We always thought we would have kids. We started trying when we believed we were ready. A month went by, then two months, six months, a year. Nothing happened.

Something was wrong, but nobody could tell us what - and they still can't to this day. We tried IVF three times but our results were not good. We were devastated.

Eighteen months after our last IVF cycle, we knew we would not be having our own children. And, somehow, we have moved to a life that is much different to the one we thought we'd have.

This blog is about what we do now we know we won't be having children - the thoughts, dreams, realities, sorrows, and joys that have become our new life path.

I hope you will enjoy what I will be sharing, and I hope that if you are at the point where life without children is a reality for you, that you might find some hope and inspiration here.

Monday, June 2, 2014

BLESED in Thailand…

It’s incredible how much you can fit into two and half weeks. My Thailand trip was so full of activity, people, and the creation of memories that will last a lifetime.

Before I went to Thailand I said that it would be a once in a lifetime trip. I just can’t say that now. There is no way I will be able to keep myself from going back to this amazing and beautiful country. And there is no way I will be able to write about everything in just one blog entry…

Welcome to BLES!
So the first of three entries (all this week) will be about Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary (BLES), followed by Sukhothai, and then Chiang Mai. 

My sweet cabin...
BLES is not a resort by any means. The accommodation is rustic and there is no air conditioning, television, or hot showers (at least not yet), but it is comfortable.  The elephants are not there for the entertainment of the guests. There are no elephant rides or treks and no performances where elephants do tricks or paintings.

"My cat" for the week - Romeo
It was heaven to me, because everything in the sanctuary was about the elephants – although all guests are treated amazingly well.  The food was incredible, Katherine Connor (the founder) constantly made sure we had what we needed, the mahouts greeted us with smiles (many of them only spoke limited English), and I felt completely at home. 

I can honestly say that my stay at BLES has changed my life. The people at BLES work so hard and with minimal resources and time. It takes a lot to care for the elephants and other animals at the sanctuary, particularly when the animals need regular medical care. The most life changing lesson I learnt is that my interaction with animals (and people for that matter) is not about me and what I want – it is about being with them as they are and not expecting them to do or give anything. That doesn’t mean I should be submissive and just accept everyone’s actions toward me and harmful circumstances I might find myself in, but it does mean that I can’t always go into a situation with the primary agenda being what I can get out of it.

There are so many experiences I could write about, but including them all would mean you would be reading this one entry for days. So, I have picked three that really stand out for me.

Me and BC
There is a little puppy who is about 12 weeks old named BC at the sanctuary. When I (along with another guest, Beckie) arrived Katherine told us that she didn’t know if BC would survive. He was very lethargic, wouldn’t eat or drink, and showed no real interest in anything. BC’s little ribs were showing clearly through his skin and it was so sad to think that this little puppy might die. BC was taken to the vet about two days after we arrived. The vet recommended a new medication, and within a day BC was a different puppy. He was eating, drinking, playing, and getting up to as much mischief as he could (as all puppies should!) BC especially liked to pull the bin over to see what was in there. 

Without BLES, BC would be dead, but instead he is getting better and will soon be ready to jump into the arms of his eager new owner.

On the day we arrived, Beckie and I went for a walk with the elephants. It was so hot, as it was on every day that I was in Thailand (around 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit)). One of the elephants headed into the pond and proceeded to gather up a trunk of muddy water, which she then tossed onto her back. Being a newbie, I didn’t realize it was best not to stand too close when elephants are bathing, and so I got completely covered in stinky, muddy splashes. But, I figured it was some kind of initiation to BLES as well as a lesson learnt.

Taking a walk with Lotus
There are three elephants that interact with guests more than the others. They are Wassana, Pang Dow, and Lotus. For at least a day these girls (the “Gossip Girls”) seemed to be assessing us. They came close and we gave them mangos and pats, but they were hanging back a little. On about the third day we were going for the morning walk with the elephants and I stopped to watch them coming down the track. Pang Dow started walking directly toward me. She came up close and looked at me with her kind and beautiful eyes. I patted her trunk and then put my forehead against hers. 

Lotus and Wassana and Pang Dow is there too...
Pang Dow
It was so special because she wasn’t forced to come to me – she chose to. Have a look at Pang Dow’s story here and here – you’ll see just how special her trust in me was given her story.

Okay, maybe just two more experiences…

On the last day I was at the sanctuary I was holding Katherine and her husband’s (Anon) four year old son in my arms. I told him I was leaving that day and he looked up at me and asked “Will you remember me?” It was such a sweet moment and I told him that of course I would remember him.

Beckie, Fa, Me and Katherine
If you ever go to BLES make sure you get Fa, an awesome guy, to take you to NanaCafé and Coffee Shop, and order an iced green tea. I want to recreate them now I am at home, but I really don’t think they will be the same!

Meeting Katherine and seeing what she has achieved has made me think about my own life and what I really want to do with it. It has made me question whether I am giving my all to following my dreams. I thought I was, but I now know I could do better. I do tend to take the easiest option, and this puts my dreams at risk. I tend to think “I’ll do it later” rather than getting on with it, and “later” never seems to come around. I will be bringing aspects of Katherine into my life – her dedication, commitment, hard work, positive attitude, and love of what she does.

Mali, one of the mahouts, and me
BLES, the elephants, the other animals, Katherine, her kids, the mahouts, and the BLES community have inspired me more than I can say.


Judy B said...

Thank you for sharing your wonderful story of BLES and your travels. I am an American (a senior) and will never actually visit BLES, but love to read about it and see the photos. Thanks for all you and everyone does to support the animals.

Hayley said...

I loved reading this. I visited BLES a year ago now and to this day, it's never far from my thoughts. It has totally made me reevaluate my dreams and realise that I need to stop being scared about pursuing them and I just need to go for it! The animals there are all amazing (and the people!)...my next dream is to go back to BLES. Haha x

Kate Bettison said...

Judy B - I wish I could teleport you there - it was so beautiful. It sounds to me that you support animals too- so thank you for what you do too!

Kate Bettison said...

Hayley - BLES does that to all guests I believe. It somehow gets into your heart and never leaves (thank goodness!) I hope you do go back to BLES - perhaps we will be there at the same time! And, follow your dreams - they are worth it and so are you!

Mali said...

I'm so glad you had such an amazing experience, and discovered the joys of elephants, and the Thai people and their sense of joie de vivre or sanuk.

Kate Bettison said...

Thanks Mali - it was incredible. The elephants are so strong and so gentle. Of course we couldn't go near all of them as some of them are less friendly to visitors, but that is one of the things I liked best about BLES - it was about the elephants and they weren't forced to interact with us at all.