Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
Dear Alumni of GLA Elephant Village Initiative,
As I sit here looking through pictures and notes from you all from this summer, I am again amazed how quickly time passes, and how much I miss our little herd. This past summer was one of amazing memories, hard work, and friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. I hope that reading this letter will provide you all with an opportunity to reminisce on the experience that we had with the amazing elephants of Thai Elephant Home, and that you don’t forget the things you have seen, the opinions you have heard, and the experiences you have lived this summer.
The community we created on this trip was truly special. The bonds that you made with one another, the staff at Thai Elephant home, and the elephants are some of the strongest I have seen. I hope that you don’t forget that the community we created is not restricted to the confines of Thailand and that you all take this letter as an opportunity to reach out to friends that you have not spoken to or seen. Remember: we are a support network that will be there to support you in all you do. Be kind to one another and yourselves.
In all honestly, the true stars of our trip were the elephants. I still remember the sound of their bells gently ringing as they walked through the jungle and down to the river with heavy-footed grace, and the sounds of their dinosaur like grumblings during morning chores. They are majestic, dirty, beautiful, and endangered creatures that need help. Please remember to think critically about their welfare, and do not become overwhelmed by the complexity of elephant conservation here in Thailand. Always remember that you can make a difference! Talk to a friend, raise money, or even come back to Thailand to help and know that you have one another to make your conservation goals possible. Elephants are amazing, and I think it would be a shame to see the world, and especially Thailand, without them.
Thank-you all for making this past summer unforgettable. I am lucky to have met you all and I hope that all is well! Don’t forget to keep me updated on your amazing, exciting and fun lives! In closing, I’ve made a short list of my favorite moments from the summer. I am sure I am forgetting many, but here are the ones I do remember.
- Moge stealing food from Jason while he tried to feed Ellie
- Rafting! “No flip, no fun!”
- The elephant games! ☺
- Jenny showing off her amazing dance moves in the mud pit
- The talent show, and Sams’ Kung-Fu abilities
- Trunk juice from the elephants (Ewwww☺)
- Hot Chocolate Sammy G style
- The undeniable cuteness of the puppies at the Nursery and Obama and Nemar
- Dumbo the wild child at the Nursery
Peace, and nothing but love,
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
After having a long and exhausting day of travel, today was mainly for aclimating ourselves to the Thai culture and recovering from jet lag. In the morning we had orientation and discussed rules and expectations and practiced our Thai. For lunch, we ate at a delicious buffet where we were able to sample all sorts of new foods. Following lunch, we visited two beautiful temples and received a blessing from a monk. Later on, we returned to the hotel and prepared our presentation for the school exchange. The mentors brought us fried rice for dinner and we were able to get to bed early.
July 9, 2016 – Chiang Mai, Thailand
Waking up in Chiang Mai, Thailand is no doubt a privilege. Yet us, the GLA team were downright spoiled in the opportunity that had been so graciously presented. Though we all had to wake up fairly early (7:00), the mood was energizing and up-beat. We pushed through an hour long drive to a privately run elephant hospital called Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE), where the most famous elephant in the world resided. Motala was found with a severed leg after barely surviving a land mine blast. She was treated by a record number of surgeons, and survived the tragedy. She now is the face of elephant conservation in Thailand and quite possibly the world. The group toured the hospital and met a few more permanent residents before driving to a government operated elephant ‘sanctuary,’ where the residing elephants performed tricks such as walking across a skinny log and painting a picture. In awe, many of the group members (including myself) purchased the stunning self portrait, landscape and flower paintings. After returning home and having a traditional Pad Thai dinner, we all met in the ‘bean bag room’ for discussion and an educational but disturbing documentary about the use of elephants in modern society, and how the have been and most likely still are being abused and mistreated. We ended the night on a happy note by announcing roommates and elephant assignments for the following day at the Thai Elephant Home.
Day 4 – Day 1 of Elephant Boot Camp
We woke up on Saturday excited to go to Thai Elephant Home. Breakfast was at 7:30am and we hopped on the bus at 8:00am for hour hour and a half bus ride! We greeted at the elephant home by the elephants and their mahoots; then we quickly got changed for our hike.
Although the hike up the mountain was rough, the view from the mud pit was worth it. We ate lunch just above the mud pit then we treated to spa day with the elephants. Everyone got mud masks and jumped into the pit with the elephants. After we smothered the elephants in mud we traveled back down to the river so we could all wash off the mud and spend quality time with our elephants. We loved getting pulled by their trunks and having them spray water at us.
After the extreme amount of fun with the elephants with our mahoots it was time to say goodnight and have dinner. Rice and chicken was delicious and everyone loved spending quality time with one another during and after dinner. After a long day we all went to bed excited to start our service project the next day!
-Sammy Gates and Erin O’Connor
July 13 2016
The day began with our morning chores. After waking up at 5:30, we assist our mahouts in cleaning and feeding each of our elephants. Then at 9 O’clock we begin our service work. Today group A went and built a dam on a hill near our home base. The dam was located at the sixth dam location and was properly named, Dam Sixey. Group B began their first day of grass cutting which is used to feed the elephants. Due to the lack of rain that day, service was very hot but both groups were able to come together and complete their days work.
After eating lunch at noon, it was time to begin the elephant Olympics. With two people not feeling well, there were 20 people who were able to participate which meant their would be 5 teams of 4. Over the two hour period, the teams participated in games that challenged our mental,physical, and artistic abilities. Throughout the duration of the games all teams stayed positive and supportive of one another. In the end, the red team/Team Diablo (Sam Awe, Haley Koenig, Erin O’Connor, and Jason Kehoe) came out on top. They were rewarded with ice cream and bragging rights. Immediately after, we went down and played soccer with the mahouts. It was a blast!
At 4 O’Clock we rode down to the river on our elephants. The trek is about 25-30 minutes and the views are fantastic. When we reach the river, most students swim and play with the elephants in the water. The mahouts love to splash and play with us all. The river is always a highlight of our day. After returning back to home base we showered and met for our mentor groups. At 7 O’clock we ate dinner which is always yummy Thai food made by local thai women. The night ended with free time, which some people spent journaling, watching Cheaper By The Dozen, or sleeping.
We are all having a great time here in Thailand, but we cannot wait to see you all soon!
Jason Kehoe and Morgan Lesniewski