On Thursday our job was to help along the coffee project that Lek is also working on. (I swear, there’s no way she ever sleeps!) Her idea is that if the villagers are able to support themselves with coffee farming, which grows in the forest, under the trees, they won’t need to clear more land for farming other crops. And if they don’t clear the forests for farming, the elephants won’t lose what’s left of their homes. (And the cities won’t flood because there’s nothing to absorb the runoff, etc.) Our role in this much larger plan was to move a bunch of dirt from one place to another, and then to use the dirt to fill plastic bags, which would be used as small pots. We made a fireman’s relay using buckets and bags to move the dirt.
But not enough, we ended up filling a ton, but running out while we still had more dirt. Yo tried to find more in the village, but they were out, and even called to see if some could be delivered, but there were none in the surrounding areas either. We didn’t get to finish playing in the dirt, but we did get to watch the elephants bathe in mud!
While I was filming Mae Boi, Mae Yoi started spraying herself and got me pretty good.
Apparently Aesop was right about the mouse, because elephants are afraid of almost anything smaller than them, including cows. If the cows got close Mae Yoi and Mae Boon Si would link trunks and lift their feet to shield Mae Boi, who hid behind them. It was pretty funny to watch.
We spent Friday morning at a kindergarten, with kids age 2 1/2 – 5. There were three classrooms so a couple of each were in each. The kids in the classroom Dylan, Dan and I were in were pretty young, and didn’t have a super-long attention span. Their teacher left the room as soon as we got there, probably happy to have a break. Those things plus the fact that we had no real plan, and no common language, meant we devolved from trying to teach them into just playing with them pretty quickly. The classroom was pretty similar to what you’d see at home in most ways, but there were no desks or chairs, the kids just sat on the floor, with stickers to mark their spots.
The Elephant Nature Park and Journey to Freedom supply lunch on Fridays for the kids. It was kind of amazing to watch. At first, all of the kids line up in rows along the exterior hallway.
They silently go one by one to pick up their giant metal plates of boiled rice and pork, along with a packet of cookies, and piece of watermelon.
Once they all have food, they sit, with their arms crossed, and wait while their teacher says a blessing or thank you for the food. The kids answer in parts, promising to eat all of their meal, because there are so many people who don’t have any food to eat.
Then it’s time for recess
If you’d like to visit, or donate, or get involved in any way with this incredible organization, this is the link to the Elephant Nature Park