happy!! Today was another eventful and successful day!
-by Kayleigh Brown & Ruthie Reid
Hey there, or as they say in San Francisco, “Howdy!” And, as they say in West Chester, Pennsylvania, “Hello.” Our second-to-last day was full of fun service and surprises. To begin the day, we woke up to a delightful surprise: Full-sized bananas, peanut butter, and Corn Flakes were on the menu, and boy was it delicious. And that is just what our day was, delicious.
Our first task was to continue the awesome service we have been doing all week. I never thought I would say this, but I really love cleaning up after elephants. It’s always a pleasure to be surrounded by peers, working as a team, and then suddenly a beautiful elephant walks by, always mesmerizing me. No matter how humid, or how wet, the young group of leaders we have here worked together for a cause much bigger than ourselves. This included clearing forest and planting grass for the elephants, as well as preparing the feeding area and then watching everything come together as we fed the elephants banana leaves, banana trees, bananas, banana pancakes, etc.
After a much-appreciated break, we were delighted to sit down and talk to Jack, the founder of Elephant Valley Thailand and master of the cargo shorts polo shirt look. He treated us to his fascinating life story, his mission to better the situation of Asiatic Elephants across Asia, and some life advice. For dinner, the long-awaited Pad Thai with a side of Pad Thai. After dinner, we sat down to watch The Goonies.
Although it was our second to last day, today was our last day of service. This allowed everyone to reflect upon the time we spent with the elephants and the current efforts to protect and save the Asiatic elephants. While we are presented with a buffet of mixed emotions about the trip coming to a close, it’s days like these that make us so thankful and blessed to be a part of the GLA family.
-by Rebecca Kinzly & Max Goldberg