Sorry it took so long! I was having trouble uploading photos! But now I am home and here's some pics!
I'm not sure how to post the photos individually, but here is the album on flickr!http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected] ... 952489677/
Essentially, I spent 3 weeks at this animal refuge... which didn't contain just elephants, there were all sorts of animals there; gibbons, tigers, macaques, bears, iguanas, civets, binturongs, etc. But, I just worked with elephants... for the most part. I spent two days in the other section of the center because they were short on volunteers (I sacrified my day off!).
A typical day consisted up getting up at 6, going to the elephant enclosures and feeding them and cleaning their enclosures. We go back several times during the day to clean and replace their water, give them baths (by climbing onto them and washing their backs in the water -- I have pictures enclosed of me doing that), and continually feed them. All of the elephants there have been through such horrible experiences -- all of them have experienced something called the phajaan, which is a process in which mahouts or elephant trainers will tie an elephant up and beat, torture and starve it until it's ready to give up, and then it submits to them. The trainer then can control the animal from then on. It's such a sad thing knowing these sweet majestic animals have gone through such an ordeal. They are still so trusting -- they will come up and rest their trunk on you. But some of them still exhibit begging behavior (from being forced to beg on the streets), such as "dancing", where they will sway back and forth almost obsessively. It's sad to watch.
There were also two elderly (>70 years) elephants that required special care. There is a photo in there of an elephant with purple marks on it, which is antibiotic ointment. These two elephants underwent similar experiences, where they were chained up in someone's backyard and starved nearly to death. They are now under special care and diets at the animal sanctuary. When you work with these animals for the day, you spend the day chopping up fruit for them (one of them doesn't have any teeth) and making special balls made of thoroughbred horse food and bananas. It's so sweet, they wait patiently by the fence while you make their food. And they are so sweet to the vet to cleans their wounds.
It made me so sad to leave. I made such close bonds with the elephants (and of course, the other volunteers). I would love to go back, and I would recommend anyone go there.
I also included some photos of the tattoos I got (one is a Gao Yord -- not done in the traditional sakyant method though, and the other is Thai for "may all beings be happy" -- see my signature).
Also included are pictures of me visiting Wat Phra Kaew (The Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha) and Wat Pho (enormous reclining Buddha).
Also, it definitely helped to learn a little Thai -- it prevented me from getting ripped off a few times, and the Thai folks definitely appreciate it when you give it a try. They were all very sweet about it.