Due to COVID-19, I’ve had to return to the UK for a bit until things start to go back to normal. I’ve been back over three months now, and missing my gorgeous village more and more every day! I thought I’d share with everyone why I think Huay Pakoot is so special, and why it has become like a second home to me.
The obvious one – there are elephants around! The novelty just doesn’t wear off. They are a huge part of the culture of the village. It wouldn’t be Huay Pakoot without the elephants. Since being here we’ve seen the arrival of a baby elephant, watched an elderly elephant pass away, seen the elephants be celebrated and blessed by the villagers too – it’s so special.
It doesn’t take long before you recognise the face of most people in the village. People do come and go, especially young people who are working as mahouts elsewhere or at university, but it’s rare to see someone I don’t recognise.
The people recognise you too, and always ask how you are and where you’re going. A walk through this tiny village can take twice as long as you stop and chat to people on the way. They are so generous too, always inviting you into their homes for food and drink!
The journey. It’s such a long, hilly, bumpy, curvy route to get from Chiang Mai up to Huay Pakoot that you can’t help but feel a sense of relief – a warm glow in your heart – when you finally arrive.
The seasons. In this area there is a hot season, followed by a wet season, followed by a cold season. Each season escalates until you are wishing for the next one to start – it gets hotter and hotter until you wish for rain, then it gets rainier and rainier… and so on. It’s nice being able to recognise the pattern in the weather and look forward to what’s coming next.
The traditions that come along with these seasons. Village traditions, such as the start of planting the fields, and the huge celebrations when the planting (and harvest) is over, and our own traditions too – like making a fire every night in the cold season, or organising camping trips when the weather starts to get warmer again.
My running route. One of the first things I do when I move somewhere new is to find a good place to run. The trail just down the hill from the village is probably the best run I’ve ever had – right on my doorstep, hilly and challenging, but with forest all around, birds, snakes, the occasional gibbon – such a great morning routine, and every day I feel grateful to be here.
My GVI family. Being in such a small, remote area with everyone else really builds up friendships. You see the same group of people every day, eat your meals with them, hike with them – you end up so comfortable with them that they are like a kind of family.
Watching new volunteers arrive and get so excited about the beautiful view from base, and seeing their first elephant. This stops me from taking it all for granted. Every time new people arrive it’s like I’m seeing it all again for the first time too.
The simple life of the village! Every time I visit the city it can feel so overwhelming. Being in Huay Pakoot makes you appreciate and get excited about the small things, like seeing some cool birds from base, or breathing in that fresh forest air.
I can’t wait to return!