I looked into the solemn eyes of the elephant and noticed a common reality of both being God’s creatures. Her skin was wrinkly and her legs were long and strong. Her ears were big and would flare out as she reached her trunk out. She was quite friendly, but I was a little worried she would try to get my camera from my hand, haha. The elephant was about twenty-five years old and it is a Karen (pronounced Ca-Rin) village that has raised elephants for quite some time. We got to ride the elephant on a seat that was a foot and a half tall from the elephant’s back. It swung with the elephant as it sauntered, it was quite the ab workout to stay in one place on the seat. After the ride we fed the elephants sugar cane and bananas. I am not usually around large animals, and it was strange to be next to an animal that is so much bigger than me. Yet, I was fascinated. The large trunk, the big feet, and the big ole ears were beautiful and I came to the full conclusion of my love for elephants. I even was wearing elephant pants (which are pants that you can buy at the market that have elephants on them that are kind of like sweat pants for hot weather) while riding an elephant. It was quite fun and it was a dream come true!
The lady who took us to the elephant ride is french and has been here for twenty six years. She has a home for children and is working on guest houses that will provide support for the children in school. There is a gal my age, who is french and working with the lady. She has been in Chiang Rai just as long as we have and it has been lovely getting to know her. We went for lunch that was at a small resort and had delicious food. I feel like all we do here is eat. I was worried about losing weight before, but here it seems like I will gain weight because food is offered every two hours. In the evening, Leah and I walked up to Big Buddha. It is a giant Buddha that they are constructing just down the road from where I am staying. I will never understand giant statues, they are creepy at night and seem like a waste of time and effort, but that is just my opinion! While being up on the hill with Big Buddha, I noticed how we were the only white people up there, and the only pair of girls wandering together. I remember sitting in Sociology class my first year of college and the question was asked whether I have ever felt out of place. The moment standing in a setting where I do not know the language, and people are staring and taking pictures of us as if we are celebrities, was a definite feeling of out of place. And sometimes I really dislike being a girl when traveling, because groups of men will say hello and I am weary of their want to talk to us. Perhaps it comes from being raised near a city where it is not always safe to engage in conversation. I want to say hello to people while walking by, but I do not want to engage in conversation that might get me in trouble. It might be rude to just smile and keep walking and not engage in conversation, but my weariness of welcoming unsafe situations keeps me from saying hello when I am unsure of the environment.
Sunday we woke up to go to an International Church. I was a little disoriented when worship was in a style of singing Thai and English at the same time. I chose to sing in Thai and have picked up more words that appear in worship songs. I have gotten to the point of being in a different culture where I am frustrated that I cannot communicate in Thai with them. I am missing a piece of people’s stories because I cannot speak the language. So while the pastor boomed his voice about a well used passage, I pulled out my Thai-English pocket dictionary and tried to translate the letters and words on the Church pamphlet. I listened for familiar words from the Thai translator and tried to memorize symbols. On the street where I am staying, none of the signs have any english on them, so it has been a challenge to figure out what places have. I am trying to memorize Thai letters so I can understand how to read the signs.
After church we went to Central Plaza, which is one of the big malls here in Chiang Rai. It is quite big, and has non reliant wifi, as well as big prices. However, there was a singer that came down from the escalator and was performing to promote a shoe company. Girls were screaming and people were taking pictures, I am not sure who it was though. Perhaps we did see a famous Thai singer at the mall! We had thai iced bubble tea and got sweet sticky rice with mango and one with banana from the market on the bottom floor. We returned back to MMF and had arts and crafts time. Leah painted and I finished a knitting project. My original goal was to make a hat, but I messed around with the stitches too much, so now it is a pot holder!
We seem to be pretty exhausted here. We are not sure if it is the change in weather, the new environment, or the differences in eating. We have resulted to instant coffee just to wake up in the morning. Despite the exhaustion, we are still enjoying our time here. Each person I have met, I learn something new about the culture, or a different perspective about Thailand. I am incredibly blessed to have met the people I have so far. It has only been a week here, but it certainly has felt longer than that. It is going fast, yet is long because the days are very long and busy. Thank you everyone for your prayers and continued support. My greatest challenge here is definitely food still. The food situation is a little confusing and is not on a consistent schedule, so it is challenging for me to be content even when the stove doesn’t work, or the mouse ate my banana (that actually did happen), or the food is too strong in flavor, or I am expected to it and it is rude if I don’t. Despite all that, we are ok! Just some new challenges during this time of the semester, but it is something that I know I can conquer. To laugh, to smile, to dream. The dream continues in Thailand with every step I take forward in discovering who I am and what my purpose in this journey is.