Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Guest Post: Bibi

You've seen her in the comments and maybe read a couple of her queries; now it's time to meet this rather brave North American ex-pat who today lives in Thailand. Bibi has been kind enough to agree to give us a glimpse into her life -- and since she doesn't have her own blog yet, I invited her to share it with us here. And now, may I present Bibi!


Back in Canada six years ago, I was raring to go for a BIG change. Maybe it was the dreaded/dreadful mid-life crisis that hit me, maybe it was wanting to see if it was possible to start over in a new land with no safety net, maybe it was the lure of the mystery of the Middle Kingdom; whatever it was, I went to China and worked for four grand years. It wasn't an urge to hit the Asian trail that sent me scurrying off to Thailand, it was the Olympic Games. That may sound odd but the pre-Olympic madness and frenzy was intense and unnerving in ways that are hard to understand unless you were living there at that point in time.

I have a rare week off and it is time to explore some of Thailand that doesn't include sand.

I'm in Ayudhya, the ancient capital of Thailand. I'm standing in front of a wall. It is a big gray wall and it is alive.The wall moves and starts turning. I don't move. I wait to see what the wall does. The wall completes the turn and I am eye to eye with the biggest animal I have ever seen. I can see the elephant with both eyes, she can see me with one eye or the other. I have to stand a lot farther away from her for her to see me with both eyes. Her trunk comes toward me. She lowers her head to get a look at me. Her soft liquid brown eye focuses on me. She sniffs me through her trunk and puts her head down. I scratch her ear, then with the other hand I rub her lowered head. She leans into her scratch, with a gentleness that astounds me. The tip of her trunk touches my shoulder, light as a baby's kiss. I want to believe the largest land animal on the planet with the power to haul teak logs is enjoying some connection with me.

Ayudhya resembles a woman long past her prime. The ruins left from the Burmese assault on the capital are thin, skeletal. Perimeter walls stand, smashed Bhudda statues are still in place from the carnage. The walls have deep cracked lines running down them, a once stunning beauty who lost to war first then time.

This ruin was the crematorium for two brothers, both Princes who wanted to be King so fiercely they fought each other in battle and both died from dreadful wounds. The youngest third brother found himself in the unusual position of having to cremate his siblings and he became King. He started to build the crematorium in 1432. Columbus would hit the New World sixty years later. There were no Europeans in North America when the battle of the two Princes was fought, if history books can be believed.

Elephants were the war machines, the weapons of mass destruction in those times. Elephants, like the ruins, have fallen into neglect over the hundreds of years it took for Siam to become Thailand. It is looking much better for the elephants than it is for the ruins. (The ruins have assorted groups fighting over them for a variety of reasons.)

Street beggar elephants are being purchased through donations, and lucky elephants and their mahouts get to live a decent life at a reserve similar to the one I am visiting today where the work is easy, the food is plentiful and the elephants are instruments of mass enjoyment.

Trivia Teaser: Where did the expression "white elephant" come from?
Siam. When a white elephant was found it was captured and given to the King as a gift.
Best regards from Thailand,

Catch Part Two tomorrow!  - Phoenix


Susan said...

Bibi, I really enjoyed reading your post. I know nothing about Thailand or the situation there, and this was very helpful. Being an animal lover myself, I am glad to hear of efforts to reclaim the elephants. I admire your adventurous spirit and look forward to hearing more from you.

Chris Eldin said...

Such a beautiful post! I've always loved elephants. I remember a documentary showing an elephant mohter in mourning for her child... returning over and over to the place where she discovered its remains.

Ditto Susan--I very much admire your spirit!!

sylvia said...

Oh how sad and beautiful. I hope you do keep writing - this has been so interesting to get a bit of insight into your life in Thailand. The photographs make me want to travel, just as I thought I was settling down.

I hope things get better for both the elephants and the ruins.

Whirlochre said...

Why haven't you got a blog?

I'd visit even if it was only pictures of elephants.

But adventures in the far East?

Slay me!

Robin B. said...

You've got major guts, ma'am! Major. Have you ever thought about writing a memoir of these times you're living in, right ow, overseas?

Karen said...

Bibi, I loved your description of the elephant "wall"! How exciting to move to a distant foreign land - can't wait to read more about your travels!

McKoala said...

I want to know how you got your name!

Anonymous said...

My dear Commenters,
Thank you so much for the wonderful thoughts. Special cyber hug to the Divine Miss Phoenix for inviting me to dip my toe into her land of blog.
So it would appear the time has come to start a blog - next week after my next little jaunt. My school closes for 2 days to honor Her Majesty the Queen's Birthday. We call it Mother's Day here. So next Wed. after class I'm off to Hua Hin, my most favorite place in Thailand. 2 nights at a guest house, on the ocean. I think we'll be sleeping on one of the piers that has guest rooms. The water will lap under us all night, the ocean breeze will keep us cool and we will breakfast on fresh fruit, yoghurt, musli and about 5 coffees for me. The night market is as good the Hong Kong night market.
If the DMP doesn't mind I'll send her a post on the getaway and in the mean time try to get a blog of my own up. Don't hold your breath. The average 7 year old knows more than I do about computers.
Frankly, flying to China alone held less fear than this blog business.
Hope you enjoy part two in Ayudhya.
I hope to travel with the same sidekicks - one for sure is in, the other is re-arranging classes to get time off to join us.
I'll have to get a camera I suppose. Sounds like everyone wants to see some photos. I'll do my best to oblige.

And the name - a mixture, first name and ONE of my middle names (my name is so long it gives grief to immigration and airline staff).

Best, and your encouragement means a lot.

Smiles from Thailand,

Glynis said...

Lovely post. I know what it is like to move to another country. Cyprus doesn't have elephants though, more's the pity, they are lovely.

Anonymous said...

Why do elephants touch us so profoundly? Yes, they mourn for the loss of their little one who didn't make it. Not only the mother grieves but the aunts, the older sisters, the great aunts. Do you know they communicate in tones so low humans can't hear but other elephants hundreds of miles away can? Wilbur Smith's "Elephant Song" was one of the most touching horrifying books I have ever read.
I have studied these great creatures. Will give more info on the intricate life of as I start my blog.
I was very honoured her Majesty dipped her head to me and loved how I rubbed her. My close encounter of an amazing kind lasted over an hour. Bliss, pure bliss and she was 80 years old.
My privilege,
PS I think I can go elephant trekking through a wine vineyard in Hua Hin. More soon, promise.