I had no idea who he was.
"Well," he said, "I've been to Thailand".
"Oh," I replied, feigning interest.
He continued, "My father gave me some money, sent me to Thailand, told me to buy some land, and rescue some elephants. So, I went to Thailand, bought some land, and rescued some wild elephants that were going to be put down."
Suddenly it occurred to me how supercilious I had been behaving towards this pleasant young man, who was clearly more than just a taxi driver. He had spent the last few months in Thailand setting up an elephant sanctuary. He told me that he had hired some veterinarians to give each of the animals a complete medical examination. There were 11 elephants, and one of them was pregnant, so now there would be an even dozen. He said the land he bought was next to a jungle, and there was plenty of water for the elephants to drink and bathe in. He said several of the elephants were from different herds, but that they were all getting to know each other. "Did you know," he said, "that elephants have greetings when they meet their friends?" "And did you know," he continued, "that elephants cry, play, and have memories ... like ... well, like elephants?" He said that elephants are very much like human beings in that they reach puberty at around 12 or 13, they can have offspring until they're almost 50, and their lifespan can reach over the age of 70.
I asked the taxi driver if he had given the elephants names, but he said he wanted to get to know them first, because they all have distinct personalities. He said he is working in Canada long enough to save more money so he can go back to his animal sanctuary in Thailand and visit his elephants, but in the meantime his father is funding the sanctuary.
He said there is too much animal poaching, and beautiful animals like tigers and rhinoceros are being decimated. Animal parts are sold on the black market, and there is a huge market for them in North America. I had no idea. Well at least now there are
We meet the most interesting people in the most unusual places.