Rain or Shine
I have woken up before the sun five days in a row now. Maybe it’s because I’ve committed to 6am yoga and can’t wake up any later…or maybe for the fact that it’s out of genuine motivation for each day. Every time it’s a little the same; overlooking the Northern Thai Mountains as I wake, nourish, talk, laugh, and hike. Every time it’s also a little different, a slight shift that makes each experience unparalleled.
The rain transformed today into a new frame of mind. At home, back in Australia, a rainy day is typically a slow forecast, wrapped-up-in-sleep from dawn to dusk. Today I was hiking. Decked out in gumboots, rain-jackets, and some brollies, we winded down the road, sinking into the misty mountains as the haunting call of gibbons echoed. A troop of four dorky Golas heading towards Patti Sayee and Thong Dees pocket of the forest. We were set to simultaneously carry out the whole data package for Thong dee: a health check, activity budget and behaviour budget. On top of this, we each had a handful of brolly, a wet smudged data sheet, and one big elephant gliding down a muddy forested slope, munching, farting and scratching all the way. Guided by Patti Sayee, we stumbled across her quite close to the start of our path, and got stuck into the days mission whilst the two of them interacted in a deeply enigmatic way; kindred spirits that embody the relationship between mahout and elephant (bananas are also a key factor). The next couple of hours were spent shadowing Thong Dee’s movements throughout the forest as she fed on a varied plethora of plant life and scratched her body against every second tree. I took a bit of time to get the hang of observing, noting data, and walking, especially not being well-accustomed to the art of multitasking in this context. However, I had an incredibly stimulating time doing exactly that. Hiking back to base can be re-phrased as a ‘hitch-hike’, considering we all squatted in the back of a ute and let the mountains sink below us. I may have picked up a leach and become a host for a mud-sweat-rain hybrid paste, but today’s hike quite simply enriched the beginning of a very abundant 6 months.
The unchallenged reality of hiking and data-collecting in the rain has initiated a rooted sense of both sentimental and pragmatic commitment within me that extends further than simply hiking in wet weather. This was why I am here, to invest in something significant, completely and genuinely, from start to finish, everyday, rain or shine.
A nice experience that I have already experienced is the 3rd hike. It was hike 2 where we normally only saw 1 elephant, but we saw 4 at the same time namely Khum Suk, Kha Moon, Sah Jah and Lah Lah. They were all beautiful elephants, but the little Lah Lah still stood out. It is an elephant only a few weeks old and super cute. Even before I started this adventure in Thailand, I had already seen elephants in Sri Lanka or in the zoo in Belgium. But to see them in the wild was very special. It is much nicer if they walk around freely instead of being stuck in a cage or that someone is riding on it.
So Different, but in Such a Good Way
I signed up to GVI Chiang Mai, because I wanted to go live abroad, meet new cultures and help animals. Since I have always been drawn to elephants, maybe because they are the world’s largest land animals and so gentle and tactile at the same time, I decided for the programme Conservation internship with elephants in Thailand. I was so thrilled at first, but then started to feel more and more afraid, since I had no idea what I’m getting myself into. Ultimately, I did have everything to live a nice life. But was I feeling happy and content? No. And so the adventure began.
When I first arrived here, I cannot describe how it felt. Everything was so different, but in such a good way. At your homestay you only get a room with a bed in it, and to go to the bathroom you have to walk a couple of metres and while doing that you run into chickens, roosters, dogs, buffalos… how great it is to have all these animals come and greet you first thing in the morning? I’ll tell you – it’s just amazing! And the view from the base… that’s just indescribable. When we do our yoga in the morning, having breakfast or lunch, or just chilling there – every single time when we look at the view, we get mesmerized.
Also the villagers, they are just the friendliest human beings, they are so welcoming and warm. The food we get from them is home grown and home made, I can’t even remember if there was a time when I ate healthier food. Also THE SMOOTHIE you get to buy from the villagers – it’s so got I just get the sudden urge to eat all these fruit, even though I was never really a fan of fruit.
And then there are the elephants. When I first saw this amazing creature out in the forest, it brought tears to my eyes. Elephants are so majestic and peaceful. I could watch them just eating all day and I would feel content. I’ve been meeting elephants all week and been touched by every single one. However I’ve been the most softened watching Thong Dee and her mahout Patti Sayee’s relationship. Patti Sayee and Thong Dee have a really loving relationship, where force is not in the game, even though thong Dee is being moody sometimes (like all women do ;)), He’s always gentle and kind and everything about theirs relationship is really pure Their story is over 30 years old and still continues. I’m so excited to watch them for the next six months.