Celebrating and Remembering

Happy Halloween!

This weekend we spent the spooky weekend in the  woods, camping at the Laurel Highlands hiking trail.

The hike consisted of 13 miles both days, and yours truly only fell twice, both times on the troublesome left hand.

Tomorrow is Dia de lost Muertos, Day of the Dead and we have celebrated the past few years by placing an ofrenda, (altar) on our porch in remembrance of our loved ones.

My pap passed  away two years ago on November 1, my dad and grandma passed away in November as well.  This is my way of honoring them and paying homage to a religious tradition I respect.

I find great beauty in the preparation and reflection.  Last year my sister and I were in Mexico City at the beginning of October.  People were purchasing the paper flags, calaveras and other necessities.

Celebrating this helps me also to heal and respect those I miss and think about every day. A way to celebrate the past, present and future.

Also these two ladies love pumpkins and thinking of them especially today makes me smile.

Thong Dee, Mae Kam

Pap and I.

 

Being Home

I didn’t really think about how I would feel or what may have changed when I returned home.  Two months away to some may not seem long and to others like myself, it was like living a new life.

While I was away, someone close to me called me selfish and proclaimed “all you care about is elephants”. This person was right, this was my dream, a gift by my grandfather.

I talked to others who were backpacking their way through Asia and the disconnect you have to those who are home.  We want them to be excited to talk to us, hear about what we are doing, and forget to think about what is going on anywhere else.

I recently read another blog by a woman who also has just returned home from a trip and the reactions given by her friends and family.  She was surprised by the lack of questions about where she had been and what she had seen.

My response was quite different, many of my friends came to visit the day after I returned and I received texts and Facebook messages welcoming me home.

I was ready though to talk for hours about the elephants, the food and people I met along the way.  Not everyone shares in this enthusiasm.

This morning, as I write this, and look out the window to the leaves of autumn, I’m happy and melancholy.

Many changes have happened in two months, and I am not the same person who sat in this chair and planned the journey. My eyes have seen too much and my tears have dropped around the world.

In me is an eagerness, an independence that will only grow the longer I travel, the more I seek to see the world, and yes the elephants.

 

 

When a place touches your soul

I return home with a new love, a place which captured my soul and left me with questions and curiosities.

Myanmar, I knew little about and focused on seeing Mo Mo.  For a year I have campaigned, petitioned and raised money in hopes to the end of her 55 years of working.

When I arrived, I was welcomed by the face of a dear friend and we were meeting for the first time.

My first evening we ate dinner at her home, visited the most beautiful pagoda and then dropped me off at the hotel with hugs, gifts and plans to see Mo Mo.

The first day I walked around the streets of Chinatown, at times in the pouring rain and the only one wearing a raincoat. ( take umbrella next time)

I  was amazed in the dress, the people and a bus which went by with pieces missing yet still functioning. Tradition is still there.

Zabe and I met the next day at the zoo and discovered Mo Mo in chains, which is unusual and Zabe asked the caretakers. Apparently she is nervous and doesn’t like one of the little ones is the response given.

We take this picture, which captures a friendship from across the globe built on a dream in hopes of making reality for Mo Mo.

A country going through so much change and new to so many, I feel honored to have ended my trip in there.

I plan to return when a sanctuary is open and with great hopes Mo Mo will be there, roaming in the forest, grass beneath her feet for the first time.

 

 

My Days with Mo Mo

I knew what to expect, but seeing the grim reality of Mo Mos life broke my heart and enraged me.

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday there, a chance to observe her days and changes that take place.

To begin this dear girl is absolutely beautiful and so intelligent anyone can see this upon instantly meeting her.

When I arrived she was chained, the reasons were she’s nervous and doesn’t like the little one. She and a young male bull where the only ones on this platform in chains.

Her interaction with the others was so sweet, they would come over and stroke her and she would place her trunk in their mouth.

Many times throughout the day someone would come to feed them a few pieces of sugarcane and make Mo Mo do a little shake and trumpet. She shakes her head around, does a little shimmy and the people are happy and go on their way. Meanwhile she sways back and forth until the next person.

Watching her do this continuously was so frustrating and then she tried to pull off her chain.  My heart broke.

I had lunch there at a noodle stand beside the platform, more visitors pay for a small container of five to six pieces of cut up sugarcane.

This was the only time the elephants ate. The brochure says feeding time is 9:00 am and 3:00 pm.  That’s it.

Also, she was unable to reach the water and none was given to her.

She would come over to us even when we didn’t have food and give us her trunk.

I left the first afternoon unsure what the next would bring and hoping she would not be chained.

The next morning I arrived to see feeding time, I was appalled to see that not only was it late, they were only given a few stalks of sugarcane a piece!!!

Elephants are grazers and to feed them so little is not only unhealthy it is plain unethical.

Mo Mo was chained in the same spot and I could sense her disgruntlement. She faced away from the fence only vaguely responding for food.

She head butted an elephant that was walking by, not the one who she allegedly didn’t like. After this Mo Mo reached out to her.

Again I also saw little food being given to them and when a man came to hose the floor Mo Mo was still not given water!

I said goodbye to Mo Mo and wished her a Happy Birthday. On the first day I bought bunches of bananas for them all.  On the last day they did not even have this option and feeding them outside food is not allowed. Even though there is a stand selling bananas by the zoo entrance.

I was truly enraged, sickened and wanted to scream at the handlers, the visitors and all those responsible for this horror called Mo Mos life.

She turns 63 on the 18th and I am fearful she may not make it another year if forced to live in this hellhole.

The fight is on full force for her retirement to a sanctuary, where she can finally be at peace and live the remaining years of her life with freedom and love.

Yangon

I arrived in Yangon yesterday afternoon and was welcomed by a dear friend who we met face to face for the first time.

Today I explored the area and tonight will venture to Chinatown.

Tomorrow I spend the day with Mo Mo and possibly Wednesday as well.

We will celebrate our birthday together.

Reflections

Tonight I am in Bangkok, sipping on Chardonnay before falling asleep on a cloud of pillows, fresh linen.

My experience the past five weeks has given me not only knowledge about the elephants, but also a glimpse into the world of those who dedicate their lives everyday

Elephants and mahouts entrust their lives to one another. The villagers everyday see the elephants walk by.

What a vision this is!

I’ve witnessed moments of great beauty and extreme distress, elephants restrained and tourists grabbing a baby’s trunk while the mother pulled and screamed fearing her baby is in danger

I have also seen great shifts of change in the elephant tourism industry. Elder mahout’s stepping away from the hook and relinquishing control which the hook represents.

Eleven days left in this trip.  Tomorrow I travel to Cambodia and then to Myanmar.  Time to rest for 6:30 am departure.