Time Capsule Letter
Twenty-two high school students flew from a variety of places throughout our home, and presently our only, planet. You all had at least a few ideas of what this grand, life-changing experience would entail. Perhaps a couple of you imagined elephant poop, but less-likely smearing it onto trees — to protect them!
Everyone was surprised when they realized the elephant poop didn’t smell that bad! We watched twenty-two teenagers uneasily begin mixing poop, mud, and water, until we experienced minor disbelief, yet a great deal of satisfaction, as those same teenagers began laughing and having different degrees of a good time smearing it onto trees.
In retrospect, those who were excited and shared a positive attitude made it easier for everyone, which luckily was all of you. Poop smearing led into weeding and planting. Jack explained how most all plants store nitrogen differently, however, plants with ridged leaves store the nitrogen in their leaves.
Jack said that removing the excess nitrogen in the soil from the chicken farming was necessary in the long term. Weeding on the steep embankments from the previous catfish ponds in the pouring rain was a transformative experience. You all pushed through the discomfort and challenge and emerged victorious with many cartloads of weeds—progress for the future of the Elephant sanctuary.
Working in the dense overgrowth of plants and seemingly endless summer monsoon rains lead us happily into “Jack Talk.” We all viscerally experienced a condensed version of jacks life. Remember? It was a story of adventure, uncertainty, trials, and self-discovery. He reassured you that if you stay positive, work hard, take the road less traveled and stay open to life’s lessons, that you will find your way!
To formally celebrate finishing the first half of service, we went to the night market, one of the first experiences in the local community. In groups you all strolled, bought souvineers and marvelled at the Thai market. Following the final day of service, we ventured out into Chiang Rai to four exceptionally different temples and enjoyed a fancy buffet.
That same evening we moved into Chang Garden, the second homebase. The next morning we set out early for the cooking class! In groups of 2-3 you all cooked Thai cuisine for one another under Suwannee’s guidance.
After the class we traveled to Phu Chi Fa, where we had the fortune of experiening local cuisine, an amazing cultural display of dancing, martial arts, and firey acrobatics! The evening culminated with campfire songs and telephone.
The next morning, everyone woke up at 430 am for a sunrise hike! We jumped into the back of the locals trucks and road a short way to the trailhead. A short hike up to the summit and we were on the top of the mountain bordering Laos, however dense clouds obstructed a true view of the sunrise and valleys below. We left Phu Chi Fa for a food court near the White Temple, then we set off for the waterfall! A giant, beautiful waterfall met us at the end of a long, natural hike.
That same evening, lesson planning began for teaching English the following day. You all adapted smoothly to the playful, carefree attitudes of the Thai children. You all excelled at creating a variety of games and activities for the students to learn.
We hope you all learned how capable you truly are after all the challenges you overcame in Thailand. Never stop learning, growing, and evolving to the best version of you—that only you can be! We wish you all the best in your future endeavors!
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Friday July 19, 2019
Hello GLA Families!! 🙂
Today we woke up early, ready for our students to arrive!
Three students arrived, then we found out five of our students were unfortunately delayed. But they did take the time to get to know each other while waiting with ten other students. True leaders! 🙂
We were glad have most of our students to home-base by 4:30 pm. Once at home base, Jack gave a talk about house rules, and then later, we were finally joined with our last four students, and our group was complete!
Tired and well fed, our students were ready for bed.
We are very excited to start our session and get to know your children. Stay tuned for more blog posts about all our adventures in Thailand!
Dee, Keenan, and Kasandra
GLA Program Staff
Saturday July 20, 2019
On the first day of our Thailand experience we woke up bright and early around 8:30, except of course those of us overcome with jet lag, who were blissfully yanked awake at around 4 AM by our own internal clocks. We enjoyed a complete breakfast of eggs, cereal and bread. Then we got to know each other with name games where we said our states and nations of origin and put together short skits to go over the GLA code of conduct.
Afterwards, we did some more name games and discussed the rules for a while and then we moved into lunch, they offered a lot of good options that everybody could eat. Then, more games were played and we reviewed more safety rules, finishing the rules part of the orientation off by each coming up with a word for our Community agreement and signing our names in an elephant drawing.
Later, we had a bit of a general lesson in Thai culture from a local woman named Jay Jay who taught us proper etiquete for bowing, going to temples, making way for monks to go by, and respecting the king and spirits….After a few minutes break, the Asia regional director for GLA gave us a beginner Thai lesson where he taught us Thai basics such as hello, goodbye, thank you, excuse me as well as many more.
After, we grouped up and had something called a chow circle where we did shoutouts to appreciate someone’s action, words of the day in both Thai and english as well as a quote of the day from star wars. After that it was time for dinner with really good food such as chicken, mashed potatoes and of veggies as well as Thai food.
Finally, we got into our mentor groups and we reflected about our choice to do GLA this summer and how things are going so far, after that it was time for showers and going off to bed. It was a long but almost fun day.
-by Alex K and Zoe M
Sunday July 21, 2019
To start off this morning we had a western style breakfast that included omelette toast mangos and cereal. After our delicious breakfast we had our first orientation with the founder of the sanctuary: Elephant Valley Thailand, Jack.
We learned the do’s-and-dont’s of elephant care. During our talk, we learned about how Jack came up with the idea of the elephant sanctuary. He created this wonderful sanctuary to reintroduce the elephants to their natural habitat. We also learned about how this sanctuary creates a safe place for these elephants. Then we Thai cuisine for our lunch.
We then got to feed the elephants with safety instructions on how to feed them. We took turns giving them bananas for their snack time making sure to keep their personal space. We, then, got to observe the elephants in their space and learning about their body language and natural tendency. We learned that elephants use their ears, tails and trunk to express their emotions.
For our evening activity we watched a video from National Geographic about animal tourism and exposing the reality. It talked about different places in Thailand where they use elephants for entertainment purposes. The truth about the way these elephants are treated is very disturbing.
They are abused mentally and physically everyday. Not just elephants but many other animals.
We should promote sanctuary’s like the one we are staying at in order to keep these beautiful species alive. After we watched the short documentary, we discussed the layers of challenges this industry faces. We finished the day with watching a native Thai movie.
Overall, we had an amazing day and are having the best time of our lives!
– by Lucy and Natalia
Monday July 22, 2019
For the first time we woke up to a cool rain which was an amazing feeling. We had our usual favorite breakfast at 7:30. Right after breakfast we went on poo patrol. It sounded gross at first but honestly it wasn’t bad. We made sure that non of the elephants food had bacteria in it. After a short break we split up into two groups. One group was in charge of mixing mud and elephant poop to spread on the trees.
This helps prevent the elephants from stripping down the trees by snacking on them. The other group pulled weeds to help clear up more area for the elephants to roam and eat freely.
All these jobs were tiring but it gave us opportunities to bring us all together. After all that hard work, we had a delicious Thai meal. It consisted of fish, chicken, tofu, and sticky rice. Once we were all full and energized, we played a game of never have I ever led by leaders of the day. It let us get to know one another much better. After a few rounds of that it was time for some more service. The groups switched jobs so we could experience all aspects of the sanctuary.
After a hard days work we had downtime and got ready for the rest of the night. We had a quick but delicious dinner of tom kha gai soup over rice with fried vegetables. Now it was time for the moment we were all waiting for, the excursion to the night market. We took a 30 minute car ride to the Chiang Rai outdoor market. There we were able to fully immerse ourselves in Thai culture. We were surrounded by delicious smells and beautiful merchandise.
Some brave students ate seasoned crickets. Not all of us we able to stomach that. Once everyone was done with their shopping and eating we all got back in our vans and headed back to the sanctuary.
-by Stella and Eleanor
Tuesday July 23, 2019
Today we started the day with breakfast at 7:30 and went straight to poop patrol at 8. After cleaning up all of the elephant areas, we took a short break to get ready for the rest of the day’s service. At 9:30, we split up into two groups for service. One group worked to plant trees that will later be harvested for elephant food. The other group moved sand to areas where the elephants eat and sleep.
After service, it was time for feeding the elephants. We fed them bananas by hand for their morning snack. Then we had a delicious Thai lunch. After a short break, we played a quick game of mafia led by our leaders of the day – us! And then it was back to service. Everyone worked together to weed out plants that were over growing in the elephant living area.
After a long day of service, we had some free time in the afternoon to shower, relax, and talk with friends. We met for our daily chow circle and then had dinner. After dinner, we all met and got to listen to the life stories of some of the sanctuary’s employees. Then, we did an activity to help us understand different perspectives on elephant tourism in Thailand and the future of elephants. We split up into groups and each took on different roles to present to a council our vision for the future of elephants. This activity helped us to see other sides of this complicated issue.
Finally, after a long day, it was time for bed.
Nicole and Abbie
Wednesday July 24, 2019
Today was our last day here at Elephant Valley. We started the day off with a nice breakfast at 7:30 am, which was followed by our favorite: poop patrol.
After that, Jack talked to us about his background and how he got so involved in elephant rehabilitation. While he talked, we observed the elephants and learned more about their personalities and behaviors. Once we were done observing the elephants, we had the opportunity to feed them bananas right before lunchtime.
After lunch and a short break, we led the group in a game of sardines — basically a reverse version of hide and seek. Then, the group went back to work, this time weeding!
Unfortunately, it started to rain heavily when we were weeding and we had to hang out for a bit (while drinking hot chocolate). Once the rain stopped, we went back to work. After completing the task of weeding, we had one last opportunity to feed the elephants before we embarked on our next journey. We again had a break where some people walked to a store down the road to buy some Thai snacks and other goodies while others stayed at home base and packed. After that, we had chow circle — led by yours truly, of course.
Finally, we ended the day with dinner and mentor groups. We’re excited to move to the next home base, but we’ll miss Elephant Valley and all of it’s members who have taught us so much and been kind enough to share this space with us.
~ Iris and Faith
Thursday July 25, 2019
Today was temple day! We started the day with our last breakfast at the elephant sanctuary, which consisted of toast, eggs and cereal. Then we finished up packing and said our final goodbyes to the staff and the elephants. It was sad to leave, but we’re excited for teaching and our upcoming adventures.
We loaded into the vans and headed to our first temple, The White Temple. This is a more modern and less traditional temple than some of the others we went to. We walked for about an hour, exploring the pretty details and the nice gold bathrooms. Some of us even got smoothies!
The second temple we went to was the Emerald Buddha Temple. The temple was home to the Emerald Buddha, a very sacred statue in Thai culture This was a much more traditional temple, where we saw many monks and visited a museum filled with Buddhist artifacts.
Here we learned about the different statues of Buddha’s found at temples that correlate with the day of the week you’re born. We also saw many turtles, which many Buddhists release from markets as a sign of good karma. After we went to The Blue Temple, which had a large Buddha situated in a blue decorated temple. Many of us sat and meditated, paying careful attention as to not point our feet at the Buddha. After some of us got coconut ice cream and souvenirs.
Taking a break from our temple visiting, we stopped at a buffet for some pad Thai and many other options, which some of us found VERY spicy. Afterwards we visited our final temple, which has a large statue of the goddess of virtue as well as other temples. Many of us took an elevator to the top of the statue, where we got a great view from a window in the goddesses third eye. After walking up the large dragon staircase, we were all sweaty and tired, so we headed back to our new home base.
We got situated in our new rooms where we were very excited to find air conditioning. After a dinner of soup, chicken and rice, we began to make lesson plans for teaching tomorrow. While this was very hectic and overwhelming, we’re excited for tomorrow and to meet the children.
Sarah and Hannah
Friday July 26, 2019
Today was the first day of our teaching service in Chiang Rai. We woke at about 6:45 to have breakfast at 7:00. We had fried eggs, toast and butter, cereal and milk, and fruit. We went back into our houses to change into our teaching clothes and went into vans to head to the school.
At the school, we went to teach in classrooms for 2 hours in the morning and one in the afternoon, with an hour long break in between. In the classrooms, the children were excited to see us and eager to learn. In the younger classrooms, we went over numbers, animals, the alphabet, and big and small things using handmade teaching materials. The older classrooms learned about jobs, food, and seasons. The older kids had a solid comprehension of English, and everyone was very interactive.
After saying goodbye to the children, we got in the vans and stopped by a supermarket on the way to home base to get snacks. Once at home, we had time to design the class curriculum for next class. We then had our chow circle, and had a spaghetti and pineapple for dinner. After playing copy-cat for the leader of the day activity (courtesy of yesterday’s and today’s leaders), we tried to watch a Ted Talk but it wouldn’t load so the activity was rescheduled. We then went into our mentor groups before retiring for the night.
We had a great first day teaching, and tomorrow we’ll have another great day as we are doing a cooking class.
-by Alex Vick and Yiwen
Saturday July 27, 2019
Hey families, this is Zoe C and Hannah G.
Reporting live from the border between Thailand and Laos. Currently in a our accommodation in Phu Chi fah before our sunrise hike at 4 30 am tomorrow, yippee. So excited.
Today was monumental. Unforgettable. We took a cooking class and learned how to make coconut soup and Thai curry. Hannah slightly cut her finger within the first 30 seconds of meal prep (minor injury, occupational hazard). Then we took a bus to the border town for 2 hours which included a snack break and squattie potties.
Upon arrival, we met finalists from Thailand’s got Talent who literally jumped through hoops of fire. Then we had a nice sunset dinner looking out over the mountains and a fun campfire singalong. Great day all in all. That’s all for today. Sarah D
and Tim K. will be in contact tomorrow.
Hope u enjoyed our blog 🙂
Zoe C and Hannah G
Sunday July 28, 2019
This morning we woke up at 4:30 in the morning and quickly got ready for our sunrise hike. We drove up windy roads and made it to our starting point. We hiked up a steep trail in the dark with our flash lights to guide us. Once we reached the destination, we calmly waited for the sun to rise up. Unfortunately, the clouds covered our view and we were unable to see the view from the top. Nevertheless, we were able to see the beautiful skies and took pictures and listened to music.
After our morning hike, we hit the road again and made our way towards our next spot. As usual, we made our way to 7/11 and loaded up on snacks. We then went to a food court full of traditional Thai food that helped fuel us for our next hike to the waterfalls. Soon, we arrived at the waterfalls, we hiked up the steep and rigorous terrain. Although it was a difficult journey, it was a refreshing sight to see a massive waterfall at the top of the mountain. We got to swim at the bottom and took lots of pictures.
When we arrived back at home base, we were greeted with a great surprise with all of our clean laundry! We unpacked our clothes and then ate some delicious noodles for dinner. We then began working on our capstones, which were goals that we planned on achieving in order to continue making an impact even after we leave Thailand. We’re now enjoying some free time and getting some much needed rest for our big day tomorrow at Elephant Peace!
-by Sarah D and Tim Kim
Monday July 29, 2019
Today we left home base at around 8:30am and drove to Elephant Peace Project. It’s a program to take care of elephants who are past the point of rehabilitation, and preserve Karen culture, a hilltribe in this region of Thailand. Once we arrived at the site, we changed into their traditional clothing. Colorful woven shirts and flowy pants are made by hand and worn by the native people.
Then, we started preparing sugarcane and banana tree stalks to feed to the elephants. One different aspect of Elephant Peace Project is when we fed the elephants we were allowed to get very close and pet them. After feeding was over, we headed over to lunch which was traditional food served on bamboo sitting tables made there. We then headed over to the river and hiked up to a spot where the elephants bathe. Students who wanted to could splash water on the elephants and help them get clean. Later, Dada, the owner, gave us an in depth tour of the Karen Museum. She showed us how her people lived and their relationship with elephants.
The experience was really enlightening to understanding Keren rituals and culture. Giving us a chance to go into the home of native Thai people opened our eyes to how they live so closely with elephants and the effect that elephants have on their culture. We even participated in a ritual where it is believed that if you splash holy water on the elephant’s head and think of a wish, that wish will come true.The group got a short break once we got home and then we ate dinner at home base.
The last activity of the day was the night market. We’ve been there before, but this second time was extra fun. We found more shops and revisited our favorites from last time. All in all, another great day in Thailand.
-by Rachel and Kylie
Tuesday July 30, 2019
Today was our second day of teaching service in Chiang Rai. We woke up at 7 to have breakfast at 7:30. After breakfast we changed into our teaching clothes and left in the vans to the school at 8.
We arrived at the school at 9. We had an hour to get the lesson plans for the day ready. At 10 we started teaching groups for 2 hours. After the first 2 teaching groups we had lunch. After lunch we finished our last class of the day.
We said goodbye to all the kids and went in the van to head back to home base. We arrived at home base and had a small break to relax. After the small break we headed to our mentor groups. After mentor groups we had dinner. Dinner was pad thai, dragon fruit, and mango slices. After dinner we had free time to swim with friends and music or just enjoy our last days together.
We had a great second day of teaching, tomorrow is the last day of teaching and last full day here in Thailand.
-Ellie and Timothée Duffort
Wednesday July 31, 2019
Hey dawgs (parents)
Today (our last day), in P1 and P3 the kids were very sweet and adorable they played many games . For example duck duck goose red light green light and learning the ABC’s. The kids were very sweet and respectful to all of us. Teaching was so rewarding. We learned how to be patient in certain situations as how to better understand how to help these kids. It was rewarding to feel like we helped even if it was in just a small way.
In P4,5, and 6 we taught with many games. Some kids played soccer others did flashcards and a fun game of English candy land. We had a delicious lunch of rice and vegetables. After lunch we came home and swam for a little and did our capstone presentations which is basically goals we set for ourselves to make the world a better place during our well deserved and missed American BBQ. It was very interesting to hear others ideas.
At 9 pm, we had a video that captured our trip and a surprise birthday celebration for Abbie and Ellie. We also did our appreciation letters to all of our new lifelong friends. After that we went swimming again and hung out.
This trip was amazing thank you to all the parents who sent us on this amazing GLA trip. Thank you to Dee, Kasandra, Jack, Esther and Keenan for taking care of us and being homies 🙂 (being good to us)
From Natalia, Zoey and Hannah
Today was departure day! The excitement, the sadness, the packing and the goodbyes were just a few things we experienced today.
The first few students were leaving at 730am, so it was an early wake up to eat breakfast and say goodbye. While they ventured off to the airport, the rest of the students slept and packed. They spent the day writing appreciation letters and preparing for their long journeys home.
After one final spicy lunch, we headed to the airport with students for their afternoon flights. There were teary-eyed goodbyes, last words and long hugs shared by everyone.
With our last students leaving later in the afternoon, there was one more trip the airport at 5pm. After our final send offs, we just have some last words to share with you all.
This session flew by. It was filled with laughs, van jams, growth and new friendships. As your mentors and director we are so proud of each and every one of you. We loved watching you grow and change in such a short amount of time. We witnessed your positivity, your willingness to overcome challenges and your ability to roll with the punches.
We appreciated your work ethic during service, your participation during activities and the great discussions in mentor groups.
We hope that each of you enjoyed these last two weeks and we hope you’ll take what you’ve learned here and share it with your friends and families at home.
Safe travels and thank you for being such a great group of students.
Keenan, Kasandra and Dee