You’ve made the first step, you’ve decided to say no to riding elephants, and yes to visiting or volunteering with elephants in a sanctuary that promotes health, freedom, and natural behaviour, now what? What should you know about being a volunteer? If you’re visiting for a day, how should you dress or behave? What are the unspoken rules for interacting with elephants in a sanctuary like Elephant Nature Park?
As I sit in a wooden chair on the platform, surrounded by fighting dogs and cats that could care less about what is happening around them, I look towards the grounds of the park as the sky turns into soft oranges, yellows, and pinks; In the distance I hear the deep roar of an elephant, followed by a sharp trumpet from another. It’s too early for them to be roaming around the park, they will be in their enclosures for at least another 90 minutes, but I take comfort in listening to them communicate with one another. Today’s goal? Enrichment at Elephant Nature Park for the elephants.
I’m sitting in the lobby of Two Gals and The Pig, a hostel I am staying with in Chiang Mai, when a Thai woman appears in the doorway, “Ok, she is there now”, getting up, I leave my belongings on the table and run next door, sit down at a table, and proceed to book a room for six nights next week. Jumping between hostels is always an adventure.
My fingers are sticky and wet, and I can feel juice slowly trickling from the corner of my mouth to my chin; looking around I notice I’m not the only person who decided to eat with my hands, and I feel a sense of relief; I tend to worry about displaying bad manners when eating in a foreign country.
I’m sitting at a small blue metal table with rust spots scattered on the top, the blue plastic stool I’m sitting on seems sturdy enough and I make a mental note to not move around too much; nobody wants to be the farang (foreigner) who breaks a plastic stool. When the chicken is placed in front of me, there are no utensils in sight, but I notice another table eating chicken with their hands, so I decided to do the same.