Dirty Work

Day 6 – February 6, 2014
Baan Tha Klang, Thailand
Surin Project Homestay

Because I went to bed super early last night I woke up pretty refreshed and ready to tackle another day, which was a good thing because today was another packed one. Right after breakfast we started cleaning out the dried sugar cane from the various elephant shelters, raking it up and loading it into a small truck.

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(photo by the Surin Elephant Project)

We cleaned about a half dozen shelters and then climbed on top and road out to spread it over a fresh field to prep the soil before a new plant.

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(photo by the Surin Elephant Project)

Between raking, sweating and the mud we were dirty from head to toe before 10am, but still smiling.

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(photo by the Surin Elephant Project)

After a quick breather and some cold water it was time for a walk in the forest with the ele’s. It’s interesting to see the dynamics within the large group of elephants, some are friends and some are not. It’s lovely to watch them interact with their trunks and rub against each other.

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They can be so tender and gentle, but one swing of their trunk can be deadly powerful.

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We spent the afternoon breaking up elephant poop balls and making fertilizer with some of the mahouts. The Project then uses some of the fertilizer on their own crops, gives it to the Project mahouts and sells the rest. Breaking up poop sounds pretty gross but it actually doesn’t smell that bad and is mostly fibrous. Anything that the project can make or sell just goes right back to caring for the elephants and because elephants poop roughly one million times a day there’s always a hearty supply.

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Lunch at a local restaurant was great, fried rice with veg, and afterwards we played a game that tested our elephant knowledge and capped the day off with more bamboo watering. When we first arrived the Project seemed small but it’s actually just really spread out and there’s always work to be done. This week there are 16 volunteers so the work is divided up but some weeks they have as few as four so they must carry a bit of a harder workload. I know this type of work might not be everyone’s ideal “vacation” but the payoff is so huge and you really feel like you are making a difference, even if it’s just a small one.

To learn more about the Surin Elephant Project please visit their website.

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