Time Capsule Letter
Twenty three highschool 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 experence 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! I watched twenty-three teenagers uneasily begin mixing poop, mud, and water, until I experienced minor disbelief, yet a great deal of satisfaction, as those same teenager 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 all of you! Trudging through thick grasses, while cutting out invasive plants, a couple students discovered wasps and walked away with stinging evidence! The responses were vastly different, but still echo a deeper message.
At this point, half of the group was weary and unwilling to trudge into the grasses, a sort of collective hysteria, which required reassurance and motivation to surmount. However, the group collectively returned to work, though a bit more wearily, and teamwork undeniably emerged from the unexpected.
Working in the sweaty, blazing summer heat 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, take the road less traveled and stay open to life’s lessons, that you will find your way! Jack’s talks culminated with the elephants shaking their heads in indecision over whether or not to swim!
We all experienced chills when the elephants finally swam and trumpeted their excitement. Wonder spread collectively as we observed the elephants social expressions, which culminated with the one elephant artfully covered in mud and dirt, elegantly displaying herself as some sort of kaleidoscopic expression of all the beauty in life.
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.
After the final day of service, we packed up and set out for Phu Chi Fa, where we had the Fortune of experiening local cuisine, an amazing cultural display of dancing, martial arts, and firey acrobatics! The campfire marked an epic transition in our living conditions as we left the world of endless heat and dove into the land of the air conn!
The next morning, everyone woke up on time 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 culminated on the top of the mountain over looking the beautiful, rolling mountains, with clouds filling the valley floors. We were met with a whipping, chilling wind. The lack of a colorful sunrise was forgotten in the unmistakeably magnificent display of rolling mountains.
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.
Most everyday the group cooled off the exceedingly challenging temperatures in the pool and playing post-dinner soccer on the field! The trip culminated with Buddha Caves and hot springs!
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!
Wednesday July 3, 2019
It was a 7am wake up for us today. We departed from home base ( Chang Garden) to meet and greet the first half of students that were arriving into Chiang Rai around 8:55am. They came through the arrival gates with smiles and tired eyes but were excited and ready to start their adventure!
We arrived at the Elephant Valley Sanctuary, (2nd home base), around 10am. Luggage was unpacked, lunch was enjoyed, then the students played a few ice breakers. The first game had students say their name and one thing they would bring to a picnic, that starts with the same first letter of their name.
The second game had students in two circles which moved in opposite direction then students paired up from each circle once the music stopped. The pair were prompted with a question or topic they would discuss to get to know each other better.
Once the ice breakers were finished students were able to relax, chat, and play cards until the second half of students arrived.
Everyone except two students whose flights were delayed, enjoyed “Jacks’ house rules” and dinner. All students were ready to sleep by 8 pm.
We are excited to be working with your children and waiting for our two students to arrive safely. Wish them a safe flight 🙂
PS: picture with all students will be sent with tomorrows’ blog:)
🙂 Kasandra, Keenan and Dee
Thursday July 4, 2019
Our first full day started off with a great breakfast of fried eggs, omelettes, toast and cereal. Breakfast was followed by some icebreaker games to get to know each other better.
After that we started orientation. We went over safety rules, the history of GLA and some other important topics like our community agreement and our roommate agreement. We also went over the code of conduct, where we read over important rules and then performed a role play of each. It was funny because we were acting out the ways in which we wouldn’t follow the rules.
We had some free time before lunch to relax and take in all the information. Lunch consisted of veggies, fish, eggs and some other goodies. After lunch, we ran a group activity. We decided on playing Ninja all together while waiting for another discussion led by a local Thai person who also works here at the Sanctuary. Her name was JJ and she talked to us about some cultural do’s and don’ts.
We had a little more free time to shower and relax before we met for chow circle. Chow circle is a way for us to come together and reflect and give shout outs for the good things that happen each day.
When this was finished it was dinner time! For dinner we had veggie tempura, pork and a white chicken soup.
After dinner we gathered together for an activity. Tonight we watched a video which showed how poorly elephants are treated because of the tourism industry. Lastly after a long day, we ended off by splitting into two mentor groups where we discussed and shared our thoughts on similarities and differences between people, places and cultures.
It was a busy, but fun day! Now we are off to bed.
-by Abigail and Abraham
Friday July 5, 2019
Hello parents 🙂
Today is July 5th, we stared off the day by eating breakfast with some delicious homemade jams, Mango and passion fruit. Then we had an elephant orientation, where we learned how Elephant Valley Thailand treats their Elephants.
Today we even got to see the elephants up close for the first time! Before entering the area where the elephants live, we had to dip the soles of our shoes in a bucket of solution to avoid transmitting human diseases to the elephants. We also talked about elephant’s expressions, such as when they move their ears back and forth they are happy, and when their ears are pinned back they are concentrating.
After watching them for a while we got to watch their mahouts give them a bath and we got to help feed them bananas as a snack. For lunch we had curry, lots of veggies and the groups’ favorite, sticky rice. We are always satisfied after every meal.
We then got to see the male elephant who is currently musking which is similar to puberty and makes the elephant confused and aggressive (the oil secreted from his head makes him this way). After more elephant observation a bunch of us had a ping pong tournament in which Javier won.
We were able to feed the elephants again, this time with banana leaves and banana tree trunks, then we played a group game of mafia. During free time we used a lot of brain power to solve difficult riddles. For dinner we enjoyed western style cuisine including spaghetti and French Fries.
Finally, we finished off the day with an elephant and conservation debate including group representatives that included mahouts, an elephant camp, tourists and rice farmers. We learned that compromise and listening to others perspectives is the best solution to these issues. We are looking forward to starting our service work tomorrow.
Allison and Addison Sawadee ka (goodbye)
Saturday July 6, 2019
We woke up today to an early 7:30 morning breakfast consisting of cereal, eggs, toasts, and the beloved mango (mamwng in Thai). And then, we started service with poo patrol (how exciting)! This involved picking up elephant poop and gathering it into a big pile. Good thing the poo didn’t smell too bad!
Afterwards, we mixed the poop up with some water and broken-up dirt then slapped the mush on the trees. Elephants like to keep away from their own poo, so putting poop on the trees keeps the elephants away and stops them from eating or breaking the tree bark. After service, we had lunch consisting of the usual dishes (chicken curry, seasoned fish and greens).
For service in the afternoon, we spent an hour uprooting plants that took nitrogen from the soil (it also was not a food source for the elephants, so the plant only had negative effects). The tricky part was that if you didn’t pull up the roots and only pulled the stem, 3 more plants would grow in its place (kind of like a hydra). After this, we had an educational talk with Jack (Sanctuary owner) about elephant behaviors and body languages and got the chance to feed the elephants for the second time.
Finally, everyone took a desperately needed shower break and at 6:00 pm, we gathered for dinner, we ate sausage, pork balls, fried rice and papaya salad. After dinner, we headed to the Saturday night market in Chang Rai (about a 30 min van ride) and brought several exciting souvenirs ranging from T-shirts, necklaces, art pieces and food. We returned from a jam packed day, ready to get to bed but excited for tomorrow!
-by Cameron Kalik and Cara Dunleavy
Sunday July 7, 2019
We started off with an early morning waking up at 7:30 for breakfast. We had omelettes, cereal, jams, toast, and mangoes. We then went for the usual clean up of the elephant poop. After that, we began on our service for the day, which consisted of grounding up elephants poop and clay with water. We used this mixture to protect trees from elephants eating the bark and scratching against the trees. After all of the hard work, we were relieved to come back to a tasty lunch consisting of sticky rice, vegetables, fish and tofu.
After lunch, we took a quick break to play mafia, and then went back to hard work and sweat. For our afternoon service work, we spent a couple hours cutting down prickly shy trees in order to allow the food for the elephants to grow. Next, we had a Jack Talk about the body language of an elephant and how the new elephant was adapting to his environment. After the Jack Talk, we fed the elephants different parts of the banana tree and returned to a well earned dinner, consisting of kao soi (chicken curry soup) french fries, watermelon, and dragonfruit.
In the evening, we learned about our capstone projects and how we can start a S.M.A.R.T. goal, and communicated our ideas to our mentors. Then we met for our mentor groups in which we participated in fun activities.
After a long day of hard work and enjoyable activities, everyone was ready to go to bed.
Written by Evie and Joel
Monday July 8, 2019
Today we started off the morning with breakfast and then later poo patrol. We all did a great job cleaning up after the elephants. After that we took a break, and then observed the elephants. We also got a great talk from Jack about following your passion. It was informative and interesting to hear a different perspective.
After a great morning, we had lunch. As always, the food was amazing!
After lunch we played a fun game called psychiatrist. Followed by more elephant observations where we got to watch the elephants swim which was really amazing. They played in the water and then started scratching themselves and throwing sand on their backs. It was really entertaining.
At 4:00 we fed the elephants parts of banana trees and banana leaves. We then took a break until Chow Circle. Our word of the day was “ping pong” and the word for the power clap was “laughter”. This was very fitting for today as there were lots of laughs throughout the day.
After, we had an amazing last dinner at Elephant Valley. Then we took a walk to a corner store and the scenery was immensely beautiful. We all explored the store and bought snacks and ice cream. After getting back from the store, we packed and then watched a movie.
-by Javier and Jenna
Tuesday July 9, 2019
After breakfast, we packed up and left Elephant Valley in three vans. We stopped at a Thai market to learn about different Thai foods from two chefs. Afterward we drove to her cooking school and we were taught how to prepare classic Thai dishes such as Green Cury, Coconut Milk Banana dessert, and papayas salad.
After our incredible meal, we embarked on a journey to Phu Chi Fa in the mountains of northern Thailand. Once we arrived after 2 hours, we were greeted with a dinner and a gorgeous view of the mountains. We then went to watch a traditional Martial Arts demonstration and a child folk dance.
After the show was over, GLA donated money in thanks in our names. Later on, we all bonded together around a campfire which ended our amazing day.
-by Sydney and Isabelle
Wednesday July 10, 2019
Today we woke up at 4:30 am to go for a hike to see the sunrise at Puchifa. We saw an amazing view up above the clouds and then hiked back down where we awaited a breakfast of tofu and mushroom soup. Shortly after, we finished up packing and left for our next home base at Chang Garden Resort.
Along the way, we stopped at a 7-11 to get some local Thai snacks for our long car ride to a mall where we could purchase lunch. We then traveled to Mae Sai market where we were right near the border of Thailand and Myanmar. After an hour of shopping, we headed back to the vans and drove until we reached our home base.
After a few minutes of settling down and unpacking, we went for a swim and we played fun pool games. Then we ate a delicious dinner and prepared for our first day of teaching at the local school.
-by Kat and Julia
Thursday July 11, 2019
Today was a great day for our lovely GLA team. We are becoming closer and closer by the day, and developing life long friendships. This morning was a little later of a start than what we have grown accustomed to, but it was nice to slow things down a little. Breakfast at seven consisted of fresh pineapple, and dragonfruit, as well as eggs, rice, vegetables, toast, and cereal. After that it was off to our first day of teaching at the Thai school.
We gathered the materials we made last night, dressed in our more formal clothes, and headed in to meet our extremely excited students. We were thrilled by their enthusiasm, and attempted to channel their endless energy into learning and remembering as much English as we could teach them. After morning classes we went back to the “teachers lounge” and ate a lunch of fried egg tofu, and vegetable stir fry. Then many of us decided to spend our break playing with and entertaining the kids at recess. (Many piggyback rides were given.) For the last class of the day, we taught the older kids many topics like shopping mall, and grocery store vocabulary.
When school ended we debriefed and exhaustedly headed back to the vans. When we arrived back at the Chang Garden Resort (our home-base) we all got changed into our bathing suits and headed to the pool for a fun game. In each group there were 3 people, each with an important job. One person was the eyes and had to use gestures to communicate to the second person who yelled the directions to the third person. The third person was in the water and couldn’t see so they could only use the vocal directions they were being given. We had to work together to find our water bottle in the water. This game taught us the importance of filtering out the unimportant voices and focusing only on the important voices and yourself.
Next, we went to dinner, which consisted of delicious spaghetti along with fresh fruit. After dinner we worked on making more materials for teaching our students tomorrow. Next we watched a PowerPoint and had a group chat about mindfulness. We learned (and were reminded) to be in the present and to breathe and take a moment to reflect before reacting in all situations. We also learned some methods on how to solve conflicts peacefully with others and within ourselves and how to take some deep breaths and relax. After a long, busy day we then all headed to bed.
-By Katie and Willow
Friday July 12, 2019
Greetings to all parents and blog-readers! We started our day at 7:00 sharp for breakfast. We had scrambled eggs, rice, veggies and fruit! We then went straight to the school after breakfast.
After a long car ride, we finally arrived with open hearts and minds ready to teach. We taught the same topics as yesterday but used different games and strategies to help the students learn. We played a lot and were so happy to make the students laugh. It was our last teaching day so we took pictures with the students and said our goodbyes until Monday where we will join them at a temple for their holiday celebration.
Everyone had a blast teaching the students, and we were all exhausted afterwards. To cool off, we visited a Huay Mae Sai waterfall Waterfall! We had to hike through rocky paths and steps for about 700m to reach the water. The water was cold, but the scenery was gorgeous. We spent time in the water and then relaxed in the sun.
After a long day of swimming and teaching, we were all exhausted when we arrived back at home base. We had chicken fried rice for dinner. And then to unwind, many students engaged in an absolute bloodbath on the soccer pitch. It was competitive but fun!
Overall, today was full of laughs and excitement.
-by Meredith and Mark
Saturday July 13, 2019
Hello parents and friends🙂
This mornings’ breakfast was at 830. We had eggs, toast and bacon! We had a full day ahead of us, so we left homebase around 930. We first drove to the Blue Temple, where we learned that artists (apprentice) from the White temple helped create it. After that, we drove to another temple that had a small museum and a beautiful Emerald Buddhist sculpture. After this temple we stopped to have lunch at a buffet. There was a good mix of both Thai food and Western food.
Our third destination was the Wat Huay Pla Kang temple where we took an elevator to the top and saw an amazing view through the statue’s eyes. The statue was of a very large woman sitting. Close by this statue, there were two other temples that we explored. Our last temple was the White Temple which had a large golden bathroom and is said to be the nicest bathroom in the world. It was the biggest temple we had seen for the day. Each building was so beautifully made with many intricate details.
After our sight seeing, we went home for a quick dinner and then at 715 we headed to the night market. We spent time shopping for souvenirs and traditional accessories. It was smaller than the first market we went too, but it had everything we could have ever needed. We bought fresh fruit smoothies and ice cream too!
-By Michelle and Mia
Sunday July 14, 2019
Hello parents, we started our morning at 8am. We were able to experience a few amazing age old traditions, at the elephant peace project! We spent the day feeding, washing, and got to experience an elephant ceremony. We learned so much about the Keren tribe and about how they would do things in their daily lives.
We started by taking a truck up a dirt road in order to get to the location where we would get outfits for the day that are made by the tribe. We later found out how these were made, how long it took to make them and we learned a lot about the history of the peace project. We also learned about Dada (the owner of the project) and how she started her peace camp and the history of her culture, family and education.
After we were properly dressed to fit in with the people of the tribe, we cut and prepared the elephant food with the mahoot, and tried to form a connection with the elephants. Then we walked down the stream with the elephants to the bathing area and we were able to get close and wash the elephants and splash around in the water ourselves. After this we had lunch in a building that was sponsored by the GLA program. We were lucky enough to be a part of a elephant blessing ceremony and were able to participate as well.
After saying our final goodbyes to the elephants. Some of the group took quick dip in the pool before dinner, after we ate a large group of the students went to go play a game of soccer (Sriracha versus The Sapphires). We ended the night by going over and improving our capstones, and goals for when we return home. We are excited for a busy last full day tomorrow!!!!
Written by Sara and Monica 🌏
Monday July 15, 2019
Today we woke up for our last day. The day was chill and not too eventful. First we went to the Buddha cave and explored the caves. There were bats , stray cats and a monk. We all enjoyed taking photos in the cave and by the huge Buddha above the river. Then we went to the hot springs for an hour.
We boiled quail eggs, talked and swam for a while. Afterwards, we rode to the school to prepare for the ceremony at the temples and had lunch. The ceremony time was pushed back unfortunately so we weren’t able to attend. On the way back home we made our last 7/11 stop with the group and bought snacks.
Next we had free time, did some packing and hanging with each other. Then we watched a surprise video after our last chow circle. After the video we ate dinner and wrote letters to each other and put them in envelopes dedicated to each person. Then we presented our capstone projects to the whole group and gave each other feedback. Lastly we took a long swim together, playing games and having fun.
-by Jade and Abraham
This morning was an early wake up call, with breakfast at 630am! Three lovely students had flights to catch so we packed up the van and departed home base at 7am.
Back home, the rest of the students were enjoying an 830am breakfast. They spent the day packing up their belongings and hanging out together.
After lunch, the remaining 20 students brought their luggage to the vans, hopped in, and off we went. It was a somewhat joyful ride, with music blaring, sing alongs and of course, a few tears.
It took about an hour for everyone to check in and get their boarding passes. But once that was done with, we wandered up to the food court for some smoothies and comfort food. It wasn’t long before we were hugging and saying our final goodbyes. We watched you walk through security and waved goodbye.
Now that we are back at home base, it feels empty and has us missing you already! We hope that all of you enjoyed your time with us, and throughout this program.
Dee, Keenan and Kasandra