So the day trippers are here. It is a constant struggle for the Thai Volunteer Coordinators with the day trippers to emphasize and enforce some of the very important safety rules of the park, most particularly around the elephants. There are a couple of reasons but these are the ones that stand out. The VC’s are pretty soft spoken and feel uncomfortable repeating rules to the visitors; the VC’s are young (early to mid 20’s) and quite often the day trippers are older and respect your elders comes into play; the visitors just do not get the ultimate purpose of the park — that the elephants are NOT here for our entertainment; that the world does not revolve around human selfishness.
Aside from the fact that prior to coming to the park, some of the elephants: have killed someone; have tried to kill someone; have injured someone. Or that some are partially (8) or fully blind (4); that some have mental instability from years of suffering — that anyone getting hurt (or killed) at the park would be detrimental to the park. The Thai government and other trekking camps are trying to get Lek shut down, because she goes against the traditional belief of breaking an elephant or always using a horrible hook to control the elephant.
Back to my story.
In the afternoon, one of the elephants was at the platform while her mahout was feeding her banana’s. He sat by the edge of the fence bars and began rubbing the elephant’s forehead. He stopped and backed away but still in front of the red line (that we are supposed to stay behind. He then did this a 2nd time. I was sort of holding my breath as I hate potential confrontation. But when he did it a 3rd time, I walked over to him and said softly (so as to not embarrass him) that he should really not be touching the elephant or be in front of the red line. He apologized and stepped back. Win-win. Phew!
There was another instance where a couple was sunbathing way beyond the red line. There was an elephant approaching and they just stayed there waving their hands out to her. I said, nicely, that they should get behind the red line. They just looked at me and looked away. I repeated it, quite nicely and said it was for their safety, the girl moved but the guy just stayed there. So I said it a 3rd time to him, and moved his ass behind the red line, looked at me and stretched his well legs beyond it. Ass.hole.
The last time on a different occasion that I said this to another couple, they looked at me all pissed off and left the entire area. Their loss.
I suppose it sucks to be told not to do something. It sucks even more that I’m an American with my obvious American accent — and we were reminded by a fellow volunteer that nobody likes Americans. I know and respect that this is common sentiment but it also sucks to hear someone say it to your face.
Ah well. No regrets. Maybe next time I will say it in a French accent! 🙂