COVID-19 ENDS MY DREAM POSTING – FOR NOW
by Volunteer Alexandra Chiarella
On the afternoon of 17 March 2020, my parents called and advised me “the Australian government is strongly urging all Australians to return from overseas”. My mother, father and step-father pleaded me to fly home as soon as possible as they were concerned a travel ban was imminent. I had recently organised a visa run to Malaysia and changed my flight to 16 June (I had planned to extend my stay from 3 to 6 months), so to say I was shocked and upset is an understatement. I thought I would share a few final thoughts.
The day before I left my Thai home in Phang Nga Elephant Park I went to Krabi to visit P’Ben (one of the Park’s wonderful former employees). I felt very emotional. As I left the drive into the Park I saw P’Lek’s daughter Prow return to the Park with young Kacha who had been in hospital for the previous few days, thankfully not with COVID-19, and was now fully recovered. I am so glad I got to see him again before I left.
You see, although I came to the Park to work with elephants, I think I will miss my friends even more than the wonderful animals I have come to know and love. So many of the people here have become just like family. I have been looked after so well by the Park’s ladies and the Kwan-changs. They have all been so welcoming, generous and loving and I hope to bring that spirit back to Australia at a time when we really need it.
I will of course miss the elephants. My real favourite is 37 year-old Duong-Jai, whose name means “heart”; she is so gentle and funny to watch and just be with. I love the way she walks (slowly and deliberately) and she is always after a snack (much like her Kwan-chang Por). I will miss bathing her in the morning and resting my head on her trunk as I tell her I love her, even though I’m afraid she doesn’t fully understand or appreciate my high pitched voice.
I will miss Preuksa’s tantrums when JaNa leaves the Park, JaNa’s squeaks when Baramee is nearby, Bai-Ngern’s googly eyes, the noise Tangthai make’s when she’s happy, Seanuan’s trunk searching the rocks by the pool, Choosri’s laid-back attitude, Tong-Sri’s bathing routine (lies on her side and takes a nap) and Bazza (Baramee) splashing his trunk about in the pool.
Hopefully I can return in the near future to see my friends, Thai family, and the beautiful elephants. I feel so lucky to have experienced Thai culture, I have learnt so much. Thank you, Phang Nga Elephant Park.