Karen’s Sabbatical in Asia 2019 – Part 3

The third month of my sabbatical in village of Huay Pakoot Chiang Mia.

Into the third month of my sabbatical, volunteering experience, I travelled to Northern Thailand, to a remote village called Huay Pakoot, five hours from Chiang Mia. It is a small village of only 300 Karen tribe families. Yes, you read it correctly they were called the Karen tribe – I had arrived in the bosom of my other family, it certainly felt like that anyway. Each volunteer was allocated a family, who were all very welcoming and you lived with your family for the duration of your stay. My family consisted of Mum, Dad, Grandma and two boys, we spent time together, doing our best to communicate as they had their own language called Packinyaw, rather than Thai, which I tried, to learn whilst they were learning English.

The village was quite remote, made up of stilted wooden houses, a school, a nursery and a temple and that was pretty much it, apart from the odd family that had a shop within their home, selling certain essential provisions and making the odd western delight like a smoothies or crepes. The village was set in the hills, among, small winding tracks to travel between dwellings and to the river at the very bottom of the village. The village had amazing views of the surrounding valley and our base at the top of the hill was a great vantage point for sunset, sunrise and bird watching.

My work here was a mixture of teaching English to the children and families and collecting the data on the forest Elephants along with bio surveys. The teaching was a great way to get to know the villagers and we taught from nursery age to elders. The survey work was very interesting to me, which consisted of setting up humane mammal, butterfly and insect traps in the forest to record species. I learnt so many new skills and many transferable ones. We would hike daily in the forest, to wherever the elephants were at that moment in time, visiting different elephants each day. We recorded the behaviour and whether they were interacting with another elephant. This comprised information such as, whether they were grazing, exploring food, drinking, dusting and such like. We also carried out an observational health check, from a distance, to see if their feet and nails were in good health and not dry and cracked, that there was no discharge from the ears or eyes and assessed their body score for a healthy weight. The data was taken each day Monday to Friday and fed back to the current research.

Whilst in the forest we also learnt about the medicinal and edible plants and the way of life in the forest for several villagers. It was a sad day when I had to leave and say goodbye to my family, we had grown very fond of each other’s company, however after three months travelling it was now time for me to go home to my family in the UK. I met so many new people over this three-month period and there are so many happy memories that I will hold close to my heart for a long time to come.