Time Capsule Letter
What time is it there? Have you recovered from the Jet Lag? Have you seen that movie you were
holding out for? We hope you’ve snuggled your dog or cat, and we’re sure you miss cozying up
to the baby elephants at Elephant World.
We meant it when we said your group was amazing—From the questions you asked about the
human elephant conflict to the way you threw yourselves into planting corn and cutting grass.
You were committed and overcame every obstacle to make this trip the best it could be—not
only for yourself, but for each other.
The work you did will leave a mark; from the corn they’ll harvest to feed the elephants to the
trees that will grow all over Thailand. From the tree nursery we began at Ourland to the salt licks
we built in Kuiburi. Animals all over will have more nutrients and food thanks to you. And as
you educate your friends and family, you’ll decrease harmful animal tourism, partake in a
movement that will ripple out far beyond what we can see.
Some of you may not buy a piece of land and reserve it for elephants trying to make their way to
the water. Some of you may try to permanently rent a hut at Ourland so you can spend the rest of
your life ecofarming and rescuing snakes.
I imagine all of us will end up somewhere in the middle—telling stories of what we’ve learned at Thanksgiving while figuring out how to turn our passions into careers. You may become a professional singer, an FBI agent, a farmer, a snake breeder, or a renowned journalist.
Take those dreams you have and let this trip shape them. We know you can save the world; we have no doubts.
Some moments we’ll laugh about until we meet again (and probably cry a little too):
-The endless surprises of the dinner cruise
-Celebrating Abby’s birthday
-Pinam showing up with fruit and flowers
-Pidi’s cabbage pancakes
-Belting the Backstreet Boys (TELL ME WHY)
-Watching the family of wild elephants (and that Gaur) at Kuiburi National Park
-Brown Town (and Brown Town 2, and 3)
-Eating peppers (and drinking milk, or eating bananas)
-Pinam pushing Devin (and Rivers) off the rope bridge
-Throwing elephant poop
-Trying all the delicious food Vijo and M shared with us
One Meaningful Goal: Reduce single-use plastics
-written by Kira
Monday June 17, 2019
All students have arrived and are safe and sound in Thailand! After some very long flights, uncomfortable airplane food and new experiences of flying alone, all students are feeling well and ready for the new experiences to come. The first day was spent with introductions and first impressions of the wonderful world of Thai food.
Orientation is currently underway and students are engaging in the process of creating a safe space for learning and a strong group culture. The day is packed full of activities, instruction, and discussions about what to expect for the next three weeks. After orientation a swim test will ensue to gauge swimming abilities for the water activities to come.
Wednesday June 19, 2019
The second night of our journey, the group went to an open air market called Asiatique. We ate dinner and walked around the many stalls till late in the evening. The dinner was light as there were many interesting foods to try and souvenirs and clothes to buy. There is one particular fruit, a durian, which smells like sewage and tastes like an avocado and an onion had a disgusting love child. Some in the group did enjoy it, but many quickly decided against it.
Asiatiques biggest attraction is its Ferris wheel. The large ride was lit up by blue lights and crowded with passengers. It was expensive, so many did not ride, instead opting to walk around and listen to the music. We got home very late, some is barely awake.
The next day we were allowed to sleep in. We left around nine to visit the Buddhist temples of Bangkok. We visited three in total and also explored the shops around China town.
The first was the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This is the largest of them and is located in the center of the city. The Buddha is not actually emerald, but green jade. The gated area is divided into three zones. The outer zone, where the common people could enter; the mid zone, where previous kings lived; and the inner zone, where the temple of the Emerald Buddha sits. When entering the temple, it is required that shoes be removed. While photography of Buddhas is normally allowed, the Emerald Buddha is not to be photographed. The walls depicted the story of the Buddha’s enlightenment. Everything in the temple was symbolic.
We were starting to fell hungry and tired, so we stopped for lunch near China town. At one point on the way to the next temple, we passed through a fish market, which smelled as bad as it sounds.
Next, we visited Wat Pho, the temple of the reclining Buddha. This Buddha is more than 40 meters long! The temples was very colorful and covered in ceramic flowers and structures. Wat Pho is not just a temple though, it is also a school’s of massage. The statues there depict different ways to massage yourself and others.
The last temple we visited is home to a solid gold Buddha. We had to climb the many steps to the top to visit this temple. The best thing about this temple, in my humble opinion, was the cats. There were about twenty or so lounging about near the bathroom. They are community type cats that are cared for by the workers. All the cats are very friendly, but many were sick and it was clear that none were spayed or neutered.
We finally headed back to home base for an hour of rest before leaving again. This time we walked a few minutes to a restaurant for dinner. The food was nice, but many of us were now tired, hot, and sweaty. We left the restaurant and stopped to look at the Siamese fighting fish, also known as betta fish. We learned a little about how they are bred and how big of a deal they are to some people.
We returned to home base again and met on the roof for mentor groups. We talked about general behavior rules and got to know each other better.
Overall it was a very tiring day, but also fun and enlightening.
-Written by Lucy
Thursday June 20, 2019
We started our day waking up to a delicious breakfast and 3 hour van ride. Along the way we stopped for a bathroom break 2 hours in, where we tried fried banana. Continuing our adventure we ate lunch on the the bank of a river next to a historical site from WW2. We were able to see the bombs that were dropped on it and what was going on surrounding the historical background of the bridge.
Following the bridge we drove out to the edge of “Our Land” where we were able to float down the river for a good 30 minutes. Continuing, we started a 20 minute hike to Our Land while we learned about the surrounding environment and how it came to be with all the human impact. The rest of the day we toured Our Land and got to relax while a few of our counselors played music on the ukulele. To finish off our day we did mentor groups discussing how we liked our day and our thoughts of it.
-by Jake H.
Friday June 21, 2019
Today we woke up at around 7:00 and quickly headed to our 7:30 breakfast. We ate at a camp lunch area that was surrounded by an obstacle course style swimming pool. After breakfast we headed to Ourland where we’ll be hanging out at consistently for the next three days. Vijo and others gave us a course on the snakes of Thailand with VERY real life examples of some of the more venomous species.
After our introduction to the snakes of Thailand along with the ones that Ourland has rescued, we headed off to a village head’s house where we learned about methods of preventing human-elephant conflict with again, real life examples. The village heads house has a bee farm to the left of it that produces some aroy mak mak (very delicious) honey. We then headed to a local tree nursery where an incredibly knowledgeable and wise woman taught us about some of Thailand’s species of trees along with how to plant them/ keep them where they need to be and healthy. This activity wouldn’t have been nearly as fun however without Vigo painting our faces with charcoal.
After about an hour of moving baby trees to their next stage of growth, we sat down for a delicious Thai meal and some mind games courtesy of the GLA staff. After our aroy mak mak meal, we headed to our third location of the day which was our hike through a mostly dried up section of river which ended promptly at a small but meaningful waterfall. Much was to be learned along this hike in terms of methods locals were using for human-elephant conflict prevention. We passed by multiple man-made damns, both from different periods of time, and also with different pros and cons. After getting helped back down the path by some caring and lovely Thai Ourland staff, we were back into the vans and to one of our final stops of the day.
We arrived at the put-in where we floated down the river yesterday, and enjoyed a much deserved 20 minute swim. Once we were all cooled down we headed back to Ourland (after of course stopping for ice cream along the way, thank you Vijo) for some more snake interaction, relaxation, peaceful debating, and incredible Thai food. Thailand has been an amazing experience so far and each day is a new adventure.
-written by Owen
Saturday June 22, 2019
While staying at the Erwan Princess Hotel, I have found a strong new addiction of mine. Ellse cakes have taken over my life ever since I first had one at breakfast on Friday. They are kind of like a Twinkie, just not as gross, not as unhealthy (or that’s what I tell myself), and they don’t contain as much filling. In short, they are pure deliciousness. To further fuel this unhealthy addiction, the chefs laid out even MORE Ellse cakes for us this morning. They would put out more and more after I’d get one, and someone had to eat them. Throughout the day, I think I consumed about ten of these delicious deserts.
After eating breakfast, the group gathered in a circle to do some stretching. We all were pretty dead from the countless activities we do daily so this was a nice little way to wake up. We then boarded the bus and headed off to the Khao Nam Phu Wildlife Education Center.
The first thing we did upon our arrival consisted of having a dance off and singing along to I Want it that Way by the Backstreet Boys. Let me say, this song has become the GLA anthem this past week. About every 30 minutes you’ll hear someone singing or whistling the tune. Next, we gathered around a tv to learn about the, sadly now extinct, Koupri. This animal was a type of wild cattle that lived in the jungle, but due to heavy hunting, the species hasn’t been seen in over 30 years.
This was an introduction into the endangered animal we got to learn about and see today, the Banteng. They too are a type of jungle cattle that many people have killed off over time. There are 11 of these beautiful cattle at the Wildlife Education Center where they are being protected, reproduced, and released back into the wild.
We walked around for a bit and got the opportunity to see the Bantengs. I thought they were beautiful, they have light brown fur, white stockings, white around the nose, eyes, and booty, and a black stripe on their back.
These animals at some point in their lives need to be released back into the wild. However, animals under human care tend to trust and rely on people too much. To combat this, the staff here had to find some way to make these cattle scared of us. However, they don’t want to hurt the Banteng. So, how does one go about making a species scared of something without hurting it? You cut off the animal’s contact with it completely. For the Bantengs, they are kept in an enclosure with black tarp all around it in order to prevent them from seeing humans.
They stay here for 6 months before they are relocated in a large box and released. Unfortunately, transportation of the animals posed another threat to their survival. Stress of being in the box could very likely kill them and has killed them before. To prevent stress, food is put into the boxes used to transport them, making the cattle walk into it on its own. As they eat their food, the door closes them in there. Over the time period of 6 months, the time spent in the boxes slowly increases from about 5 minutes to 3 hours (the time it takes to relocate them). In order to observe the cattle in this specific stage, we had to climb a metal ladder that led to a door you could sit on that was held up by a tree’s branches.
The next service activity was making seed bombs (to slingshot them off a mountain) and crushing minerals for a salt lick. To make the seed bombs, we got some clay, put a pinch of fertilizer into it, added a seed, then we rolled it into a ball. Typically these take 1-2 days to dry, so we used seed bombs made by the group before us and began a hike into the jungle. We ate lunch by a stream with the jungle above us and LOTS of butterflies around us. It was wrapped in leaves in order to decrease the amount of plastic used.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but eating chicken, rice, and a fried egg out of a banana leaf increased the food’s taste by 200%. We then walked a little further to a salt lick and began to dig some dirt and mix new minerals into it. Then we hiked a strenuous 5 minutes to throw out some seed bombs with slingshots. The hike back to the pavilion was very relaxing and beautiful. We had to cross a very… janky bridge to get there. We had to ‘duck waddle’ our way across, spreading our weight across multiple bamboo stalks to prevent the bridge from breaking. Luckily, nobody fell to their death because who knows what was in the water beneath us.
When we made it back, we went swimming. I was told there would be a zip line and I was hesitant to go down it because I am afraid of heights. But, I told myself I should try it so I wouldn’t regret it. That is, until I saw the zip line. It was basically a thin tire that you had to sit in and I did not trust it. I was terrified and all my courage vanished. Once again, I knew that if I didn’t, I would regret it. So I jumped out of my comfort zone and I zoomed over the river. It wasn’t even that bad—I can say I enjoyed going down it.
The night came to an end with a wonderful diner back at Our Land. On the way there we stopped at a 7 Eleven for some Thai snacks and I found a whole box of Ellse cakes. My addiction is serious and I hope my family back at home expects me to bring a whole suitcase full of them. Anyways, back on track now. We all gathered for a campfire under the bright stars after eating. Kira and Devin played instruments while the whole group sang together. It was a beautiful moment that I want to hold onto and cherish forever.
-written by Skye
Sunday June 23, 2019
We woke up early and went to eat a delicious breakfast. Afterwards we had a 40 minutes drive up into the mountains. Once we reached our destination we hiked up over 40 flights of stairs to a huge cave. Inside the cave there was a pathway to follow and walk along while admiring the limestone and bats. We eventually exited the cave and walked back down all the stairs to go to lunch.
Everyone ate a wonderful lunch and prepared themselves for another flatter hike. After lunch we started on our short hike to a gorgeous waterfall. There were seven different levels to the waterfall, each one more beautiful then the last. Some hiked to the very top while others swam around on the third and fourth levels. We swam around for half an hour with some decent sized fish that would nibble on our feet. Then we walked back down and drove back to Our Land to discuss animal cruelty and eat scrumptious vegetarian dinner. At the end of the night everyone came back to the hotel to get a good nights sleep.
-written by Raven
Monday June 24, 2019
The journey continues!
As we travel through the wondrous rural areas of Kanchanaburi, I find myself more and more in love. The endless green canopy and towering mountains never cease to amaze me. In the last week we have traveled from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi learning and experiencing things I could only dream about. The wildlife and environmental sustainability lessons we are learning are so important and enlightening. I and my fellow students undoubtedly will incorporate these lessons into our own lives while doing our best to inform our community back home. There is no planet B.
Today, I and my fellow students in the “hardcore” group went into our stretch zones and biked through mountains and rural towns in the middle of a rainstorm. I am so thankful I did this as it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The views were breathtaking and the rain was cooling. The mud was just a plus. I can say for myself and my fellow students that the feeling of accomplishment and bliss at the end of that ride was everything. Our “hardcore” group then joined the rest of the group to float down a river on bamboo rafts, and can I say, so fun. It was the perfect way to end the days activities as we enjoyed each other’s company and the surreal views around us. All I can say is I am so grateful for these experiences and this trip. I’ve loved it so far and I’m so excited for everything to come!
-by Abigail Harrison
Tuesday June 25, 2019
As our time at Our Land animal sanctuary comes to a close, the Our Land staff and us build a tree nursery to help reforestation efforts in and around the facility. We made the structure first by digging holes in the ground for posts made from an invasive species of tree. We then made the roof structure, support beams, and covered it with a plastic mesh that will filter out the sunlight.
After a delicious lunch and a heartfelt goodbye to the staff at Our Land, who have been with us in all our excursions these past few days, we drove through the scenic karst landscape. Here we went for a beautiful and mostly peaceful kayak in the pouring rain down the Khwae Noi river that runs through Thailand.
Wednesday June 26, 2019
As one journey ends a new beginning starts! We start off the morning driving to Elephants World, were we get to tour and do touristy activities that are involving the elephants. The day included feeding the elephants, washing them, giving them mud baths, making sticky rice balls for the the older elephants (they lose their teeth so it is harder for them to eat the stalks of banana trees) and of course enjoy playing with two baby elephants.
As the day proceeded we were able to swim in a near by river were Kai, Maya, and Naya did back flips and front flips off a platform into the water. Don’t worry parents the water was deep enough;)! For the rest of today we are relaxing and chilling with the elephants! Today was a blast to finally see elephants that all of us have been waiting for!!!
By Shelbee Weiss 🙂
Thursday June 27, 2019
After the LONG first night in our new hotel we started the day with a delicious breakfast. Then, we walked with some mahouts to retrieve the elephants. Watching the elephants play together after a night of being apart was so much fun (the baby elephant was even more playful than the rest). We then learned about elephant anatomy. Did you know elephants have 40,000 muscles just in their trunks?
After lunch we observed the elephants without interacting with them and made ethograms. An ethogram is used to categorize animals behaviors and actions. The group then split up, some went swimming, others just relaxing. To finish the day we had a group discussion about our time in Thailand so far.
Friday June 28, 2019
Today we got to sleep in and have a late breakfast at 8:30 to help prepare for a long day of service work. After breakfast we took a ride to a piece of farm land where we were taught how to plant corn which will be used to feed the elephants. This proved to be a much harder task than expected but helped us bond as a group. We then returned to Elephants world to make banana grass balls which are the perfect snack for elderly elephants who have lost their teeth and struggle to eat normal food.
We then had a delicious lunch and prepared for the second half of the day. We continued our service by cutting down Bana grass which was then fed to the elephants. We then had free time which we spent swimming in the river and learning acro yoga. After dinner we had an insightful discussion on how we can best benefit the community with our service work. We ended the night by watching a movie as a group, and went to bed early to prepare for the long upcoming day of travel.
Saturday June 29, 2019
Today we said goodbye to Elephants World and said hello to Elephant Haven, our new home. Our first activity was making rice balls for the Elephants. We mixed bananas, sticky rice, and crushed bana grass pelts. Next we chopped watermelon and fed them to the elephants. They loved to use their trunks to hook onto the food. Following the elephants into the jungle we sat in silence and enjoyed watching them in their natural habitat. Some of the students (including me) sat on a branch. An elephant came and started scratching their body along the branch and almost knocked us over!
After lunch we gave the elephants a mud bath. While washing elephants many of the students slipped into the mud. I am not sure who got muddier us or the elephants? We then followed them into the river, scrubbing the mud off. Some students went down the mud slide but the pain in their face didn’t convince me to go down. Others did Acroyoga or made themselves into mermaids with the sand. Unfortunately we lost the chicken fight against the other group of students but I think we can make a comeback tomorrow.
Today was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. I have never laughed or smiled so much in my life!
– Written by Olyvia
Sunday June 30, 2019
Today was day number two at Elephant Haven. After we ate breakfast we made some for the Elephants. We made some rice balls from banana, rice, and mashed bana grass pellets. After making the rice balls we chopped up watermelon for the beautiful girls. When we were done feeding them we took a trip to a railway. Some may know these tracks from the film Bridge Over The River Kwai. We walked on the tracks and explored a cave off the track which had a Buddhist temple inside. Once we had seen the whole cave as well as a huge Buddha we decided to head off the tracks to a cute outdoor market right next to it.
When we got back to Elephant Haven we had lunch and then we cleaned up what the elephant’s lunch turned into. We used A wheelbarrow when we needed to drop a load. We all took turns shoveling raking and sweeping poop. We’d collect it into piles then we’d dump it in to the wheelbarrow. Although it was a gross experience there was no complaining and no butts. When we finished we bathed in the mud with the elephants. It was very fun to play and tackle each other. Some students stayed off to the side, some sculpted a small mud town, some covered them selves with mud, while others got covered by mud, and others got covered by other people. After some time the elephants decided to head towards the river so we followed. When we got to the river we cleaned ourselves and the elephants. We also enjoyed an exciting mudslide. At the end of the day we headed back to the hotel.
~by Maya Flanagan
Monday July 1, 2019
Today is day 15. This trip has gone by so so so so fast. But I think we are all loving every minute of it. This morning started off with a 4:30 am wake up. And as shocking as you all would imagine no one was ready for that one. We left to catch a train to kanchanburi around 5:45 am. The train ride was along death rail way. I knew the railway was connected to the deaths of many people throughout World War 2 and the Vietnam war. Over 250,000 died by malaria related illnesses or injuries. After arriving to kanchanburi we stopped at our favorite place 7-eleven. Everyone filled up on a “breakfast” of some kind. We then had to take a 5ish hour drive to Kui Buri national park. I got to take part of the so called quiet van and nap all morning and finish my book. If you ask me it was a great morning.
Our activities started out with making pineapple paper. The pineapple leaves are used as a paste and glue to create craft paper. This was really cool I think because I’ve noticed alot of Thai people dont really waste anything. Its nice to see everyone using every part of everything as much as they can. We got to add flowers and leaves to give the paper some texture. The afternoon was spent going to kui buri national park. We went on a safari type adventure. We rode in trucks together being able to spot birds, wild elephants, and beautiful beautiful trees. Only to add to the magic of this adventure my truck was filled with Jurassic park references just for the heck of it. This truly was one of the best things we have ever done. We sat for what felt like hours but was probably only minutes watching a herd of elephants eat and walk and eat. Let me tell you: nature is something extraordinary.
The night ride home some of us got to ride in now deemed “swag wag”. It was a big tractor pulling a trailer with plastic chairs on it. And may I mind you no tractor ride can be just average. No, we got special treatment. We stopped several times to look at the lights, stopped to turn the lights off and drive, and my favorite: walking into the jungle to watch how rubber is made from trees. Today was one of my favorite days and sad we are nearing the end but I’m also extremely pumped for the last few days.
– by Abbey Rivers
Tuesday July 2, 2019
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all!” – Helen Keller
Our morning began as all mornings in Thailand begin- with an Elephant trunk crashing through the window of our dorms. Monkeys hung from the ceiling throwing durian fruit at us while a swarm of mosquitoes assumed the shape of a human body and charged through our door! I’m just kidding! Our day was not as dangerous, but it was just as exciting!
Our morning began by waking up at 5:50 for a lovely sunrise breakfast up in the mountains. A lucky few saw some wild elephants on the drive up. The food was as delicious as the scenery was stunning. The fresh, locally grown pineapple was the best I’ve ever had! (My pineapple addiction is almost as bad as Skye’s Else cake addiction!)
After breakfast, we headed to a fertilizer facility to learn about how earthworms contribute to the making of high-quality fertilizer. We filtered buckets full of cow dung and earthworms to separate the cow dung and earthworm dung. We then placed the earthworms in a new bucket of cow dung. We weighed the earthworm dung and placed them in bags, each weighing exactly 6 kilos.
We also learned about rubber making. A lot of us were surprised to learn that rubber comes from trees (which amused Vijo to no end). On our way to the rubber facility, we stopped for a quick coconut break! At the rubber facility, we saw how rubber is made from the rubber sap. 4 liters of rubber sap, 2 liters of water, and a scoop of vinegar are all mixed into a tray and left to sit for 30 minutes. Once the solution has solidified, it is shaped by a variety of machines until the rubber resembles a thin sheet. It is then left out in the sun to dry.
On the way to our next adventure, we stopped for more local cuisine! This time, we had chili peppers. According to Vijo, these peppers were some of the spiciest in Thailand and they were a 7 on his “spicy scale” from 1 to 10. This means that they were a 15 on the average GLA student’s scale! The brave souls who tried the peppers are shown below. I believe these photos really convey just how spicy these peppers were. If you’re wondering, yes, that is a tear on Anna’s face. Major props to these guys!!!
Our next stop was a woodworking shop at the edge of a farm. There, we witnessed a wonderful artist who carves cups, bowls, bracelets, and much more from simple blocks of wood. He was gracious enough to let us try his craft. He uses a machine that spins a block of wood around very quickly and carves into it with a big, scary knife. Together, we made a gorgeous wine glass.
It was Vijo’s brilliant idea to hold an auction for the wine glass and that’s just what we did! Bidding started at 100 baht (around 3 US dollars) and the price quickly rose. Many participated but only two really pulled ahead; Owen and I were the final competitors for the wine glass. We battled it out in what is safe to say the most intense auction that GLA has ever seen. Eventually, the price hit 350 Baht and I walked away, victorious, with the wine glass in one hand and Owen’s broken heart in the other.
We traveled back to the hotel in what some call “The Swaggin’ Wagon” and cooked an amazing lunch for ourselves. We cooked four dishes, each one more delicious than the last! We cooked pork, tam som (papaya salad), fried vegetables, and a coconut milk desert. I’m sure many parents will be happy to hear that their kids know how to cook authentic Thai food! We were taught by four lovely, patient, and very skilled local women. Each one specialized in one dish. We all learned so much from them.
After lunch, we had a much needed hour of rest. Before long, we were heading out on another adventure. This time, we went into Kuiburi National Park to replenish a salt lick for elephants and all herbivores in the park. This is extremely important to make sure that the animals get the minerals they need to survive. This also helps to keep the elephants inside the park and not wander to neighboring farms in search of food. One of the most important things we’ve learned is about human-elephant conflict and how to solve it. A salt lick helps both the humans and the elephants!
To replenish the salt lick, we dug around a preexisting salt lick and added – you guessed it – salt. This was hard work, but we finished within the desired time! Everyone who worked to complete it (GLA staff and students alike) deserves a huge round of applause!
On to the next adventure! We rode deeper and deeper into the national forest until we reached a gorgeous clearing. We were given dried jackfruit (my new favorite snack)to munch on. These pictures do not do justice to the overall beauty of Kuiburi National Park. Magic seems to radiate from the hills themselves. I’ve never seen a place so genuinely alive. To add to the wonder that we all experienced, we saw multiple wild elephants on our way back to the hotel. Before coming to Kuiburi, the way we interacted with elephants was much different. We were so close to them, feeding them, washing them, playing with them. Although that was an amazing experience, seeing the elephants completely free was somehow freeing itself.
We drove to the hotel and enjoyed a delicious dinner of pineapple soup, eggs, chicken, and (of course) rice.
What an amazing day it was! With every passing minute, I fall deeper and deeper in love with this country and its people. One can’t help it when looking at the vividly colorful landscape, tasting there incredibly delicious food, and interacting with the warmest people on earth! It means even more that I’m experiencing this place with a group of people my age who are just as in love as I am. If you’re still reading this, I admire your patience. Thank you for making it through my crazy long blog!
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” – Confucius
– Written by Lila Moyle
Wednesday July 3, 2019
After what felt like months of sleep deprivation, we finally got some gosh darn rest. We slept in until 8:30 and ate breakfast outside. We were served egg noodles, fried rice, and… wait for it… NUTELLA TOAST. Every time the toast plate was replenished, plastic chairs clattered to the floor as we raced to the table. The spirit of the jungle filled our veins as we fought for the toast. We bit and scratched and hissed. Just as Darwin theorized, only the strongest survived. At the end of the morning, poor Lila was left toastless.
In front of us lay a platter of a mysterious fruit. I was later informed that the name of it is mangosteen, but back then I was dumb and immature. I studied the purple fruit. I had never seen it in the States. The outside appeared to have a hard outer shell, so I went about peeling it. After I spent several minutes removing the shell, I was stumped because there was a strange pulpy layer. I went to Vijo in confusion, just looking for a friend to lend a helping hand. Instead, I received nothing but cruel mockery.
Vijo called out to the other Thai folks, summoning them to look at the ineptitude that is inherently part of my Americanness. I had no idea what they were saying as they crowded around me, but jeering is universally understood. It turns out that I had not yet reached the white fruit part on the inside. The correct way to open it is to crack the fruit in half, and I had merely clawed at the skin like a dying shrew claws at dirty moss.
Anyway, we hopped in the vans for an hourlong drive to our next home base in Hua Hin. Of course, our trip was lengthened due to the mandatory 7 Eleven stop. As we approached our destination, the mountains somehow became even more beautiful, perhaps caused by the sea brightly shimmering in the distance. We drove all the way to the shore, where we then removed our shoes and frolicked in the sand like a bunch of happy deer -or whatever animal frolics. I wouldn’t know because I didn’t really pay attention in freshman year biology class.
So we frolicked all the way to some boats that were conveniently waiting to take us around a cliff to another beach. This trip has been so convenient it’s almost like someone planned the whole thing ahead of time!! Crazy!!! At the next beach we began the 500m upward trek to the Phraya Nakhon Cave. Arms and hearts pumping, we worked our way up the countless stairs until cartoon stars circled in front of our eyes.
Finally, we made it. Devin, our onsite geologist, had a field day. He could barely contain his excitement at all of the limestone surrounding us. Inside the cave there was a large temple thing. This cave is important to Thai citizens because three past kings have visited, giving it much historical and cultural value. After spending some time climbing rocks and shrieking at spiders, we headed back down the path. Some may think that the way back is easier.
At the end of the path sat a restaurant that was just dying to feed us lunch. After lunch we did a group activity that strengthened our teamwork, leadership, and trust skills. It takes a bit of time to explain but the short version is that we utterly killed it. We got about 45 minutes to play in the ocean after our activity, so myself and a few others took advantage of this time to summon the crab army to do our bidding. With every step along the shore, dozens of crabs emerged from the sand, ready to fight in the coming crab wars. After all, war is shell.
We made it to our hotel and had an hour to get ready for dinner. On the way, I suffered through 20 minutes of bad jokes in the van. I don’t want to talk about it. Dinner was located at a very obviously Italian restaurant, yet Kira, our beloved mentor, still managed to convince several people that we would be eating pad Thai yet again. Those people were pleasantly surprised to find plates of French fries and pizza magically appearing in front of them. All was well. After dinner followed the classic post-supper 7 Eleven run, because what else do you do when you have 20 minutes and 3,000 baht to spend?
We made it safely back to the hotel, lugging bags of 7 Eleven treasures inside, where we ended our day with mentor groups. Overall, the day was good one, filled with bad jokes and slippery rocks.
Written by: Anna Polivka
Thursday July 4, 2019
Happy 4th of July! Although we may not have been home to celebrate, we had such an incredible day in Thailand!
We started our day at the Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand, a wildlife rescue center that takes captive animals out of bad situations and rescues, rehabilitates and releases injured wildlife. We got to take a tour of the facility and learn about just a few of the many animal species that they have rescued and now house. There were animals such as monkeys, bears, peacocks, dogs, cats, elephants and even a cassowary, that had either been injured, used as pets, illegally traded, or used in the entertainment industry at some point in their lives. It was absolutely horrible and heart breaking to hear about just a few of these animals’ stories and how they ended up here. Some were kept in cages too small to even walk around in for a large majority of their lives, some were saved from savage trading industries that they would have likely died in, and others were saved from accidents caused by human animal conflict.
One of the most horrific things we learned while we were here was about how some bears that are illegally traded are farmed or used for bear paw soup. This is where a paying customer chooses from a selection of caged bears and requests one of their paws. The bear’s foot is then amputated in front of the customer and made into bear paw soup. Not only that, but once the bear’s foot is amputated, the animal is kept alive until all of its limbs are gone and someone pays a heavy sum for the rest of the bear’s body. This is an incredibly vile act and incredibly illegal in most countries, but sadly these animals are still taken from the wild and traded in areas that still allow this to happen.
It was quite a depressing morning, but also super eye opening to how mistreated some wild animals are and how destructive captivity can be to them. However, aside from all of the sob stories, we also got to hear about how well a lot of these animals were doing after they had been rehabilitated and settled into their new lives inside of the rescue center. There is no doubt that this was one of the most incredible places we have visited thus far and I think it’s safe to say that I’ll hopefully be back some time in the future to volunteer (you hear that mom and dad ;)). Once we finished our tour and lunch we raced to the gift shop for a quick 5 minute shopping spree, due to a crunch on time, and headed to the beach for a nice relaxing afternoon.
On our way to the beach we made a surprise stop at Monkey Mountain where there were literally monkeys everywhere! There must have been hundreds of them running around, looking to dig into tourists pockets and snatch objects out of their hands. We even witnessed one monkey jump on a kid and steal his bottle of sprite, but luckily our group didn’t experience anything past some minor shoelace tugging and the occasional grabbing of a foot or leg. We stayed and watched as they interacted with each other and random objects around them (one monkey even found a pair of scissors and was running around with them!). When it was time to go we reluctantly said bye to our newly acquainted furry friends and continued our journey to the beach.
When we finally made it to the beach it was raining a bit, but that didn’t stop us from swimming or hanging out on the shore. After swimming around for a while we gathered back up and had a nice long conversation about what we had learned through out this trip so far. We did a brief beach clean up and loaded up in the vans to head to our final stop of the day, the night market. This was a glorious place full of all kinds of magical foods. There were Thai cuisines, crepes, coconut ice cream, heavenly chicken kebabs, and so much more. It was food heaven! Once we had walked around a bit, filled our bellies with numerous different foods, and spent way too much money on souvenirs we headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.
-written by Kennedi
Friday July 5, 2019
The final move to the last hotel. We went onto the national park. The park was called Khao Deng park. We began the track for the 300 cliffs hike. Sadly we all failed to notice that the sign right outside the hike mentioned only for moderate to high climbing and fitness ability. As we started the hike it began to rain and me being the smart 17 year old I am decided not to wear a rain coat. However! It had not down poured which saved us. The entire walk up was filled with shrieks and the sounds of feet sliding from Skye and I. When we made it to the top the view was breathtaking. According to Vijo if you sit long enough you can really count the 300 cliffs.
One by one we made the descent giving each other enough time to walk incase we slipped. I was about to take a step and I kid you not, a snake fell from the tree. A TREE!!! Right in front of where I was about to step. Now, I consider myself very comfortable around snakes. But you bet the minute it came towards me I walked away real fast and pushed Jake in the way. I dodged a bullet right there as the wild snake climbed up Jake’s legs and slithered away.
The afternoon was spent with a supposed to be a 3 hour car ride that turned into a 5 hour car ride. We got stuck in Bangkok rush hour traffic which Is ABSOLUTELY terrible. My van got stopped by the police so the royal family of sorts could cross the highway. We were stopped for probably 15 minutes and all we got out of it was not even seeing the royal parade!!! However, the day ended with dinner and cards (one of our absolutely favorite things to do together). Sad to say it was the last real night in bangkok.
– by Abbey Rivers
Today we started off the day with heading straight to the market after breakfast. The market had over 2,000 stores, and some groups, after the group as a whole was split up, saw the pet section of the market. This section was particularly distasteful, as it embodied the very thing we as a program are hopefully looking to end, which is the trade and selling of exotic animals, which can lead to abuse and mistreatment. After seeing what there was to see and buying what there was to buy in the market, we headed to a “surprise”, which happened to be a treat of free ice cream at a parlor in the market.
After spending 3 or 4 hours at the market, we headed back to the hotel and did a survey based on the trip as a whole. The survey asked questions about every detail of our experience in Thailand and how we felt about those details, making it very open to judgement which may just lead to improvements. After doing the survey, we had a few hours of free time, and after walking for hours on end, it was well needed. Finally, we ended the day with a Dinner Cruise down the Chao Phraya River. It was a fun experience with lots of singing and dancing, along with an unexpected twist.
By, Kai Martin