We’re back in Bangkok! We arrived this morning after a tiring ten-hour train ride last night. We’re all pretty sleep deprived and cranky from the long ride. We’ve been in the hostel lobby for a three hours waiting to get into our rooms for some well-needed showers and naps. I’m guessing tonight we’ll do some last-minute shopping and bonding in Bangkok before we leave early this morning for home. Deb and Wei-Hao are planning to take us out to one last big group dinner, yum (:
Chaing Mai was really amazing. We stayed in the city for a day before we went to the Elephant Nature Park. The city was so much fun; the temperature was much better than in Bangkok and there weren’t as many tourists. It was very authentic and quaint, we all really enjoyed our time there. Peter, Ade, Paul and David rented mopeds for the day and spent the whole day exploring the city. I let Peter drive me around on one for a little while; those things go much faster than you’d expect! We went to dinner at this really cool restaurant that night where you sit barefoot on the floor and they bring you out big trays of food. At the end there was a big show where they dressed up and performed a bunch of their traditional dances. I think that was my favorite day of the trip. The next day we drove to the Elephant Nature Park which is in the mountains about 30 minutes from Chaing Mai. The ride there was beautiful. When we got there we were welcomed by Jack, who was our volunteer coordinator for the week. Everyday we woke up at seven, had breakfast and then started our work. Some of it was really hard; the first day we drove to a corn field and chopped corn with machetes all morning. That was the hardest job, the others were all pretty reasonable. Everyday we fed and bathed the elephants which was really cool. We scooped their poop and made food for the old elephants who can’t chew vegetables pretty frequently. The staff told us each of the elephant’s stories; it’s really amazing what they have been through. Many of them were blind and or had awful limps or other deformities due to abuse from their previous owners. I was glad to be helping them in their new life. the living conditions were very simple, almost like cabins at summer camp, and although it was hard after a long day to have no hot water, roughing it added to the experience. The food was all vegetarian which everyone else complained about but made me a very happy camper (: I had great Thai meals three times a day with delicious fresh fruit and juice. The stars really amazed me, I don’t think I realized there were even that many stars in the sky. Everything was so clear. We met a lot of great young people at the park, most of whom were volunteering for a week like us and then continuing on to travel the world. I had some great conversations with a few of them in particular who convinced me to travel south america sometime before I get too old. I’m proud to say I’ll be coming home with more knowledge than I had when I came here, and a little tanner too (:
This experience has been amazing. I was fully immersed in a culture I knew nothing about, and although my naiveté was frustrating at times, I think it helped me learn a lot more than I thought I would. I like learning new things, and I like knowing that there’s still a lot I have to learn. I’m excited to get home and exchange stories with everyone, and I’m even more excited to travel to other places in the future. Being here has opened my eyes to what else is out here in the real world and made me realize that I want to do everything. It’s a great feeling, and it’s a feeling I hope I never lose. I’ll come home, and I’ll turn my phone on and return all the calls and texts and catch up on my Grey’s Anatomy and update my Facebook status and complain when my parents ask me to do things. In some aspects, I’ll be returning to my reality the same teenager I was when I left. But in so many more important ways, I’m coming home changed because my curiosity has been provoked. I want to do everything, I’ve awakened a sleeping monster.
The ten of us really worked famously together. I’m going to miss waking up to nine of the best people I know everyday. There’s a lot I’m going to miss about this trip; I already miss the elephants. Regardless, I’m looking forward to hugging my parents and sleeping in my bed. Dad and Franice: I’m requesting pizza and Velveeta mac-and-cheese for dinner when I get home (: Now to prepare myself for 40 hours of traveling… At least we still have one more day in Thailand!