A couple of days ago I was lucky enough to return to Elephant Family Sanctuary, in the Maewang District of Chiang Mai. On this day it started raining just as we got to the camp, so things were done a little bit differently from my previous visit. Our lovely guide Cookie gave us a bit of a run down on elephants and safety around them, then we grabbed our feed bags and climbed the hill to load up on cucumbers. Once again our group was small – there were five of us – and we were joined by a likely couple of lads from London, upon who I directly lay the blame for the ensuing discussion on elephants and flatulence. You know who you are, Aziz and Shay. Continue reading
I’ve just had the privilege of playing with elephants at Elephant Family Sanctuary, in the Maewang District, about an hour and a half south of Chiang Mai. It’s run by my Thai adopted brother Chaiw, who rang me on Saturday afternoon and said he had booked me in for the next morning to go on a half-day excursion and I would be picked up earlier in the a.m. than I am generally comfortable with. So I hauled myself out of bed, foregoing my crucial morning coffee, (potentially fatal to those around me) and got myself ready for this momentous occasion. The EFS silver van duly picked me up at 7.15am and we did the rounds, via back roads and lanes, to pick up the other clientele that were in on this particular trip, Theresa and Tom from California and a young lady from Israel who I think was named Carly. We were a small group today, which I’ve found is always a good thing, as you get to ask your guide lots of questions. And I am indeed rather nosy, although I prefer the label “Curious” or “Enquiring”. There was also a driver, who didn’t speak English, and our guide was a lovely young lady called Hnong, friendly and full of smiles, with quite reasonable English.
When I turned 50, I was awarded ‘Awesomeness Points’ by my daughter for getting my first tattoo in a bamboo hut, down a dirt track, in the jungle of Chiang Mai, North Thailand, surrounded by elephants. Rather a proud moment really, earning said points. Then, a few days ago and three years on, I repeated that journey, from New Zealand to Bangkok to Chiang Mai to an hour north of Chiang Mai then through the elephant park to see Jodi Thomas, artist and elephant activist extraordinaire in her new bamboo hut down another track, still surrounded by elephants, and requested some further tattooing. As you do.
I have just had the pleasure of Jodi Thomas ‘s wonderfully kind and fun hospitality over the last couple of days at the elephant park where she has lived and contributed greatly to the well-being of rescued elephants for around 15 years, situated in the jungle Chiang Mai, North Thailand.
Jodi is a painter, mixed media artist and tattooist, and supports both herself and her son through these mediums. Above is a photo of a print that I have just bought from her. As I’m still traveling for a little while yet, it is still in its plastic and won’t be mounted until I get back home to New Zealand in a few weeks. But it’s just so beautiful that I have hung it up on my guesthouse room as I can’t wait until I get home to be able to gaze at it.
Jodi painted this picture of Kabu, who has a very damaged front leg. But Kabu refuses to be pitied and manages life just fine, thank you very much. This picture is a loving tribute to Kabu’s resilient spirit and downright gutsy attitude.
Here is Kabu’s story:
“Kabu was born around 1990. She arrived to ENP very late on September 22nd 2015. Her mother was a logging elephant. She had to go with her mom while she pushed and pulled logs. At two years old, a log rolled out of control and struck Kabu, breaking her front left wrist. It healed badly and left her very handicapped. Despite this, when she was old enough, she was also put to work in logging doing light labour. She was also subjected to forced breeding. Kabu had two babies, neither of which she was allowed to keep for very long. One was a bull, who died soon after his spirit was broken. The other a female who was sold into the elephant show industry.
Since Kabu had to over use her right front leg to carry her weight, it has also grown very deformed. To gaze upon her, fills you with pity… until you see her move. She gets along quite well. She has lived with this handicap for her entire life. She has dignity. She does not let her injury hold her back… She does not feel sorry for herself. Do not feel sorry for her. She is a survivor!”
Please visit Jodi’s Zazzle page to see some of the products you can buy, printed with Jodi’s awesome and vibrant art, many of which feature elephants Jodi has known, lived with and cared for. Please aid Jodi to not only create a wage to live on but also an awareness of elephants and their plight at the hands of humans and their cruelty and greed.
Grab yourself an awesome piece of art and help spread awareness of both domestic and wild elephants who need all the help they can get. And you can also help Jodi and the elephants by sharing this post far and wide to spread some good loving awareness around. Humans are responsible for the misery that the majority of elephants suffer today, and that way too many have in the past – let’s rip into reversing that situation.
Visit Jodi’s site here:
Thank you for caring. Every little bit we do will help add up to positive change.
Aha!! I have found a nest. I will get very comfortable, for obviously this is My nest.
But wait, there is a human watching me. It must be jealous, for I have never seen it in a nest.
I will wash. I will wash and ignore it and it will go away.
This is not working. The human is not going away.
I must come up with a plan. Let me think.
Aha! I will stick my leg out. Everything knows that when a cat sticks its leg out, it is obviously washing. And the universal law of cat washing says that a cat washing must be left in peace.
Hmm. It is not going away. Okay, I will act nonchalant. Everything knows that a cat being nonchalant must be left in peace.
Not working. Okay, I will sniff. Everything knows that a cat sniffing something is busy and must be left alone.
This human is not leaving. It is obviously ignorant of cat law. I shall put it to sleep. I will yawn and it will go to sleep.
Drat! It is not going away. Then I must go back to my nesting.
Perhaps it will leave me alone and go and inhabit the other nest I have left for it. Then it will not be jealous any more.
It is seriously ridiculous what a cat has to do to keep a human happy.
Spring has sprung and beeish bums
Are humming in the trees
It’s luverly the blossoms are
Oh wait, I have to sneeze
I love to see the fuzzy bees
All celebrating pollen
Though having an ongoing sneeze
Can make me very solemn
But truly it’s a happy sight
A cloud of beeish bums
So though I sneeze with all my might
It’s hard to stay too glum
I’d hate to see a world
Without them fuzzy bums around
So in between my sneezes
I shall relish humming sounds
I like to see the dance they do
It’s cute and sort of funny
They’re welcome to my plants
And I look forward to their honey.
I went to a lot of trouble to get a large, triangular, traditional Thai cushion on one of my journeys to Chiang Mai, North Thailand. At the furthermost corner of the eclectic (and quite frankly, pungent) local Warorot Market, past the water barrels full of strange be-tentacled beasties and over the metal grate gangway where the rats hide, I had spied this, the perfect cushion that folds out into a bed, on one of my reconnoissance missions. On my last day in Chiang Mai, I ventured back there and haggled the shopkeeper down until I got a price we both liked. That left me with not quite enough money for a tuktuk, so I walked quite a few blocks with it over my shoulder in a huge plastic bag. Continue reading
I recently posted about a friend of mine, Saujan
who has a blog called Lexlimbu.com in which he posts of happenings and opportunities for Nepali locals.
Thankfully Sauj made it through Sunday’s large earthquake in Nepal without injury. But, as with many of his countrymen, he is camped outside his home in a tent right now, as it’s both dangerous and scary to go inside while the large aftershocks continue. The aftershocks they are experiencing in Nepal right now are what the rest of the world would consider to be large earthquakes in their own right.
We have very regular earthquakes in New Zealand – sometimes referred to as the Shaky Isles – as we straddle the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates, plus have several dormant volcanoes in our North Island that like to huff and puff now and again. Around 14,000 quakes happen in our country per year, although fortunately only around 150 are usually felt. School kids in our country are often put through earthquake drills, such is the likelihood of a large one happening in each of our lifetimes. So we in New Zealand are able to empathize with those in similar situations.
To give you some idea of the severity of Nepal’s quake, on February 22 2011, we had a large earthquake in Christchurch, which is situated in our South Island. This quake was 6.3 in magnitude and killed 181 of our people. Nepal’s earthquake on Sunday was a 7.8 in magnitude and so far the death toll is over 4000, and sadly rising. Their quake was 31 times bigger than our one was, and 177 times stronger in energy released. That is a phenomenal difference, one I find it very hard to get my head around. What’s more, they also have avalanches and rock slides to contend with, plus monsoon will be on its way, bringing rain and more possibilities of landslides.
I couldn’t possibly tell you what the Nepali people are feeling right now, but I do know how I felt during a 6.5 quake I experienced years ago, so maybe recounting that will help others to at least gain some idea of how it is for people in Nepal at the moment.
They tell you in New Zealand that in the likely event you feel an earthquake coming, dive for a doorway or under a table. On this particular day, my very pregnant friend and I happened to already be in a doorway with my two young sons, trying to calm down another friend over the phone after we’d had a moderate-sized tremor. We were pretty blase about this ourselves, as we were used to swarms of the darned things at that time of year (March – our Autumn), and we had just been marvelling at how this one had actually made something fall off a shelf in the lounge, and a bunch of books had fallen all around my older son who had been in bed having an afternoon nap. We lived in a large old villa at the time, in which things were made pretty sturdily as they were in the old days, so I felt we were pretty protected and safe. Then the big one struck. And it turned out we couldn’t have dived for anything if we’d tried, as we were sucked to the floor by the centrifugal force of it. The sturdy things around us – solid wood door, bookshelves full of encyclopedias, large old bakelite phone – turned into enemies that thumped against us and jumped up and down above us, threatening to bash our heads in. The noise of it all was totally deafening, and all we could do was curl up into balls and be thrown around on the floor, and wait for it to end. And hopefully not finish us off in the meantime. It’s still very clear in my head what it was like. Being in a very large washing machine that was on spin cycle is the closest I can describe it.
When at last it ended and we popped our heads up warily for a look around, what met our eyes was a scene of total devastation and chaos. Absolutely nothing was left on the shelves this time. If fact the shelves weren’t even left on the wall. Years of paraphernalia had come out of cupboards and off the walls and made a mess that was around knee-high, and when we waded through the lounge to the kitchen, we choked on the fumes that were coming of the foods and condiments that had mixed together in a great big scientific experiment on the floor. In the other lounge, the iron-framed piano had bounced across the floor, bashed against the pool table and fallen back against the wall. The solid old TV cabinet had done something similar. An eerie whistling wind swept through the house, opened and slammed all the windows, and in the ensuing silence we could hear the water in the big concrete tank outside going ‘swish……………swish…………’ We scooped up the kids, the dog and the lovebirds and got the heck out of there. It was hard to find somewhere that was safe to sit, that wasn’t near a wall or a power line, or a dish hole in the paddock (we lived on reclaimed land and every year a new hole would appear somewhere on the land, created by underground rivers). In the end, we sat on top of a silage stack, which would have made a weird picture – two women, one heavily pregnant and the other with two little kids, sitting on top of a hill made of rotting grass, holding a birdcage. I prayed so hard that I probably made God jump, that my friend wouldn’t go into labour. As one of my little boys sat on my lap, his legs fluttered like paper in the wind – he was absolutely terrified.
It turned out that we were lucky. It had only affected a relatively small area around us, and there were no cities in our region. There were only two deaths, and if I remember rightly they were due to heart problems, or similar. Very few people were badly injured. The worst part of it all was the psychological effect on us all. This went on for many months, and as for my poor scared little boy, he couldn’t sleep alone for months, and even then always had to have the light on. My other son was fortunate – at around one year of age, he was too young to remember much about it at all.
There are many things to torment you after an earthquake:
- Not being able to assure your kids that it’s all over and won’t happen again
- Aftershocks that go on for weeks or months. You don’t know, and nobody can tell you, if they’re truly just aftershocks or another earthquake building up.
- Sleep deprivation. You sleep in fits and starts, jumping at every little noise, poised to leap into a doorway if the shaking of each aftershock seems to be building.
- Lack of fresh water. Broken sewerage pipes and septic tanks seep into local rivers, streams and water supplies. The next biggest danger aside from another large quake is typhoid, from polluted water supplies.
- Access to food. How long before your supplies run out? How long before shops can reopen, if at all?
- Transport. Roads and bridges are out, making it difficult or impossible for supplies to be brought into your area, or for you to get out and about.
- Contact. Phone lines and internet are down for an interminable amount of time, leaving you wondering if those you love and know are okay, and others outside wondering if you’re okay.
- Weather. It’s often far too dangerous to go back into buildings, leaving you at the mercy of the elements.
- Hyper-awareness. Every little noise could possibly be the beginning of a rumble, bringing with it another earthquake.
These are just a few of the things that the Nepali people will be going through right now. Add on top of that the anguish of not being able to find loved ones, and grief at having lost many.
I know this doesn’t do anything to help the Nepali people right now, but I hope it helps others to understand, at least to a small degree, what they are living with and what they will be facing for a long while yet.
So please, if there’s anything you can do from your little corner of the world, whether it’s to donate money to the Red Cross, or collect goods to send or sell for donations, or just keep them in your prayers, please do it. Right now they need every bit of help they can get.
I met Sauj at Elephant Nature Park, North Thailand, where we were both volunteering. He’s a nice young fella, born in Nepal but raised and educated overseas. He too has experienced the dreadful job of cutting corn for elephants and lived to tell the tale. 😀 You can read about that HERE
He now has a blog that focuses on ‘Nepali happenings from Nepal and the Nepali diaspora.’ Nepali-born, he has now returned to his Mother Country, and aims to enable locals see the opportunities becoming more available in their own country.
Take a gander at his blog –
He also runs Tracing Nepal, ‘an experience that aims to bring Nepali youths living outside of Nepal together to experience Nepal like never before’, during which they will volunteer assistance to rural Nepali communities.
Have a look at his Facebook page too, to see some beautiful photos of Nepal. What an awesome country!! I will have to drop in on him I think, for a cup of tea. As you do… 😀
Seriously, have you ever been out surfing and had an elephant glide past you on a wave? I’ll bet all six of my toe rings that you haven’t. That’s because elephants don’t surf.
There’s a series of photos and videos that have been making their way around the net for far too long. They feature a baby elephant ‘playing’ in the surf. It looks all very cute, but it is a very wrong picture. So very wrong! The Mahout Foundation have put out a video that shows what goes into the training of baby elephants – the ones you see in these ‘Have you ever seen anything so cute?’ pics, the one’s that are still unfortunately left in circuses, the ones you buy bananas for on the streets in Bangkok and the ones apparently frolicking in the surf, amongst others. Continue reading