It seems appropriate that we celebrate International Women’s Day at a place that helps to empower women and girls to keep them from falling into the clutches of sex traffickers.

This morning we got up early to ride the elephants for their early morning walk. We sat on their heads with our legs tucked under their flappy ears, leaning down on their foreheads. A one-and-a-half year old calf accompanied mama on the walk. We went up and down, with ups easier than downs as the downhill required more shoulder action to keep from tipping head-over down their faces. We lumbered along the very uneven ground, amazed at the dexterity of these giant animals.

On the suggestion of a California couple that we saw riding by our hut the day before, we had put on long pants to keep from chafing our legs on their rough hides. Three young men from Manchester (UK) had shorts and T-shorts and were barefoot. They opted for going into the river where elephants and humans alike were sprayed by the elephant handlers. The baby elephant was frolicking in the water, diving under mama and coming out the other end, then running up the slope to roll around in the sand before taking another bath.

After breakfast we had ourselves dropped off at a meditation center with a temple that is in a cave or rather under an enormous overhang of a steep rock formation. Axel is getting quite good at meditating –he can sit still for 45 minutes in spite of all his body problems. I can hardly make it past 20 and used the remaining time to follow the bats that flitted above our heads.  Two other people were meditating, one monk in brown robes and one woman in white. The woman was like a statue. The monk sat in a position that neither one of us could stand very long, one leg tucked under and the other across in front. Once in a while he interrupted his meditation with a walking meditation. If only I could see inside their heads what this nothingness was all about.

We were gifted a book (in exchange for a donation) that turned out to be translated under the auspices of an associated meditation center in Boston. It is a little difficult for my busy brain to grasp the content but I will try.

On our return we met two doctors from a medical school on the US west coast getting ready to go out to far flung villages with medical supplies. They are scouting out possibilities for medical students to come out here to get some practical experience.

We tried out more of the wonderful dishes on the menu, green curry, Tom Yum, and iced Thai tea while exploring what to do on our last day. We quickly decided on cooking school, but which of the 10 or so that advertised their classes in booklets and online?

Soon the massage lady showed up and I had another hour long massage, then Axel an hour and a half. When I was done the four year old elephant was already frolicking in the river and, the lodge guests were invited into the river to participate in the fun. Armed with brushes and pails, we scrubbed her, she sprayed us with water and everyone got wet kisses from the snake-like elephant trunk. One by one we got to ride her in the river. As bamboo rafts came by, her handler instructed her to spray the people on the raft under loud squeaky screams from the young women who rafted down, sometimes in their finest clothes.

In the evening we sat at the big common tables overlooking the river and striking up conversations with our fellow lodgers, most a generation younger than us. Axel is very good at this and in no time we had a nice community of people, coming and going, and hearing from those who are not doing 9-5 jobs; who see the world while doing what they love to earn the little money one needs here to get on. The Four-Hour Workweek is one of the favorite books that everyone seems to know.

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March 2015
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