Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Who, What, When, Where, Why

I sit in front of my computer researching elephants, Thai weather patterns, and malaria, but in two weeks, I will experience them firsthand. Hopefully minus the malaria. I am set to pick up three different medications to take at regular intervals before, during, and after my adventure to ward off typhoid, dengue, and other diseases I don’t care to think about lest I decide to stay in Northwest Indiana forever. I have purchased a reinforced hiking backpack with plenty of pockets in which I can carefully organize, and then lose, my few belongings lucky enough to make the cut. I have learned how to say “Hello” and “Thank You” in Thai, despite the fact that “Please don’t trample me” would be more appropriate.
      I seem organized, but my three week journey to Thailand to work at the Elephant Mahout Project has not really sunk in. My lifelong love of elephants and my casual internet search of elephant conservation projects last fall has not prepared me for the imminent reality of what I am about to do. I have traveled solo to other countries before, but never with this kind of purpose. I risk broken bones, insect-borne diseases, and falling so in love with the elephants that I may not return. The last is the most probable.
      For almost three weeks, I will care for one elephant. I will form a bond, care for her living space, and learn how to ride her through the countryside using various commands. I will perform general maintenance tasks around the camp with other volunteers and mahouts, teach other tourists about the elephants, and maybe have the opportunity to teach English. The life-altering experiences are endless.
      However, my mind is currently consumed with grading papers, planning final classroom activities, and preparing myself for the moment when I have to say farewell to my second graders. This is no easy task. For the past five months, they have been my constant companions. I will miss their stories, creative ideas, and enthusiasm.
      So, Room 118, this blog is partially yours. You shared my excitement for traveling. You told me you wanted to someday visit all 50 states and circle the globe. In your spare time, you pored over the squishy globe pillows and wrote down interesting country names. You may not have known what Tanzania or Nepal have to offer, but you recognized that there is value in wondering. In that way, you are of my own heart.
      I hope you can follow my adventure as it happens. This is written with you in mind, and maybe it will inspire you to plan big for your life. Don’t expect everyone to do everything for you. Don’t expect adventure to fall into your lap. If you want to do something badly enough, make it happen. 
      Finally, if I’ve taught you anything, remember the importance of capitalization and punctuation. That is all I ask.