SUMMARY OF FEBRUARY 2002 TRIP TO THAILAND
This particular trip was going to be very different for me. I was taking one of my best friends, Mary Wright from Alabama, with me. She had never been to Thailand but had wanted to go for some time. I was really excited about having her along and seeing Thailand and the border camps through her eyes.
We made arrangements to meet up in Tokyo airport and then fly on to Bangkok together. On January 14, 2002 we both set out from our homes in Alabama and Hawaii on an adventure of a lifetime! Mary flew from Mobile to Memphis to Los Angeles, then on to Tokyo. I flew directly from Hawaii to Tokyo. We were both excited about this trip. I was anxious for her to meet all my Karen friends and see first hand all the people I have been talking about for 10 years.
We were happy to see each other at the departure gate in Tokyo. I had arrived one hour before she did so I could meet her as she came through security. We had an uneventful flight to Bangkok. We were so tired from the first leg of the trip, we both dozed on the 6 hour flight. By the time we got off the plane and through customs we were both exhausted. Once again the prayers of our support team in the US got us safely through customs without having any of our bags searched. We didn't have anything with us that we shouldn't, but neither of us wanted to be delayed at customs. All we could think of was stretching out on our beds at the hotel and getting some real sleep.
When we entered the outer lobby of the airport, I saw our friend, Tiki, standing in the crowd of people waiting for us. It was great having someone meet us, especially one who spoke fluent Thai! After hugs and introductions, he led us out to the taxi stands. With all our heavy bags we knew there was no way we could get them and us in one cab. I had 3 big duffel bags (each weighing over the allowed 70 lbs.) and Mary had 2. It had cost me $75.00 for the extra bag, but I felt it was important to get as much of the donated clothing and "zip blessing" bags in as I could. The gifts from donors here in America mean so much to everyone in the refugee camps. The husband of a friend of mine in Hawaii had flown to Bangkok a week earlier to play golf. He offered to take in 2 bags for me, so we were able to take in almost everything that had been donated! Mary and I rode in one cab with our personal bags and Tiki took the bags with mission supplies in his cab. We felt that if something happened and the other taxi didn't make it to the hotel as soon as we did, we would still have some of our luggage. We didn't have to worry though, Tiki's cab arrived right behind us. After thanking him for meeting us and getting us to hotel, we made arrangements to call him the next morning and he headed home.
It was 1 A.M. by the time we got checked in and settled in our respective rooms. We agreed to call each other in the morning when woke up. Mary was sure she'd sleep in and I knew I wouldn't! I am always so hyped when I am in Thailand, I always wake up early.
I slept fitfully and was awakened at 6:30 AM when my phone rang. Merle, our friend from Hawaii was calling from the golf course to make arrangements for me to get the 2 bags he had brought in for me. He invited Mary and I to dinner that night and said his driver would be at our hotel to pick us up and deliver the 2 duffel bags.
After breakfast at the hotel next door, I suggested we take a Tuk Tuk ride. I knew Mary would love to experience those crazy 3 wheeled motor scooters with a roofed "box" that you sit in. One ride was definitely all she wanted to experience!
Later in the day we both were so tired we decided to take a nap before dinner. I called Pastor Law Gler before laying down and he told me he and his wife were visiting their daughter and were in Bangkok! They wanted to come right over to the hotel and see me. I was excited about seeing them again and knew sleep could always be postponed. They arrived about an hour later and it was so good to see them and get hugs from my dear Karen friends. They live in Mae Rah Moo refugee camp, but have Thai I.D. so can occasionally travel outside the border area when they need to. I was hoping that Mary and I could travel right from Bangkok to the border with them, but they told me they were taking the 10 PM bus that night to Chiang Mai, then going on to the camp from Mae Sariang. I knew that neither of us wanted to travel all night on a bus with 7 huge duffel bags. We decided to try and find a truck and driver to take us to the border in the next couple days. I asked Pastor if he could take one of the bags I had brought specifically for his camp. That would leave us only 6 to man handle till we got to the border town of Mae Sot. He told me that another friend of ours, Pastor Winsleigh, was driving up from Mae Sot to Mae Sariang next week and perhaps we could go with him. There was a regional pastors conference in Mae Sariang the next week and he would also be there. He said if I could make it to Mae Sariang before then, I would still need to wait till after the conference to go into the refugee camp.We visited for about an hour, then said our good byes.
We finally found a truck and driver to take us to the border 5 days later. I was so frustrated that it was so hard to find a truck that we could afford to rent. I had been given a generous donation to buy a truck while in Thailand, but neither of our American friends who live in Bangkok had time to take me "car shopping" and not speaking Thai I knew there was no way I could go on my own. During the time we waited for a truck, Tiki took us on tours of the palaces and temples in Bangkok, a boat ride on the river and lots of shopping trips. I was really antsy to get started on my "mission" but since it was "high season" it was impossible to find transportation until after the weekend.
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