When I entered the project I had a lot of expectations, and almost none of them were met as the way I thought they would be, it was much better! The elephants live in different parts of the forest around the village and we have been walking to them every day of the week. We always have the mahouts with us and they have so much knowledge that we don’t really understand or can translate, but when I saw them work with the elephants it was awesome.
I have actually got to know the mahouts better than I expected and I am amazed that they can control the elephants as good as they do. The elephants have their own personalities; you get to know each one when spending time with them in the forest.
I wanted to live in a village because it would be so much different from the life I live at home, and it was a major difference. I lived in a bamboo hut beside my home stay family’s house. I cooked with my family almost every day for the last three weeks, it was a choice I made by myself and I loved it. It was fun to see how they cooked the food and I am going to bring my new cooking “skills” home. We have a lot of free time but as long as I took advantage of that it was good.
The staff had many ideas of things we could do, once a week we were eating with the mahouts, some days we had elephant chats from the interns and the first week I did a bamboo basket with the basket weaver from the village. Some weekends I went in to Chiang Mai with other volunteers and some weekends we had themes, such as one weekend was the world pangolin day when myself and another girl did a presentation about pangolins. So the whole elephant program is not just about elephants, it becomes what you self make out of it. This was my first trip to a foreign country ever and my first volunteer project and I think it was a really good life experience, which may have changed my life. I have learnt to be more tolerant to other people because we have been living so close to each other and hang around almost all of the day. I am already looking for something more to volunteer to, and I know it’s because my experience here was as good as it was.
By Mikael, 6 week volunteer (26th Jan – 9thMarch 2013)