By Deanna Schnider – 1 week volunteer
A Mahout is an elephant caretaker. Mahouts live a very intriguing lifestyle to me. They spend their days in the forest with the elephants monitoring them, watching over them, making sure they are healthy and making sure the volunteers keep a safe distance. There are huts and small camp fires set up throughout the forest that they use to cook their lunch at. They cooked for us a couple days and it was very impressive to watch them make a full meal in no time.
Caring for the elephants is their family’s source of income. Each elephant has one mahout that looks after them. It is fun to watch the elephants interact with their mahout and observe the great respect they have for each other.
The mahouts have been very shy towards us as volunteers. Today was our 4th day hiking into the forest and it was our longest hike so far. We found a nice open spot in the forest before lunch to sit and gave the mahouts English lessons. It was a special experience to interact with them one on one. My daughter and I worked with Gen Thong’s mahout, Suhgluh. He is young and was very shy towards us at first. We learned that he is 18, so the same age as my daughter.
On Tuesday night, Kerri had given us a Pakinyaw/karen lesson at base camp so today we took our notes with us for our lesson. Although he was shy, Suhgluh’s English is way better than my Pakinyaw! After we finished the lesson that we had for him, we started finding random stuff in the forest and my backpack to teach him. His favorite word was flip flop, he giggled each time he said it. It was a very rewarding and fun experience for everyone!