Monthly Archives: January 2014

Lion, and Tigers, and Elephants in Chiang Mai- Part 2

On our second day in Chiang Mai, we left early for Baan Chang Elephant Park.  I had done a considerable amount of research on the different elephant parks and sanctuaries in and around Chiang Mai.  Again, I was looking for sustainable practices and humane treatment of the animals.  This one was one of the top two on my list.  I wasn’t looking for a “dog and pony show,” instead I wanted an authentic learning experience and genuine interactions with elephants.  Baan Chang was definitely the place to go!  Our tour guide Aof (pronounced “Off”) picked us up at 8 and we headed to the park.  It was a chilly morning by Thailand’s standards and, although we were wearing pants and t-shirts, Aof was donning a stocking cap, long-sleeved shirt, and winter vest (after all, it was a balmy 70 degrees).

When we arrived, there were elephants everywhere!  There were a few other tourist groups as well.  As we disembarked with the others from our group (some Aussies, some Brazilians, and others from good ole Las Vegas, Nevada), we were given shirts and pants to wear while interacting with the elephants.  Apparently the old adage “An elephant never forgets” is true because they told us that the elephants will accept anyone wearing this uniform as a friend.  So we put on the (particularly unattractive) outfits and prepared to feed the elephants.  Joining our group was a local business owner, all dressed up, who was making a promotional video about the park for his/her TV show.  So apparently we had our moments of fame as we were a part of this video and somewhere, at some time, we were on Thai TV (our brief and only brush with fame).



The first thing we did was feed the elephants.  They brought out basket after basket of bananas and sugar cane and taught us how to give it to them.  The first option was to hold it out so that they could grab it by the trunk and bring it to their mouth.  The second option (and far more scary) was to actually put it in the elephant’s mouth.  At first, Trent and I were timid as we fed these enormous creatures, but as we got more comfortable, we got much closer, touching and petting these gentle giants in the process.  It was incredible to see them eat bananas by the bunch and to hear their incredibly powerful jaws chomp down on the sugar cane.  We even saw some clever elephants storing extra sugar cane on top of their heads so that people would continue to feed them, all the while stockpiling for later.  It was very entertaining to watch!

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When we finished feeding the elephants, Aof began telling us more about Baan Chang.  It is a sanctuary that rescues elephants from bad situations (most often from circuses or other destructive elephant parks).  They chain their elephants only twice a day- at feeding time and at night time.  They explained that this is for their safety and for the elephants’ safety.  If we fed them unchained, we would likely be stampeded in the process as, obviously, they would all want the food we had.  Also, they are easily spooked by loud noises.  Especially at night, this could also cause a stampede.  Aof continued by telling us about the hooks that they occasionally use on the elephants.  At first the hooks made me feel really uncomfortable, but his honesty about them and why they are used put my mind at ease.  These too are for the safety of all involved and it doesn’t hurt the elephants indefinitely- it’s more like a little spanking.  He told us too, about the elephants’ skin.  Even though it is thick, it can easily get cut and infected.  Elephants like to rub against trees to itch themselves, but often the trees rough bark can cut through the elephant’s skin and lead to more problematic wounds.  He went on to explain to us the difference between Asian Elephants and African Elephants- Asian Elephants are much smaller and have a big head and small ears whereas African Elephants are much larger and have more “Dumbo-like” ears with a smaller head.

Finally, the time came for us to learn how to ride the elephants.  One of the things that appealed to me about Baan Chang was that, although they let you ride the elephants, it is not for a prolonged time, nor do they use the large seats, which can irreparably damage an elephant’s spine.  We were given the commands to make the elephant get down (“Nalong”) as well as instructions on how to mount an elephant (not an easy task).  Once the elephant gets down, you have to step on his leg and grab the top of his ears, then JUMP up and frantically grab for the other ear while the elephant immediately starts to shift his weight back to a standing position.  I watched as the other people successfully did it (although not without many panicked looks and some escaped profanity) and nervously awaited my own turn.  Trent went first and survived, as did I, although it was terrifying to be up that high!  I can’t even begin to describe what it is like to be on top of an elephant.  First of all, it is much higher than, say, being on a horse (which I have done many times).  Second of all, you have to scoot up, almost to the point where you are on its head, and you can feel its enormous shoulder blades shift with every movement.  It’s not exactly comfortable, but it was pretty cool.  You have to relax your body (easily said, not so easily done) and move with the elephant.



Then we learned how to direct the elephant- we say “Bai” to make the elephant go, and we say “Kuay” along with a kick of the opposite leg to move in either direction.  When we want to stop we say “Ho” and to get back down we again say “Nalong.”

After a delicious lunch of fried chicken, rice and pineapple sauce, soup, fresh pineapple and coffee, it was time for us to put our knowledge into action as we took an elephant ride around the compound, through the forest and along the river. It is now that I should insert that Trent’s elephant LOVED to eat.  She wasn’t named “Naughty Girl” for no reason.  At any given moment she was pulling at trees and eating plants, and mine, being directly behind his, thought it okay to do the same.  It is pretty disconcerting to be sitting on an elephant’s neck when they lean their head back and put their trunks way up into a tree to get something to eat!

At some point we stopped to take a break (seriously, riding an elephant is NOT comfortable).  Trent’s elephant had to be chained (because she was so naughty) and the others roamed freely while we rested in the shade and drank some water.  It was in this time that we saw two crazy/cool things.  The first is not for the faint of heart or for the easily embarrassed.  If that is you, skip to the next paragraph.  We saw an elephant penis.  Yep, you heard that right… and it was… well… elephant sized.  One of the elephants was trying to mount another while we all sat back, both horrified and intrigued by what we were seeing.  Rest assured, it never turned into full-blown elephant sex (the female elephant played hard-to-get) but it was awkward nonetheless!


The second crazy/cool thing we saw is how elephants drink.  Our guide was telling us that we could pour the water from our water bottles into the elephants’ trunks and then they would spray it in their mouths to drink it.  I watched and filmed as one of the other ladies in our group tried it.  It was fascinating to watch!  They sprayed the water into their mouths with such force and power!

The final event of the day was to take our elephants to the watering hole to bathe them.  This was probably the most fun.  Even though the elephants pooped in the water (yes, there was floating poop as we were in the water), we had a blast washing and brushing our elephants.  The guides were playful as they threw buckets full of water at us and at each other.  They even told Trent and I we could stand on our elephant’s back for a picture.  We did and we had so much fun that we didn’t want to leave.  But alas, our time with them had come to an end.


We were extremely blessed to be able to see and learn about elephants in such a personal, up-close encounter.  We developed a deeper and more profound respect for these beautiful and powerful creatures and loved our time there.  We would recommend Baan Chang Elephant Park to anyone who will be in the Chiang Mai area!

The rest of the night seemed pretty anticlimactic compared to the excitement of the day, but we came pretty close when we found Mexican food!  Now, to most, that probably seems pretty trivial, but in China where we live… no hay nada.  So “Loco Elvis” had our vote.  We ate delicious burritos with chips and salsa (I haven’t had salsa since September in Beijing!) and tried some local Thai beers while enjoying some live music.  On the way back we came across a massage parlor that was so cheap we couldn’t refuse.  We chose the hour-long foot, head, neck, and back massage for like 7 dollars.  Unfortunately 50 minutes of that hour were spent on our feet (I HATE foot massages) and only 10 minutes for the rest.  So boo.  Then we headed back to our hostel to rest in preparation for our final day in Chiang Mai.

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Posted by on January 26, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Lion, and Tigers and Elephants in Chiang Mai! (part 1)

As we embarked on our Christmas adventure, our first destination was Thailand.  We arrived in the northern city of Chiang Mai at around 10 am after spending nearly 12 overnight hours sprawled out across the metal chairs in the Bangkok airport.  Needless to say, when we arrived at MD House, we were exhausted!  We ate a quick breakfast at the hostel and took a short nap, enjoying the warm breeze wafting in through the window.  All that was on our agenda for the day was to visit Tiger Kingdom and explore our Thailand surroundings.

After our short nap, we got a tuk-tuk and headed out.  As the cool air filled the space around us, we drank in the sights: beautiful mountains and landscapes, elaborate Buddhist temples, farms, and even a water buffalo sauntering along.  We arrived at Tiger Kingdom mid-afternoon, which, according to my research, was the tigers’ calmest time of the day (and not too long after they’d been fed).  We had read quite a bit about this place.  Tigers, being my grandpa’s favorite animal, have always been intriguing to me as has my love for cats (even really big ones).  We wanted to see them but we also wanted to be conscious of what kinds of things our money was going to support.  The tigers here are neither chained nor drugged (at least according to them).  They have been raised since babies to be around humans and therefore, have become comfortable being touched.  Their record is spotless- they have never had anyone seriously hurt, mauled, or killed.  Nevertheless, I cannot say that we weren’t nervous to interact with these great and powerful creatures.  As we entered the small building, we saw people in the enclosure with the big cats.  We explored our options and decided to see three different groups of tigers: the “smallest,” “small,” and “big” cats.  We also forked over the extra 12 bucks to get a professional photographer to take pictures with the big boys.  As we waited we watched people getting their feet nibbled by fish who eat the dead skin off of them, we saw these huge, translucent plastic balls that people could go in on the water, and we watched people eat at the restaurant overlooking the tigers.  Finally it was our turn to go in. 

We started with the “smallest” tigers, which probably helped calm our nerves.  We also had seen others (probably much more “delicious” than myself) go in and emerge unscathed, so by the time it was our turn to go in, our anxiety had quickly faded to excitement.  When we went into the enclosure, we were able to pet these little 3 month old tiger cubs.  They were so soft and warm.  Most of them were sleeping- in fact, all but one was sleeping, but that is typical not only for cats (who can sleep up to 18 hours a day), but especially for babies.  We began with those ones (the least intimidating by far).  The trainers in there with us assured us that it was okay not only to pet them, but also to lay on them, which we timidly did.  Then we moved on to the little tiger who was awake, mischievous, and playful.  He was very fun to watch and we got some cute pictures when he slowed down long enough to stay still. 


After the cubs, we moved on to the bigger cats, which still fell into the “small” category.  These cats were all around 6 months old and as we entered this cage, we felt much more comfortable interacting with these magnificent creatures.  One even put his sweet little paw on my head in his sleep!


After the “small” tigers, we had to wait a while before our encounter with the “big” cats.  While we waited, we wandered around and watched the other cats play.  We watched two in particular that had us convinced that Tiger Kingdom’s claims about not tranquilizing or drugging their animals were true.  These two cats bounded about, chasing and play-fighting with each other.  They splashed around in the pool and looked to be as carefree as ever.  There were several other tigers in another enclosure that were also chasing each other and play-fighting.  We saw some newborn tigers, from a distance of course, as they are far too young to be handled by lots of humans.  They were so furry and adorable!  There was one lion (yes, a lion) who made our stomachs “catch in our throats” as he roared his mighty and powerful roar right next to us.  We also saw colorful parrots and other tropical birds.  None of the animals looked sad, per-se, but one thing that did me sad was the size of the cages they are confined to at night. 

Finally, our “big” moment arrived and we went in with the large, adult tigers.  Here we lifted the tiger’s tail (which was thick and HEAVY, almost like lifting a baseball bat), firmly petted and stroked their coarse fur (light touches are ticklish and can make the tigers irritable).  And it was here that we got the photo- op of a lifetime when our huge tiger yawned, revealing a mouth full of massive teeth for us to record in digital history forever.

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By the time we finished up, we were exhausted, but on an obvious high!  We hit the souvenir shop, got our photo CD, and headed back to our hostel. 

That evening we decided on Thai food (You know what they say… “While in Thailand…”) and went to a restaurant right next to our hostel.  I had Pad Thai (always a favorite) and Trent had Matunayu curry (a new favorite).  After dinner we explored the city.  We walked around under the light of the full moon, stopping to admire statues, architecture, temples and shops.  We returned home with some new souvenirs and a bunch of irreplaceable memories.  What a magnificent first day of vacation!

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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Uncategorized


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A return to reality “Blah”g

Ahhh, and so begins the bittersweet arrival back at home after the euphoric high of vacation.  It all seems so exotic compared to the bleak winter here- the warmth of the sun, the tropical plants and vibrant flowers, the beaches, and, quite simply, the adventure of it all.  We were able to speak English and be understood, the people were extremely warm and friendly, the children always smiled and waved.  We ate delicious food while we were away- Thai food with all of its bold flavors and Cambodian food and Laos food and French food and American food… the list goes on… anything but Chinese food.  Transportation was cheap and easy.  Everywhere you went there was a tuk-tuk offering his services to take us anywhere we needed to go.  Our vacation was the perfect blend of wildlife, nature, history and relaxation.  It kept us on a constant adventure-seeking high as we drank in the sights, smells, and tastes around us.

And then- it was back to reality.

At first it was kind of nice to be back in our “own” bed, at our “home” in Qingdao.  It didn’t even bother me that our taxi from the airport totally cheated us on the price to get home at midnight.  But that “nice” feeling didn’t last long.  As soon as we woke up and realized that we had nothing in the house to eat, we decided to go to the grocery store.  After layering up for the cold and donning our ever-stylish “pollution masks,” we set out down the hill to catch a cab to “Lida,” the nearest grocery store.  Twenty-five minutes later, standing in the thick, gross smog, and we’d already been turned down by one cab and beat to a few others by the locals.  We could have walked there by now.  The bitterness and resentment towards China began to fester.  The longer we waited, the more it grew.  The incessant honking, the fishy smell, the cold-faced people who won’t stop staring all started to get to me.  Finally we caught a cab and things were okay again, until he didn’t understand where we wanted to go.  Come on now, we go here ALL the time, the name is not difficult to say or to understand, yet when the cabbie tried to take us down Donghai road, we had to remind ourselves that still, we are not easily understood here.  Finally we arrived and by that point were too hungry to grocery shop with an objective mind.  So we went to a dumpling place that we’d visited once before, sure that we could get what we needed and get on with our afternoon.  We had a horrible time trying to order and even getting some water to drink.  And this time it wasn’t because we weren’t understood, it was just because they were in no hurry to take care of us.  It was our emotional breaking point.  “I HATE China!” was raging in my mind as the more grounded part of my brain argued that this is just the way things are here.  I told myself to be positive but it was even harder when I looked across at Trent who clearly shared my exhaustion and exasperation.  Hours later when we finally arrived back home, the questions in my mind were raging… Why do things here have to be so difficult?  Why do things have to take SO long to accomplish?  Why is the food so steeped in grease?  Why won’t “Weebly” work when I’m trying to upload stuff for school?  Why can’t we find a movie we want to watch on yuku?  Why, why, why?  EVERYTHING here in the past two days has been a trial.  The only comforts have been reuniting with friends and hearing that their adjustments back have been equally hard, even for those who love China, and who have been here for many years.  I think that China is just a hard place to get used to.  It still remains an anomaly in my own mind, but yet it is the place we have been called to for the next year and a half.  So here’s to doing my best to have a good attitude about going back to school tomorrow, about getting through these next few weeks until we can get out of here again.  Here’s to trying to love China, despite its inconveniences, annoyances, and unrelenting smog.  Here’s to adjusting back.


Posted by on January 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


The Logsdons: 2013 in review


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Logsdons!

2013 began while spending last New Year’s Eve with my family during our winter visit to Minnesota.  We spent a week hanging out and playing in the snow.  It was at this point that we began the irretraceable steps that would bring us half way around the world.  Both feeling called to go, we joined an organization that connects teachers and international schools from around the world.

This journey continued in February when we made the journey to San Francisco, CA for the Search Associates International Job Fair.  Not certain what we would find, we went with an open mind repeating only what my mother said, “No Middle East, no war zones, and no China.”  Ironically our job offers came from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and China.  On the second day of the fair, we accepted a job teaching at Qingdao No. 1 International School of Shandong Province, Trent teaching first grade and me teaching kindergarten.  This left an extra day for us to do some sightseeing in frigid SF, where we enjoyed seeing Alcatraz (from a distance), the Golden Gate Bridge and taking a bus tour of the city.

We spent the rest of the school year preparing to say goodbye to the co-workers, friends, and students that we’ve been working with for years now at Walzem and Copeland/Walker.  Angie ended up becoming the Bilingual/ESL coordinator for her district when the old director suddenly resigned, which left her with a far greater work load than her normally demanding 2 combined campuses.  All her hard work paid off though when she was named “Teacher of the Year” for her campus and was also given an “Above and Beyond” award for her assistance to the district. 

In May, when the tornadoes hit Moore, Oklahoma, Trent and I took a few days off of work to go help with disaster relief with Samaritan’s Purse.  It was a horrific sight- the devastation was mind-blowing, but the people we worked with and helped were so kind and appreciative.  I know that it is an experience that Trent and I will both treasure in our hearts for some time to come.

The summer was spent packing, having garage sales, and working on buying our little duplex in Cibolo where we’ve been living for the past few years (we are now home-owners!!!).  We spent a week in Minnesota where we celebrated “Christmas in July,” watched my mom and sister skydive, and celebrated my brother’s graduation from the University of Minnesota.  When we returned, we spent as much time as possible with our church, friends, family and kitties before our impending departure.

At the end of July, we followed our calling and headed to the airport with our 4 suitcases and big box of teaching supplies and took the flight to Qingdao, China where we’ve been for the last 6 months.  While the adjustment hasn’t been easy, we’ve been so blessed by the people here, our students, and the fellowship we’ve become a part of.  We’ve enjoyed the travel benefits that our job offers as we’ve been to Beijing, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.  We look forward to more travel opportunities in the next year and a half as we recently signed our contract for a second year.  If you would like to follow our story, we have a blog at, we’d love to hear from you!

Here’s wishing you and yours a blessed, joyful, and fun-filled 2014!


Trent and Angie

If you’d like to write to us or send us pictures, we always love getting snail mail!  Our address here is

Trent and Angie Logsdon

Qingdao No. 1 International School of Shandong Province

232 Songling Rd

Qingdao, China 266101


If you want to check out our classroom websites:

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Posted by on January 3, 2014 in Uncategorized