Time Capsule Letter
Twenty-two high school students flew from a variety of places throughout the United
States. Oh! And one big city in Canada too! We’re sure you all had at least a few ideas
of what this grand, life-changing experience would entail. Perhaps a couple of you may
have imagined elephant poop, probably less-likely you’d be smearing it onto trees — but
you did it and helped to protect the trees!
Do you remember how happy of a surprise it was when you realized the elephant poop didn't smell that bad? It was great to watch all of you students uneasily begin mixing poop, mud, and water. It wasn’t long before we were in minor disbelief, yet at the same time, experiencing a great deal of satisfaction, as all of you began laughing and having different degrees of a good time.
In retrospect, those who were excited and shared a positive attitude made it easier for everyone, which was pretty much every single one of you! It was a wonderful feeling when the
elephant service culminated with everyone dancing and stomping around the tree like a
ritual of finality! Working in the sweaty, blazing summer heat, lead us happily into a couple "Jack Talks."
We all unexpectedly but happily experienced a condensed version of Jack’s life.
Remember? It was a story of adventure, uncertainty, trials, and self-discovery. He
reassured you that if you stay positive, keep looking, and stay open to life’s lessons, that
you will find your way! The first treat of adventure arrived and it was finally time for us to
hit the night market – one of the first experiences in the local community.
In groups you all strolled, bought souvenirs and marveled at the whirlwind that was a Thai market. The following day, we packed up and set out for Phu Chi Fa, where we had the fortune
of experiencing local cuisine, an amazing display of dancing, martial arts, and fiery
acrobatics! This marked an epic transition in our living conditions as we left the world of
endless heat and dove into the land of air conditioning!
The next morning, everyone woke up, on time, at 430am for a sunrise hike! We jumped
into the back of the locals’ trucks and road in the rain to the trailhead. After a short
760m hike to the top of the mountain, we were overlooking the beautiful, rolling
mountains, with clouds filling the valley floors. What a beautiful, wet and calming
experience for us all to sit and enjoy the view.
Before we knew it, everyone was transitioning into lesson planning mode 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. It was evident that you all made a difference, no matter how small, to
each of those students.
What a relief to cap off a long day of teaching with a nice swim in the cool pool. It
seemed to be the perfect place for you to continue building bonds, form friendships and
beat the heat! During our last pool time we discussed all of the goals which you would
accomplish when you’d returned home. We believe in you. Please keep us updated,
because we would love to hear what you were able to accomplish.
By Keenan, Kasandra and Dee
Monday June 17, 2019
GLA staff woke bright and early, giddy with excitement for the arrival of the passionate and promising students. Staff was planning to head to the airport for the first wave of arriving students, however, delayed flights pushed the initial arrival time to 2:35 pm. The time change allowed staff and one student who arrived early, Jacobe, to set out for the Elephant Valley Thailand home-base to settle in before all of the adventure, service learning, and fun began.
Once at the airport, flights landed around 2:30 and 3:30 pm and waves of our students arrived through the gates labeled “Domestic Flights” and “International Flights” shortly thereafter, sporting their blue “Be The Change” T-shirts. The students were able to exchange money and get refreshments if they wanted. We can see they were tired but they stayed active and seemed happy to have been on land.
Once they arrived at EVT, they found their room assignments and started to unpack, settle in and relax before meeting with Jack at 5:00pm. Jack is the owner of EVT and chatted with the students about the house rules and expectations. Students were eager to hear what he had to say and were all ears during the talk.
Immediately following the chat, we had our first “Chow Circle” which is a circle where students and staff can express daily shout-outs and announcements. Right after, dinner was served! Students ate vegetable friend rice, spring rolls, Chinese kale and some hot dogs just for a taste of familiar food on their first night.
After dinner, free time! Students played pool and ping pong, they wandered the sanctuary and they took the time to shower their long travels off. The group met around 7:30pm to create roommate door signs and to bond with their new GLA friends. Most of them were jet lagged, and some were ready to dance which they did. Some of the students split off and went to sleep or played Mafia in the common area.
The final students arrived around 7:00pm exchanged money, and boarded the van, though they won’t truly see the beauty and grandeur of their surroundings until tomorrow morning due to the setting of the sun. They arrived around 8:00pm to the majority of the students already sitting around playing mafia, but were much more interested in having dinner, before engaging in the game.
Today was a good day. Be proud of your children for everyone was engaged and having fun even after their long journeys. They all did their best to stay up so they can be fresh tomorrow.
Lights were out and everyone was asleep by 9:30pm
We are very happy to have them here with us at Elephant Sanctuary Project.
Your GLA staff,
Keenan, Kasandra and Dee
Tuesday June 18, 2019
The second day at the elephant sanctuary was super chill. The food is fantastic. The scenery is fantastic. The heat is bearable. For the majority of the day we were victims of the orientation process. It was long but necessary and informative. We discussed code of conduct by making skits about some of the rules, as well as the founding of GLA and its goal as a whole and our goal here.
Cobe and I feel comfortable knowing that there are measures to prevent people from ruining our time. By following the rules, I feel like we can be more productive and build good relationships with the people around us. We also learned a lot about Thai culture from the local staff. We learned how to Wai (Thai greeting) and a few Thai words which we will practice daily. We also learned about the history and the cultural norms. We had a few breaks that we enjoyed. We used that time to get to know each and play games (card games, ping pong….)
At the end the day, we did something called mentor groups, where in each of our groups, we discussed our feelings toward the day and got to know each other better by learning our similarities and differences. We are very excited to be learning about elephants and conservation tomorrow.
-by Aidan Wolf & Jacobe Ellison
Wednesday June 19, 2019
We started off the day with the breakfast of champions which prepared us for the 8am poop duty we had. That included walking through the elephants’ area and cleaning up after them while also getting to observe them during their exercise time. The majority of our day consisted of learning about elephant behaviors and how we can properly treat them as the wild animals that they are striving to become in this sanctuary. We now understand that we need to give them a lot of space so they don’t become used to the presence of humans in their living area.
We had two opportunities to feed the elephants throughout the day which consisted of bananas, and all parts of the banana tree. The elephants would line up against the fence and we handed their food directly to their trunks. We also had a fair amount of breaks throughout the day, allowing us to relax and cool down.
After a delicious and fulfilling dinner, we gathered for a very passionate debate about whaling in St. Vincent islands for cultural purposes. We were assigned in groups to argue different sides of the topic, with two mediators, and went back and forth to try and come to a compromise. Overall, it was a very informational day and we feel that everyone learned a lot.
-by Amelia and Claire
Thursday June 20, 2019
Today was another early morning that started with a hefty breakfast at 7:30. Afterwards, we returned to our daily poop patrol and continued cleaning up after the elephants. The heat was exhausting, but we all pushed through and managed it. After a bit of a break, we had our first full day of service in order to help the elephants.
Before starting, we split up into two groups. Half of us got gloved and booted up in order to work to deter elephants from messing with trees by spreading a mix of mud, water, and elephant poop on them. Despite the sound of it, the group managed to maintain a positive attitude throughout the experience and even managed to have fun. The others prepared an area for the male elephant by digging up uneven ground to create a flat surface and clearing paths. Each group made tremendous progress, and also got the chance to feed the elephants again.
After the hard day’s work, we were rewarded with a trip to a local night bazar. Each of us got the opportunity to walk around in groups and buy souvenirs for the first time. The trip was amazing and it was definitely a new experience for all of us. Now, we’re in for a good night’s sleep and are very excited for what tomorrow holds.
-by Maya and Parker
Friday June 21, 2019
After the usual 7:30 breakfast of mangos, eggs, and cereal, the team got started on our first task of the day: poop pickup. Then we were divided into two groups to begin our first service session. Group one transported sand to popular elephant spots such as their sleeping area and bathing place for the elephants to enjoy. The others moved sand, broke up dirt, and evened out an empty space for when the male elephant would go into musk, a period of time when a male elephant is highly irritable and aroused, in other words, not safe to be around the lady elephants.
At 11:40, everyone chipped into feeding the three female elephants some bananas. Lunch was the usual delicious sticky rice 🙂 and several Thai dishes. After a quick break, consisting of many siestas, we all went to the musk area to work together as a group. The team formed an assembly line to utilize their teamwork skills and get the job done faster. The first job was breaking up dirt using hoes and then passing buckets of that dirt down the line. Next several “dumpers” poured the dirt onto an area where the rest of the group broke it up. Finally everyone danced around “patting down the dirt” and goofing off.
After the final service session, we had a nice long break to ourselves to shower off the blood, sweat, and tears of the day (jk, no children were harmed beyond the occasional blister and a whole lot of sweat). Next, we cleaned up our area and then went to chow circle where we shout people out, gave announcements, and talked about our quote of the day “It’s the only life you got so you gotta live it BIG TIME”- Big Time Rush, then we went to dinner. For dinner we had French fries, fruit, and a northern Thai dish made of chicken, noodles, and a spicy sauce. After, we had mentor groups where we discussed where we were all from along with what it means to be from somewhere. We closed up the day with a small ted talk and a meditation. Finally, we went to bed after our full day.
-by Grace and Emily
Saturday June 22, 2019
This morning, we woke up for a 7:30 breakfast as usual and started off the day with poop patrol! While this might seem smelly and early in the morning everyone is going to miss the work as this was our last day of service at the sanctuary. After poop patrol, we had a break and then went on to the hard work of breaking up the rocks in area for the elephants and moving sand to level everything out. Everybody was super motivated and did a great job in making an assembly line.
After a delicious lunch, with sticky rice of course, we went to observe the elephants and got another “Jack talk” where we learned about being passionate about what we do in our lives and how to motivate people to get good work done. Jack was very inspiring and said things about our paths that I think we all needed to hear. After a looong talk, we decided to have a water fight where the elephants get their baths before watching them, best way to cool down in this hot weather.
To finish off the hard work and great day we had a tasty dinner with chicken legs, and a very official ping pong tournament created by one of our peers along with a lot of card games. Now we’re all going to settle in for some relaxing free time and journaling, a great way to finish out our service here. Tomorrow we’re heading off site for some cooking classes and water falls!!
-Lily and Mariela
Sunday June 23, 2019
As per usual our day begun with the delicious breakfast of fried egg, omelets, bread, cereal, a jam assortment, and what has become quite the classic, a juicy mango at a brisk 7:30. Today we strayed from our typical poop duties and service to dip our toes into all the experiences Thailand has to offer. By 8:45, we had piled into buses and made our way down the the biggest market in Chiang Rai to meet up with the owners of Swanee Thai Cooking Class. Suwanneee and Nan, our guides, would take us on a tour around the market, and teach us four traditional dishes.
In need of a pick me up, we stopped at a local coffee and juice shop housed in a hotel and bombarded the baristas with endless orders of berry smoothies and lattes. With drinks in hand, Suwannee and Nan guided us through the crowded isles of alien sights, such as headless chickens and a plethora of smells. The ingredients piled up in our bag and with a quick pit stop at a Buddhist temple, we began preparing the feast. As if Thailand isn’t hot enough, Thai food is traditionally cooked at a high heat. Lucky for us, without air conditioning. While the curry and coconut soup cooked the flames of the stove, Jenga games were played and bonds were made. The dishes ranged in spice, flavor, and filled everybody up for the hike ahead. Upon arrival at Mai sai waterfall, the activity proved to be quite a challenge.
Finally, we trekked up and down an arduous staircase with the motivation of reaching the refreshing waterfall. We swam around in the cool water and sat under the pounding waterfall until we made our return down the stairs. We returned to home base after a long day, where showers were taken and many naps were had. We sat down to yet another delicious meal and began packing for tomorrow’s festivities.
Monday June 24, 2019
We woke up for a last breakfast at the Elephant Valley Sanctuary. Then we headed to our temple adventure at 9:30am. Our first stop was at the White Temple and we stayed for an hour using the buddy system to get our way around. After a long hot journey through the temple we got some refreshing drinks at a little cafe.
We hopped into our vans and headed towards our next trip to the Blue Temple which we spent half and hour observing. As we walked around some of the students found some coconut bowl ice cream. Hopped in the van once again made our way to lunch. Lunch was a Thai styled buffet that everyone enjoyed. Then we went to temple numero tres which consisted of a very large white Buda and two other temples which we lit incense and listed three things we were grateful for. Next we went to our last temple visit the Red Temple which consisted of many individual temples with an artifact museum. Then we head to our two and a half hour car ride to PhuChiFa.
We arrived at PhuChiFa at around 6 pm right in time for a scrumptious dinner. Then after we got to enjoy watching a traditional routine activity by the local people which was some rad Kung fu and fire jumping. Part of the group went to the campfire and the other group split off to their rooms for a good nights sleep for the very very very early morning ahead for a hike to watch the sunrise (which by the way is 4: 30 am). 🙂
-by Joy and Sarah Lee
Tuesday June 25, 2019
We started our day bright and early at around 4:30 am, prepared for our hike up Phu Chi Fa. We made it to the top despite the rain and sleepiness. The view was so breathtaking and fantastic! Watching the sunrise allowed us to reflect on our recent service work and connected us with nature. After our hike, we drank hot chocolate, coffee, and had a traditional Thai breakfast.
After that, we headed on a long bus ride to our new home base where we jammed to music and napped. We stopped at a shopping centre for lunch where most of us ate Western food such as KFC and Pizza Hut. We also spent a couple of hours at a market where we bought souvenirs, clothing, and drinks such as Thai tea. We were all pretty tired, but it was a fun day nonetheless!
When we finally arrived at our new home base, we were able to settle down and relax. Some of us stayed in our rooms while others enjoyed the pool. We then ate a delicious Thai dinner. Following the tasty meal, we began prepping our lesson plans for teaching. We worked hard and are very excited despite the many flying bugs! We are now headed to bed for our teaching day tomorrow.
-Sarinah and Katy
Wednesday June 26, 2019
We started the day off at 8 am with a breakfast of steamed veggies, fried eggs, toast, fresh fruit, and cereal. After breakfast, our two groups finished lesson planning to prepare for our first day of teaching. Then we loaded into the vans and drove for about 40 minutes to Mae Yao Wittaya School. We went into a meeting room for some final preparation s and met the director of the school. After that, we split into two groups, one that would teach Primary 1, Primary 2, Primary 3 (ages 4-6), and one that would teach Primary 4, Primary 5, and Primary 6 (ages 7-8).
All the kids were incredibly excited to meet us and were enthusiastic about the topics we were teaching. The first group, P1-P3, taught topics such as objects in the classroom, families, and body parts. The second group, P4-P6, taught topics such as colors, food and drink, and opposites. Two GLA students taught three to seven kids in small groups. While it was a lot of fun to interact with energetic little Thai kids, it was also difficult to keep them focused for long periods of time. We ended up playing a lot of games and singing songs to keep them engaged and excited.
After a long but exciting day of service, the group returned to home base for some well-deserved free time and swimming. Before dinner, we did a community building activity in the pool to teach communication skills. After a tasty dinner of fresh fruit, soup, rice, and chicken and veggies, we split into new mentor groups. These activities lasted until night time and we finally returned to our air conditioned rooms for a good night’s sleep.
-by Sarah Elliott and Meg
Thursday June 27, 2019
This morning, we had a delicious breakfast at 8 am. They served us very good eggs, bacon, and fruit. After breakfast, we left for the school at 9 am and we arrived at 10 am. The kids we very excited to see us again and we were super excited to teach them. The schedule was a bit different today because Primary 4-6 did not have their English classes until 2 pm. Instead of sitting around all morning, people who taught in primary 4-6 were able to help out with the other classes which were primary 1-3.
For the first three classes, everyone came together and taught primary 1-3 students. They were very energetic, excited to learn more English and even more excited to see us. The kids jumped up and down as they answered our questions or pointed to the answer. We taught 2 classes in the morning for primary 1-3 students and after lunch the students assigned primary 1-3 taught one class and the students who taught primary 4-6 taught three 20 min classes. The students who taught primary 4-6 taught the kids nature, colors, food and drinks, and more. The kids loved learning and were very enthusiastic.
After a long day of teaching, we returned back to base camp where some students spent their time running while others tanned in the sun by the pool. Afterwards, everyone joined in the pool for a cool refreshing swim. We played some fun pool games and then met before dinner for Chow Circle where people pointed out accomplishments and acts of kindness others had done. We were served a delicious dinner once Chow Circle ended and we ate some spicy, flavourful soup with rice and fruit.
After dinner, one of the leaders presented a mindfulness presentation where we learned the best ways to stay present and in the moment. We were able to have downtime afterwards and prepare for the next day of excitement and learning!
Friday June 28, 2019
Today we woke up a little earlier than usual for a 7am breakfast. We ate omelets, toast, mini hotdogs, and fruit. Then we headed to the school for our last day of service at 8am. Once we arrived, we had a few minutes to finish preparing teaching materials before we were off to teach. Exhausted and prepared, we powered through our last day of service. The last day was bitter sweet. All of the kids were super cute and sad to see us go, and it was hard for us to leave them, as we had both gotten attached.
After our last class of the day, we headed back to Chang Garden Resort to have a little bit of a break before we finished our day. Some of us begrudgingly exercised and the rest of us went to relax at the pool and send some quality time together. Then after 5pm, we all headed to get ready for chow circle and dinner. But plot twist, chow circle had been cancelled and we were allowed to go straight to dinner at 6pm where we had spaghetti and some delicious homemade pasta sauce. Once we all finished eating, we got ready to go to the night market for a second time.
All of us piled into the 3 vans to head to the night market at 6:30. On the way there, the vans played music and all of us were jamming out in the vans. Once we got there, we used the buddy system and split up and shop in Thailand one last time. A lot of us had a lot of money left, as none of us realized how cheap things were going to be, so there were a lot of bags at the end of the night.
At 9pm we then headed back to home base with everyone officially exhausted. Once the geckos got taken out of the houses, people went to their rooms and went to bed which ended a long, but very rewarding day.
-by Maya and Sophia
Saturday June 29, 2019
Today we woke up bright and early for a hardy breakfast of rice, veggies, eggs, and fruit. After a nice meal we all loaded into the vans for a exciting adventure to visit the Karen tribe. As we drove we began to see the different farming methods that the Thai people use. We also saw elephants roaming the pastures and some walking on the roads!
Once we got to the top of the hill we met a sweet lady named Dada who runs the Elephant Peace Park. She explained to us what the tribe was about and what the project was about. After she showed us her tribes traditional clothing. The shirts had such intricate designs and many vibrant colors. Once we dressed in traditional clothing, we made our way to where the elephants were hanging out. We all sat down on wooden benches and started cutting elephant grass to feed the elephants later on. As we were cutting some on the elephants got a little excited and started grabbing grass right out of our hands!
We then fed them the freshly cut grass, bamboo chutes, and bananas. Once they were full and happy it was bath time. We trekked to a deeper part of the river where the elephants could lay down. With our bowls in hand we were excited to bathe these gorgeous elephants. As we played in the water some of the elephants were having the time of their lives making bubbles and splashing us as well!
With much laughter and wetness we headed back to eat lunch. Lunch was placed on traditional Karen tables made out of bamboo. We sat on the floor of bamboo huts and dug into a meal full of spices and new flavors. After, for dessert we had fresh fruit. By then, we were full and happy like the elephants so we sat down with Da-da and listened to her describe her tribe. She explained how her grandfather and her uncle encouraged her to make the business. She explained how in her tribe bamboo is used for lots of things such as fishing nets, tables, silverware, and even water bottles! After a informative talk, we looked at some of the traditional shirts, bags, and bracelets that were on sale. They were just as vibrant and intricate as the ones the Karen tribe let us borrow for the day. We were all pretty tired so we headed back to home base, but before we HAD to load up on snacks at the good ole seven eleven! 🙂
Once satisfied with our purchase we officially headed back to home base where we relaxed and swam before our group activities started. We did Capstone speeches about what we want to change when we get home and cause we would like to help. Everyone presented great ideas, and we are all excited to execute them. Once we were done it was finally dinner time. We had the traditional barbecue of hamburgers, chicken, corn, and French fries.
After dinner we got to write appreciation notes for people and stick them in their envelope to read for later. After some more swimming and down time we had mentor groups. In the mentor groups, we reviewed the importance of our capstone project, and what we can do to actually execute them. After the mentor group everyone got ready to surprise a peer because it’s her birthday tomorrow! Dee set up the surprise where Zoe would stay back with her mentor and all of us would gather to surprise her. I am pleased to say she was surprised and very happy. Once the birthday festivities of cupcakes and laughter were over we got into a little more serious vibe.
Our going away video. Although the laptop had a mind of its own we got to look back on the many adventures and many memories we made as a group. We got to see the laughter we brought each other. The tears we shared with each other. And most importantly the sweat we lost with all of our hard work. We got to see the special bonds we formed with each other, and the handprints we made on each others hearts.
Even though we will be heading home tomorrow and many of us will be miles and miles apart, the love and the joy we share for each other will be closer then ever. Thank you to all who made these adventures possible! Safe travels to all tomorrow.
– by Vrushali / GLA 2019 Thailand Group A ✌🏾
To our students,
As we drop you off to the airport and you start your journey home, we hope you know that this has been a great start of the summer sessions.
From the moment we met you, through all our adventures, to today when we said goodbye; we’ve been and continue to be so proud of you all.
For us, it was a pleasure to work with such a vibrant group. Each of you brought something unique to the team. Your individuality, personalities, humor and hard work are what made this session so successful.
We hope that all of you found what you were looking for. We hope that you left with wonderful new stories, memories and friends that you’ll remember forever.
Thank you all for being you! We love you and miss you already.
To the parents,
It was refreshing to see the next generation of students be as productive and motivated as your children. We are so happy we got the chance to work with them, while they learned through their hard work volunteering. You should be very proud of all they accomplished throughout these last two weeks.
Enjoy their return home.
ELEPHANT SANCTUARY PROJET STAFF A