All students are on their way home!
Maetaman Elephant Camp
Depicted in the history of Thailand as industrious servants, elephants are highly revered creatures amongst the Thai people. Upon a visit to the Maetaman Elephant Camp the GLA students delved into, and what most experienced to be, their first elephant ride. While exploring through the lush greenery of Chiang Mai, students were invited to engage with the elephants by feeding them their diet of banana and sugar cane. After trekking through the canopies of the Maetaman Elephant Camp, the students ended the day off by joining the elephants in the river for a once- in-a-lifetime volunteer experience to bathe them.
As I’m sure everyone at home is anxious to hear what’s happening over here in Thailand, we’re happy to let you all know that our days have been jam packed with varieties of activities that are aimed at opening eyes, stimulating taste buds, and shaping world views! GLA Thailand is colorful, very colorful. What we mean is that if you look out the window of your bungalow you see a hundred shades of green in the flora, which surrounds our home base just outside of Chiang Mai city. When we travel to service sites, temples, activities or dinners the streets are lined with lamps lit aglow inside wax paper of every pigment, clothes on the people like a box of crayons, and night markets with singers, dancers, cooks and trinkets from across the “Kingdom of Siam”.
We’ve spent the first half of the program getting to know the unique personalities that make up the GLA team. Students have come from far and wide and each of them brings his/her own story. Likewise, the staff’s backgrounds are a variety including teacher, outdoor sports enthusiasts, basketball coach, and grad student in international education, marathon extraordinaire, GLA headquarters office worker, and a technology guru. The students are ambassadors from the high plains of the Dakotas, the bustling cities of NY, LA, the birthplace of el mariachi Guadalajara, the quiet coastal plains of NC, the vastness of Canada, Alaska’s islands, Lebanon and it’s famous brass, the land of bikes: Holland, Oregon’s mountain beauty and Utah’s snowy slopes.
With this sort of make-up you can see that GLA is more than immersion in Thai culture, it’s a sharing in perspective comparable to the tastes you can find at a world foods market. With this, we create our own program. GLA is not routine, must haves do not regiment it, and it certainly has the flexibility to adapt to the course the students take it. As a staff we let them steer the ship and guide their own compass.
We’ve been working at an orphanage for children living with HIV, building bamboo fences at a center for single mothers who’ve escaped intolerable situations, spending time hanging out with Buddhist monks, learning what elephants mean to Thai culture, cooking and tasting foods found at favorite Thai restaurants back home, and finding some time to sleep. I’ve been impressed by Sean, Sarah, Sandy, Demy, Elan, Deja, and Harrison for their willingness to lead their peers when we met with local high school students for an exchange of cultural presentations. Maddi M., Marck, Shoshanna, Yadi, Haley, Priva, Jake and Erika have been really engaged and shining at service sites where we are hot, sweating, dirty and sometimes out of our comfort zone. One student Avery, has an observant nature coupled with his intellect which combines well to make a quiet yet very appropriate comment at the rite moment to keep his peers thinking.
Going further on this journey means something different for everyone. For some it’s learning that everyone is a leader, it’s getting over a fear of talking in front of groups, allowing oneself to come out of a shell, take the once in a lifetime picture, or find that zest for life we all posses but need to cultivate. These students are why I work with GLA, they are why I’m here now, and It’s an honor to have them.
Cheers and Be Well,
Sawatdee Krap from Thailand!
All students have arrived in country and are ready for an amazing program! Stay tuned for blog updates and photos!