Saturday, June 27, 2009

Jab, Gong, and Me!

Volunteering at Maetaman Elephant Camp in Northern Thailand ....






"Jab" ... my 7 year old teenage elephant .... "Gong" ... my Thai Mahout ..... and Me!

The elegant, enlightening Asian elephant!



Oh how gracefully they walk!
Like some elderly Grand Dame
Making a magnificent stage entrance!
Quietly, non pretentious...
No need for any ego induced fanfare
Their sheer size makes their presence known...

Tons of muscle and bone
Wrapped in a ten to twelve foot high package
Of wrinkled grey....
A massive body that moves so quietly, so softly.
Movements that flow ever so smoothly
To an ancient rhythm of Mother Earth.
Yet leaving little or no trace.

Ten feet above, seemingly sleeply brown eyes
Peer out of a massive, life scarred skull.
Limited in earthly sight, their vision is eternal.
Non-judgemental eyes ...
Filled with lifetimes of compassion and understanding
Look directly and deeply into one's very soul.

Humbling as well as exhilarating
The experience of sharing time and space ...
With such wise, powerful and elegant mammals.
The enlightening Asian Elephant!


Teaching English near Maetaman Elephant Camp

My primary objective when I teach English in the schools .... is to get the students speaking English! So I use songs, games, and lots of silliness on my part, to encourage the students to use their English!



"My favorite food is........." This activity definitely gets students speaking English, while their classmates listen intensely!



Initial assessment of students' English language skills.... "What is your name?" "How old are you?"



Call out a math problem such as "5 plus 7" and throw the ball to a classmate. They then give the answer and then call out a new math problem before throwing the ball!



"This is the way we comb our hair... comb our hair ...comb our hair." The students laughed when I combed my bald head!




"Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake......"




Modeling the hand movements for "Pat-a-cake" with Carmel, a volunteer from North Carolina, also working at Maetaman Elephant Camp.




Demonstrating "Pat-a-cake" movements with a student...



"Left hand up!" "Left hand down!" "Right hand up!" ... helping students to "hear" English.



"What color is this?"



Keeping English lessons fun and engaging!

Sunday Market in Chiang Mai!



Every Sunday evening in the "Old City" of Chiang Mai, there is a large outdoor market that goes for blocks ....



Artisans from throughout northern Thailand display their crafts .... a virtual feast for the eyes!




Color....



More color....



And the color ....



Goes on...



And on....



And on...



Seemingly....



Without end!




i

This dung's for YOU!

I'm loved! By an elephant!


An elephant loves me....



A nice big kiss!



And then.... another kiss!

Nickie .....






Nickie is the Friends For Asia primary link with the Meataman Elephant Camp and is always available to help out.

How to get on an elephant?

video

Thankfully my elephant likes to lay down ... which really helps when I try to get up onto its back!

The part of the elephant ride that's the most difficult..

video

Balancing on the top of an elephant as it lumbers its way downhill into the river is always an experience .... since the downhill motion lends itself to a feeling of falling forward.... off the elephant!

Jeb's afternoon bath

video

Twice each day, at 6 a.m. and again at 4 p.m., my 7 year old bull elephant, "Jeb" gets a bath in the river! This is definately the type of outing Jeb enjoys!

A day at the elephant camp....

The alarm goes off about 5:30 a.m.



Opening my door .... the tropical jungle greets me.



By 6 a.m. time to pick up elephant dung .....



Sweep the elephant's living area ...



Amble down to the river riding the elephant ... with the mahout



Bath the elephant.... then give the elephant its breakfast of two to three bundles of grass.



Now I can have breakfast! It's about 8 o'clock in the morning...



Tourists begin arriving at the sanctuary about 9 a.m. so it is time to lend a helping hand, if needed, as the tourist mingle with the elephants!



Help the mahouts with the 9:30 a.m. show



If time allows after the show, head off on an elephant ride into the jungle with the mahout... to give the elephant some exercise (and train me in the ways of a mahout!)




11 a.m. and I'm off to teach the students at the public school just up the hill from the camp.



English lessons to middle school children...



After lunch.... cut grass around 2:30 p.m. ... its tall and the leaves can easily cut the skin.



Carry the very heavy bundles of grass to the truck.. whew it's humid!



Put the bundles of grass on the truck.... oh so hot mid afternoon.



By now it is getting close to 4 p.m. when the elephants get their second bath for the day, BUT before then.... it is again dung pick up time ....



Late afternoon bath time for the elephants ....



Nearing to 5 p.m. I climb the stairs to my house in the sky...



So high is it that even the bugs don't come up and bother me...



Relax for awhile ...



Lay in the hamock high above the water ... since dinner will be ready about 7 p.m. or so..



It's been a long and very busy day.... so time to enjoy my home in the sky...