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Monday June 18, 2018
Sawaddee-khrab (Hello) from Thailand!
Our main arrival day was a huge success as we have just finished a delicious meal together and retired to our bungalows! With some students arriving late last night, and the remainder throughout the day today, sharing our first meal as a group was a great feeling. Just before dinner we did a quick activity to get to know one another and just like that we learned new things about each other, shared laughs, and bonded as group.
As for now, it’s time to get some rest as we have a big day tomorrow!
Tuesday June 19, 2018
On our first official day of programming saying we experienced a lot is an absolute understatement.
We started out our morning by having our program orientation. This was comprised of icebreakers, program breakdowns, setting expectations, cultural awareness sessions and even coming together to speak about what we valued and the creation of a social contract.
After having lunch we had little time to catch our breath, lather up in sunscreen and pick out bicycles for our next adventure! The sun had been out all morning, but as we took off from Little Village clouds rolled in and we were treated to a tranquil and cool (thank you clouds!) bike ride.
We pedaled right from the Little Village Resort and weaved through neighborhoods, along narrow back streets, past watermelon and lychee farms, and eventually ended back at the resort. Along the way we learned about the area we were in, and stopped at a temple to explore, ask questions, and catch up on our hydration.
After freshening up and exploring some of our own space we were treated to a traditional Bai Sri Ceremony. This is a ceremony that is held during special occasions, including welcoming our group into Thailand! A local shaman came and performed the ceremony which we all took part by listening, observing the techniques, and holding a communal string throughout the duration. The ceremony concluded with the shaman cutting the string and tying a bit around each of our wrists that we are all wearing now as bracelets. It was a great day of cultural learning, an adventurous bike ride, and officially being welcomed into this wonderful country!
Wednesday June 20, 2018
This morning we had an exciting visit to Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai. We learned that you have not really visited Chiang Mai without taking a trip up the 300 steps to this temple. The view from the top was definitely worth all of those steps. We could see the whole city in front of us, with a giant gold temple behind us. This was our highlight of the day.
After the temple, we ate a delicious buffet lunch at a restaurant where we were able to try all sorts of Thai food. A challenge at lunch was 100% trying foods that we had no idea what it tasted like. We learned that there are a lot of foods with different textures to what we are used to. After lunch, we all napped on the way to the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital. As soon as we hopped out of the vans, we saw beautiful elephants! We took a tour of the grounds and learned about some of the elephants and their caretakers.
Our challenge for the day was our after-dinner debate (leadership activity), where we all had to take different positions on the issue of whaling in a small island in the Caribbean. We challenged cultural norms, environmental issues, and how the world deals with problems as a whole.
-Written by Alessandra Malone and Alice Nobles
Thursday June 21, 2018
Today was our first day of service! This morning we split into three groups and did our first two hours of service; cutting grass for elephant food, sweeping the hospital grounds, and service in the elephant enclosure. Once we were done cooling down from service we talked to the owner of the elephant hospital and she was telling us her stories of how she started Friends Of The Elephant Hospital.
After lunch we did another two hours of service, where we worked in the garden. We planted betel leaves, Chinese cabbage, and pepper plants, which was another highlight of our day. This brought us closer together and we had a lot of fun.
A challenge we had was waking up at 5:00am since we had to be downstairs by 5:50am. We learned that in Thai culture their days start much earlier then what we’re used to. What we learned today was that waking up early gives us the opportunity to get more things done in a day, and that hard work is necessary to get things done!
-Written by: Alecia Cartwright and Alexandra Urbat
Friday June 22, 2018
Highlight: Today we volunteered to help out at the Hangchat local school to help the students practice English. First we participated in their traditional dance in a large group, then split up to talk to the students; 5 Thai students, to one of us. We talked about ourselves and learned about our similarities and differences and later moved into a smaller classroom and had a very fun game of Pictionary.
Challenge: We had a challenge today touring the city of Lampang because it was 90 degrees and we hadn’t walked around in this environment. We packed plenty of water but it was still difficult with energy after volunteering and walking around, so we had to cut short our tour which was disappointing because we all really enjoyed the people and the city and wished we could do more.
Something We Learned: We learned about the similarities and differences of our cultures. First by meeting first hand the students in the school and seeing how they had a wildly different campus and different attitudes towards us, but also appreciated the same things and had many of the same personality traits as us. Later when walking around the city we saw the people far more accepting and friendly to us than you would expect with reversed roles. At the end of the day the staff gave us an activity where we were told individually to mingle in a fake party with secret “cultures”, like long pauses before answering, or being closer than normal while talking. It showed us that what could be respectful in one culture could be misunderstood as rudeness and told us to pay attention, learn, and adapt.
Written by: John Carter and Briyona Ziegler
Saturday June 23, 2018
Overall today was a good day. We started service at our usual time and some of us got to see a baby elephant while others bathed Mosha. Before lunch we got the chance to sit in with Dr. Boonyoo as he showed us the steps in making a prosthetic and answered all our questions.
While there was a language barrier between the prosthetic doctor, Dr.Boonyoo and us, we had a translator that helped us understand the full process of how prosthetic legs for elephants are made.
During our afternoon service while planting, the sun wore us down, but with the help of everyone’s hard work we got all of the garden planted in a short amount of time. We decided that the word of the day should be prosthetic “kha tiem.” One of our leader of the day responsibilities has been choosing activities to lead. As our leader of the day activity we chose to play a group game of charades. We all had fun and then headed down to have dinner as a group. Headed to a mentor meeting to finish out our night before getting to bed so we’re ready for our early morning service!
Written by: Anna D’Agui and Isabel Powell
Sunday June 24, 2018
Today could be described as what the mentors call, ‘low energy.’ On most days, we can point out one or two coffee cups at breakfast time. Today, eleven. The 5:30 wake up call for morning service had seemed to take its toll. Throughout the rest of the day energy increased, but overall the main challenge was simply fatigue.
Nonetheless, we got a lot done during the day, and it was overall quite productive. After morning service, our main activity of the day involved learning more about Thai culture from our lovely local mentors. Thai language was as beautiful as it was confusing, and taste testing Thai snacks was a joy (well, some snacks). The evening concluded with a lively and competitive game of spoons.
Today we learned that perseverance and a good mindset could change the course of a day. Starting off sluggishly and concluding on a high note is entirely possible with open communication and positivity. Before dinner, during ‘Chow Circle,’ everybody gave a compliment to another person in the group. It was truly heartwarming and a solid end to our first week.
-Written by Kate and Molly, June 24
Monday June 25, 2018
Today we started the day off with something new in our 6am meeting… early morning stretches! We thought to utilize this time to combat our low energy crisis. For some, it had the desired effects, and some not. Maybe some professional assistance is required in the future.
The day is always filled to the brim with new knowledge-based activities. Today we got the very rare opportunity to meet one of the original elephant vets in Thailand. We learned not only how he got into his occupation, but also where his heart and mind lie in the treatment of elephants. I think we were all very intrigued by him and his presentation of thoughts.
After working so intensely in a new environment, we all began to feel the sluggishness from putting our best foot forward for the past week and pushing through the day suddenly became our biggest challenge.
Not so far from where we sleep each night, Mosha has her living quarters. Since she has an amputated leg, we need to help make her as comfortable as possible. Mosha’s mahout asked us to help replace the burlap sacks she rests her injured leg on when she’s not wearing her prosthetic. A lot of us can most certainly agree that being able to interact and care for the sweetest and most playful creature is always the best part of our day!
Tuesday June 26, 2018
One of the highlights of today was being able to look back at all the progress and work we’ve done here at FAE. Today being the last day that we were able to work at FAE gave us a unique opportunity to reflect on all of the work we’ve done and the things we’ve experienced.
This week we have been cutting grass for the elephants and it was amazing to see all the change in the field. When we first showed up to the field the grass was up to the road and seeing how far back we’ve been able to cut showed how much we’ve accomplished in this week. It has also been interesting to reflect about how much we have learned this week through discussions and seminars about the way elephants are treated in Thailand.
This morning, our journey to the Thailand Elephant Conservation Center led to us learn a lot about the royal family and white elephants, how Buddhism and elephants are connected, and how conservation of elephants in Thailand is being done. It’s been a challenging week with getting up early and having very busy days and this last day here was especially challenging. Energy was low and getting places on time proved even more of a challenge today than it has other days. However, we have been good about pulling each other up and staying motivated. It really shows how we have come together as a group this week at FAE.
-by Sienna Colucci and Rebecca Harbour
Wednesday June 27, 2018
Today, we departed from FAE Hospital early in the morning and headed to downtown Chiang Mai for a cooking class! We first went to the market, which was a highlight since we got to see how the local Thai people got their food and what special ingredients go into Thai cooking. We learned how to make spring rolls, phad thai, mango sticky rice, and coconut chicken soup. My favorite was definitely the mango sticky rice, which I can hopefully bring home and teach my family how to make. We got to eat all of the food we made ourselves, and it was all so yummy!!
After lunch, we departed for a walking tour of Chiang Mai; we visited a beautiful temple, which is also where we were able to get the chance to talk to some monks. They have a special area at the temple called “Monk Chat” where monks can practice their English with tourists, sharing special details about their religion. We learned that every Thai Buddhist man has to become a monk at some point in their life in order to protect the women in their family.
A challenge for today would be moving with all our stuff to a different location, as we didn’t know our schedule or what the new flow of things would be. We were at the hospital for 7 days with a pretty consistent schedule, and now we’re back in the city for some cultural exploration and adventure! We’re all very excited for what’s to come!
-By Stephanie Wu and Alessandra Masone
Thursday June 28, 2018
Today we went to the Maetang River. We hiked and crawled over the rocks to the waterfall at the end of the gorge We were surrounded by sugarcane and lychee trees. Once we reached the end of our hike, the gorge opened up to a beautiful waterfall, surrounded by bamboo. Some of us jumped in the pool under the waterfall, laughing and playing, but also realizing how truly small we are compared to the awe-inspiring scale of nature. After the hike, we had originally intended to go white water rafting, but heavy rains and rising water levels didn’t allow for that. As an alternative, we visited central plaza mall, where some of us got massages, while others roamed to find food or go shopping.
Some highlights of the day included swimming under the waterfall, karaoke at the end of the day back at homebase, and experiencing Thai massages. Some challenges of the day were the rain on our hike, which made rocks slippery and hiking more difficult. Some of us were also disappointed by the cancellation of white water rafting. Many of us had been looking forward to the rafting, because a lot of us hadn’t done it before and were excited about seeing the terrain from a different perspective.
We learned that having a positive attitude will get you through most challenges, or at least make slippery rocks more bearable.
-by Alecia Cartwright and Alice Nobles
Friday June 29, 2018
A highlight of the day today was that we got to walk around and shop in the Chiang Mai night market bazaar with all the different exotic food and interesting new clothes. Many of us bought items for ourselves and people back home to introduce them to the culture
A challenge for today was that we had so many exciting and fun things to buy for many of us it was difficult not to overspend. Recognizing we would have other opportunities, and figuring out what we genuinely wanted or not was difficult when we were presented with a opportunity to own so many new things for the first time.
We learned a lot today, but something specific was when we ate ate the monsoon tea shop. One of the employees talked to us about the history of the original tea plant and how it originated from Southeast Asia. We learned how it was was fermented and originally used to spice food. Only later was used for tea. He told us how the tea plant has been changed to fill the demand for tea and he talked about how the company’s mission was to bring back the natural tea plant to plant and use the way it was in the beginning because it was more natural and didn’t require deforesting.
Sunday July 1, 2018
Today we went to a elephant camp and (an elephant) poopoo paper park. The highlight of the day for us was the poopoo park and seeing how elephant poop was made into paper.
One challenge was going to the elephant camp and seeing all the elephants in the enclosures but it was still a fun learning experience and interesting to see. We learned about how our peers felt regarding the elephants in their enclosures. There were a lot of really great perspectives shared.
Written by: Anna D’Agui and Alexandra Urbat
Monday July 2, 2018
The Chai Lai Orchid is a truly beautiful place. It was a pleasure to meet the friendly co-owners of the organization, and a joy to spend the afternoon with the elephant residents. A definite highlight was meeting the dear baby elephant (only three weeks old!). Watching her parade her miniature, adorably uncoordinated body around was incredible, and she was as playful as any puppy I’ve ever met. I miss her already, and can’t wait to see her tomorrow.
On another note, I can barely believe this is the last week of service. It seems impossible to picture the final day of this trip approaching. Thailand has felt surprisingly comfortable to me, which I’m sure I can attribute to the lovely people I’m with. This has been a beautiful whirlwind of a journey, and I feel so grateful to conclude it at such a beautiful place.
Written by: Kate Netto
Tuesday July 3, 2018
Today was our first day of service at Chai Lai Orchid elephant camp. The emotions were very hyped up this morning and we were all excited to work with elephants and their mahouts. All our groups split up to do different volunteer work before lunch. After lunch, we had a conversation about our experience, which, for the majority of us, was very difficult. This is because we all have very mixed opinions about the things we have experienced in the past couple of days.
Arguably, the best moment of the day was being able to bathe the elephant’s first hand in the river. Every single person had a smile on their face. We learned the background for why GLA created the experience for us all in the first place. Always great to work and be inspired by the people we’ve met on our journey!
Wednesday July 4, 2018
Today we spent the day with elephants at Chai Lai Orchid, which was a ton of fun. While we had to work hard taking cleaning up after and feeding the elephants with the Mahouts, we got to spend our breaks with the elephants. After indulging in lunch, we split into two groups. Half of us chose to hike up to a waterfall to swim. The rest helped around the elephant camp by planting nearly 75 pineapple plants.
Although we split up for the afternoon, at night we spent time around a campfire, telling stories and having a generally great time. We got to release paper lanterns into the night, and they were absolutely beautiful! All in all, it was an enjoyable and productive day, and we look forward to spending more time at Chai Lai Orchid.
-Written by Stephanie Wu
Thursday July 5, 2018
Today’s highlight was sleeping in an extra hour before getting up for service. Just kidding! Today was filled with excitement – we split into groups and rotated through different activities. One group made herb medicine balls for the elephants. It was awesome to feed and help these magnificent creatures.
Despite all the days fun, the heat wore us down. With sweat dripping off our faces, the whole group worked hard to assist Chai Lai Orchid with some daily tasks. Some of us even helped build a fence to keep a pair of young mischievous elephants in.
With only a few days left we really had to made this one count. #awesomeday #lovegla
Friday July 6, 2018
Today we started our morning service off with our elephants. Our group got to take the three week old baby and her mother for a walk in the jungle. We learned that, like our mothers, the mother elephant is very protective of her child. When she feels like her baby is threatened she will growl as a way to ward off the threat.
For our afternoon service we got to have a great conversation with some Karen (ethnic group from Myanmar/Thailand border area) refugees who are now trying to further their English skills so they can start their own businesses, work in the tourism industry, or get their dream job. We ended the day with a nice refreshing cool down in the river.
Before dinner we had a short Muay Thai class, which is their form of boxing. Overall today was a great day!
Written by: Olivia Pullin
Our last day in Thailand together is one for the books. It was emotional, fun, and memorable. Some of us finished with service while others trekked in the jungle with elephants and ate by a campfire.
We dressed up for dinner and shared our appreciation for one another through multiple activities. The most challenging part of today was unique to this day, it was about of enjoying the time we had left but not getting too emotional knowing it was about to end. We know we will miss each other and remember these past three weeks with the best light (even if we got on each other’s nerves at times.)
We learned how each individual has their own quirks and can be an incredible contribution. We also learned that while three weeks can be a lot but it can also be so little. I think we can safely say we will miss GLA and every opportunity that has been given to us.
Written by: Isabel Powell and Olivia Clossick