Do you feel your work project was meaningful?
Yes, Why or why not? For many reasons.. Sustaining the program for the longevity of the Project and elephants involved. Showing the existing mahouts that volunteers are interested in the Project, and allowing other mahouts in the village to see there's an interest outside of circus activity and rides. Keeping elephants as much in their natural habitat as possible (off chains, in the forest, without bull hooks). Supporting local villagers (artists, restaurants, shop owners). Saving the elephants!!
Was there enough free time and did you like the food?
I had ample time to check in with family via wifi, but wanted to be back at camp as soon as the time was up. The food was GREAT! Ocha is an amazing chef! His meals were better than the local restaurants we ate at daily!
Were you happy with the volunteer accommodations?
I have to admit, at first sight, I was petrified. But I quickly realized how spoiled I am at home and just went with it. After the first night of shock, I acclimated quite well and found it all to be more "natural" than I first thought. I'm glad I had a travel partner, as we moved our mattresses into the same room and bunked up for our stay. I couldn't have stayed a week there by myself, I don't think! I'm not sure how to make the accommodations any better, as 'it is what it is.' :)
Did the program change how you view your own culture, and if so how?
Yes, very much., I'm so glad we got to visit outside events from the Surin Project. Such as, the local weekly market, the full moon Loi Kathong festival, and the local village. The interaction with the mahouts was wonderful – a very memorable part of the entire trip. As much as I loved the elephants, another tie that would entice my return would be the mahouts – they were great.
- Holly McKnight, November 2014.