This morning, we visited a Christian Thai school in Chiang Mai. Four high schoolers performed a traditional Thai dance to Thai music. We showed a PowerPoint and talked about life in the US and Canada, before singing both National Anthems and dancing the ChaCha Slide. The Thai students showed us around the school in small groups; we got to know all the boys and girls in our groups and took a ton of pictures. Back in the Church we learned about a special Thai holiday called Loi Krathong; we sang a song about it and danced around in a big circle. Then the students helped us make paper decorations that kind of look like jellyfish. The school fed us Koi (pronounced “cow”) Soy, which is a local Chiang Mai meal. After the school visit, we drove up a mountain and then walked up 330 steps to reach a very famous temple. Some of us got blessed bracelets from a monk inside the temple. At night, we went to the market, where we ate dinner and shopped wherever we wanted. It was awesome to barter with the salespeople, even though the prices are already so cheap! The market was so big and overwhelming, but so much fun! The busy day drained us all, and by the time we got back to the hotel, we were all ready for bed!
Tara Boyd and Katelynn Briere
At 8:30 am, our bags had been packed, and we set off for the Thai Elephant Home in the mountains. Before we left we were instructed which elephants were our own and informed about what they looked like and their unique traits and personalities. When we arrived, we were greeted by some of our new best friends and gave them some treats. We settled into our new rooms, dressed in mahout clothing and prepared to set off on our first adventure with the elephants. We walked down the elephant pen where we were paired with our elephants. We were able to practice with them for the first time ever and shortly after we began our first long trek up the mountain with the elephants. We were surprised when we stopped at a mud spa at the top of the mountain for a Pad Thai lunch. After we finished eating we each got elephant kisses and were given a quick mud spa. After each of us got our own mud spa facials and our arms were completely covered, we found out we were able to bathe one of the elephants in mud as well. One of the mahouts surprised us by starting a mud fight, we all cleaned off and mounted our elephants and trekked to the river. The elephants played with us while we all washed the mud off of ourselves. Some elephants sprayed us and some splashed in the water. The mahouts had fun too by giving the elephants commands and doing flips off of the elephants. About twenty minutes later, we all headed back to home base. Once we returned our elephants, we gave them food, cleaned the pen, changed our clothes, showered and prepared for dinner. Our first day at the Thai Elephant Home was completed and everyone was exhausted. A good night’s rest served each and every one of us.
– Zoe Wolf and Conor Quinn
We woke up at 5:45 to feed and clean up after the elephants. After breakfast we split up into our smaller mentor groups to do separate activities. That day Group One went up a mountain to get to the grass fields. There, we cut the grass with machetes and bundled them for the elephants to eat. We made sure to wear long sleeves and pants so the grass wouldn’t cut us. We ended up cutting enough grass that the truck had to make multiple trips.
While Group One was in the fields cutting grass, Group Two went on a three hour hike in the mountains from 9 to 12. During the hike we did a few group bonding activities from telling corny jokes to playing word games in Thai. While the hike consisted of constant uphill walking, it all became worth it when we got to the top of the mountain and got to see over the valley where we were staying in.
After going to the river in the afternoon and bathing our elephants, we started to learn about their history. We watched a documentary about how elephants are traditionally trained and what different parties are doing to make a difference. Then we discussed how we felt about these issues in our mentor groups.
-Natalie Gulrajani & Ethan Davidson
By Hannah Porter
Today included baby elephants, which means it was amazing. We woke up and half of the group went to the school, while the other half went to the nursery. When we arrived we were greeted by energetic baby elephants and their protective mothers. We played with them, rode them and got pushed around. We may have fallen several times but it was still fun. After we walked for a while to get to the sight of our dam build. We brought bags of dirt up to the damn, which was made out of bamboo. We brought rocks to the dam to make it sturdy, covered it with dirt, and filled bags will more dirt to place on top and solidify it all. It took us around 45 minutes and we were all very tired by the end of the build. We were all tired as you can imagine, so we walked back to lunch where we found a family of cats that we held while they ate our food. After lunch we walked with the elephants, helping them with their mud baths, followed with a bath in the river. We finally returned back to home base and went straight to the river with our own elephants. When we were finally able to rest we were soaked and tired, but we got to play with baby elephants so it was still an adorable day.