Mom is Back!

Yes, mom is back!

I had a few weeks respite from being a caregiver and mom is back! (Click here for the post about mom flying off).

Thank goodness she is back safely and well. She seems more alert and chatty and comfortable. She must have had a good break too!

Despite knowing her diagnosis, my sibs packed her off to travel by herself. Both times at the transit airport she got “lost”. She was supposed to have someone bring her from one plane to the connecting flight. We don’t know if she wandered off before the minder arrived, or whether she started off by herself because nobody came for her.

She told me – I took a train to the next terminal, and was the first to arrive there. Nobody else was around, but a man was there and told me to stay there and wait at the counter. After waiting a long while, someone came to bring me onto the plane. Everybody was already seated on the plane. Only my seat was empty. After I sat down, then only the plane could take off.

A few days after returning home, she became quiet and vague again. I felt puzzled and wondered whether my home environment was bad for her. A couple of days later I discovered the cause when I called home from work to chat with my home help. I asked if my mother was taking her medicines on time, and she told me that all is fine, and my mother told her she no longer needs the skin patch.

The skin patch! That’s the medicine for Alzheimer’s that got my mother talking again after a long silence. The daily skin patch was started in November last year, and mom never once remembered that she had it on or that it needed to be changed. Immediately, I asked my helper to put one on mom.

Ah, mom is back. She still has dementia. She can still fool the gullible.

Pachyderm Paradise

Have you heard “an elephant never forgets”? If we discovered how elephants retain their elephantine memory, would we find a cure for Alzheimer’s? Or perhaps you have heard of elephant graveyards; and the myth about how dying elephants make their way to the gravesite and conveniently die there, adding their bones and tusks to the piles there. Whatever the myths about elephants, I found the truth much sadder.

In Thailand today, there are some 5,000 elephants. Half live in the wild, and the other half are domesticated. Yes, elephants have lived alongside man for thousands of years, and trained to do his bidding – from carrying royalty to fighting human wars. In my previous post, I showed an elephant painting, most likely executed from memory. Most recently in Thailand, elephants were essential for the logging industry, hauling logs to the river so they may float down to timber factories downstream. However, thousands of elephants were “thrown out of work” when the Thai government banned logging in 1989.

Many of these retrenched elephants subsequently landed jobs in conservation camps, charming tourists and putting on a daily show. Although the elephants gather daily at the camp for their work, in reality, each elephant is “owned” by a family. They are considered the family pet. An elephant can live some 70-80 years, about the lifespan of a man. When an elephant has an offspring, it is given to the young man in the family, so that man and elephant can live and age together.

An elephant consumes some 200-250kg of food daily. Without the camp “jobs”, many families cannot afford to sustain the elephants and resort to begging in towns. Elephants at the camp work from about 8am to 1pm daily seven days and then spend the rest of the daylight hours foraging in the forest for food with their owners. Now for some pictures:

The day starts with some feeding by visiting tourists. Tourists buy sugar cane and bananas and handfeed them to the elephants.

And then it’s time for his bath, and they all troop down to the river for a good scrub down, and have some fun with passersby.

Is your camera waterproof? Want to try?

And then there’s the elephant show, where they raise a flag, play the harmonica, dance, play football and basketball, paint, roll over, and then show us a bit of how they used to work.

We can sit and put on silly faces!
Playing harmonica chords and showing some nifty dance moves too!
Aiming right between the goal posts
Nice work – if you can get it

Finally, there are the elephant rides. Tourists are strapped onto specially crafted seats on the elephant’s back, whilst the mahout rides on the elephant head.

Look at the size of the dung…

Said one species to the other “So you think this is your grandfather’s road?”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Create

Elephants can be trained to do many things, and I will write more in my next post. Here’s a teaser – an elephant painting. Actually, we were told elephants are trained to paint and they paint from memory. Nonetheless, the end result is something the elephant created with a little help.

What struck me was the absolute precision with which this elephant painted his work of art. Another elephant at the other end of the field was dabbing colors seemingly randomly on his easel. Do the different techniques reflect the elephant’s personality, or the mahout’s?

Here’s the satisfied elephant taking a victory lap after finishing his masterpiece.