Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
Hello Mini Mahouts,
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.
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.
Sending love to you all,
Students thinking the mangosteens were a tray of brownies
Hula hooping skills
The amazing misty view every morning
Critically thinking about/discussing elephants
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
The GLA staff started our morning by teaching us about the Thai culture and language. We learned the basics like hello, thank you, excuse me, sorry, asking for names, and numbers. We exercised our new knowledge by visiting temples and shopping at a local market. The temples were so beautiful and we even got the chance to talk to a monk who spoke English. There were so many wax statues of ancient monks and it took us a while to figure out if they were real or not. Elephants are a huge part of the Thai culture and that is shown by the number of statues of them in temples and around the city.
Then, we ventured to the markets which are so different from the US. First of all, thai markets are so much cheaper. 35 bahts equals about one dollar and one could buy a pair of pants for 100 bahts. Food such as: sushi, fried fish, fruit juices, squid, and vegetables can be found in the market along with handmade crafts and jewelry.
We had an adventurous day of trying new foods and bonding with other students.
-Anna-Kate and Emily
Today was another amazing day in Thailand! Our group traveled to an elephant hospital, the first ever created in Thailand, and got to meet two very famous elephants using prosthetic legs. Listening to their stories and actually getting to be within ten feet of them was something I and most of our group has ever experienced before. After interacting with the elephants in the hospital we traveled around the corner to a museum where we watched movie about the treatment of elephants in Thailand and got to walk around the museum which was full of very interesting facts about elephants. I learned that they are pregnant for two whole years, they can run up to 30 mph and that they really have horrible eye sight and use their trunks to get around because their sense of smell is amazing! After learning as much as we could about the elephants we ate another authentic Thai meal and it was amazing yet again! Next came the part we were probably all the most excited for! We got to get up close and personal with several elephants! We got to touch them and feed them and watch them bathe themselves. For many of us it was the first time every touching or coming this close to an elephant. It was a very emotional experience for almost all of us. These animals and truly amazing and to be able to touch them and connect with them is something that can not be described is words. Everyone should get the opportunity to do this!
We then got to go watch the elephants perform their tricks for us such as walking on logs, pushing them with their heads, pulling up a flag on a flag pole, throwing balls into a bucket, and painting pictures! These are huge creatures performing all of these tricks and it was amazing to watch! After thw show we walked to the nursery part of the conservation center. There was a baby elephant with his step mom! Let me just say this step mom was massive, like all elephants are big but she was huge. She kept putting her trunk in our faces and grabbing our hands! Then came along the little baby elephant who was climbing the fence desperately try to get closer to us. He had so much energy and loved throwing dirt on his head. Unfortunately after the nursery it was time to leave so we saod good bye to the elephants and traveled all the way back to our hotel. For dinner we walked to a little restaurant and all ate different versions of pad thai. These little authentic restaurants are so fascinating and make such good food. After dinner we went home and finalized our plans for our presentation for the highschool kids during our school exchange! Today was a full day of excitement and adventure! For many of us it was our very first encounters with elephants which made it a very emotional day as well. As the rest of the week goes by there will be hundreds of more memories but today was definitely a good one!
Today we went to Chiang Mai Christian School. As the vans pulled in the lot and we exited the bus, we could seek out Thai students poking their heads around corners, over walls, and through windows with excitement to meet us. We entered the school, taking off our shoes and were greeted with around 30 high school students and flower necklaces. They presented us with their principal and two traditional dancers. After, we presented to them about American High School and dances for them. They thought the dance was hilarious, and we thought it was rather funny that we were doing it for them. We were granted some time for a break and snacks when we got to meet and talk with them. There was a very strong mutual interest in each other which i think both groups were able to recognize. The students taught us how to make paper jellyfish, which were described by the Thai students as “suoy” – beautiful. They taught us some words and we taught them some recent cultural movements like selfies, the dab, and hand gestures. We were provided with a traditional Thai soup for lunch; very spicy! We had some time to go out to the courtyard and play basketball and soccer. There were so many kids outside that it was hard to keep track of them, but we all had so much fun! We split the teams to make Team America vs. Team Thailand. Even though Team America got beat decisively, everyone on the sidelines cheered for both teams. We parted ways and say goodbyes, sorry to see each other go. The weather was very hot and humid, especially around the school, so luckily we got to go back to the hotel with time to shower. We went to a place called “Elephant Parade.” Here you paint small porcelain elephants. A part of the money raised is donated to elephant conservation efforts. They work with the elephant hospital that we went to yesterday.
Tomorow we go the to Thai Elephant Home, our home for the next week. I’m so excited.
GLA students woke up at 5:30 to get ready for their morning taking care of the elephants. At 6:00, students walked down the hill to see the elephants. They had to scoop the elephants poop, then wash the elephants with the hose and finally feed the elephants corn and other grasses. Students ate breakfast and started their service work for the day. Half of the group worked at building a dam to stop the water from eroding the hillside and to conserve the water. The other half of the group worked at cutting grass for food for the elephants. Students would use machetes to chop down grass then put them into bundles so they were easier to transport. After service, students are lunch and then had a few hours of mentor groups. During this time students watched a Ted talk on single stories and the power of how only hearing a part of a story can change a person’s perspective of another. Students shared their stories so that we could learn more about each other.
After mentor groups, students took the elephants to the river to be bathed. Students had the option to ride the elephants or just walk alongside them. When students returned they enjoyed a few hours of free time until they had dinner. Students hung around the community area by playing guitar and listening to the rain until it was time for bed.
Today I woke up in a room with 3 new friends at 5:30am and pushed snooze as the other girls and I groaned in response to the early hour. The sun wasn’t out yet and we were exhausted from a week full of adventure. Five minutes later the alarm went off again and we prepared for another great day.
It was one of those remarkable days where the sun never went away and there were rainbows in the sky when you rode your elephant to the river. The day started with the usual poop scooping and elephant bathing, followed by breakfast which consisted of delicious sugary cereals, toast, and salad. After our morning routine, we divided into our two groups and I went to plant grass with Group A. We were all in agreement that after two days of ruthlessly hacking grass down with machetes, it felt good to give back and make our mark on the land in a positive way.
Post completing our community service many of us got massages from local Thai women at Home Base. At around 4:00pm the two groups merged once again for the daily walk to the river to bathe the elephants. Some of the elephants were unable to join the group, but we all worked together and found everyone an elephant to ride, if one so desired. I hopped on (literally) Phu-come, the larger and feistier ellie with fellow student Anna Kate and we rode P-c down to the river for a cold bath in the river. The bumpy walk to the river was filled with singing and story sharing with our mahouts and a distant rainbow appeared over the mountains. A Kodak moment for a picture perfect kind of day.
Exhausted from community service, the sun, and killing mosquitos with our electric fly starters, we all relaxed before dinner and had brownies generously supplied by the local GLA coordinator. A plethora of veggies and rice was served for dinner along with curry. Later in the night the students divided into mentor groups and discussed goals we had set and how we were achieving them and what we could do to fully accomplish what set out to do when we came to this side of the world. All of us students have different reasons for being here and different goals and ideas about what will come of this trip but each student had truly reflected on their experiences and how they have effected them.
9:30pm came sooner than any of us wanted but we all headed to bed and easily fell asleep, knowing another busy day in this terraqueous country awaits.
Today, at the Thai Elephant Home, GLA had a fantastic day of planing grass, building a damn, and participating in the Thai Elephant Olympics.
We started the day by waking up at 5:30, and from there we cleaned and fed the elephants. After breakfast our volunteer groups split and went to their working stations. Group B, the group I was in, left for 3 hours to plant grass for the elephants to eat. After a successful day of planting we were rewarded with ice cream. Next 4 teams competed in the first ever Elephant Olympics. Unfortunately, the championship was claimed by the blue team were they were prized with ice cream. Next we did our daily elephant washing down by the river. Finally we ended the night with a half our of bug hunting and star gazing.