Three celebrations in one!
August the 12th in Thailand represents the Queens Birthday, along with celebrations for Mother’s Day. Coincidently around the world it is also, World Elephant Day! The village of HuayPakoot celebrates in such a unique way, that we were lucky to be invited to attend. The day began with the arrival of many cars and motorbikes carrying villagers from a nearby village. They bought trees to plant and refreshments for all to enjoy. The temple was a buzz of people catching up and exchanging gossip and news. After a rather lengthy stint of waiting around expectantly the ceremony began. Everyone walked up into the forest just behind the temple and we sat down to pray to the Buddhist Gods. A handful of older men were up the front passing around cups of rice whiskey, which were quickly consumed by surrounding men. After a few minutes of muttering prays, while spectators took pictures of us “Gola’s” (foreigners) sat in the middle of the locals, we made our way back to the temple. The ceremony began with several monks sat at the front in chairs, while the rest of us sat on the floor under arrangements of string above our heads. After what felt like a very long time, everyone stood up and untied the string to tie a loop, like a halo, on their heads; prays then continued.
It was time for lunch! All members of GVI sat down for a feast at lunch time, prepared by several of the village women and Root. Delicious spicy dishes, pork, vegies and rice filled our hungry tummies. After lunch, it was time to plant trees. I think this was what most of us were most looking forward to. Everyone grabbed a tree or two and picked a spot to plant it. Villagers helped dig the holes and we got our hands dirty, ensuring that the trees were well positioned and secure. I planted my tree at the top of the road, somewhere where I will see it most days on my way up the hill. Hopefully in my time here I will see the tree survive and grow! Next on the agenda was to tie orange fabric (the same as monks clothing) around trees in the surrounding forest. When the orange fabric is tied around a tree, it protects that tree forever; therefore it can never be cut down.
It was time to head back to base to continue celebrations, but of a different kind. World Elephant Day! We all got to learn more about elephants and the importance of their survival and protection. Later we watched a video from the World Elephant Day website which showed how elephants reintroduced into the wild can survive and relearn and remember how to forage and communicate with other elephants living in the forests. And it wouldn’t be a celebration without a group photo in front of our homemade banners!
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