Back in Chiang Mai from our stay at Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, we had a little over twenty-four hours left in this wonderful city before flying out to Hong Kong for a few days on our way back to the States.
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They were an anxious lot, and there was nowhere to go but straight into their ranks. Would we be greeted as friend or foe? Welcomed warmly or despised? I took a deep breath and, hoping for the best, opened the truck door and stepped out. That's when the mob surged forward.
Each morning Wassana, Lotus, and Pang Dow, aka the Gossip Girls, strolled past us on their way to eat the banana feast we had gathered for them. When these three lovely ladies get together there is much squeaking and trumpeting because, like all close girlfriends, they enjoying sharing secrets, laughing, and doing a bit of gossiping while they eat a great meal together.
Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary founder Katherine Connor could best be described as a peaceful protester utilizing non-violent resistance, diplomacy, love, and kindness as her weapons of choice. She sees the good in people even as she describes the horrors of the abuses she has witnessed by humans towards elephants throughout the country.
Our days and nights at BLES were long and relaxed, yet went by much too quickly. It's a lifestyle that is hard not to envy despite all the very hard behind-the-scenes work required to run an elephant sanctuary. Negotiating rescues, acquiring land, providing food and medical care, and the constant fundraising is a tremendous amount of work; yet Katherine has established a peaceful oasis that permeates love and hope throughout.
There's been a baby boom at Elephant Nature Park in the past year and you'd be hard pressed to come up with anything cuter than a baby elephant - except maybe three baby elephants!
As I learned during our time at Elephant Nature Park and Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary, to understand elephants you have to move at their pace and within their framework of time. Busy yourself at the blurred speed of humankind and you'll miss much of the beautiful gestures and language these gentle giants use.
Of all the elephants at Elephant Nature Park with their multitude of injuries - broken legs, broken backs, dislocated hips, missing limbs from landmines - I don't know why Medo has lodged herself so deeply in my heart. But she has. And every morning during our stay I'd anxiously wait for her to appear.
Lek Chailert has earned global respect for her tireless work rescuing abused elephants and providing them with a life free of abuse. She's collaborated on laws that would provide them protections, has won international awards, and been featured in articles and documentaries seen around the world. Despite the accolades, in her own country she's been persecuted, threatened, ridiculed, raided, disowned by her own family, and even forced to go into exile for a period of time. But she has never given up fighting for her beliefs.
A tinny PA squarbles some unintelligible noise in the distance, reminding us that the Sunday market is about to kick off. Outside our hotel, Rachadamnoen Road has been wondrously transformed from a hustling, exhaust-filled road choked with cars, tuk tuks, and scooters to a bustling thoroughfare of market stalls brimming with a vibrant array of tastes, smells, sights, and sounds.