Day One in the Elephant Village

Monday 22 June

Yesterday, myself and several other volunteers travelled seven hours on the bus from Bangkok to Surin. The differences in the two places are pretty acute! Surin, while modernised with 7/11s, Big C Supermarkets, KFC and other such features, is far more peaceful and traditional than Bangkok. It’s also much, much cheaper!

After being taken to our volunteer house in Surin City, our Volunteer Leader Nam came to meet us to bring us up to speed on the project before heading there. Nam explained that, here in Surin, Elephants are considered near enough holy. That’s why there are a number of villages dedicated to buying Elephants from cities, where they’re mistreated and kept as tourist attractions, who then keep the Elephants, and dedicate themselves to ensuring the Elephants receive plenty of food, exercise and a generally happy life. As volunteers, the money we have paid to be here is the real true help. Our presence he is an opportunity for us to be involved and see a day in the life (or a few, as it were) or a Mahout- carer for the Elephants.

Nam did also make us aware that the Elephants are chained. This is due to insufficient space in the area- if this Elephants could roam then they would eat all the crops, and the village would have no food or income. If kept in the cities, the Elephants would be malnourished and mistreated. It’s a highly complex issue, and not an ideal one, but Nam emphasised strongly that the Mahouts love there Elephants dearly, and their care should never be doubted.

After this introduction, we all went to dinner at this little restaurant next door called P-Koi! I had a super fierce Shrimp Pad Thai, which I ate way too fast but it was delicious, and sampled a couple of local drinks.

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And then pootled off to bed to prepare myself for what promised to be an interesting day!

This morning we got up and all piled onto this bus ready to drive to the village of Ban Tathit.

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And then we sat there for an hour or so because, what do you know, one of the volunteers from our house had gone missing. He was there yesterday, he seemed totally keen and then *poof* gone! They investigated his room and all that remained was the guitar he bought yesterday in Bangkok, and his key to our house. After some searching, and many phonecalls made by the volunteer co-ordinators, it was established that he had actually shot off to Brazil of all places to try to win his ex-girlfriend back. No kidding! Anyway, so now I have this new guitar.

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12 Hens walk into a bar…

I write this exhausted, having just returned from my sister’s Hen Weekend in Bath! What a fantastic time it has been. Hen-activities aside, we already knew it would be fantastic once we got a load of the gorgeous house we were staying in, the fabulous Charlotte House:

(note: video taken at the end of the weekend… Sorry Hens!)

Friday night was the night out- burlesque, drinks and dancing mainly!

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Saturday night was the night in. With my Sister being an enormous fan of rum, Monkey Island, the Caribbean and the fact that she and future hubby Iain are going to St Lucia  for their honey moon, a Caribbean/Pirate theme seemed more than fitting!

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As the dream home also happened to have my dream kitchen in its walls, I was pretty keen to get my hands on it! At this time the majority of the house (including Bridey!) were still sleeping off the night before! While my soon to be sort-of-sister-in-law Molly made some delicious Cajun skewers, I rustled up a Chicken and Chorizo Gumbo, each of us being well assisted by my cousin Sarah!

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Tex Mex for a family trying (and not always succeeding) to be healthy…

As I have previously mentioned, my sister is to be wed to her long term partner of 11 years, Iain, on May 10th. They will be married in the church local to where she and I grew up, and therefore local to where I am now living. The weekend just gone was the 3rd Reading of The Banns, so they were home to witness that, which gave us the perfect excuse for a big family dinner- and who could knock a texmex!

My Mum whipped up barbeque ribs and a childhood favourite of mine- Chilli Lasagne!

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Just looking at the picture of it fills me with a hungry kind of joy! My Mum does this the best (but maybe that’s more to do with my inner child?) however I did cook a big batch of this myself for Josh and Stephen a few months back. But that’s another recipe for another time!

With the wedding round the corner, everyone is trying to get into their best shape possible right now. My contribution to the meal was not a healthy side-dish by any means, but while I whipped up the original version, I also stole the recipe for a healthier version from this nice lady. What Tex Mex would be complete without Jalapeño Poppers!

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It’s outrageous how GOOD the house smells right now.

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So, today’s post was originally supposed to be something COMPLETELY different. My folks are on holiday at the minute, so I had one of my good friends from the Northampton College days to stay. She’s a pescatarian who has given up cheese for lent like an insane person. What a wonderful excuse to cook up a Salmon and Prawn Linguine!

I did just that, and it was delicious, HOWEVER we had already both consumed a reasonable amount of wine BEFORE cooking, so not only did I fail to make a note of exactly what I did, but I even forgot to put a few things in! Not one for the food blog.

So today was hangover day with Adele, and a fine day it was! We made the most of this wonderful village I now live in on what was a beautiful sunny day! We walked over fields, fed horses, sheep and ducks, found a thrilling obstacle course in Itchycoo Park (actually called Cotton Park) and ended it all with a nice salady lunch and cold drinks in the garden!

Suddenly, it’s Sunday evening and the return to reality must ensue. I’m loving my new job, but there are a few early starts that I’m adjusting to! Depending on which week you’re on, you will either start at 9:30, 8:30 or, God help me, 7:30. I should be on the late start this week, however everyone is on holiday so I’m covering some earlies!

I’m not bad with mornings, but I can suck at breakfast. I don’t tend to feel ready for it until I’m halfway to work and end up snacking on biscuits until lunch. Not healthy, and in no way wise with my Sister’s wedding round the corner! A breakfast-on-the-go would really save the day here! Solution? STRAWBERRY AND BANANA BREAKFAST SCONES!!

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