By Anouk Wizenried (1 week volunteer)
You often hear people talking about a getaway that’s not fancy, or wanting to disconnect and go somewhere that is more untouched. Well this was it for me. See elephants, experience a hill tribe village, teach some English and get my meals made, what could be better?Upon my arrival I was pretty surprised when the dust settled and I saw all the houses on stilts- it’s been a while since I’ve seen something like that and I’ve always thought it was very clever! When I got to my room I was happy to find I had one for myself, it had a mattress with a mosquito net, which was basic but everything I needed! It was perfect.
In the evenings I could hear my homestay’s daughter Suzu blabbing away to her mother, she is only two years old and it made me feel comfortable and safe. Squat toilets! This was another surprise, certainly not luxury but a lot more convenient than it sounds. When it comes to taking showers… well you can forget long warm showers, the two basic options were to go into the river and take a bar of soap with you, or use the bucket of cold water provided. I promised myself that I would only shower at lunch times when it was really warm! Yet I always felt refreshed and surprisingly clean.
The cooking was amazing, my homestay cooked both lunch and dinner and when we ate in the forest with the elephants, the mahouts would also cook up a storm. The first time I ate lunch in the forest, we got eggs steamed in bamboo, and a stir fry made in a pan but over a crazy flame made of wood of course. I even tried chili dung beetles, yes, beetles cooked with chilies that the mahouts made for themselves – all of this as well as the food given by my homestay was so delicious. After a few days my clothes needed a wash, so bucket and soap it was, which was also surprisingly efficient.
We had soft mats to sit and lounge on during free time and during meals everyone sits in a circle on the floor, although a table and chair is available, it’s really nice being able to sit however you like and not shuffling on a chair. The roads are just dirt tracks and you are surrounded by nature and an incredible amount of animals from baby chicks and piglets to buffalos. The crazy amount of dogs around all get the food leftovers so nothing goes to waste and the people are very friendly and welcoming. It has so far been a great experience and my phone is currently on airplane mode while I enjoy the sounds of the animals and crickets around me.