This weekend, I participated in something extremely spiritual and heartwarming. I visited an elephant sanctuary with my friends from the Mirror Foundation. Mind you, we didn’t ride the elephants, nor do we condone that behavior; however, we fed and bathed them!
Riding elephants, no matter how “well cared for” they are, is awful. It’s an exploitation of Thai culture, as well as a form of animal cruelty that I won’t even get into. The bottom line is this: always educate yourself on animal treatment, as well as cultural acceptances, when researching zoos and animal sanctuaries!!!
The experience was incredible. A songtaew picked us up from our hotel in Chiang Mai, where we met three Swedish girls. I recognized the Swedish instantly, and it turns out they lived in Kalmar, where I lived for five months! Small world!
When we arrived, we immediately changed into matching shirts to wear over our clothes. We had an educational lesson about elephant sanctuaries, which ones are proper, and how to feed/behave around the elephants.
Feeding them was beyond what I thought it could be. They didn’t even need the bananas to be peeled for them; the only one who did was the seven month-old male named Ronaldo! How cute!!! We held the bananas behind our backs and fed them one by one. I absolutely loved the experience, even if my hands became muddy from their thick tongues!
Throwing mud at the elephants seemed like an odd task, but we all had so much fun getting messy and the elephants were enjoying themselves! Bathing them off with buckets of water was probably my favorite part, because we could really get up close and personal with the elephants.
My words and photos don’t do the experience justice. Visit the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary if you’re ever in Chiang Mai!
I’ve been here since April 17, and I can already tell you that my life has changed for the better.
I’m living in a camp/”commune” like setup. I have been living in a room with a mosquito net above my bed, have been taking cold bucket showers, and have been eating a low-protein, high-carb diet (opposite from home given that I’m a celiac).
This experience has been humbling, and to say that is an understatement.
I am currently teaching English at a local orphanage. The children are so grateful to have us there, teaching them and playing with them of course. I have always wanted to adopt children, and my time here has shown me that I’m meant to do this one day.
I will be volunteering until May 13, and I am beyond thankful that I have made this decision. I will aim to not take things for granted when I come home on May 21. I want to live like the villagers here: having less and making the most out of life (always having smiles on their faces)!
I have been struggling these past few months, post-graduation. I had been through the ringer with job applications, interviews, and other miscellaneous drama that needs no further explanation. Rather than sulking and doing the same things day in and day out, I decided spur-of-the-moment to volunteer abroad.
I have been living in a “commune-like” setting in a village in northern Thailand. This experience is very much different than home: cold bucket showers, mosquito bites like no other, and copious amounts of sweat.
When you think of Thailand, you think of beaches and tourist destinations, right? But take a moment to consider the poorer side of the nation; I have been teaching in an orphanage and playing with young village children, who barely know English at all. Thailand is more than tourism: it has personality and it truly is “the land of smiles.”
Thank you to all of my friends and family who supported, and continue to support, me through these major life decisions!
Message of the day: always be grateful for what you have. There are others who have less than you, but may be more likely to give more because of it!