Today we started early with a 7Am breakfast. Because the kitchen staff did not understand the concept of toast we were greeted in the cafeteria with fried bread stuffed with jam (unsurprisingly this ended up being delicious) along with fried rice and vegetables.
Our group’s size makes it necessary divide into 2 sections for the days work. For the morning group 1 got the better deal. While group 2 was weeding and gardening, group 1 went into the forest. We walked an hour with our elephant, Atun Ria, to the river to give her a bath! Each volunteer was equip with a watermelon and a bucket. The watermelons were a treat for the elephant, and the bucket was for the bath. Atun Ria was going to have those watermelons whether we liked it or not. Knowing that we couldn’t do much to move her, our elephant would occasionally refuse to walk until we paid tribute in the form of melons. As we approached the river Jojo (our sort of intimidating German Sheppard) jumped into the water leading the way for our 1 tonne elephant to follow. The volunteers grabbed their buckets and dived in. Take a bath with an elephant… check.
Upon returning from the forest Matt and I (John), but mainly Matt, cut down a banana tree in a nearly Herculean feat of strength.
After lunch everyone got into the nitty gritty. Group 1 took over the other group’s weeding operation. Group 2 spent their afternoon draining a pond and planting tomatoes. I like to think the Afternoon’s manual labor built some character.
At 3 Pm we gathered all the watermelons, bananas, and banana tree trucks we had left for the elephants’ daily feeding. As always watermelons were the first target for our ele’s. The fun started when they moved on to the banana tree trucks. In order to eat the tree truck they had to crush them down to size with their feet.
Today we also set up the volleyball nets and the volunteers were introduced to the soldiers that protect the refuge from loggers. They LOVE to play soccer and volleyball with volunteers.
Tomorrow we will be begin another project and group 2 will head out to have an elephant bath of their own.
John and Briana