On the Elephant Trail
We are in northern Thailand on a Hero Holiday, and having the adventure of our lives! In the world in which we are working in, nothing ever goes according to plan, and we now have a favorite saying: everything is TBA! The children’s home that we are working in now has over 100 kids, and things move slowly, because it is a real challenge to transport them and get from Point A to Point B. Yesterday, we faced the biggest challenge of them all: getting 135 people to the elephant conservation centre and back…did I mention that it was a 5 hour trip, that we woke up at 4:00am, and that when we got to the meeting place only one small bus showed up? Minor technicalities like that?
At first, we thought it was only a simple 3 hour tour, but the trip took on a Gilligan’s Island feel when you throw in the fact that there are now people riding in the back of the small pickups, that we couldn’t go very fast, that it rained at one point, and that there were lots of little people getting car sick on the side of the road. Now, it took on a whole new excitement! By the time we reached the elephant conservation area, we were ready to drop, but that was where the real fun began! The kids oohed and awwed at the elephants as they watched them play a giant xylophone, paint flowers with their trunks and curtsy for the crowds. They got to pet them (which, by the way,they are very bristly!) and be tickled by their trunks. It was worth it all to see them laugh and giggle, knowing where these children had come from and what their pain had been before they arrived at this home that we are helping at.
In the end, we all sat around the dinner table last night at 9:oopm (when we finally got to eat!) and laughed as we reminded ourselves of what a great story it would make when we got home. We laughed about the sore butts from the rough roads and the soggy feeling from the rain, and we had a true moment of bonding as we experienced something where we were all equals in that moment- there was no ‘us and them’. The bus and the trucks were a tangle of arms and legs, of little heads leaning on big shoulders, and of little hands resting in big hands that they could trust. This is what the world should be for children: that no matter what kind of circumstances they find themselves in, there should be someone there that they can lean on, someone to trust.
When we pulled into our property at the end of the day, we had a defining moment. In my vehicle, there were seven of us from the team crammed in the front, along with the food boxes and everyone’s bags. We were all incredibly tired, and focused on getting our cramped bodies to bed after a 15 hour day. But in the back of the truck was a different story: there was one of our team members and about 8 of the older children from the home…and they were singing and laughing at the top of their lungs as if they were just getting started on the day. To those kids, life was about more than a little discomfort and frustration-it is about enjoying the moment for what it is because every new day is a gift for you to experience.
This is how we are learning to make a difference. I have no promises about tomorrow, so even today I am going to race back to the house and make what I can of what is in front of me. There are beautiful, dirty little faces waiting to be loved and it is an honor to be among them…