ขอบคุณสำหรับความทรงจำที่ประเทศไทย!


Typical Day At Elephant Nature Park

A week ago, I was saying teary goodbyes to a group of like-minded folks. We volunteered for a week, supporting a cause, greater than any of us. We cleaned elephant poo from their enclosures, built walkways, went on to cement our initials in the freshly poured concrete, bathe them (so much fun!) prepared food and fed them, unloaded multiple fruit trucks, collected firewood to build fires when they were cold, and cried while listening to the stories of their rescue. The week was topped off, when we sat in the presence of Pioneer and Elephant Whisperer, Lek, as she detailed the work she has been involved in. It was an emotional time; exchanging warm hugs, thank you’s, email addresses and phone numbers, vowing to see one another again in the coming years. We all recognized the path we had just traveled. No one wanted to leave. Our time at Elephant Nature Park had changed us, individually and collectively.

When I told people I was embarking on a solo trip to Thailand, more than 8K miles away, to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary for a week, I got two distinct reactions; the looks of complete dismay and fear (their own), when they asked “You are going by yourself?!” “But why?” And of course, the free-spirited, open-minded ones who gleefully exclaimed: “Omg that is absolutely amazing! Safe travels, and take care of yourself!” I had always wanted to do a volunteer vacation, and after much research, and preparation, I found myself jetting off on the 32-hour journey to the mountains of Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand.

One of the self-discoveries I made earlier this year, is that Elephants are my spirit animal. My wish to get to know these gentle giants was fueled even more, when I came across a heated discussion on social media. Someone posted a photo of themselves riding an elephant, and the “PETA” folks came at her, hard. I decided to go to place where I could learn, grow, and help in this awareness. When you visit a circus, ride an elephant, see them painting or begging in the streets, you could never imagine the cruel process, they must endure, in order to be ready to for what you see.

A little education. Not long after an elephant (in captivity) cow gives birth, the babies are taken away. The mother doesn’t get to raise them. Elephants are very sociable animals, and live in groups. They take care of one another; have excellent memories, and experience joy, sadness, and grief. They even cry real tears. Soon, the elephant must go through a week-long Phajan, aka, Elephant Crushing phase, which is intended to break its spirit, and eventually force it to do the will of the trainers. Babies have been known to step on their trunks, and kill themselves, as sometimes the treatment is too much for them. We watched five minutes of a heart wrenching documentary, and within seconds I was a puddle of mush. I will update the post, when I remember the name. I wept through the entire thing.

An elephant can live up to 80-100 years old. They often have multiple owners, and will work for, five, six or more decades. A lucky few are rescued by an organization like Elephant Nature Park. Lek, has been interviewed many times by major news networks, and received multiple awards for her work in their rescue and rehabilitation. The sanctuary allows them live the rest of their lives, free to wander, and do as they please.

I spent a great deal of time researching the facility, as not all sanctuaries are created equal. Some still allow tourists to ride elephants, and other forms of industry. Elephant Nature Park is completely saddle off, and as of next year, tourists and volunteers will no longer be able to touch them. A fact which made the time there, even more memorable, to be a part of the last set of volunteers, allowed to intimately interact with them in this way.

I cannot begin to encapsulate the emotions and experiences. Breakfast is at 7 every morning, and one day, I woke early to enjoy the last bit of sunrise. I sat down on the balcony to breathe in the fresh mountain air. Moments later, a few feet below, at least four elephants, and their mahouts strolled leisurely by. Where else could I go and have this type of heart stopping experience?! I will forever treasure my time and experiences there.

I want to share a brief story of one of the “eles”, whose care I will be following, as her story affected me deeply. Her name is Dalah. She was rescued a few months ago, from an owner who force bred her, Basically, she was chained to was chained up, and bull elephants tried to get her pregnant. In the process, she suffered a dislocated elbow, torn ligaments, and was being treated for abscesses. The owners would finally agree to release her, but for a price. She now walks very slowly, with a noticeable limp, and uses her trunk to help take the pressure off her injured leg. The project was in the midst of building a therapy pool, to help with her recovery.

Derek, Lek’s husband, was guarded, when our group asked if she was going to make it. We all hoped she did. She was on large daily doses of Tramadol, light therapy, and massages. She spent most of her time in the enclosure to prevent her injuries from getting worse. Dipor, another elephant and friend, visits her very often, to check on her well-being. The park suspected she might pregnant, but it couldn’t be confirmed for a little while longer. All in all, she was holding on, despite everything. I remember whispering to this beautiful creature, the words” I’m so sorry”. She had every reason not to trust humans, but she remains as loving as ever.

Nothing could have prepared me for this most beautiful of experiences. I went in with no expectations or preconceptions. A week later, I left with phenomenal new friends, a humbled heart, and a profound sense of gratitude for what I witnessed, and been a part of. Furthermore, my hope was renewed by the people working hard every single day, to give rescued elephants, the life they should be living. Despite, the cruelties they have suffered, some do live the rest of their lives in peace.

So what can we do? Well, if you love animals, please do not support this type of industry. Once the need for riding, painting, street begging etc is no longer paid for by tourists, then the industry eventually go out of practice. I understand people must make a living, and in their minds, feeding their families comes first. However, they existed before this practice. Education is the key here. Through Lek, many businesses are slowly turning huge corners. However, there is so much work to be done. If you are not moved by anything in this post, then seek that which sets your soul on fire!

While elephants are the main reasons people visit the sanctuary, there are more than four hundred dogs up for adoption, as many cats, some rescued horses, pigs, water buffaloes etc. I found joy in watching elephant families interact, babies stealing bananas (their favorite food), the cat who sat on my lap for hours, the village school we visited, and whose many industries we supported. The children, some as young as three, who performed for us during our last dinner hour. Once my time at the sanctuary was over, the land of smiles would continue to deliver, over and over; from the world-renowned temples I walked through, visiting the Golden Triangle, crossing into the Thailand/Myanmar border, spending time the Akka Hill Tribe, and so much more! For more info about the projects, visit Elephant Nature Park

Come next year, I will be back into the volunteer vacation habit. Mama Africa has been calling my name for a very long time, it’s about time I answered.

I sincerely hope you make the most of what’s left of 2017. This past year has been so favorable and kind to me, it has succeeded in wiping out a disastrous 2016. Euphoric feelings have often enveloped my entire being, as an abundant universe reminded me, that I am loved and worthy. True happiness can only come from within. I know the reasons behind my smile. I’m putting the finishing touches to several noteworthy projects, due to be released next year, and couldn’t be more excited!

My prayer is for each of us to find joy in life. To understand what Atticus meant when he said these profound, yet simple words “Don’t give up now. Chances are your best kiss, your hardest laugh, and your greatest day, are still yet to come”

See you in a few weeks.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

Every Life.


Life has been very hectic lately. However, it’s not the wildly disorganized, stressful, and frenzied type! Far from it. I am working on a few projects, which demands a lot of my time. The amazing thing is, I have every reason to be hopeful. I’m a perfect example, of how great things can enter into your life, once you get out of your own way! I want the same for each of you. I pray there is joy in yours, or you have the hope of new beginnings.

Today’s post, is inspired by a video I came across this past week. I love Oprah. While some aspects provides a good measure of comedic relief, it is also very sobering. The word legacy is often associated with children. Not everyone has, or wants children. I think it safe to say, we can collectively share another meaning; the quality of our lives, the summation of our choices and actions, our morals and values, and how we will be remembered.

Have you ever thought, what would people say about us when it’s our turn to leave our earthly home? What ethical choices did we make, and eventually shaped how people saw us? How did we treat the earth? Did we get involved in charitable work? Express compassion for the suffering? How did we treat those who will never be able to repay us? How many lives did we change? Our conduct in this life leaves behind ripples, an impact, of our actions after our death.

Oprah gave a commencement address at St Agnes College this year, take a listen to an excerpt. Absolutely brilliant. Using the words of a poetic giant, Maya Angelou, she sums it up beautifully.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

Muchas Gracias, Cuba!


I believe in collecting stamps, not things. I’ve always had a reverent appreciation for life and its fragility. Ever since I made it through my risky and invasive procedure in March, living my truth, has taken on new and multi-dimensional meanings. I love to travel! I hope to visit at least four countries this year. Last month I spent ten days in Cuba.  I’ve already made plans for the next three.

I was somewhat mentally and physically prepared for Cuba. No blog post, google search, or friend’s account, compares to a first-hand experience of this highly clichéd country. Cuba has its drawbacks, probably more so than any other country you will ever visit. You need patience, and a lot of it. You will leave (I hope) humbled, grateful, and changed. I’ve heard firsthand stories of visitors feeling utter sadness, which spoiled their trip. Rubbish. Well, I guess that is their experience, and I can’t make light of it. However, you come away from Cuba; it will and should change some part of you. I can almost guarantee, you won’t visit another country like this one!

To experience the real feel of the place, and mingle with the locals, we used Airbnb’s. I was so glad we chose this route. Our first stop was Havana, then Trinidad, and finally the picturesque city of Vinales. One blog post can’t begin to encapsulate my experiences, the people I met, the things I saw, and oh, the food I ate. In the next few months, I’ll post a guide to visiting the country. If you need any tips/advice on travelling to Cuba beforehand, (especially as an American citizen) please use the Contact Me page above, and I’ll be happy to help. I mentioned American, because of the US-Cuba relations, however, the majority of the advice is for everyone. At the time of this post, we wait for word on whether or not Donald Trump will dismantle yet another Obama policy regarding Cuba.

For now, to the wonderfully kind, gracious, hardworking, and warm-hearted people of this nation, THANK YOU! Cuba, you swept me off my feet. I saw a lot, but I’ve barely scratched the surface. You have developed to the beat of your own drum, at a slightly slower and irregular pace, and this is totally fine. I know the daily challenges of your life, slightly permeates into the tourist experience, but I remain grateful for the obvious sacrifices you made, to make sure my stay was memorable. From the Statue of Christ, Old Havana street dance off contests, horse carriage city tour, sugar mills plantation, Playa Ancon, Palenque Caves and its original slave artifacts, Bay of Pigs memorabilia, to the prehistoric murals, and dozens of other experiences, I was lucky to have, how can I ever thank you?!

If you’ve thought about visiting this ever evolving country, stop thinking, just go!

 

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

Don’t Let It Happen To You!


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Dear Readers,

I hope this post finds you and your family well, and  in a good place.

The New Year opened with grim news and mass hysteria for immigrants and minorities in America. I can only imagine the panic resonating among the refugees still waiting for their chance to come to America. A distraction was very much welcomed. For the entire month of January, I challenged myself to promote only positive and uplifting messages on social media, especially Facebook. Now, before the wheels start churning, my posts are generally positive; however, when I see instances of social injustices, discrimination in any form, police brutality etc, I will get out my soap box. The posts typically garner a bit of attention and discussion. Anyway, I digress, back to the matter at hand! Today, I want to share with you one of my favorite messages from the challenge. I guess it resonated with me because I’ve dedicated the rest of my life, however long that is, to ensuring it is full, in every way possible.

Take a look again at Anne’s message above. Does it urge you pursue the type of life you want to live, with wild, passionate, and fearless abandon? God, I hope so! I’m fully aware how ridiculously easy it is to get caught up in “doing stuff”; dreams are hard to chase, when we are furiously paddling beneath the surface, to stay above water. The timing isn’t convenient. My friends, it never is. As I have said before, one day, we will wake up, and realize there isn’t enough time to do all the things we wanted to do. Whatever your circumstances, and however this message reaches you, please don’t let this happen to you. Take steps, regardless of how small. Please, try not to get overwhelmed by the obstacles which persists on every step towards the destination. The only way you can fail, is if you fail to try. Focus on the journey instead, and how magical and glorious it can be.

I’m fast approaching my 6th anniversary as a blogger. Chindeepinlife will become a Blook; some of the most well liked, popular, and searched-for posts, will appear in its pages. The Blook is currently in the editing process, and it’s so difficult to choose! Watch this space. I remain grateful for you, my audience, for allowing me this platform, on which I’ve grown, thrived, and hopefully provided you succor in your time of need!

 

Until the next post,

 

Best,

 

Juan

Looking Ahead.


 

 

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So,

How did 2016 treat you?! I hope it was very good to you. In the unlikely event this wasn’t the case, 2017 will come through with flying colors! Believe it. Social media is saturated with memes sharing the same premise; the year sucked. Many can’t remember a time in recent history, when they experienced so many hardships, changes, and trials. What’s your view of this past year? I saw it as one of endings, and letting go of things, which no longer serve my/our highest good. What about the large number of truly talented artists who have left us?  Perhaps the person who dubbed 2016 as #theyearofthegrimreaper# is right.

The year is just about done and dusted. A new one is tapping us on the shoulders, offering us the opportunity to set new goals and intentions, make ambitious plans, and create bolder visions. I hope I’m not alone when I say, I am very much looking forward to letting go of people, relationships, situations, jobs, and anything that doesn’t bring happiness. I’ve found, people will only love you, if you fit into their box. My advice is, please don’t be afraid to disappoint. You are amazing. Don’t forget this.

I’m slowly getting to the place, where I can thank the past for all its memories, and invite the future in with wild abandon. In the meantime, I cling to the thought that sometimes, the reason good things are not happening to us, is because we’re the good thing that needs to happen to others. I’ve pondered this thought over the past few days, and it’s a good way to sum up the past twelve months. If you’ve had a particularly trying year, I pray the time will soon come, when the reasons are revealed, in all it’s beauty, splendor, and glory.

One major area of my life which has experienced phenomenal change surrounds the fact, that for many years, I chased the wrong people, especially partners.  I craved and lived for their approval and acceptance. Willing to accept any crumb of affection and attention thrown my way. Looking back, it wasn’t what, or who I wanted to be. I now know, this stage was my “Goliath”. I had to learn to love me. I realized, when I finally let go, I was actually holding onto nothing. In a way, I am thankful for the ones responsible for forcing me to go through this evolution. It took so many lessons, heartbreak, disappointments, and breakdowns. For me, 2016 is the culmination of all these things. You may see me struggle, but you’ll never see me quit.

Looking ahead, the following quote will be at the top of my second vision board. Next year, it is also how I will live my life: “There is so much more to life than finding someone who will want you, or being sad over someone who doesn’t. There’s a lot of wonderful time to be spent discovering yourself without hoping someone will fall in love with you along the way, and it doesn’t need to be painful or empty. You need to fill yourself up with love. Not anyone else. Become a whole being on your own. Go on adventures, fall asleep in the woods with friends, wander around the city at night, sit in a coffee shop on your own, write on bathroom stalls, leave notes in library books, dress up for yourself, give to others, smile a lot. Do all things with love. Don’t romanticize life like you can’t survive without it. Live for yourself and be happy on your own. It isn’t any less beautiful I promise”

What is your mantra? I hope you find one (if you haven’t already), and live it. One day, you will wake up and there wont be any time, to do the things you’ve always wanted to. DO THEM NOW.

I thank each of you for following, supporting, reading, liking, and returning time after time to my blog. Your support means a lot. Wishing you a wonderful end of the year. See you in the next one!

Until the next post,

Juan

Donald Trump’s America


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So, unless you’ve been living under a rock, Donald Trump won the Presidential election of the USA. A shock to millions. So much has happened since then, many of it, unprecedented. I’ve made it a practice to stay away from discussing politics and religion with anyone, especially, if they stand on the opposite side. People are heavily entrenched in their beliefs. On many occasions, people were spewing so much hatred on Social Media; I had to un-follow them. We are still friends; I simply chose not to be exposed it on a regular basis.

Some of the best people I know voted for Trump, including many members of my church. I should point out I haven’t been actively attending for some time. In one of my few political posts during this election cycle, I wrote about the NC chapter of the KKK holding a victory rally for DT. One church member and “friend”came at me. Like a bull in a china shop. She said I should get down on my knees, pray for the spirit of discernment, and ask for forgiveness. She wrote a lot of other hateful and insulting things. Initially, I was taken off guard. I kept it together, by taking a deep breath before formulating my response. There are ways to tell people to go to hell, and have them look forward to the ride.

My post today is about DT’s rhetoric. Some claimed to have voted for him because they want a wall. Others say he is different, says it like it is, and not afraid of being “politically correct” or offending anyone. Personally, I don’t care what their reasons are. We can’t all bat for the same team! However, this is what I care about; DT thinks all Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers. Blacks live in poverty, and are uneducated. Muslims are terrorists. He has mocked the disabled, openly disrespected women, gays, LGBT etc. My friends, these are the issues I care about, and have a problem with.

Since the election, a great number of people think it’s open season to attack (physically and verbally) groups who are different and disadvantaged. I don’t mean the peaceful protests right after the election. No, I am talking about 7th graders in a Michigan school, chanting “Build that wall” in the cafeteria around their Latino classmates. In another school incident (outside Chicago), the words “Whites Only” were written on a bathroom wall. A former football player, awoke one morning to find racial slurs written on his car. Minorities being threatened by whites. People asking their Muslim neighbors to leave, or they will be deported. The Muslim woman shopping in Wal-Mart, who had her hijab ripped off, and was then told, they were no longer allowed. The list is endless.

Surprisingly, the same people who were so vocal about their support for DT, are now very silent. Right here, is where a small sore grows, fester, and turns into a virus.  I don’t see any of them saying this is wrong. Sure, they might briefly comment on another person’s post, if at all. However, no one have personally come out, and condemned the behaviors. I’ve seen them share photos and videos of the protests though. What a sad time in history.

I know the people who voted for DT don’t want to be associated with hate groups. The same people have gotten offended, when anyone remotely suggests they are racists, because of how they voted. Heck, they don’t want to be viewed as homophobic, racist, or anything close. I understand this. I do. You agree with DT’s political views, and that’s okay. However, when you turn a blind eye to the consequences of his campaign’s rhetoric, we all wonder if this is truly the way you feel, simply too afraid to speak out, or suffering from the typical “not-in-my-backyard-syndrome”.

Take a stand! It is frightening to step outside your cozy comfort zone. You might not belong to the groups he threatened to displace when he is elected. No. You might never have to worry about any of the injustices so many suffer daily. However, there are millions who do. Can we stand with them please? Can we assure them they are wanted here (legally of course)? We need help to bridge the divide. A little goes a long way. Speak up and speak out.  We need you. They need you. The world needs you.

The Electoral College meets in two days. Many of DT’s supporters, are now very dissatisfied with the people he has chosen for his cabinet. He isn’t draining any swamp. He has already gone back on a few promises he made. Some have already regretted casting their vote for him. Too late now. If DT is confirmed President of the USA, we will accept it. We hope and pray, he does what is best for the country. He is a self- preservationist after all. However, we can’t stand idly by, wringing our hands, and do nothing, when we see another human being in need. This is America, after all. Rise up.

 

Until the next post,

 

Best,

 

Juan

Happy Thanksgiving Day America!


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Someone I know described this year like this : “2016 was like a f*****d up friend you were hoping would change, because you really cared about them.Then you realized that they’re going to be who they’re going to be, and you’re trying to let go, but it’s so hard because there’s this tiny tiny part of you who still believes they’re going to want better. I’m hoping 2017 will be the unexpected friend you just met who changes your life

He hit the nail on the head! For many of us. My dear friends and followers, wherever this post finds you, and regardless of how this year has treated you, please know, the world IS grateful for you. Thanks for being!

Happy Thanksgiving America!

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan