One of the best things about this project is meeting other volunteers from all over the world. Within the last two weeks alone I’ve come to know so many extraordinary people. At least once a day we are all sat at Base, socializing in our down time or listening to the evening debrief, and I get to appreciate the expanse of this odd family we have going on. There’s a fair few of us, around twenty volunteers, interns and staff in total, and we all get along swimmingly. Especially those whose stay is shorter, their energy so fresh and infectious. Seriously, every day we find out new talents about each other, we create lasting memories through the onslaught of daily activities, as well as slowly discovering the hidden gems of this little village. Huay Pakoot is genuinely a fantastic environment to bond with people who share the same motivations as we help do our part for the elephants and community as a whole.
This is why, as we approach the end of our second week together, some may be feeling a little pensive. A lot of volunteers choose only to stay a fortnight, and that has been creating (coupled with an unfortunate synchronization of longer staying helpers leaving this week too) quite a viscous atmosphere of reflection. But I don’t think this is truly founded on melancholia, on some looming inevitability of returning to our normal lives far away from this beautiful sanctuary. These feelings I believe spawn from the gratitude we feel towards our time together. We all get to experience so much here, it’s nearly impossible to not take a collective moment now and then to look back at how this place has molded and changed us from what we may have viewed ourselves beforehand. Pushing ourselves through steep forest clad vales like the elephants. Learning to speak the language of Pakinyaw as the locals do. Teaching kids of our own language so that they can grow up with a better chance to pursue their own success. These days are what we see when we look down from our own personal mountains, both what we built as we got to this point as well as what built us. That is something you will never get without venturing to places such as right here.
And yet some like me will be staying: this is the only the first round. I have the best part of six months left in this awe-inspiring place. The thought of all this time ahead, such potential to do good for such an important yet remote treasure still sends warm shivers up my spine even as I write this. I guess this is what purpose feels like. I am so excited. I don’t know if next week will bring the same kind of experiences as it’s hard to think about the specifics. But knowing that I won’t be sharing this future with some of the friends I’ve made so far brings me back into this quiet present. There is such a stillness sometimes you can see the others staring into themselves, to that peaceful lookout point where either side of them shines the vibrant motions of the days gone by and the busying promises of those yet to come. So, for now I’ll concern myself with appreciating the time I have left with the leavers, and to push those who need it into the mindset of not letting this anxious pit of an ending consume these last few days whilst we still have time to enjoy them. Because they will be missed regardless and it’s best to do so on happier terms. Others shall come and go, and some will be here for the whole way through. Nothing will ever ultimately end in such a place so quaint and removed. I hope the leavers will see that once they get stuck into their next project whether its professional or personal.
This isn’t a sad time. This is just a beautiful view.
Alex Carter (Conservation Intern)