Part Four: Writing It Up

*This is the 4th of a  5-part mini series on my experience of completing a Summer Project for an MSc in Public Health at the LSHTM (General Stream).
Washing Elephants

Writing It Up

Summer Project Due Date: 32 days. Word Total: 0 out of 10,000. Sigh.

Bangkok is full of distractions, and I’ve yet to see the country-side, so instead of sidling back to the library in London, I’ve found an alternative location to write the project up in:

The Chai Lai Elephant Orchid Camp (http://chailaiorchid.com/)

From the Chaing Mai airport, I was whisked deep into the mountains on the back of a pickup truck, which was a nice throw-back to my previous backpacking days. The owner, a courageous gal named Alexa, took me to a tiny local market on the way up.

The local legend, a roti seller who apparently creates the finest Indian-bread in all the town was on site at the market as I licked my chops at her market stall. She looked at the sun, and shook her head. It wasn’t time yet. The time had to be right to sell the roti. Shoot.

We continued onto the Orchid and as I stepped out of the truck, I stepped right into the path of elephants – the first I’ve ever seen up close. She toured me around and I met all of the lumbering beasts, swaying and chomping on their food.

Elephant

Elephants, I found out, are happiest when eating, and they are always eating. This was no exception, as the 8 females, and 1 baby were scattered around a field, using their trunks masterfully to propel grass and bamboo into their gigantic mouths.

The Orchid turned out to be a lot more than I bargained for. In looking for a quiet place to write my paper, I quickly became friends with the elephant guides (known as Mahoots) and staff; who are all local villagers women trying to gain skills to be employable in the city. This was a social enterprise that was just starting to take flight; the first group of employees had left after their 6 month placement and the new group had just started. Understandably, not everything always ran smoothly, but everyone was learning and their effort was palpable.

The days were spent researching and writing up the paper, trying to analyze the results with Excel as elephants lounged in the rivers, steaming bowls of delicious sweet and soup and Pad Thai were whiffed by my table, and beers were cracked in the restaurant’s deck that overlooked a ravine.

Over the next week,  the project grew, now at 4000 words and 20 references and took on a life of it’s own. By the time the tedious number work and creation of graphs, charts and graphs was finished – it actually became an enjoyable process.

I think that’s when the paper went from “a paper” to a “process” and once I felt comfortable in your own routine and skills and process, then the whole thing becomes… fun. The year at school and the whole research process had been fun, and writing was always a source of enjoyment for me, why should this be any different, I thought?

Not only did I leave with a good mind-set for my paper, but a new, eclectic little group of friends who affectionately referred to me as “Dr. Rabbit” (Ravi isn’t really pronounceable anywhere in Thailand).  For the record, I am also not a Doctor, but the name stuck.

I left the Centre with a heavy heart after some nights of elephant-trainer moonshine and snorkel finishing (only to pull up an unhappy eel instead of a carp), knowing that I would leave behind really good friends, both of the elephant variety and human.

photo (6)

My next stop was in the beautiful island of Samui – where I rented a scooter and promptly hunkered down by the beach and created a routine to thrive in:

8am – 9am: 7 km Beach Run

930am – Noon: Work On Project + Breakfast

12pm – 1pm: Epic Thai Food Lunch Extravaganza

1pm – 4pm: Work On Project

4pm-5pm: Massage (1 hr – on the beach)

5pm-7pm: Work On Project

7pm-8pm: Yoga

8pm-10pm: Explore Island on Scooter

I spent a week at the island and muscled my way through the discussion, limitations and recommendations section. As I handed in my first draft and received feedback, all it took was one more week of work, and then it was ready to be handed in.

If there ever was a fitting and stress-free way to finish school, this was it.

The end of school, had crept up on me. School… was almost done.

Samui Laptop Beer

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