Published: September 7th 2008September 3rd 2008
A lotus flower at The Grand Palace, Bangkok
I've taken enough pictures at the Grand Palace so this time I thought I'd be 'arty'
More animal updates.....
Mrs Noi has kittens. One of her 2 cats has just had 3 kittens which are loved by everyone. We were a bit worried about one of them at the beginning as it wasn't feeding so we had to give it milk formula via a syringe. She's doing ok now though,a nd apparently it isn't just me that's 'animal gender confused,' I recently corrected Mrs Noi on her assertion that all 3 kittens were girls when one of them got its 'lipstick' out. Luckily he's called Silver so it's not too girly a name! The other 2 are called Taylor and Golden and they're now at the playful stage and just big enough to jump up onto tables...especially fun when you're trying to do something on thre computer. Why do cats do that, always sit on the book, magazine or computer that you're trying to use????
And there's more....we have piglets at the camp. I'm trying not to think too much about what will happen to them when they get bigger! They're kept in a pen under one of the houses and I keep hearing talk of barbecues.....
I was really lucky between
No farting in my cab!
One of the 'highlights' of our trip to Bangkok was our travels by tuk-tuk...careering through dark streets almost sideways on 2 wheels...and this sign inside was one of my favourites
May and July to have some friends visit that I'd first met as a volunteer at the project: Louise, who's been over here a few times and had come to stay with the family that she had been a volunteer with stayed for 3 months and Alison came for a week during her travel adventures in Australia and Thailand. It was fantastic having them here and made staying here seem like real life. I had friends! I actually had a social life where I went out! I had dinner parties!!!!!
Louise became my scrabble buddy (I am a little embarrassed to admit that we did become slightly addicted and even now email or text each other when we think of a really good word - to my shame I have even put as my facebook profile 'I just scored 68 points at scrabble - pretty impressive though hey??)
Ahem..... so with Louise I actually felt that I had a socilal life rather than just staying at the camp all the time, or pretending that I had a social life and by going to the supermarket to amuse myself. I have to say though that staying at the camp
and looking at elephants all day is a pretty good way to hang about. It was so nice to have someone to talk to in English though. Sometime's she'd come round to mine or I'd go round to hers.... my beer consumption went up considerably when she was here though and she reintroduced me to the delights of farang (western) food.....mashed potatoes, enchiladas, jacket potatoes, cheese, bread, chips and baked beans!
Alison came to stay at the camp and helped out for a few days with the volunteers - we had about 16 overlapping at one point and I only have so many photo taking fingers. She also put some life back into me when I was having a pretty hard time by taking me to Bangkok for a few days. Partly I was starting to struggle with the realisation that my support network of friends was soon going to be gone. I finally started feeling a bit more settled living at the camp, but was that because I had a social life, people to talk to, even someone to talk through problems and concerns with? Anyway we had an amazing couple of days in Bangkok, searching for a
Louise and her mahout Liam
We were in the back of a pick-up truck at the time on the way to take Louise to the airport!I'll miss my scrabble/beer buddy.
meditation class - being sent on a complete wild goose chase for the rooms by a woman at a temple who wouldn't let us out of the grounds until we'd been to 'section 5.' When we did eventually find section 5 we found out that the teacher wasn't there that day anyway, but we hadn't dared to leave the temple until we'd found it unless we came across her again! With Alison I also slipped back into my 'old life' a little: we spent a night drinking cocktails in a rooftop bar overlooking the Chao Phraya river; we went shopping, stopping each other at alternate stalls on Khao San Road and we did a vegetarian cookery course for half a day at May Kaidees - highly recommended! We were really lucky as we arrived late from trying to find it, and being put back in a tuk tuk to go back to where we'd just come from, so we were the only 2 being taught as the proper class was full. They make it very easy for you with all your ingredients prepared and the dishes are amazing; favourites included the pumpkin humus, peanut sauce and issan vegetables. Our food
At the Shanti Lodge in Bangkok where Louise and I had lunch. It's a brilliant place to go to eat - excellent vegetarian food and has a fab little shop (I got some gorgeous purple fishermans pants) but the rooms aren't much for the price.
was even given to diners in the restaurant where we had the class and got the thumbs up! The recipe book I bought is now well splattered from use: I always get laughed at when I cook from a recipe at the camp and I say 'but I'm not Thai, I don't genetically know how to make these dishes' or something to that effect!
Going back to the camp I felt much more positive, it had been good for me to get away for a few days - even though it did take me 8 hours to get back on the bus!!!
I also got to do a bit of socialising and dress up a bit - and even wear some make-up for the first time in about a year - when I was invited to a wedding blessing/reception by a farang friend here. Tia came too and we spent an enjoyable afternoon and evening in a restaurant overlooking the sea drinking wine - wine!!!!! I was a bit apprehensive about taking Tia as it's not the kind of thing he's used to going to - beers round at a mahouts shack is more up his street -
Our ingrediants - prior to being massacred by us - at the May Kaidee cooking class
but he mixed really well although understandably he spent most of the time sat talking with me. There was one excruciating moment though when they wanted to take a photograph of all the male guests and one of the other guests looked at Tia and said ' and who are you?' just because he wasn't a westerner and they didn't know him it was almost as though this man thought he wasn't entitled to be there. The worst news of the night though was that Tia drank wine....I had thought I could buy a bottle of wine and keep it in the fridge and it would be all mine. But no, even though I told him that he wouldn't like it and should drink beer, he wanted to try it and (gutted) liked it!
I've talked about Bim quite a lot before so I'll give an update: Bim is the 6 year old neice of Tia who lives with her grandparents because her mother gave her up when she was 1 and hasn't seen her since. She's cheeky, fun, always laughing and a right bugger - she always steals my 'treat' food from the fridge! Every volunteer
My room in Bangkok
I stayed above the Kaidee family house in a bsaic but clean room, near to Khao San Road for 200 Baht. That's about 3 quid!
that visits the camp is always won over by her charm and ends up loving her, despite the bruises they get from her using her as a human climbing frame.
Bim's mother turned up a while ago, with the 2 children she had either side of Bim and decided to keep......and put Bim in an orphanage... can you tell that she's not my favourite person in the world? The good news is that Bim is no longer at the orphanage. I was actually starting to have mixed feelings as I knew that at least at the orphanage Bim would be getting the chance to have a good education and would be mixing with children of her own age. Her grandmother was missing her so much (and I was) so I borrowed a car (in a mutual arrangement with my farang friend for looking after her dogs whilst she had a weekend away) and Tia, his mother and I went to see her. As soon as Bim saw us she burst into tears, I think due to happiness as she then continued to babble at and hug us all in turn. When I asked her if she had any friends
there though she said no and kept asking if we would sleep there with her or if she could come home with us. The next week her grandmother got Bims mum to come back here and take her out of the orphanage so that she could look after her. Bim is now back living at the elephant camp and is going to the local temple school where she does have friends and seems to be having a great time. I'd already started teaching her some English and she's picking more up now at the school. We take the volunteers to the school one morning if they want to help to teach and from them she's learnt (her own interpretation) of 'head, shoulders, knees and toes' and has picked up more English - 'Oh. My. God' being one of her latest phrases. Cooking now takes twice as long as she likes to help me but we have to keep stopping to point at things and say 'carrot' 'onion' garlic' which hopefully will help my Thai as well!
The project has been busy with volunteers for the past few months, which is great as it provides important financial help for the
mahouts and elephants - out of the salary that the mahouts are paid almost half is spent on food for the elephants and some of them have the equivalent of a mortgage to pay off from buying their elephant. The mahouts also seem to really enjoy having the volunteers here, they like the different interaction that they get, some of them want to learn to speak English and of course they all love taking the complete p**s out of volunteers attempts to climb on an elephant and master the Thai verbal commands!
There are more photos below