Ban Taklang - Home To Education, Elephants, and Buddhism
Maricel Ballon, one of our two English teachers in Ban Taklang, just sent me a photographic portrayal of life in the educational process in Ban Taklang, Thailand. The Elephant Story has had a presence there for many years to educate the youth of the village by providing English instruction and supporting veterinary care for some 300 elephants. The elephant culture has been intertwined in this village of maybe 1,000 residents for thousands of years though they are only one of three elements in that community. Together with John Roberts of The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation and Khru Oh of Learning Link, we have sought to improve the English language skills in the rather primitive educational system so the high school graduates have an opportunity to enter Thai universities as English capability is critical to their entry. Buddhism is the third leg in the platform of their lives. Periodically, the children will make merit by visiting the monks which is displayed in the following series of images. By the way, Joey and I did the same thing in Bangkok several weeks ago to make merit, as well as to introduce some friends from Japan to that concept.
Shown here is the visit to the Buddhist temple to meet the monks and recite Buddhist mantras which is not unlike what we did in Bangkok. The Abbott in Bangkok had shamed me once for not knowing all of the mantra sequences. I was on point this time until the monk leading the ceremony ventured off the course I knew to begin a question and answer series of which I was not familiar. Fortunately, our dear friend Khun Jill was there to bail me out and carry the load. Quite frankly, I was very impressed by his depth of mantra knowledge though his home town of Buriram is the nearest proper city to Ban Taklang. You should know that the people of Ban Taklang speak their own native language as well as Thai. Moreover, there are several different dialects of Thai depending on where you live just to make it all interesting.
The field shown here is in front of the primary school where ceremonies are held and where we have riden elephants for a long time. In fact, you will note the loading stand in the background which certainly helps in hopping on these gentle giants of the animal kingdom.
In the final analysis, education requires some amount of repetition with questions and answers as this young lady here illustrates. Not surprisingly, the girls are the best students which has become universal in many different countries as it is time that the ladies soar.
Our other English teacher, Rachel Mae, has expanded the program to include spoken English phrases inside the school snack shop and the library to expand the educational efforts into actual interactive sessions. When the older students at Changboon Wittaya school want to purchase something in the shop, they must speak English to make the purchase. As Rachel is the cashier, she is in the perfect position to make it work – no English…..no snack. By the way, the name “Changboon” for the secondary school literally means “elephant merit” to highlight the integration of the forces in this community.
The gentleman shown here takes his elephant and her offspring for a daily walk and a bath. The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation has undertaken an effort to educate the elephant owners that “positive re-enforcement training” is the key to accelerate the conditioning of young elephants to follow commands. Eventually, the objective is to eliminate the use of the ankus, or hook, which the mahout is carrying as it is counterproductive in the training process. Education is important at all levels.
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