As I am sitting in my hostel in Bangkok, my thoughts are actually with Tutdao and my Thai family in Pai. Leaving Tutdao was one of the hardest and saddest things I’ve ever had to do. I started to cry three days before actually leaving the camp. I didn’t feel ready for it anymore. Why was I leaving again? I would simply look into her beautiful brown eyes, think about what was to come – and tears would start rolling down my cheeks. She would then stop eating, stand still, look at me calmly and slowly blink with her long eyelashes. ‘I know, dear. It sucks!’ she seemed to say. Without ever being told, she knew what was about to happen. Like me, she looked unhappy for days.

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When I was hanging out with her in the morning just two days before I left, she started to cry as well. We were looking at each other, both clearly upset. Eventually, she turned around and walked to the other side of her pen where she rested her head against a wooden beam. She clearly didn’t want me to see her cry. She also seemed to express her disapproval of my departure, as she had never turned away like this before. It broke my heart. I ended up weeping in my room for quite a while (not for the first or last time…).

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I tried to take photos of her tears, but I was too upset to concentrate and she was moving too quickly so that they didn’t turn out well. Still, they should give you an idea of what a crying, heartbroken elephant looks like.

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At some point, I couldn’t even be around her anymore. My eyes would begin to fill with tears immediately. I kept thinking ‘This is it. I won’t be able to touch, feel, kiss and hug her anymore. I won’t be able to ensure she’s well cared for and happy’. To this day, I worry about who will become her new mahout. I am scared that he won’t understand her and therefore be hard on her. During my time at the camp, I was able to protect her from harsh treatment. What will happen now?

Taking care of Tutdao has been the best experience of my life so far. Bonding with an elephant, being able to read as well as feel her emotions is something I had not thought about when I was planning my trip one year ago. Now, I find it hard to picture living far away from her. I hate that I cannot write or call her to let her know how much I miss her. I can only hope that she knows. Leaving her made me realise just how much she means to me. I love her with all my heart, and I miss her every day. I was basically in a relationship with an elephant for six months. This was the worst break-up I ever had to go through.