By Charlie Woolley – 1 week volunteer
I signed up to volunteer at Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary without realizing it would be about so much more than just the elephants. The Saturday night before I began, we had a presentation explaining the regulations surrounding the Karen village. I was initially apprehensive about some of their practices, such as; covering knees and shoulders at all times, taking shoes off before entering a building and acknowledging elders by particular names. All doubts soon disappeared once I entered the village and it all for myself!
As soon as I stepped off that five hour long truck ride to the village, I immediately became aware of the sense of community, gratitude and peace. I was welcomed with open arms by the Karen people, specifically my home stay father Turiabah and his family. Beginning with a tour of the village, I witnessed the close bond the village has, and the love they all have to share. With piglets, chicks, puppies and kittens running around, the Karen people treated us with interest and kindness. A mutual respect allowed us to bond over food, village life and one another, not to mention a fair bit of translating. The Karen people are quite reserved, but after ‘breaking the ice’ they soon open up. The Karen village people speak Pakinyaw, a simple language which is easy to annunciate after a lesson or two.
The Karen people live a simple life. They eat to survive, enjoy each others company and are some of the most generous people I have met. I have travelled around South East Asia previously and was aware of the simple life that Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese people live, but the Karen people are beyond that. I admire their life and hope to take some of their attributes into my life back in Australia.