Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
I hope this letter finds you in good health mentally and physically. Have you processed this summer and the amazing experience we had with the elephants? Is your elephant rash healed? I am just beginning to reflect on the experiences of our trip, and I am very thankful to have shared such a unique experience with all of you.
We talked a lot about community in this program. Each of you contributed a special asset that helped create this community-whether it be you enthusiasm, intelligence, athletic ability, humor, illness, or crabbiness! We were all fortunate to meet one another and create a community for a short time. Always know that you can reach out to this community and share you ideas, thoughts, dreams, and struggles. If I had to describe this group in one word, it would be “kind”. You were all very accepting, open, and extremely kind to one another, which was great to see.
We have many things to be grateful for. Cheers to the amazing staff at Thai Elephant Home that took care of all of us by providing delicious food, keeping us safe around elephants, and showing us a window into their world. The true stars of the trip were, of course, the elephants. They are such interesting animals- cute, yet gross. Strong & dangerous, yet well trained and accepting of us Elephants are endangered. They need people to care about and support their plight. Please never forget that, and think of them often. We saw and discussed lot of complex things on this trip, and at times it can be frustrating and feel hopeless. Just know it is not. You can make a difference now and in the future. Harness you power and get out there to make the world better. Don’t wait for someone else to take action- you must do it.
Sending love to you all,
The amazing misty view every morning
Epic Bananagram battles
Mitch’s PMA mentality
Critically thinking about/discussing elephants
Coconut ice cream at the farewell dinner!
Another Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
Sabai di mai?,
was for me. It was a pretty remarkable and unusual experience that we shared this summer. Not many people know what it’s like to stand on a mountain in Northern Thailand and hunt for bugs while listening to the sounds of elephant bells clonking in the distance or understand how much the bellows of pachyderms sound like ferocious dinosaurs roaming the Mae Tang Valley. Not many people get to examine the complexity of environmental stewardship from such a unique and close up perspective. I hope that the lessons you learned about yourself and the world help inform the next adventures in your lives. Don’t forget to keep exploring, embracing the discomforts of personal growth, and using your critical thinking. It was a pleasure being your mentor this summer and I wish you guys all the best!
Summer Blog Posts
Today we woke up and went downstairs in the Imm hotel to get breakfast. It was buffet style with foods like rice, fried eggs, pineapple, cereal, mini muffins, and chicken or pork sausages. At 8 am we had orientation so after breakfast we went to the presentation room. We started with a chow circle which is when we stand around in a circle and hook arms. We played a few name games and then sat down to start orientation.
We went over Thai culture and language where we learned the dos and fonts of Thailand and also how to wai (the standard greeting in Thailand). After orientation we went downstairs and met up before heading out to lunch at a different hotel. The food was very interesting and Delia tried curry blood soup with pork.
After lunch, we traveled to two Buddhist wats (temples). We took off our shoes before entering and kneeled in front of the Buddha structures. Each of the temples had intricate decorations with lots of color. We then went to the elephant parade which is a elephant conservation organization. There were elephant sculptures painted by artists that they sell and give some of the profit to elephant conservation.
Each of us painted small ceramic elephants to take home. After the elephant parade, we headed to the large Chiang Mai mall where we ate dinner at the food court. Most of us ate pad Thai, fried rice, or crepes (not Thai food but they were good). We walked around the mall for a little exploring the different stores on each of the 4 levels.
After we arrived back at the hotel, we broke off into groups to begin planning for our school exchange tomorrow! We will be presenting aspects of American teenager culture and they will share aspects of a Thai teenager’s life. The exchange will take place tomorrow afternoon.
So our morning started off with service for the elephants. We cleaned the elephants dung and and swept it’s enclosure. We then got breakfast and breakfast was great. Afterwards we started our separate community service projects. One group went to go cut grass to feed the elephants with while the other went to go build dams to stop soil erosion. After the group projects we had some break time and proceeded to have a great lunch. We then started the elephant Olympic Games. Six teams competed for ice cream and honor. We competed in a series of six games to see who is to see which team is the most physically, mentally, and architecturally adept.
After a fierce competition team Shia LaBeouf came out with a win. After some grueling competitions we had some break time to cool down and then we went to go watch the elephants. We walked the elephants down to the river where we then proceeded to splash water on them and get debris off of their skin. After taking showers to wash the river water off we then proceeded to our mentor groups where we were then reflected on what happened that day. Then we had a delicious dinner consisting of spring rolls, curry, rice and chicken. After dinner all the kids had their own general free time until 9 o’clock where we all went to sleep.
-Khyber and Mitch
The halfway marker of the trip!! A bittersweet moment for most of us here because as much as we miss home and our families, we don’t want to leave the family we have created here.
Today after cleaning our elephants, our service project group went down to see the two other elephant camps in the village. We all wrote down five good things and five bad things about each camp. This may seem like a small task, but it was challenging. We all found it very difficult to see these two anthropomorphic camps; treating the elephants more like an attraction or ride than a living creature. We were lucky enough to have Dr. Nick Kronilopogous teach all of us about the pros and cons of elephant tourism and how our generation can make elephant tourism better for the animals.
At Thai elephant home, the elephants never wear the heavy chairs that the elephants at the other camps have to wear. Those chairs are only for the comfort of humans since elephants are not supposed to carry more than 441 pounds on their backs. As much as this is a downside to the two other camps, it is clear that most of the mahouts truly care for their elephants and want to protect this amazing species that represents their culture. And probably one of the most delicious parts of today was the desserts we got after the presentation! As group leaders of the day me and Savannah decided how we should split up all the sweets so everyone could have a variety of snacks and ended up splitting everything in half. Today was a major day of bonding as a family at the Thai elephant home. From playing cards, to mentor group and hula hooping, all of us are becoming closer and growing together as people.
Today, after waking up early to care for our elephants as always, we ate a hearty meal and headed off to our service groups.
The grass cutting group moved on to grass planting, and we spent the morning putting old plant stalks in the ground and covering them with mud. We got the whole field done really fast and got really muddy doing it, and we had a ton of fun when it started raining playing in the mud!
After taking the truck back to camp, we showered off and ate lunch while we played games. After we ate, we wrote thank you cards to our mahouts and we got Thai massages from women in the village.
The dam building group took a trip to visit the Thai Elephant Home Nursery, where we spent the day hiking and playing with baby elephants. We started out by meeting the babies and feeding them sugar cane and longan. Then we trekked up into the surrounding jungle with the baby elephants, their moms, and their mahouts, so that they could have some time to romp around. While we were in the jungle, it began to rain which was very refreshing and fun for both ourselves and the elephants!
After the hike, the elephants had some time to rest while we ate lunch and played some games. Once we finished eating, we went into the river with the baby elephants to wash them off, since they were very muddy from our rainy nature hike! We had a great time playing with the elephants in the rive and splashing each other with buckets of water.
The groups then got together again to go bathe the elephants in the river. As always, the mahouts splashed us as much as they could while we tried to defend ourselves. We trekked back up to camp, where we showered off and regrouped for an all student discussion group before eating dinner and tucking in for a good nights rest.
-Aria and Delia
Today, our team visited the grass planting fields. It was a 10 minute drive in the back of a truck filled with pre-sprouted stalks and lots of cute little snails. Once we arrived (9 am) we began loading the grass stalks off of the truck and into the heavily flooded field.
After about 5 minutes all of us abandoned our hope to preserve the cleanliness of our tennis shoes and stomped around in the mud with no worries. We completed 3 fields within two hours. On our way back we stopped to buy some refreshments (ice cream and tea!), where we received some strange looks for our mud covered bodies. At the elephant home our showers and lunch awaited us.
After our much deserved rice, tofu and banana spring roles, we prepared for our THAI MASSAGES! Not to brag, but it was quite outstanding.
The rest of our day was regularly scheduled; elephant washing in the river, group activities, dinner and a movie. It was the end to yet another memorable day.