Monday in a Picture – Mondulkiri Project

Shortly after arriving in Cambodia, I was in a hostel in Phnom Penh talking with PCV who is currently serving here. We talked about our experiences in Peace Corps and life. I asked the Cambodia PCV for recommendations on things to do while here. He spoke very highly of the Mondulkiri Project in northeast Cambodia. The project has an elephant sanctuary for rescued elephants, and offers jungle trekking in addition to visits to the sanctuary to feed and bathe the elephants.

My interest was piqued. I read more about the project, and knew that I wanted to go. The project is home to five elephants. At least one was formerly used for elephant rides in Angkor Wat. Another was used for hauling logs from the jungle. Another was abused by her caretaker. The project also employs Bunong people, who live in the local community where the jungles and forests are.

The 18 kilometer trek started at the tour guide’s homestead just before 9 am. The views from the trek were quite awesome. Apparently, it’s the end of rainy season so the mosquitoes were minimal, but jungle floor was very slippery. This was especially true on inclines and declines. I lost my footing a few times and was invited to promptly sit down on the jungle floor. The trek included swimming in a river at a waterfall right before lunch. During the after lunch trekking, the rain started. Although it started as a light drizzle, it progressed into heavier rain. The jungle floor became even more slippery. We finally reached our destination: the Jungle Lodge. They had hammocks with blankets set up for us. They also served dinner, which included bamboo soup (made in real bamboo), breakfast, and lunch the next day.

The second day was all about the elephants in the sanctuary. We went down to the sanctuary with many bananas. We were able to feed the elephants in the jungle sanctuary. Once the elephants saw that we had the bananas, the gentle giants approached and took the fruit from our respective hands. Some elephants allowed us to remain close while others walked away to munch on some young bamboo. In the afternoon, we were able to swim with and bathe the elephants in the river. After a full two days of activity, I was tired and sore. I’m super thankful for the hot shower and delicious food I had back in town. The above picture is of me admiring the view at the beginning of the trek, when I was still dirt-free.

Be kind to yourself.

P.S. – Here go two more really cool pictures. The first is of a leaf that apparently ran out of chlorophyll. The second is of an elephant munching

Sweet Dreams – Trees. And no borders. 

Because I am posted in a country where I might contract malaria, I have been given an antimalarial medication called, “Mefloquine”. One of the side effects of this medication is lucid dreaming. The following is what I dreamt last night (as best I can remember). 

I was living somewhere more central in Africa. Maybe Rwanda.  I had come back from vacation in Kenya with friends when there was breaking news. There would be a stateless Africa. No more countries. No more borders. A political map of Africa would look much more like a topographical map. This wasn’t in ancient times. It was pretty modern. 

In order to make this work, there was a summit of all world leaders. It was like the United Nations, but presidents, prime ministers and monarchs sat around the table instead of ambassadors. The meeting was held in a top secret location. Hillary Clinton was there to represent the United States. She was the president. Because the meeting location was so secretive in the dense jungle, Air Force One wasn’t used. There was instead a modified sea plane that could also work on land. It was massive, and may have rivaled Air Force One in size. As we were leaving the world leader meeting, I noticed that Bill Clinton was there. He was walking just a few steps ahead of his girlfriend. It struck me as odd and admirable that Bill Clinton was carrying his own luggage. One of the other people told me about how he and Hillary had an open marriage. 

Before we were to take off, one of the plane’s staff suggested that we go for a hike to see the massive sequoia trees. Everyone agreed. The staff member leading the hike said that it was get very muddy and swampy. As we were hiking, I understood what that meant. My shoes and legs were covered in mud and other elements of Earth. The plane staff member said that it would just be a bit further and encouraged us to continue. We did. We were rewarded with the biggest tree many of us had ever seen. It was massive. Part of the inside had been cut out. The tree was part of a housing structure deep in the bush. We walked inside the housing structure and looked around. The part of the house that included the tree was the kitchen. A large part of the tree trunk was removed to add a dining room in the tree. There were even stairs in the tree that allowed you to go up in the tree trunk. 

As the Clintons and everyone else looked around, I wandered through the housing structure into a sunny room with an altar and various religious things in the wall. 

Be kind to yourself.