Before I left, I was told that it has been cold in Thailand. I would check the weather and it would say that the low was in the 50s, so I didn’t really think I would feel cold. I was wrong. It is “nǒw mǎhk” (very cold!) when you are riding on a motorcycle at 0730 as the sun has just begun to rise and the air is thick with moisture. Shout out to mom, who encouraged me to take a scarf, and grandma who knitted my fingerless gloves!
Throughout the morning, I’ve been slowly peeling off layers and by the afternoon its hard to believe how cold I was in the morning! Elephant walks are a highlight of every day, watching the elephants leisurely eat grass and sugarcane, pull down branches and vines, and wander about, seemingly without a care in the world.
All of these elephants have painful memories from their pasts. Some seem to have healed more than others. Many have found comfort in one another. Wassana, Pang Dow, and Lotus (Bwa Ngam) are always together and have been fondly dubbed The Gossip Girls. Pang Suai and Pang Noi are the only two elephants who share a mahout as they are never out of one another’s sight. Pang Tong (mother of Boon Lott, whose passing inspired the sanctuary) has taken ten year old Lom under her wing. Sometimes, the more senior ladies, Boon Thong, Permpoon, and Thong Dee congregate, but they also relish their alone time. Males are more solitary. I’ve finally had the great pleasure of seeing Tong Jai, who is a 70-year-old tusker in quite bad health. The only person who can work with him is Katherine’s husband Anon, who spends day and night taking care of his needs. Its always a thrill to see Mr. (Seedor) Moo, as he is the Clark Gable of BLES.
I’ve spent a lot of time helping with the dogs as well, my favorite of which is Gummy, as she reminds me of Odie. Winter is a sweetheart with hip displasia who loves a cuddle. I think I have the dogs to thank for my lack of homesickness.
I’ve been learning some Thai with David (full-time volunteer, who is amazing) and carrying around a Thai phrasebook to speak with the mahouts. Everyone is delighted when I try to speak Thai, so its great fun.