It’s hard to believe that my time in India—for now—is up because my visitor visa is about to expire. I admit that I thought by now the fencing would be in and the first elephant on her way. But things simply don’t work that quickly here. No criticism intended, just recognition of how the system works.
Practicing patience is a requirement when working in Asia. Even getting a map of the local area from the regional office is riddled with complications. The difficulty is not because I am a foreigner; the locals experience the same frustrating delays.
Without a doubt we are spoiled in America. If I want a map of any property in my county, I simply go to the clerk’s office. In all my years of using the service there has never been a waiting line and has always been a helpful clerk behind the desk ready to provide me with any information I need. For a nominal fee I receive—within minutes—a printed copy of the records of any property, which include acreage, dimensions, location and purchase price. Now that’s what I call customer service!
In spite of the difficulties encountered pulling together all the necessary documents, I am thankful for what we have accomplished in these past three months. As result of my daily excursions, I know every inch of the place — every land feature, hill, curve in the creek, pasture, rock formation and water catchment. I have seen what vegetation is thriving and what is struggling and how the serious lack of precipitation during this seasonal dry spell affects the area. Most important, I see the potential of this land and what a blessing it is for elephants and other indigenous wildlife.
Living alongside the villagers I now have an intimate knowledge of their lifestyle, activities, needs and challenges, and how they care for their livestock.
Although the village dogs have a canine community of their own, they are constant companions to the villagers. Basically ignored, they silently pad along behind the herder with his sheep, goats and cattle; accompany the village women doing laundry and dishes at the lake or collecting vegetation for the livestock; and shadow the village men collecting fire wood and resources for their homes. And then, at the end of each long hot day when lights are switched off and blaring communal music silenced, the dogs stand watch all night, protecting the villagers’ life and livestock by warding off intruders, including wild elephants.
With a great deal of necessary information already collected we will continue to pursue the area maps, surveys, property documents and the long-awaited final endorsement by the government. Let’s hope we can do it in record time.
In the meantime, while I abide by the visa requirements and await the docs required to continue the care center project, I am off to Nepal to continue the work I started last year. There are many elephants in need of pedicures, mahouts eager to learn new skills, veterinarians anxious to receive a new stock of trimming tools and a retirement center to brainstorm!