Que Sera Sera

Written by on January 22, 2012 in Asia, Blog, Thailand - 52 Comments

Lek accepts a playful smooch from Faa Mai's trunk.

“Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be. The future is ours, you’ll see, que sera sera,” Lek sings softly to the baby elephant, Faa Mai, as she sits on the dirt between the animal’s front legs.

I watch, silently, in awe.

Lek singing to her is a beautiful moment between friends. To me, someone who has spent nearly a week as a volunteer with elephants at Elephant Nature Park, it’s poetic and serves to further illustrate the struggles of the elephant in Thailand and Lek’s role in saving their future.

I smile to myself as she sits on the soft ground, gently stroking the gray legs of Faa Mai.

After a moment, Lek’s not alone on the ground anymore. In front of her, under the trunk of the baby, is one of the volutneers. An eight-year-old boy who’s been noticeably absent from most of the volunteer tasks but extremely present in this moment.

He looks petrified, even though Lek’s reassuring arm is wrapped tightly around him, as she watches the family that has now gathered around them under the thatched roof shelter.

It’s Faa Mai’s naptime, and when Lek is at the park and able to, she heads to the family shelter to spend time with the baby, singing her softly to sleep.

The previous day, she treated all of the volunteers to a special moment with her and the baby, ushering each of us, one-by-one, to sit with her on the ground as she sang.

Today, it’s different.

Today, it’s the boy, his dad, and somehow, me.

I came across the three of them en route to my room after spending time with the vet.

The family shelter is just next to my modest quarters, and as I walk past the shelter, I spot the three of them inside the roofed area. The boy’s dad stands off to the side as Lek and his son sit together, surrounded by elephants.

I stand on the other side of the knobby wooden bars, resting my head against one of them, mesmerized by the founder’s connection with this elephant.

No matter how many times I watch her interact with these creatures, I can’t help but marvel at the bond she has with them.

It’s special. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing.

“D, you can come in, too,” she says, gesturing with her free arm to come into the shelter and hang out with the three of them … and a handful of elephants.

I hang to the side at first, letting the boy and Lek have time together.

I feel so fortunate for the time I had the previous day, I don’t dare impose on this moment they are sharing.

The dad and I watch as the elephants gather around the baby and the two humans on the ground.

It’s intimidating. Huge legs, capable of shattering bones, all around. And yet, they don’t even get near the people. They keep their distance, as if they know their own power.

I get a sense that so long as Lek is in the shelter with us, we won’t be harmed. They know and trust Lek.

“You can come here,” she says to me, once again motioning for me to come closer. This time, it’s to sit on the ground next to the baby.

Of course, I oblige.

Then, it’s the three of us. The child under the trunk of the elephant, me stationed at Faa Mai’s side, and Lek under the front legs. She signs softly again and then speaks to her in Thai, reaching out to touch the leathery trunk and pushing it towards her mom who stands in front of us.

“She needs to nurse,” Lek explains as Faa Mai’s trunk searches for Mae Bua Tong’s teat.

Faa Mai nurses.

For a few minutes, the two-year-old nurses as we sit and observe.

Then, I spot Evelyn, another volunteer, who has come up to watch. She stands like I did, on the other side of the fence, watching us.

“Come, come,” Lek says to her, and then the blonde Austrian girl comes and sits with us, too.

When Faa Mai finishes nursing, Evelyn takes the boy’s place under the massive head of the baby and Lek begins to sing, once again.

Sitting with Faa Mai as she sleeps.

“Put your hand out so she can rest her trunk in it when she sleeps,” Lek instructs Evelyn.

Within moments, Faa Mai (along with us), is under the spell of Lek’s lullaby, and has relaxed. Her big-lashed eyes flutter closed and her trunk hangs, curling at the bottom in Evelyn’s hand. Ever now and then, she puffs.

She’s sleeping. Standing up. As we sit at her feet.

I rest my head on her trunk, running my hand down the length of it, taking in the moment. The baby elephant sleeping at my side. Lek’s soft, sweet song quietly goes on in the background as I stare at Faa Mai.

It’s like a dream.

Every now and then, Faa Mai opens her eyes and looks around, and then closes them again.

I can’t believe it.

I’m sitting here with the elephant family towering over me. They let us sit with the baby of the family without pause.

“This is one of the most amazing moments of my life,” I whisper to no one in particular. I just want it put out into the world. In fact, the past 24-hours I have spent at Elephant Nature Park, have been possibly the most amazing experience of my life.

First, being a part of the herd and spending an afternoon with Lek. Now, sitting with Lek and keeping company with the baby as she drifts in and out of sleep.

It’s beautiful.

When Faa Mai wakes up a few minutes later, she’s playful, opening her mouth and carefully placing Lek’s head in it.

Lek laughs and tells her “no” as her hat almost dislodges. Then, she sticks a finger in the roof of Faa Mai’s mouth and tickles it.

If Faa Mai could giggle, I’m pretty sure she would. Her eyes sparkle as she stands there, letting Lek get a good scratch in.

Then, it’s time to go.

I walk back to my room, to the shower, giddy. Humming “Que Sera Sera” on repeat the entire evening.

I’m on Cloud Nine until the next morning, when all of the elation from the previous day is eclipsed. And, my heart, which had thumped so happily, now nearly breaks thanks to the truth of why we’re here — to care for elephants who have been a part of the elephant tourism industry and now have a chance to live the rest of their lives free from abuse.

There’s a sick elephant. A very sick elephant.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is a travel writer and expat currently residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She is a former career breaker and long term solo traveler. Today, she helps promote responsible elephant tourism and is the co-founder of #RTTC, a weekly chat on Twitter focusing on responsible tourism. When she isn’t writing, Diana handles the PR and social media for Save Elephant Foundation, which runs the popular Elephant Nature Park. Her writing as appeared in About.com, Thought Catalog, The Huffington Post, Matador Network, Travel + Escape, Luna Luna, Vegas Seven, World Nomads, Viator, CheapOair, OneTravel and more.

52 Comments on " Que Sera Sera "

  1. Sebastian @ Off-The-Path.com January 23, 2012 at 3:31 am · Reply

    What a beautiful post D! I’m so happy you experienced all this!! I can truly imagine it and it sounds so wonderful!!! Thanks for sharing all these posts!!!

    • Diana January 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm · Reply

      Thank you, Sebastian!! It was wonderful … :)

  2. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures January 23, 2012 at 9:35 am · Reply

    My god is this beautifully written! What an unforgettable moment!!!

    • Diana January 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm · Reply

      Aww, thank you, Andi!! :) It was an unforgettable moment!

  3. Margo January 23, 2012 at 10:35 pm · Reply

    unbelievably amazing experience… thanks for sharing!

    • Diana January 24, 2012 at 4:26 pm · Reply

      Thank you!! It was a truly unbelievable experience!

  4. Ayngelina January 24, 2012 at 11:56 am · Reply

    Wow what an incredible story Diana.

    • Diana January 24, 2012 at 4:25 pm · Reply

      Thank you, Ayngelina! :)

  5. Stephanie - The Travel Chica January 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm · Reply

    Really impressive that you can find a way to describe the experience, so that we can feel how special it was for you.

    • Diana January 24, 2012 at 4:24 pm · Reply

      Thank you!! :)

  6. Erica January 25, 2012 at 12:19 am · Reply

    This is so heartfelt! How amazing that you will remember that moment every time you hear the song in the future. Lovely D.

    • Diana January 25, 2012 at 12:22 am · Reply

      I have two memories that come to mind whenever I hear this song. This experience and the one that happened the next day. It will publish in the next few days. Thanks, babe!! xx

  7. Shirlene from Idelish January 25, 2012 at 2:34 am · Reply

    What a well written post! I felt as if I was there with you in person! It is indeed a heartfelt story.

    • Diana January 26, 2012 at 12:07 am · Reply

      Thanks, Shirlene! I’m glad you were able to feel like you were there. It definitely came from my heart.

  8. Sophie January 25, 2012 at 8:39 am · Reply

    What a lovely story. Incredible photos, too.

    • Diana January 26, 2012 at 12:07 am · Reply

      Thank you, Sophie. I appreciate it!

  9. JoAnna January 25, 2012 at 11:18 am · Reply

    Beautiful story, Diana!

    • Diana January 26, 2012 at 12:06 am · Reply

      Thank you, JoAnna!! I enjoyed writing it. :)

  10. Angela January 25, 2012 at 3:26 pm · Reply

    Such sweetness, what a beautiful experience :)

    • Diana January 26, 2012 at 12:06 am · Reply

      It really was a beautiful experience.

  11. Katrina January 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm · Reply

    I’m sad that there needs to be a sanctuary, but glad you got to experience such a wonderful moment there. So touching.

    • Diana January 26, 2012 at 12:06 am · Reply

      Thank you! I am glad I was able to experience it. I count my lucky stars every day for that week of my life.

  12. Laura January 25, 2012 at 9:37 pm · Reply

    These elephant stories keep getting more and more incredible. Wow. I don’t know what else to say but wow.

    • Diana January 26, 2012 at 12:05 am · Reply

      Awww, thank you so much Laura! I want people to learn as much as they can and feel what I felt so they are motivated to help spread the word about these amazing creatures and how to help them live better lives. :)

  13. Camels & Chocolate January 26, 2012 at 12:34 am · Reply

    I won’t be at all surprised if I arrive in Vegas to see you, only to find you hoarding a couple of these elephants in your apartment! ;-)

    • Diana January 28, 2012 at 2:03 am · Reply

      Haha. I adopted an elephant for my best friend’s two boys and they asked her how I planned on getting the elephant to their house and where exactly she was going to go. Pretty sure they won’t fit … sadly. ;)

  14. Nancy Sathre-Vogel from Family on Bikes January 26, 2012 at 1:29 am · Reply

    Incredible story! I am in awe at all these elephant stories.

    • Diana January 28, 2012 at 2:02 am · Reply

      Thank you! I think the next place you should bike is Thailand … straight up to Elephant Nature Park!

  15. Emily in Chile January 26, 2012 at 12:09 pm · Reply

    What a beautiful moment. I can’t imagine getting to cuddle a baby elephant!

    • Diana January 28, 2012 at 2:02 am · Reply

      It was really cool. Although while she may still classify as a “baby” she stood about as tall as me!

  16. Nomadic Samuel January 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm · Reply

    Elephants are majestic creatures! What an experience you had :)

    • Diana January 28, 2012 at 2:02 am · Reply

      Yes, and yes. :) Quite the experience!

  17. Abby January 27, 2012 at 9:36 am · Reply

    Aww what a sweet post. It’s mind-blowing to think of singing lullabies to such an enormous creature.

    • Diana January 28, 2012 at 2:01 am · Reply

      It was absolutely mind-blowing to be there, on the ground, with her, and watching her big eyes slowly flutter shut. Amazing!!

  18. Jade - OurOyster.com January 27, 2012 at 4:28 pm · Reply

    What a magical experience! If I ever end up back in Thailand, I will have to look this place up…

    • Diana January 28, 2012 at 2:00 am · Reply

      It truly was. There are not many true sanctuaries in Thailand, so this one should be on the top of your list :)

  19. the lazy travelers January 30, 2012 at 3:42 pm · Reply

    This is AMAZING. I just went through all of your past posts about your experience and am absolutely going to look into volunteering. We’re planning a trip to Thailand in 2013 and I definitely want to spend a week here. Thank you!! xxo the romantic

    • Diana January 31, 2012 at 4:30 pm · Reply

      Yay!! You just made my day!! First, thank you for taking the time to read the series!! Each and every post came from the bottom of my heart, so it thrills me to know they impacted you. Definitely spend time at the park. It costs about $400USD for a week, but it worth every single penny. I plan on going back there, too!! Keep me updated!

  20. Paige @ Green Global Travel February 6, 2012 at 11:37 am · Reply

    What an incredible experience! I would love to volunteer and see all of the many beautiful places of the world. Great post!

    • Diana February 7, 2012 at 6:37 pm · Reply

      It was up there as one of the all-time greatest moments of my life!!

  21. Charlotte Munden February 28, 2012 at 3:11 pm · Reply

    Hi Diane, When did you got to ENP? I have just read all your ele posts and you have moved me to tears! They are beautifully written and really capture the essence of the place. I went in 2008 and still think of it every day! I cannot believe what is going on there at the moment.

    Charlie M

    • Diana February 29, 2012 at 1:47 am · Reply

      Charlie, your comment means a lot to me. Thank you so much. It is terrible what is taking place there right now, and I hope it all works out and we are able to continue to enjoy the park and what it does. I went to ENP this past September and, as you probably can tell, it changed my life. I am absolutely tickled you think my writing captures the essence of the place. There are not many places that truly touch my soul the way ENP did, and I wanted to be able to share that feeling with readers.

  22. Joe Wong March 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm · Reply

    awesom! it must’ve been a very unique experience Diana, keep having fun!

    • Diana March 9, 2012 at 7:43 pm · Reply

      It was amazing!!

  23. Raymond March 25, 2012 at 7:01 pm · Reply

    Another great story Diana. Seriously excellent work!

    • Diana March 27, 2012 at 5:06 pm · Reply

      Thank you, Raymond!! :)

  24. Mary @ Green Global Travel April 13, 2012 at 9:54 pm · Reply

    Great story.Your time with the baby elephant seems absolutely blissful. I hope we get the chance to work with these amazing creatures one day.

    • Diana April 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm · Reply

      Thank you! It was such an amazing experience to sit with her and listen to Lek sing. I cannot wait to go back. You should definitely come out and spend some time with them.

  25. Loreena October 19, 2012 at 9:13 pm · Reply

    How gorgeous and amazing! There’s no other words really x

    • Diana October 25, 2012 at 1:49 am · Reply

      It was really beautiful.

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  1. Heartbreak at Elephant Nature Park | Asian Elephant | d travels 'round
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