By Anna Vogel – 3 week volunteer
I recently went to India and met an elephant for the first time on the street and we were looking each other in the eye. I’ve already liked elephants, but fell in love with them then and there. They are very conscious animals, so it was beautiful to feel the presence of this giant.
Because elephants are mostly working for tourists as entertainers or sometimes have to do hard work in the forest I decided to become involved in the cause to help these wonderful beings.
I chose to visit Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand and the adventure began in Chiang Mai! There the other guests and I were picked up in a truck and traveled a 4 hour drive to the small village of Ban Naklang.
The welcome was lovely, I was instantly introduced to my homestay where I would stay the next three weeks. The houses here are very simple wooden homes and the rooms are minimalistic. In my homestay there is a fireplace for cooking in the middle of the living room and in the same room the whole family sleeps together. It is very modest and cozy, it felt very good! The first evening I cooked dinner with my host family and a staff member ate with me which made me feel more comfortable with my homestay. It was very exciting to experience all of this.
The next morning we had breakfast and left on a hike to the elephants! To see them in their natural habitat and playing with each other freely was so beautiful – how it should be! The other guests and I collected some data on their behavior, association and foraging habits. We also wrote diaries for each elephant, detailing their activities that we observed. Then we enjoyed our homemade lunch in the forest and hiked back to the village. We are hiking every morning to see the elephants but every day is different and exciting.
Some days we are going to the school in another village and teaching the kids English, they are so motivated and always happy to see us. In the evenings we all have dinner together every day at a different homestay, all the hosts do so much to prepare a tasty dish and make us feel comfortable.
It is so interesting how the people and animals like dogs, cats, chicken, pigs and cows live together and all are so friendly and always smiling. They are harvesting their own rice and corn and working every day on the field. The women weave beautiful clothes and bags that they sell to visitors, many staff own five or more bags from the villagers. They are also very motivated to learn English and we teach them once a week.
I am so happy to get to experience such a different lifestyle and can definitely take a bit of this satisfaction home to Germany 🙂