Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Jumbo Express

Life at the Elephant park isn't, suprisingly, always just about elephants. Lek, the fearless founder of the park is often accused of caring only about elephants and not people and to manypeople in the area she is seen as a threat because she wants people to stop using elephants for trekking and street begging, this does not make her a popular woman at times. So this is where the Jumbo express comes in, on a regular basis Lek and her volunteers pack up the trucks and head way out to the hill tribe villages to deliver medicines and help for the local people of the area.

On Thursday we travelled four hours north into the hills up near the border of Burma. As scenic as it was, let me tell you four hours in the back of a pick up truck jammed in with cooking pots, boxes of medicine and 2 other people is no fun for your bum. Not to mention the nice coating of dust we received on the way. But it was all for a good cause and it was more than worth it to just to watch Ed do his Mother Teresa impression by de-worming the local children.

The people in this area are Karen people. They wear amazing colourful clothes, speak their own language (called Karen funnily enough) and their culture and race crosses the borders between Burma and Thailand. The village we visited was quite basic but rather beautiful with old teak houses and small gardens surrounded by bamboo fences. But even though it was charming it was badly lacking in facilites. One of the volunteers on our trip was a doctor and he was kept busy with a steady line of about 50 locals who had never been seen by a doctor before. This fabulous old lady rocked up in all her yellow beads and finery and proceeded to tell the doctor about her eye problems. When he asked her age she replied that she was 60 years old, Lek later told us that she is actually 80 - she was hilarious, fiesty and loved the attention from us visitors.

After not so comfy and chilly sleep on bare bamboo floors we were off the next morning to the local school where Ed got to try out his de-worming skills again and then we visited the kindy age kids. After a nice song from the children welcoming us to the village Lek said the kids were asking for us to sing a song for them. At this point our little group of Canadians, Danes, Americans, Kiwis and Indians looked very uncomfortable.....what the hell were we going to sing?The kids sat looking expectant as the seconds ticked over until out of desperation one of the american girls finally suggested "Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes". Not really an inspiring choice but off we went, singing a very out of tune version complete badly co-ordinated hand movements - it wasn't much of a hit I'm ashamed to report but the bemused kids clapped politely anyway. I wonder what they thought of us?


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