You now know everything you need to about the what to bring and expect from the Elephant Project, bet you are getting pretty excited about it all now huh? Well I was thinking about what else you might need to know about the project or the village, just a couple of small things mostly but they are things that I wish that I had known before I came out here.
I had no clue what any of these people said to me but still remember spending the whole time laughing loads!
First thing is that NOBODY in the village speaks English, when I say nobody, I mean nobody, Worn, your coordinator speaks very good English, you might need a day or two to get used to his accent but he will be your translator throughout your project. This doesn’t mean however that you don’t need to try to learn any Thai yourself; I would highly recommend that you get a phrase book, the Lonely Planet one is fantastic, and learn a few small things like ‘thank you’, ‘hello’ and ‘my name is’. These very small gestures will not only impress the locals but make you feel a little more independent whilst in Thailand. You won’t feel as though you are completely alone in a place where nobody understands you, for me personally knowing a few phrases helps immensely and always leads to you having fun experiences and meeting new people.
You don’t want to make a social faux pas if this is the consequence!!
Another must know tip, remember where you are. It is very easy to forget where you are and what is socially acceptable when you are around other ‘white’ people. I did this and still do. I have lived here for 6 months and still make mistakes when it comes to social etiquette and rules. Thai people are too polite to mention when you have done something wrong so it is very hard to be sure if you are in fact in the wrong. The only thing I can suggest to remedy this is what I get told constantly, ‘If you don’t know, then ask’. Even if you think something might not be a problem, just ask, there are no stupid questions, and wouldn’t you rather ask a silly question than offend somebody?
The evenings are a great time to help the local kids with their English practice
One more thing to remember with the social rules of the Elephant Village is your behaviour, it is very important to us that everybody involved with us is happy. This applies to you, the volunteers, us, the staff and also the villagers and individuals that we work with every day. On an evening at the Elephant Village it is totally ok to have a beer, sit down and smoke or to play about with the local kids. Just remember that we aren’t the only people in the village and we do need to keep noise levels down where we can as well as be respectful of people’s space. You stay in a home stay, this means you are living in a Thai persons home and must treat it as such. Tidy up after yourself, keep your room tidy, help out where and if you can; you will have a much better experience if you get truly involved and ingrained into the Thai society and way of life, but you can only do that if you live and breathe by the rules of Thailand.
Helping out is always appreciated
Something else that might prove useful to know is that the house that you stay at has a washing machine, I can’t tell you how amazing it is to wear clothes that have been washed in a washing machine after a day of sweatily cutting down banana trees. It is perfectly ok to use the washing machine at the house just make sure that you bring your own washing powder and conditioner.
Looking for bugs with Mr Lee
Your host is a man called Mr Lee, he is the single happiest man on the planet and whatever he asks you to do, just do it, I promise you won’t regret it.
He will just come up and grab your arm and get you on the back of the moped and take you off anywhere he fancies wether it be to the local temple to chat to the monks, to a party in another village or just to go and look at the stars over the rice fields. His random journeys are never boring or a disappointment and show you a part of Thailand that you might not otherwise see.
Eat everything you are given by anybody. Now normally I wouldn’t suggest you take food from people you don’t know, especially in another country but the Elephant Village is a very safe place so if someone offers you food, take it. I promise you it will either be super tasty or the most horrible thing you have ever had; both of which are experiences you need to have whilst in Thailand. My first day I ate a cockroach and I know that I don’t regret that in any way, it is a great story to tell people and the pictures are incredible.
Enjoying some cricket ice cream with Worn 😀
The river is clean. It might not look like it, smell like it or feel like it but you won’t get infected from the river if you have any cuts or grazes. I know this from personal experience, I had so many infected mosquito bites, cuts, scratches and grazes and I was constantly in the river. I never got ill from the water in any way, it just made all my clothes a funky brown colour 😀
This isn’t an official medical piece of information, but from my experience and the experience of ALL of the staff here, we all say that malaria tablets are not worth it here. In Surin you do not need them, in all fairness they will probably make you worse due to the side affects. Bring them if you want but you will be recommended by all of the staff and from the pharmacy not to take them as you don’t need them.
Seeing as the Elephant Village is QUITE far away from anything I would recommend you bring a small first aid kit, we have supplies that you can use but it never hurts to have your own. You will get bitten by ants, mosquitos and maybe even small spiders here so Tiger Balm will be your best friend, plasters are always invaluable as well, as are Paracetamol or Ibuprofen tablets. You will get Thai tummy, I promise you that much, I can assure you it isn’t the food, it is just your body getting used to the massive temperature change and the change in diet as well. Don’t let being ill for a couple of days put you off the amazing food that Worn cooks; I promise you it will never be Worns food that is making you ill! To fix Thai tummy bring some Imodium with you and you will be fine in a day or two.
You don’t want to be this sad do you?
DRINK, DRINK, DRINK!! You need to make sure you are keeping on top of your hydration levels, you won’t know you are dehydrated until you can’t walk. I have had volunteers in the past who have promised me they are drinking enough water and then two days later I have had to take them to the hospital to get treated. It isn’t a nice experience having to be hospitalised when you are abroad so it is IMPERATIVE that you are always drinking enough water and if possible taking rehydration tablets as well; they don’t taste great but they will help you more than you can imagine.
There are no ATMS in the village so make sure you bring enough money so that you won’t be caught short. You don’t really need money in the village itself as water and food are included but if you want a beer, a coke or one of the beautiful and famous Pineapple drinks then you will obviously need to bring some with you. The place you are most likely to spend money is at the night market on Wednesdays, I know I always get the chicken and the pineapple biscuits; they are both incredible and so super cheap you just have to buy them! The Study Center nearby also has some of the most amazing things you can buy made from and to do with elephants, including their poop!!
There is reception in the village but only for Thai sims, so make sure you pick one up. There is some, limited, internet coverage for internet capable sims but there is no Wifi or computers with internet access in the village; so don’t be expecting to get onto Facebook for about a week haha
The Thai national anthem is played very early in the mornings, normally about 6am, so be prepared to have that as your morning alarm.
This is Charizard, she doesn’t have Rabies, nor do any of the other dogs in the village
Finally the dogs barks are worse than their bites, mostly due in part to the fact that they don’t bite. There is one sort of unfriendly dog at the local shop but apart from that they are all nice dogs they just don’t know you and in all fairness you are some strange gangly white human type thing, wouldn’t you let your friends know if you saw something that strange walking down the street?
I think that is everything I can think of. I obviously don’t want to give everything away as it won’t leave you with anything to find out for yourself but I know that I would have found all of this useful before I came out as a volunteer so I hope you will as well 😀
Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto