The camp is rustic, but the people? They are kinder than any others. The elephants tower over me, but they nudge me gently with their trunks. My mahout and I speak half English, half Thai. He wants to learn, I want to learn. We point, we exchange words, we laugh. Thailand is truly "The Land of Smiles."
Lunch was a stressful experience. I ate my sticky rice, worried about the impromptu surgery at the camp. My elephant stepped on a bottle, and I learned that big things that seem indestructable can be brought down by small things, in this case, a piece of glass smaller than a penny. However, a mahout is an owner, a trainer, and a vet, and many together can repair an injury.
Then, we sit on a wooden platform, not talking, not working, just watching. My elephant is a picky eater, abandoning half of the plant, only to eat it later in the day. I can hear a rumbling in her trunk, and she sways back and forth, almost as if she is dancing.
To ride is, at first, a precarious experience. You must balance, tucking your legs behind the giant, flapping ears. Soon, it is second nature. I sing some Etta James to her, and she grazes. I lay down on top of her head and mutter things to her. She may not respond to my commands yet, but it's important that she hear my voice. Soon, she will know me, and that is unreal.
She could eat all day.
The view from above.