Let me start by saying I have been keeping up with the news. How horribly sad as I view the entire United States grieving. We will never know the ‘why’, but its not important. It’s been done. Look about for the new angels that have been chosen for guidance and direction as we all slowly move forward in this harrowing time. Their strength needs to be shown in all of us.
I am sitting in the guest house that we are staying at in Surin, in my bed feeling quite sick. Have no clue what this is about, but it started Thursday and really decided to raise its ugly head today. I just want some mashed potato’s!! Not happening. Gratefully, I have bread and there is a toaster. I think it will be my staple for the day.
This past Monday, the same tomorrow, we will leave here and go to a small village, Tatit to stay with Mr. Lee who owns 6 elephants. In Thailand, it is a sign of prestige in the number of elephants that one owns. Because he has so many, he is included in many functions and looked to in dealing with matters. He lives with his wife, his hired hand (Juan) and then us volunteers as we come and go the staff person from Starfish, currently Wendy. We get to sleep on the floor on an older mattress and Juan cooks for us. Are activities through this past week were varied, no idea of what is to come this upcoming week.
I signed-up for a program that I believed was about helping elephants that had been rescued from the streets. Those elephants are not always fed enough, they have to do tricks for people that pay and then they get to feed them. I do not see that this program is much different. Everyones elephant stays chained to a post. I accept what they say, but I do not agree with it. And it is obvious that I am not happy with the situation. I have done my homework — there are approximately 2700 domesticated elephants in Thailand and only 1500 wild elephants. The domesticated ones are adequately fed. And then they are trained their entire life to perform for people and allow people to ride them.
This past Monday, 10 other volunteers came to Mr. Lee’s and we were all suppose to ride the elephants. I got up on the wall to mount the elephant and became violently ill. I looked at the elephants head, directly into her eye, and I could not do it. My body screamed from top to bottom, inside & out, that this was wrong. It threw everyone. I got down and they had all kinds of suggestions for me to get on. I could not say NO loud enough. That night Wendy (21, from England) asked me if I would ride. I explained point blank that it was cruel and I would not be a part of it. I placated and said I did understand the cultural aspect. I still do not agree with any of it, or what I have gotten into.
That was the beginning of what I would say has not been such a very good week. This program is a great money maker for Starfish founder and Mr. Lee. And younger people think it is so cool to ‘ride an elephant’. It’s not so cool. The elephant is not a domestic animal nor should it be treated as such. It is meant to be an independent, wild animal. And an amazingly smart one at that. The saddest part, all the people I am around will agree with you on all those points. But I guess the money wins out in the end.
The people themselves of Thailand are wonderful. They are very nice and considerate to all us foreigners! They attempt to help as much as possible although the communication barrier is difficult. I have been told that within the next 5 years Thailand will be changing their national language to English. I just found that sad. Just as I find it sad that a nonChristian culture, a Buddhist culture, is participating in Christmas. Maybe its more so for the travelers, but it feels so very wrong.
I am 12 hours ahead of Ohio and find myself mixed-up at times when I get on the internet. It’s more thinking than I want to do! Temps are looking to stay in the low to mid 90’s all week with possible rain next Sunday. I hope it does just to see. Sounds dumb, but in these hot countries, rain is very different than at home!