Elephant Graduation

Day #4 at TECC—our last day with our beloved elephants. This day was extra special because we got to participate in making paper out of elephant dung and we got our certificates in mahout training. But best of all, we got to hang out with the elephants for another day. Apparently, the dung is so well digested by the beneficial bacteria in the elephants’ intestines, that it has no odor and contains no undigested food—only insoluble plant fibers—perfect for making paper. I imagine the street elephants’ dung would not qualify for making paper since they probably are forced to eat … Continue reading

Elephants Working for a Living

You might have seen Katherine’s Boon Lots Elephant Sanctuary as the ideal place for elephants to live out their lives peacefully and well-cared for. No one rides them and they don’t have to do anything to earn a living. They get all the food and medical care they need. Her sanctuary is referred to by Asian elephant experts as an elephant boutique since it is not self-sustaining and is supported by on-going donations. The harsh reality in Thailand is that elephants have to help with their expensive upkeep, given that only a small percentage of the remaining elephants in Thailand … Continue reading

Thai Elephant Conservation Center

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 It’s a short drive from our lovely hotel in Lampang to the Thai Elephant Sanctuary (TECC). When we passed under the arch announcing our arrival, it became clear we had entered the world of elephants—domesticated ones. TECC is a government-supported organization that helps foster awareness of the Asian elephant in Thailand. They offer a program that we will be participating in called a “home stay” in which simple lodging and food is provided, as well as intimate experiences with the elephants and their mahouts. We will actually accompany the mahouts in their daily routine over the … Continue reading

Exploring the Countryside in Thailand

December 14th, 2015 Leaving the the elephants at the Boon Lotts Elephant Sanctuary pulled on my heart strings. if i was a bit younger and not committed as I am to my medical practice, I would consider spending a few months here as a volunteer. Being around the elephants is not only an exciting adventure, it also feels like an unusual spiritual experience, difficult to put into words. We headed back towards northern Thailand to a town called Lampang, located a few hours south of Chiang Mai, on the Wang River. Near Lampang we will be staying several days at … Continue reading

Elephant Sanctuary

December 11, 2015 Today we drove to Sokhothai, in central Thailand, to spend time at the Boon Lotts Elephant Sanctuary (BLES), started by a young Englishwoman, Katherine Connor, whose encounter with a young elephant, named Boon Lotts, changed her life forever. Katherine had taken a year off from her work doing retail sales in London in order to travel around Asia when she was twenty-one years old. She ended up working at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center where she met Boon Lotts, a baby elephant who was very sick. She formed a deep bond with the baby who eventually died. … Continue reading

Asian Elephants

December 9th, 2015 “This is not a book of answers. This is a book of questions. More precisely, it’s about living a questioning life, a life of unknowing. If we’re ready to live such a life, without fixed ideas or answers, then we are ready to bear witness to every situation, no matter how difficult, offensive, or painful it is. Out of that process of bearing witness the right action of making peace, of healing, arises.” ——BEARING WITNESS by Bernie Glassman, Buddhist monk Today is officially the first day of our tour, even though most of our little group of … Continue reading

Arrival in Chiang Mai

The Long Journey to Chiang Mai: “Ma’am, you can just walk right through. You’ve been pre-qualified.” I felt like I had won the lottery. It was like travel in the old days. Nothing to remove. Nothing to take off. Nothing to pull out. I just walked right through. An auspicious beginning. I’m sitting here in LAX for four hours, waiting for the flight to Seoul then on to Chiang Mai. Seoul has special significance for my family. In 1960, my father lived in Seoul during his time as Secretary of the United Nations Peacekeeping force at the demilitarized zone (DMZ), … Continue reading

Trip to Thailand to be with Elephants

Sawadeeka (Greetings in Thai) Why Thailand? I’m asked that question every time I mention my vacation plans for this coming December, 2015. The answer has to do with Jami Sieber, a former neighbor in The Commons—my co-housing community. Jami, a well-known electric cellist, plays hauntingly evocative music she composes herself. In 2001 Jami was invited to Thailand to compose the music for a film about the plight of Asian elephants. Since meeting and falling in love with these magnificent animals, Jami has been devotedly involved in the Asian elephant crisis. She has released a CD recording, “Hidden Sky,” which benefits elephant … Continue reading