10 April 2013

Homestay with the Elephants at Thai Elephant Conservation Center, Day 3 of 3: Babies and Bye-byes!

Check out a couple of friends that I never properly introduced from my time at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center . . . For starters, let's talk about the two lovely ladies below. These ladies--along with the help of a few others--cooked our three meals a day, made sure we were following our itinerary on time, and single-handedly took almost every single picture that any of our group of 7 needed taken (at one point I looked over and noticed each of them with about 5 cameras) . . . The one on the left took me for a ride on her scooter all the way up to the main ranger lodge to help me pay my balance and buy a few trinkets to send back to the States. They were great guides and absolutely awesome!!

And just look at the crazy camaraderie of the Conservation Center pooches, above. Here they are getting their morning sniff on in front of the elephant food storage barn. I shot this image as we were being handed our big pieces of sugar cane. These pups ruled the streets every day and every night: chasing down roosters, showing up to our dinner table whenever food was around, and startling the elephants on occasion (just by walking up and clearly looking tough). Yet they were so friendly and smiley!

One of the cutest things we got to do while at the Conservation Center was visit the babies up at the elephant hospital. They were hilarious because--like any child--they had no perception of boundaries. The baby above was one of the older babies and was starting to work almost primarily with his own mahout. They kept calling him naughty boy because he would stick his trunk in some of the most unfortunate places (in people's pockets when they weren't looking, and down lady-visitor's shirts). 

The tiny babies who were still with their mom's kept trying to squeeze their big-baby bodies through the fences to get even closer to us. I couldn't get a picture of it quick enough but at one point, the little guy below had two of his legs--on one side of his body--outside of the fence and two of his legs on the inside of the fence. So much cuteness, I could barely stand it. 

And then there was this little guy . . . He was so hyper! And just look at those eyeballs! I really wanted to take this guy back to Singapore with me. The kids in our group had such a great time playing with him and feeding him.

Below I am handing a banana to one of the older babies. You can get a good look at what the elephant's trunk finger looks like . . . See how it would be so easy to pick things up and dig around in pockets? 

So it was really hard for me to say goodbye to Wanalee, especially after our relaxing and long morning feeding session. The last day of a 3-day Homestay is only half a day long. It goes by incredibly fast. So I ended up trying to take as many pictures with her as possible. And this was the first time that I saw her paint during one of our performances, too. She did the painting below as an auction piece for the Center. Quite good, eh?

These images were taken right after our morning perfomance. In the one below, I am actually saying to Tiem, "You realize I'm not really leaving, right? I'm not ready to leave Wanalee!!"

Then I was given my 3-day Homestay diploma and that was it. I gave Wanalee and Tiem both giant hugs and they went off to the feeding area without me.

We all went our separate ways: back to Denmark, Singapore, and Switzerland. But not after many, many tears. Living with the elephants for the short 3-day Homestay was the absolute best time I have ever had on a vacation, ever. So-much-so that I have already scheduled a second trip to the Center. I will be living with Wanalee and Tiem for a full week next time, celebrating Christmas with them! And let-me-tell-you: I can not wait!! 

Go-go, elephants, go!!

Up next? My overnight trek experience (or how I almost died in Thailand, and would've been happy to do so at the time).

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