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A Friendship Beyond Words

Updated: Mar 13




A FRIENDSHIP BEYOND WORDS

跨越言語的友情


“Wow, this is amazing.”I could not stop saying this in my mind while reading the Taiwanese Newspaper in my grandfather’s little warm sofa. It was February 9th, during the Taiwanese New Year break. The article was about Paul Barton, a pianist from the United Kingdom who had played various classical and contemporary piano repertoire for the elephants in Thailand’s sanctuary for so many years, dedicating in bringing tranquility to the souls and minds of those injured, blind, abused and long-ignored creatures of beauty. Having been an animal and music lover since my youth, I believe there must be something I could do for them, and because this is something I enjoy the most.


「這也太不可思議了吧」,當時我正坐在外公家裡那小小的溫暖沙發上,邊閱讀著台灣報紙心裡邊唸著,那天是2月9號,正值台灣的過年期間。那篇文章是關於一位英國鋼琴家,保羅巴頓,長期無私的彈奏古典與現代音樂給泰國的動物庇護所大象們聽。這些年來,他一直致力於把寧靜帶給這些曾受傷、失明、受虐與長期受忽略大象們的靈魂與心。從小就很喜歡動物與音樂的我,相信一定有些事是自己可以幫得上忙,也因為這是心裡最享受的。


Two months later, I stood at the arrival hall of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and proceeded to get lost within one of the most notorious traffic jams in the world, trying desperately to find the way to Paul’s residence. After several hours of map navigating and hand gesturing with the mysterious cab driver, I arrived.


兩個月後,我站在曼谷蘇凡納比機場的入境大廳裡,接著便迷失在地球上最惡名昭彰的交通車陣中動彈不得,絕望的嘗試該如何前往保羅家,在與神秘又省話的司機幾個小時的比手畫腳與查看地圖後,終於抵達了。

As soon as recognizing Paul and his 6 adopted dogs, I indeed gave him a big and warm hug, hoping him would not mind due to the temperature reached 30 °C around that time. Paul introduced his wife Khwan, his daughter, Emilie, and then we began talking about how he came up with the idea to communicate with the elephants through music. We spoke late into the night, sharing our love of animals as well as life journey before deciding to call it a day. With great imagination and eager anticipation for the sanctuary, I fell asleep late with the lullaby of trees rustling under the moonlight.


一認出保羅與他們家領養的六隻狗後,我立刻給他一個大又溫暖的擁抱,希望他不會介意,因為當晚的氣溫是攝氏30度!進門後,保羅隨即介紹了牽手Khwan 寬與女兒Emilie艾蜜莉,接著我們便開始討論起為什麼會有透過音樂來跟大象溝通的想法。那晚我們分享著彼此對於動物的愛與人生旅程,因此聊到三更半夜都還欲罷不能。帶著對大象庇護所的想像與滿心期待,在月光下聽著樹葉婆娑聲的安眠曲,我終於入睡。


Next day in the morning, we headed to Elephants World, an environmental conservation organization located on the hillsides of Kanchanaburi, with the iconic banks of River Kwai flowing by. It took about 3.5 hours to get there and I could tell easily the landscape transformed a lot from concrete and skyscrapers to countryside and farmlands. “This is it. It’s beautiful, isn’t?” said Paul as we arrived at the solid wooden front gate in the afternoon. The pristine, tranquil atmosphere and the fresh scent of grass were something that came to my mind at once. After meeting some of the staff there, Paul greeted me with the first piano housed in a small cottage - a gloss black upright, “played” by a curious elephant named Rom Sai (which means sacred tree). Rom Sai’s left eye was visually impaired, having been impaled by a sharp tree branch while being worked as a logging tool in Northern Thailand’s forest a long time ago.


隔天一早,我們啟程前往一座位於泰國中西部Kanchanaburi省的山丘旁,沿著著名桂河所搭蓋的生態保育組織,「大象世界」。 在3.5小時的車程中,眼裡映出的地景逐漸從水泥大樓變成鄉村農田。 我們一群人在下午時終於抵達了大象世界園區扎實的木頭大門前,保羅說:「我們到了,這邊很漂亮吧!是不是」?這股很純實、寧靜般的氛圍與撲鼻而來的草木芬芳是自己抵達時的當下印象。接著與園區的工作人員寒暄了之後,保羅就用放在小木屋裡的第一台黑色亮面鋼琴來歡迎我這位來自遠方的新朋友。常常「彈奏」這台鋼琴的是一頭名為Rom Sai,意思既為神聖之樹的好奇大象。長期在泰國北方叢林裡被作為伐木工具的Rom Sai,左眼早被尖銳的樹枝刺傷,因此已失明許久。


Paul and I moved the piano away from the wall a little and did a thorough assessment. The bottom front panel was squeezed unbelievably deep into the cavity and one of the back posts had some bumps. Moreover, a few treble keys were jammed and shifted to the right. After undertakinga quick fix, I realized that bigger problems had lined themselves up. There was no let-off and after-touch from key 24 to 61, and key dip was way too shallow. Damper timing to the key was out of specifications by a lot, so were the damper pedal and the soft pedal. All things considered, the piano needed urgent maintenance and serious regulation.

保羅與我把貼著牆的鋼琴移了出來並且做了一個詳細的檢查。下前板(Bottom Front Panel)被嚴重的往內部空間擠去,後方的一個支柱(Back Post)也被撞出了一些傷痕。另外,好多個最高音按鍵(High Treble Keys)不只卡住也被擠去右方。在簡單的快速修理後,心裡大概了解這台琴的問題絕對不只這些。從第24到61個琴鍵沒有離脫/擊弦機制與後觸感(Let-Off and Aftertouch),鍵深也過淺。另一方面,止音器與按鍵的啟動時機(Damper Timing To The Key)也嚴重誤差,更不用提止音與弱音踏板(Damper and Soft Pedal)。在全面考量後,這台鋼琴急需要迫切的維護與仔細的調整。


With all these symptoms together, I told Paul it would take a while. Usually, in clients’ houses, you would not encounter a piano being this far out of regulation, but please do keep in mind the piano was being played by elephants weighing 3000 to 6000 kilograms. Fueled by the desire to make the piano work, I started regulating let-off screws, changing key dip and rechecking every part of the mechanism such as escapements for the next couple of hours.


就這些症狀來看,我跟保羅說處理這台琴需要花一些時間。通常來說,在一般客戶家,你/妳不會碰到這種差調整標準那麼多的鋼琴,但也請記得這台琴是由重約3到6噸的大象來玩耍彈奏。由於渴望著想趕快把琴用好,接下來的數小時,我開始調整離脫/擊弦螺絲、改變鍵深和重複檢查像是打擊系統脫離(Escapements)等的每個機制。


However, what made it worse is we had been told that power would be switched off at 10 PM due to the generator rationing. Thoughinformed of thisin advance, we still prayed that there would be a miracle. All of a sudden, my eyes could not focus on anything as everything turned dark – dark meaning absolute pitch-blackness, with the exception of the shining stars and galaxy above. Now, everything got more complicated. It was extremely challenging to regulate damper spoons in the dark, with mothsand mosquitos flitting about in front of my eyes, and crickets and other various insects singing to my ears. Several minutes later, Paul managed to make a temporary torch, attaching it to the side pole of his recording microphone stand. How ingenious!


然而,雪上加霜的是由於發電機電量的關係,大象世界有夜晚10點就停電的限電措施。雖然事先已知道,我們心裡還是一直期望著奇蹟能發生。忽然間,我們的眼睛看不見任何光線,因為所有東西都已經變暗;暗代表著周遭是完全伸手不見五指,唯一的例外是天上的星星與流瀉般的銀河。此刻,所有的處理變得更棘手了。止音匙(Damper Spoon)的調整在此時變得極為挑戰,更不用說在眼前干擾視線的飛舞蛾蚊,蟋蟀和其他歡唱的生物。幾分鐘後,保羅不知從哪變出一隻臨時用的亮光裝置,接著便把它黏於錄音麥克風架旁好照亮鋼琴。


By taking full advantage of the remaining time left, I completed as much work as I could before hitting the hay around midnight and somehow intrigued by the various sounds and echoes from the deep forest. Based on childhood recalling, I strained my ears and tried to distinguish what kind of birds and animals they were but none matched in the end.


試著把握剩下的時間,我做完身體所能負荷的最大工作量,時間已是半夜。在昏昏欲睡之餘,我突然聽見從森林深處傳出很多種的吼叫與回聲,驚喜不已時,便試著從童年經驗中回想是否有類似的鳥類或生物,但最後還是想不出來。


Misty dawn and the soothing sound of river symphony woke me up with breeze the next day. I went straight to the cottage and continued working on the task. After a morning of regulation on the after-touch and damper timing to the keys, Paul drove me to the sanctuary’s dining hall which was composed of tons of artistic wooden bars, tree trunks and boards. He introduced me to other staff working there and several friendly baby elephants and dogs. There are also some sanctuary volunteers and visitors from other countries. The sanctuary’s enormous love and respect of lives surely reflect well on their reputation. The diversity of visitors is testament to that.


隔天,迷霧中破曉的日出與交響樂般的愜意流水聲捎著微風喚醒了我。我直接前往小木屋繼續未完的工作。在一整個早上都埋首於處理後觸感與調整止音器按鍵時機後,保羅開車把我載往園區的戶外餐廳,一個用大量的藝術造型木頭、樹幹與木板所建造起來的用餐空間。他把我介紹給那裡的工作人員還有幾隻友善的狗狗和小象,那裡也有許多來自不同國家的志工與遊客。這座庇護所對大象巨大的愛與不同生命的尊重也無疑的反映在大家對他們的肯定上,旅客的多樣性便是一種證明。


Soon after finishing our plates, we were offered a chance to walk with almost 20 elephants and their mahouts to the banks of the River Kwai. Noon is the elephants’ spa time, as we are told. The mahouts generously gave us permission to lead the group (front) and hit the ground running. While padding them gently along, I tried to sense how they felt about me by looking into their eyes and at their trunk gestures. At that moment, I felt like a part of me did slightly perceive their emotions. Without consideration, I asked Paul how long it takes for mahouts to build relationships with their elephants. I felt stupid asking this question,after hearing he responded, “ A lifetime, it takes their lifetime to build that family-like relationship.”


很快的在用完餐後,我們得到一個能跟近20頭大象與其象伕們一起散步至桂河河床旁的機會。大家告訴我們中午是大象們喜歡的刷澡時間,象伕們大方的給了我一個領象員的角色,允許我走在大象群的最前方帶領著大家。當邊走邊撫摸大象時,我試著透過她/他們的眼睛與鼻子姿勢去感受大象對我的感覺。那一剎那,我似乎可以隱約感受到大象們的情緒。接著我便很直接的詢問保羅,象伕要花多久的時間才能跟大象建立起關係呢?這個問題在他回答後顯示出發問者的愚蠢與無知,他說:「一輩子的時間,象伕們必須花一輩子的時間才能與大象建立起家人般的關係」。

It’s not an arduous effort to know they have enjoyed a lot the path to the shoreas they walked faster and faster. To be able to see how they swam in the river and enjoyed their lives was such a very relieving and privileged thing for both Paul and I. Especially after hearing and seeing the stories and scars, I am definitely more aware of what they have been through on their lives in that land. These sensitive elephants have shipped lethal weapons for WW2 countries, helped loggers deforest their own habitat, and acted as toys in the tourism industry for tourists to ride on their backs and heads. What for exactly? Is it our selfishness, superiority, arrogance or just callous fun? Tears fell down silently and my heart broke simultaneously. Their invisible woundsare just well hidden in their hearts and souls. While their destined physical captivity and pain has been relieved somewhat now, what about their mental ones?


從大象們在通往河床的小徑上越走越快的步伐,便不難看出他們很期待。看到她/他們在河裡游泳與盡情地享受生命時,對保羅與我來說都是一件很舒暢也很榮幸的事。特別在聽見與看到這些大象的故事與傷痕後,更能瞭解他們在各自的生命中、在這塊土地上的遭遇。這些敏感的大象替二次世界大戰的國家拖運著致命武器,被迫協助伐木者毀了自身家園,並且在觀光業中扮演著玩具般角色,讓遊客們一而再再而三的坐在最脆弱的頭與背上這到底是為了什麼?是人類的自私、優越感、自大或只是單純的好玩?我的眼淚伴隨著心痛安靜的落下,看不見的累累傷痕就這樣完美隱藏在大象們的內心與靈魂裡,當他們多少已從命中注定的身體禁錮與疼痛循環中逃脫,那他們的心理呢?


The elephants there have bestowed me the valuable legacy of retrospection - to be more comprehending of different lives’ hardships and to be concerned about what we are doing now to the planet. It’s an environmental chain and everyone is included, aren’t you?


這些大象給予了我一個很寶貴的自省領悟,更加去了解不同生命的困境,並注意我們所做的事對於日後的地球會有什麼影響。這是一個生態命運鏈,而每個人類都在裡面,不是嗎?


While collecting thoughts, I went back to tune the “played” piano. Just like my guess, the pitch dropped as low as 436 Hertz. “Okay, let us do a few tunings and stabilize it as much as we can,” I said to the piano. During the tweaking and setting, unexpected let-off and damper issues would stop by once in a while.


重整思緒時,我重新開始調這台被「彈奏」過的鋼琴。就像之前猜的一樣,音高降到大約436赫茲。「好,讓我們調個幾次然後試著來穩定看看」,我對著它說。在微調與處理時,不可預測的離脫/擊弦距離與止音器問題也時不時的跑出來攪局。


At dinner, Paul invited me to sit with one of his sanctuary friends, Dee. And this is another shock to me.


晚餐時刻,保羅邀請我與他的一位老朋友Dee迪見面,而這對我而言也是另一種震撼。


Dee, one of many helpful staff there and a refugee of Karen People suffering from the internal war of Burma since 1948, laid out the story of his love and empathy to these elephants after a few beers. He said his family had to constantly move him and siblings, running away from the wars from time to time. Thus, many friends and relatives had lost contact with them and probably passed away. Dee told us he came to this place because he loves nature as well as elephants. Though he could try for city jobs, deep down in his heart he knew this is the place he belongs to and cares about. I am not sure if he did relate his life to these creatures, or not, but it caused me to think about why humans have to create so much trouble despite these repeated hard lessons.


Dee是園區內眾多樂於幫忙的員工之一,另一個身份則是1948年緬甸內戰爆發後逃亡至泰國的凱倫族難民。在一起喝了幾瓶啤酒後,他便開始訴說他對於這些大象的愛與同理心的故事。Dee說,從小家人們便必須一直把他與兄弟姊妹們移往不同的地方好躲避戰爭,許多親戚與朋友也因此失去聯絡或可能已去世。他來到這個地方是基於對大自然與大象的熱愛,雖然可以試著去大城市工作,但他知道這個園區才是自己內心的歸屬與所在乎的地方。我不確定Dee是否已把自身經驗連結上大象們的過往,但這些很深層的對話讓我不禁思考,為什麼人類必須要一直不斷的製造麻煩,儘管有這麼多痛徹心扉的前例。


The fourth day was the day to take off. After breakfast, I started my day by tuning another piano that there was a moth attached to one tenor hammer tail. Consequently, it was named the “moth” piano. The pitch floated around 436.5 Hz. With two tunings and ample test blows, I hoped it would stay firm at least for few weeks, or even months.


第四天也是最後一天,早餐後,我便開始調另外一台有蛾停落在高音琴槌上的鋼琴。想當然,它的綽號是蛾,蛾的頻率約在436.5赫茲。在調了兩次音與適當的張力敲擊後,我希望這台琴能至少穩定個一、兩個禮拜,甚至是幾個月。


Before leaving Elephants World, we had lunch with the founder and it has yielded into a very in-depth conversation. I could tell from his eyes that he was full of passion about taking care of these elephants and other beings, and conscious of going the right way about it, resembling the feeling I had recognized from Paul and Khwan.


在離開大象世界前,我們與創辦人共進午餐並且開啟了一段非常深入的對談。從他眼裡,我能察覺到他對於照顧這些大象與其他動物們有著無比熱情,心裡也在乎一定要用對的方式進行。這種感覺,我也能從保羅和寬的身上感受到。


Along this journey interrupted by much trivia, I had been thinking what would be the best for various lives, according to their wills. If elephants, forests and lands could speak, what would they say? And what would they ask? Are they gonna mourn for their fate and mock on humans’ ignorance?


在這段被許多瑣碎小事填滿的旅程中,我一直在想基於生命各自的想法上,到底什麼才是對大家最好的。如果大象、森林與土地們能說話,他們會說什麼呢?會提出什麼疑問呢?他們會為自身的命運哀悼然後嘲笑人類的無知嗎?


The answer is already obvious. We humans are just little beings on Earth, and I truly hope no matter what kind of profession we have at present, we can all do something for them. Even just a little bit, they have deserved every effort.


答案已明顯不已,人類在地球上是極微小眾的存在,而我也衷心盼望不管我們的職業為何,都應該為了其他生命來做些什麼事。就算微不足道,他們也值得我們的任何心力。


In these five days, hearing stories from Paul, the elephants, Khwan, mahouts, the founder and Dee, I witnessed the enormous courage and spirit they have bravely embodied. Trying to pull this off is not easy, but Paul came with determination and love, which are probably the strongest, most necessary things in this world to make it happen.


這五天內,從保羅、大象、寬、象伕、創辦人與Dee的身上,我看到了他們身上所散發的巨大勇氣與信念。試著做這件事不容易,但保羅以決心和愛,這兩個或許是世界上最堅強的東西,來讓這些對的事發生。


As a concert pianist and a painter, he chose a very different road and I do see and appreciate its value. To be able to see what we have done bringing the elephants a better quality of life, I am grateful but at the same time, sorrowful for their loss.


身為一位鋼琴演奏家與畫家,他選了一條異於常人的路,而我了解並欣賞這份選擇背後所代表的價值。看到我們做的事能讓大象們擁有更好的生命品質,我很開心,同時,也很遺憾他們的失去。



R.I.P. Rom Sai

謹紀念 Rom Sai



大象世界庇護所 elephantsworld.org

保羅巴頓 PaulBarton

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