Hey hey hey!
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. That explains just about how
crazy and awesome this program went. Pardon the rain every single day, last
minute changes due to festival traffic, everyone sharing close space at FAE,
throwing elephant dung at Dome, and the great mud fight.
The first week was a challenge trying to get to know each other and having to
maintain the decorum of FAE. How can you expect to have fun and stay quiet at
the same time? How could you have a movie/facial night with no popcorn? Our
7/11 stops never failed to bring in the entertainment, while we continued to stock
up like there was never going to be another stop.
FAE was a different world in itself; it had the seriousness of a hospital with
people working round the clock, the only agenda being to serve the elephants. It
was an eventful week where we got to work with Mosha & Boon-Mee, cut grass,
and clean the ever-falling leaves from the trees. We got to meet a lot of
interesting speakers like Dr. Preecha, a renowned elephant veterinarian. He
gave us a great insight to all the patients at the hospital and also about the
elephants, while sharing some of his life experiences.
The hospital was extremely busy while we stayed. We saw an aged male bull
suffering from a bacteria infection. We saw how the doctors were trying hard to
cure his illness. We also witnessed elephants being brought into the hospital in
the middle of the night. One of the patients brought in was a 4-year-old elephant
that had a fatal viral infection. She was swelling up as doctors from across the
provinces were dropping by to assess and provide care. But what connected us
all the most was having to clear and beautify the cemetery. It brought a sense of
connection with those majestic animals, while bringing the group closer together.
Week two bought us all back to Little Village but we could still not keep the boys
away from boys town.
This time they were a little closer and could cover the
distance with a 2 min walk. Finally the week everyone was look forward to had
come and the biggest agenda was SHOPPING and THAI MASSAGE. We kick
started the week with a cooking class and blessings from the white elephant who
sits on top of a mountain (Doi Suthep). This week also brought Dome losing his
phone to some bad karma on bamboo rafts, a biker gang entertaining us to some
hard rock tunes while we rafted down the river, and some of us trying to navigate
rapids on the raft with just a bamboo stick.
The day we’d been waiting for arrived and it was worth noting everyone’s
expression as they walked out after their Thai massage: it read I’m floating in the
clouds. Nothing could top that but the night market, which was absolute mayhem.
With only 2 hours and all of the souvenir shopping to do, some groups didn’t
even want dinner. It was running, bargaining, buying, and more running. None
the less, ended with loaded bags and loaded smiles.
After a supreme night of trying to fit all the purchases into the bags, it was time to
explore the northern Thai culture at the Hmong village. It was a challenge
walking up the hill and through the farmlands. The heavy rains and leeches did
not make the task any easier. However, the shaman cleared the air and blessed
us all to some pounded sticky rice that tasted better when grilled. While the views
dropped our jaws, the food closed them up for sure.
It was finally time to make our transition into our last week, and into our second
week of service. The team at ECH was very welcoming and it was fascinating
learning about Sab’s life and how he became a mahoot. We stayed at the Royal
Ping Resort and went to ECH during the day for service. At this point everyone
was ready to go and geared up for service.
Our routine involved cleaning up the elephant poop, having a shot put
competition with dung, cleaning the camp ground, walking and bathing the
elephants in the Ping River (in absolute downpour on some days), splashing
everyone who didn’t want to get wet, planting an entire field with
banana/sugarcane/elephant grass, having lethal mud fights, digging holes, and
carrying logs. We did it all in style with some drum jams over wet clothes, fighting
to get a spot on the chill hammock, baby elephants running while we watched out
for our feet, and never forget all of the mud and poop on our footwear!
All in all it was such a great 3-weeks! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!