Day 4, here in Surin. Our alarms consisted of waking up to the lovely sounds of the roosters, intense rainstorms, and Cat's laughter (just kidding)... The plan for the day was to visit the elephant poo project centre, to make paper out of elephant poo! Elephant poo? I was quite indifferent about the whole "touching elephant poo" situation, but I kept an open mind because this is simply another new experience to add to this journey. After breakfast, it was time to head over to make elephant poo paper at the project Centre. Our wheels to the Centre, was the one and only, the classic open back truck which I still can't get over how crazy it is riding in there. I mean the road rules seem quite laid back here, come on NZ, (insert frowny/angry face here) relax a lil please. The ride there was quite bumpy but super fun. I officially rank this as my favorite and the best form of transport I've experienced, who even needs a Lamborghini when you can ride freely, with no seat belts, no restrains, the wind going through your hair, "truck surfing" in the back of a truck in Surin Thailand.
Driving into the Centre, the first thing that caught my attention was a field of mini blue pyramid-like structures, I was very puzzled by this as I hadn't seen anything like this before, I tried distinguishing what I was looking at but when we got out of the truck and walked towards the main area for the elephant poo paper making it turns out that the "blue pyramid like structures" was in fact an elephant grave yard which I thought was absolutely extraordinary. May mentioned that in Thailand there are various views of what they believe when an elephant dies. So here in Surin, an elephant is considered as a family member so when it dies, they bury it the same as if it was a human, and so it's body is placed in a grave and it's believed to have a better after life too. And once the remains are bones, some are left in the grave, some of the bones are kept with the family too. Hearing the story of this amazed me, it reminded me of how we treat dogs or cats as our family members back home, but an elephant as a pet too I still couldn't resonate that feeling.
Before we got straight into the elephant poo paper making, May gave us a brief tutorial and we got straight into it. First impressions, this place would reek of elephant dung but instead I did not smell a thing (thankfully). Now to get to the final finished elephant poo paper product, first things first the elephant poop is brought fresh to the project Centre, it is then washed and rinsed a couple of times and boiled for a couple of hours. After the boiling process the poo is repeatedly washed and rinsed, and is mixed with tree fibers so that the paper mix sticks together. Once that is complete, it is all placed into a machine which makes the poo turn white in color.
When it came to my turn to make the actual paper we had to pour a mixture of white poo into the water crate section for making the paper, then use a cylinder stick to mix the poo, and then use a poo screen, which slid back and fourth to make sure the poo mixture spread evenly onto the screen. Once that was finished, we let the screen rise to the top and then it was taken out to dry. The drying process on average is 6 hours, depending on the day it can be longer. We also got to peel off the paper from the screen, it was unbelievable. The elephant poo paper was made into a variety of things which I thought was amazing, the things ranged from photo-frames to diaries to a little jewelry box which I bought.
Before we went home, we walked around the project Centre and went inside an elephant temple which was still getting built, the place was extraordinary and had hidden passage ways which we went through trying to navigate ourselves through the dark. There were many golden statues of Buddha, and elephants which were absolutely beautiful.
On the way back home I just thought to myself, wow over a year ago I never thought I would be here in Thailand taking away the experience of making paper out of elephant poo.
-Juhaina a.k.a Ju-heezy