A Travellerspoint blog

May 2013

Kid Interviews III

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Alex and Leah Interview Each Other About their Experiences at The Elephant Nature Park
(May 6-19, 2013)

" When I went to the zoo and saw an elephant I was like, I will never be close to an elephant, I'll never feed an elephant, I'll never pet an elephant, I'll never wash an elephant. Now I have and it is really really cool" - Alex

"Sitting in the shade you are still sweating!" - Leah

"The first time I took a cucumber and stuck it on a elephant's trunk and then she ate it - I was just like - I FED AN ELEPHANT! It was magical!" - Alex

"I like Jokia, one of the blind elephants . . . she is really gentle . . . When Jokia first came to the sanctuary another elephant (Mae Perm) went to help her. It's like the other elephant is her eyes, helping her. They are always together and never leave each other. They are best friends forever." - Leah

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You can learn more about the elephants in the ENP herd, and How You Can Help.
Be Sure to "Like" Save Elephant Foundation on Facebook!

THANKS FOR WATCHING!!! and FOR ALL OF YOUR SUPPORT!!

We have a hard time imagining how our remaining adventures will top this one!

Posted by annevl 20:12 Archived in Thailand Tagged nature education elephant thailand kids world family school volunteer video interview homeschool Comments (3)

Selective Memory: What Will Our Kids Remember?

There Was This Adorable Puppy at Some Temple . . .

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Eye Witness Testimony

Eye witnesses are notoriously unreliable. If you talk to ten people who were all present at the same event, chances are no two versions will be identical. As time passes the recounting tends to take on even more of the personality of the teller. I have found that individuals notice different things and take away with them distinct feelings and impressions. This is certainly true for our family.

As four eye witnesses to the same world travel experience, you would need to talk to all of us in order to piece together the real story. Combining our individual memories is like layering transparent images on top of each other. Each sheet can stand alone, but the layered image has a depth and flavor that speaks to the bonds forged by shared experience.
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Keeping it Real

There are times when I am listening to my kids describe their version of a shared family experience that doesn't come close to jogging my own memory, although I KNOW we were there together! As adults I think we sometimes pick and choose what we remember - filtering out the more unpleasant aspects. Our tween and teenager apply no such filter, so traveling with them full time absolutely keeps it real.

For Example:
Adult - Remember when we were driving from De Nang to Hoi An and first saw the swarms of motorbikes?
Child - Yeah! That driver had the worst BO ever!

Adult - Wasn't it amazing spending the day learning to weave with that family in Chinchero?
Child - Guess so. It was hot and there was no bathroom.
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Unique Perspectives

LEAH
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Leah (age 11) is our intuitive nature girl. She is an experiential learner who cares about animals and identifies places we have been based on the creatures we encountered there. Leah is also part fish and is her absolute happiest in the water. Her memories will most likely be strongest for experiences involving one or both of these factors.

Leah's compassion for animals can make an experience wonderfully enriching or terribly upsetting. When we did a farm stay in New Zealand she woke early every day so she could help milk the goats and feed the chickens. She was perfectly happy and by the end of the week she knew all their names and personalities. In Burma, on the other hand, she spent an entire day on the verge of tears after seeing caged baby owls. We couldn't console her and it really didn't matter what other cool things we did that day - the poor baby owls will be what she remembers.

I see Leah taking what she has seen and learned in the world and becoming something of an activist. She has grown in confidence and is much less afraid to share her opinions with others. After spending two weeks volunteering with elephants and dogs at Elephant Nature Park, she will never let us buy a dog from a breeder, attend a circus, or ride a "trekking" elephant.

ALEX
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Alex (age 13) is our fearless hands-on boy. He wants the chance to master the ropes course, brave the rapids, jump waves, ride a camel, and drive a scooter (we said "NO" to that one). For him, participating in activities (he has been LOVING cooking classes) and the added freedom of a travel lifestyle makes the temple and market visits bearable.

He also thrives on sharing facts with us, for example:

  • "Did you know that in New Zealand the bat is the only known native land mammal?"
  • "Peru has over 3000 different types of potatoes!"
  • "You know, the Great Wall of China really CAN'T be seen from space. China probably made that up."

We aren't exactly sure where he picks these up since he rarely seems to be paying attention - but there are many more where those came from...and he is entertaining.

Alex will probably remember experiences with a few place names thrown in for good measure. I imagine him describing our "big trip" in a list form, like a brochure.

Holding on to Memories

Memories you capture on purpose are always more vivid than the ones you pick up by accident.
- Isaac Marion

As we travel we find ourselves trying to do four things at once:

  • Live in the Moment
  • Share our Experiences
  • Plan the Next Step
  • Keep Memories Alive

The last one is the most likely to get pushed off the agenda, especially during busy times. So, here are some ways we have been attempting to capture our experiences for the future.

PHOTOS

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A good snapshot keeps a memory from running away.
- Eudora Welty

We travel with two water-proof shock-proof cameras and two iPhones. Needless to say, we take lots of pictures.

Whenever possible we hand off the cameras to the kids and let them chose their subjects. Each of them brings a perspective that is a joy to see and their photos reflect their personalities and vision. Leah's photos are usually of animals, interesting artwork, or nature. Alex takes wonderful landscape shots and videos of himself jumping off boats, waterfalls, etc. Can you guess who the photographer was for each of these shots?
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For us, the challenge with photos isn't taking them. It is managing them. We may have 4 cameras, but only one computer. Uploading, editing, and organizing photos is no small task and grows more daunting if it is put off for a few weeks.

One thing we found that really helps make the process smoother is making sure each camera is set for the correct date and time. iPhoto automatically groups photos into "events" based on date and we can then add a specific tag describing that group of photos. One of us then goes through the photos, picks the a selection, and exports them to a desktop folder. From there we upload to Facebook, Shutterfly and our Travellerspoint blog photo gallery.

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When we have a chance for a little down time and internet connectivity, I put together photo books on Shutterfly. Then when there is a sale I order a few shipped to my parents. Of course there is a major time delay -I just put a book together of photos from December - but It feels good knowing that we have some physical reminder of our experiences. It will be especially lovely to look through them when we return.

We're also looking forward to an experiment that we're going to make using YearlyLeaf to convert our Facebook page into a physical book. That should be a fun way to keep the memories alive...

VIDEO JOURNALS

My original idea was to have the four of us keep written journals describing our daily life as we travelled. We chose notebooks together and set aside time when we would all write. I have to admit that it just didn't fly. Each writing time would leave us frustrated and angry at each other. I would never even get a chance to write anything because I would be nagging the kids the whole time.

Taking a step back, we decided that if the primary goal of keeping journals was to allow the kids to practice expressing themselves, we could try something different. Introducing - Video Journals!
EXAMPLE:

Alex and Leah work together to come up with a basic script, practice, and then ACTION!
The result is an authentic capturing of their personalities and insight into a specific place and time.

FACEBOOK & BLOG

By sharing our trip in "real time" with family and friends we are also helping to preserve memories. Both children contribute to our blog entries and often help choose our Facebook updates. True to form, Leah wrote "Cool Animals" and Alex, "Favorite Places"
One of my favorite blog entries was a family writing project about our trek to Machu Picchu. Keeping current on the blog is not always possible and we'll have some catching up to do on a number of places and topics we keep meaning to write about!

What Will We Remember?

Our individual memories may indeed be selective, and we will each walk away changed in different ways. However, we have done this together and together we will treasure our long lasting family memories.

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______________________________

This post was written as part of group writing project on the subject of what our kids may remember and take away from the long term travel experience.

Check out these fabulous posts by other traveling families of all shapes and sizes!

Nancy from Family on Bikes

Catherine Forest from Catherine et les fées

Alisa from Living Outside of the Box

Melissa from Break Out of Bushwick

Bethaney from Flashpacker Family

Jenn Miller from Edventure Project

Heather Costaras from Living Differently

Kalli from Portable Professionals

Kirsty from Barts go Adventuring

Sharon from Where's Sharon

Lainie from Raising Miro on the Road of Life (and Aimee from Suitcases and Strollers)

Nichola from We Travel Countries

CoreyAnn Khan from Adventure Bee

Tracey from The Expat Experience

Mary from Bohemian Travelers

Kris from Simon Says

Posted by annevl 17:14 Tagged dog education elephant family volunteering teaching memories family_travel homeschool worldschool Comments (7)

Elephant Nature Park Volunteering

The Mostly Messy Jobs that Keep us Busy

sunny 90 °F

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We have been living in an elephant sanctuary. We wake to their trumpeting, feed them bananas. play with them in the river, and watch them behave like elephants. Our two weeks at the Elephant Nature Park have been packed with once in a lifetime experiences and plenty of hard work.
Turns out - it takes a great deal of effort by many people EVERY day to feed and nurture 35 elephants!

What have we been DOING during our time at the Elephant Nature Park?

Volunteers are divided into work teams and assigned morning and afternoon jobs for each day. An ENP Volunteer Coordinator (VC) is "in charge" of each group. Some jobs, such as cutting corn and picking lychee are off site and lunch is brought along.
Here is a somewhat abbreviated description of some of those jobs.

Elephant Kitchen

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The Elephant Kitchen job starts with gathering many baskets of pumpkins and watermelon from the shelves, washing them in a big basin of water magnesium permanganate, and chopping them into quarters.
There are also a few baskets of watermelon that need to be peeled for the older elephants as well as bananas that need to be sorted into very ripe, ripe, almost ripe, and green. A great job for sensory relaxation is the peeling and mashing of bananas by hand for "banana balls", a special elephant treat. We also spent time extricating the seeds from tamarinds. Overall, a pretty light assignment and a great way to chat with fellow volunteers.

ALEX- Elephant Kitchen was my favorite job because it is cool to chop melons and pumpkins with a machete. It was hard unloading the watermelon truck but felt really good when the truck was empty. Mom says I can't play with my food so squishing bananas with my hands was awesome!

Cutting Corn

Elephants eat lots of corn! Every day, volunteers and staff harvest 300 bundles (stalks and all), load them in a truck, and deliver to the always hungry ENP residents. IMG_5259.jpgIMG_5252.jpgIMG_5247.jpgIMG_5245.jpgIMG_5254.jpgIMG_5265.jpgIMG_5251.jpgIMG_5238.jpgIMG_5153.jpgIMG_5143.jpgDSC04004.jpgDSC04005.jpg

Corn cutting was definitely our most physically demanding day. Our group left the park and were driven in the back of a truck about 45 minutes to a farm. We were all decked out in long sleeves and long pants as instructed. By 9am it was sweltering and there was no shade to be found.

We were handed machetes and set to work chopping down the stalks and making bundles. After about an hour we were told to gather up the bundles and bring them to the truck. The hardest part was carrying the bundles over 400 yards along a narrow strip of land in the middle of an irrigation ditch.
Fifteen trips back and forth gave me a brand new appreciation for folks who do this every day!

After loading the bundles in the truck we drove to yet another field, and after a break for lunch, started all over again.
The truck was filled to the brim with corn stalks and we all climbed on top for the journey home. Along the way we had to duck low branches and hold on tight over bumps but we made it back.

After we had showered off the grime, it was satisfying to watch the truck go around delivering corn to the elephants. I think they appreciated our efforts.

Poop Patrol

Well, what goes in must come out - so elephants poop quite a bit. Fortunately, their vegetarian diet means it is not nearly as smelly as one might think. It does, however require an army of shovel and wheelbarrow wielding volunteers to keep the place clean.
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A bonus of this job is that while on poop patrol opportunities abound for elephant encounters.
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Collecting Lychee

Lychee are in season here and a big favorite of the elephants. Our job - collect them by the basket full and return to ENP. This was another adventure in the truck day and we had a grand time climbing trees and pulling down the fruit. We had lunch with a local family and played with an assortment of dogs. Overall, aside from dodging some wasps, it was a lovely day.

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We also got to see a very unusual rainbow. IMG_5356.jpg

LEAH - It was really fun because I got to go up a ladder and climb into trees and drop the fruit into the basket. The lychee is delicious. I just wish the insects didn't like them too.

Mud Pit

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Elephants LOVE the mud! They use the mud pit as a way to cool down and as a natural sunscreen. Once a week, volunteers help maintain the water/mud level by getting in there with hoes and buckets. Our group heard the call of the mud and ended up in an all out extravaganza! Needless to say, Alex and Leah were part of the first wave of mud slingers!
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We also planted banana trees, gathered rocks for making stone walls, cut bamboo poles, and an assortment of other odd jobs around the park.

Our Optional Jobs

The Elephant Nature Park is also home to 450 rescued dogs and about 200 cats. We especially loved playing with the kittens and puppies! There was always need for extra help with the dogs and cats so we tried to pitch in when we could.

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An old residence is in the process of being turned into a home for some of the cats and we were told we could make whatever improvements we wanted. Other volunteers had already made great progress and we were inspired by some of their ideas. Noah took the ceiling down and we cleared away some of existing debris. Foraging through the scrap pile, we put together some cat friendly surfaces and activities. It feels good to have left something of ourselves behind.
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Most of the dogs in the dog sanctuary were rescued from the floods a few years ago. There is a clinic on site and full time volunteers to feed and care for them. We were welcomed to go there any time to walk and play with the furry residents.
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We have had an amazing experience here!!
If you are interested in learning more you can go to www.saveelephant.org
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Posted by annevl 18:55 Archived in Thailand Tagged animals elephant thailand volunteering family_travel enp www.saveelephant.org Comments (4)

Friday Photo - Elephant Love

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Navaan is one of the newest baby elephants at the Elephant Nature Park, and he is very inquisitive. Only 6 months old, he already weighs close to a half a ton. We got to spend some quality time with him (and his mom Sri Prae) while they were hanging out in the shade. Navaan was very interested in our shoes (especially Alex's sandals with velcro straps), and my hat.

This picture shows Navaan attempting to steal the hat off of Noah's head - almost successfully!

Posted by noahv 17:39 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Welcome to the Elephant Nature Park

Day 1


View Southeast Asia on noahv's travel map.

We were up early to meet up with the the rest of the volunteers at the local Chiang Mai offices of Elephant Nature Park. While there, we met Lek Chailert - the founder, leader, and motivating force for the park. She may be small (that’s what “Lek” means in Thai), but she has an amazing power. After we filled out our volunteer forms, Lek showed us some of the birds that she rescued in a recent Chiang Mai storm. One had two broken legs, and Lek was exercising the bird’s wings while the legs healed. She has an amazing drive to help - a very inspirational person.
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Lek and one of her bird friends

We left Chiang Mai around 9:30, and drove the 50km north to the Elephant Nature Park. On the way, we watched a documentary about the work that Lek is doing at the park.
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Although we saw our first Asian elephants on the way, they were ones being used to do tourist rides. Knowing that we were heading to an elephant sanctuary where these types of elephants (as well as ones used in the logging industry) are being given a chance to recuperate and live a “normal” life made us a little sad for those being forced to work, but excited for our upcoming experience.

Pulling into the park was an amazing experience. Our first view of the park was from the top of the pass heading into the valley, and we could see the herd grazing on the banks of the river.
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Once inside the park, we passed the dog sanctuary (home to over 400 dogs - many rescued from the floods in Bangkok a couple of years ago), and headed to “The Platform”. The raised platform is home to the kitchens (both the “human kitchen” and the “ele-kitchen”), as well as our meeting and dining areas. Around the outside of the platform is a a metal railing that serves as the pull-up feed bar for the elephants. Our first order of business was to help feed a couple of the elephants their lunch - a totally amazing experience to be that close!
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After lunch, we got a tour of the facilities, and were assigned rooms and volunteer groups. There are 50 of us here for this week, with about a quarter of those staying for next week (we are part of those).
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Our volunteer groups and schedule for the week - all subject to change, of course

We then all met for an orientation session with Lek, where she gave us a brief history of the park, an overview of the work that they do here, and a pep talk for the rest of the week. Unfortunately, Lek is heading to Cambodia tomorrow for other elephant business, but she’ll be back here for next week. We are all looking forward to learning more from her.
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Our volunteer group

We all enjoyed our first opportunity to get wet with the elephants - standing in the river hurling buckets of water at these giants was an extremely fun experience, and we all got very wet!
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We even saw one of the babies (a boy named Navaan), but his mom and nanny elephants were not in the mood to let us help bathe her! We watched from the bridge while they got a bath and then a snack.
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Our volunteer group all got together for a group blessing from the shaman and elders from the local village, and given our “good luck” bracelets in the ceremony.
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Then dinner - a great selection of food, but (surprise!) all vegetarian fare. Alex and Leah are both dealing with the menu quite well…
Now off to bed before our first full day of work, starting at 7am tomorrow morning. We’re looking forward to more elephant time, as well as more time with the dogs and cats - they are all over the place! This is truly an animal lover’s dream…
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Leah

Today at the Elephant Nature Park, we got to learn the ways of the Elephants. First off, we arrived, then our guide showed us around, and then…we got to feel Elephants! Yay! Then we ate lunch then got to our rooms. In the afternoon, we went to the river and gave the Elephants a bath! That was super fun! Tomorrow, I hope it will be as magical as today.

Anne

Today I was filled with excitement and that first day of sleep away camp nervous energy - Did we bring the right gear? Will the people be cool? How will the kids react to the elephants? What will the food be like? Turns out being a resident volunteer IS like summer camp! Our first day was filled with introductions, orientations, the official reading of rules and even a blessing ceremony by the local shaman. We have been divided into work teams effective tomorrow and I’m confident that our life here will fall into familiar patterns soon. One of the gifts I had not anticipated is the other animals here. There are hundreds of cats and dogs who make themselves quite at home. We have a dog sleeping on our balcony and there is something so normal and wonderful about being greeted when we return “home” to our room.
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Alex

Today was epic. I touched my first elephant, and I was so happy! We woke up at 8am to go to the Elephant Nature Park. We were picked up at 8 in the morning and got to the park at around 10am. We were shown the entrance to the park and the entrance to the dog park. Then we were shown the mess place where the elephant food gets delivered. It was a TON of food!
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Then we were taken to the mess hall, and that was immediately followed by feeding the elephants. It was so awesome - I will never forget the first time I fed an elephant. After a tour of the park, we had lunch. After lunch we had a volunteer orientation - it was boring but I did learn a lot. At 4pm we all went down to the river to wash the elephants. We all got soaked! It was a lot of fun!

Posted by noahv 07:56 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand elephants elephant_nature_park Comments (6)

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