By Maria Terris – 2 weeks volunteer
It has been my dream since I was in my 20’s to volunteer with elephants, but I never did it because I had a fear that I would never want to return home. I am turning 50 this year, and I still hadn’t made the leap to see the elephants. A friend at work, Izzy, told me she was going to have an internship with elephants in Thailand at the Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary for three months. Although I am married with responsibilities now, I didn’t hesitate to ask her for all the information about how I could go for a couple of weeks. Planning was time consuming, but my dream was going to come true!
I thought upon arriving I would be nervous, but I felt at home immediately. My first day was very exciting, especially on the hike spending time observing the females, Mae Doom and Too Meh. What beautiful girls they are! They were a lot smaller than I imagined with the most beautiful eyelashes and the cutest big feet! It is amazing how gentle they can be with their trunks, yet I also saw them strip bark and knock trees down.
Trekking to see the boys was definitely a big experience for me. I was very excited to see the young 7-year old boy, Gen Tong, even though they said he could be unpredictable. He just doesn’t know his strength and enjoys playing with his mahouts (caretakers) and other elephants. Originally I thought I would enjoy being closer to the elephants, but it was more rewarding to actually watch the boys in their natural environment, playing, eating (and more eating), walking, standing still listening, throwing dirt on their back, and scratching themselves with branches and trees. There is so much more I can write, but I will end saying this is an experience that I will ever forget, and if I was younger, I probably would not have gone home!