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We finally left for the border on Monday January 21st. I had to pay 8000 baht (about $175.00). After "cooling my heels" so many days I would have paid more if I had to! It will be so nice when we have our own transportation in Thailand. I decided to just wait till I got to the border and see if I could find a truck to buy there. We ended up renting a mini van so we could accommodate our 9 bags we now had! We had a very comfortable 7-hour trip. Mary was not happy about how fast our driver drove on the winding mountain roads, but I have gotten so used to the way the Thai drive that it didn't bother me at all. Once when she motioned for him to slow down he reached over and turned off the air conditioner! We really got a laugh out of that one. She finally got him to understand that she wanted the air on, but he never did catch on to slowing down!

Our friend, Joel, had given me a cell phone to use while in Thailand. That really will come in handy. It is so hard to find international phone booths and calling my contacts in the towns to set up meetings has always been a hassle. There is no monthly service fee's on the type of phone I was using. You can buy the phone for $100.00 and purchase time cards and insert the chip. It is very cheap to buy the cards. I plan to buy one next trip and leave it for whenever I am in Thailand. I called Pastor Winsleigh while we were traveling to the border and told him when we were arriving and he said he would be happy to take us to Mae Sariang with him. We would arrive in Mae Sot late Monday and leave to head north to Mae Sariang on Wednesday. That would just give us one day in Mae Sot, so I told Mary we would come back to Mae Sot and visit the Karen in that area in a couple weeks. While in Mae Sariang I would try to get us in to two different refugee camps.

We headed into the mountains just as the sun was going down. I was happy for that since we would be traveling on winding roads with sheer drop offs and Mary does not like heights or sheer cliffs when she is driving or riding.

We finally made it to Mae Sot and got settled into our rooms. We opted for separate rooms and it was very comfortable. I knew I would probably sleep well that night. I feel so comfortable when I am on the border. I don't really like Bangkok very much.

Up at 7:30 AM, we took our laundry to be done and went to hotel restaurant for complimentary breakfast. I had forgotten how bad their food was! I then called General Bo Mya's son, Rocky, to get permission to go down to headquarters to visit a friend of ours. After getting permission I called KNU for a truck to take me there. After making arrangements for the truck to pick us up at hotel later in the morning, we headed to the section of town where all the jewel traders ply their gems along the sidewalks. A Thai friend of mine in Bangkok had called ahead to her "jade lady" and asked her to give us discount prices. We found Seingdou sitting on the floor of an open bay with her jade spread out on the floor in front of her. Mary and I were both in awe of the beautiful jade and how much she had! Aye had asked her to get certain bracelets and necklaces for us and she laid them out on white sheets of paper for us to look at. I had decided that I would buy some jade and carved wood products to sell here in the US to help fund my trips. I had brought in $300.00 of my money designated for this. We can take back $400.00 worth of goods without paying duty, so I bought about $200.00 worth. I knew my trip was just starting and I had many places to visit where I could find "treasures" to buy.

We bought fruit and other goodies to take to headquarters camp with us and were ready to go when our driver arrived. The driver told me KNU did not want me to pay for the truck, but just buy petrol. I was excited about seeing Po Jah once again. It had been a long 9 months since I had seen him and so much had happened during that time. When we arrived at the road going into the camp, there was a huge drop off and our driver didn't want to take our truck down it, so he parked and we walked the short distance in. We crossed a sleepy little creek meandering along on the edge of the camp entrance. As soon as we got inside, I saw Rocky standing there with some of his men. He greeted us and told someone to go find Po Jaw for me.

As I crossed an open parade field, I heard someone yelling "Wollagay, Pee Pee!" I turned around and there was my good friend Markreet's husband. He was grinning ear to ear and shook my hand so hard he about knocked me over! I wanted to hug him, but knew the Karen are a little more restrained than we Americans! It was so good to see him again. I asked him where his wife was and he flung his arm out and indicated a woman running toward me, her long nee flapping around her heels. I had not expected to see anyone I knew there except Po Jaw and this was a wonderful surprise. We hugged and tears ran down our cheeks as we told each other how much we had missed each other. She didn't understand my English and I didn't understand much of her Karen, but we conveyed what we were feeling with our hugs and grins. They both took my hands and led me over to a long row of bamboo huts that I knew was their headquarters. Out of one of them came Po Jaw with a huge grin on his face. We both just hugged each other and I cried once again. We had been so worried about him and I was so glad to be able to see him once again. We sat down on crude bamboo benches and got caught up on all the news. People started drifting over and telling me hello and asking if I remembered them.

One of the couples who came over were the parents of my "Karen son" Donnie. I have been sponsoring him for many years and he has now graduated from high school and is in Chiang Mai going to Thai adult school and working for an American woman and her Dutch husband. It was so good to see them again and tell them I was in constant contact with their son via e-mail. I had talked to him much more than they were able to and they were glad to hear I was going to visit him.

I gave Po Jaw the macadamia nuts and fruit I had brought for him. I told him I was going to Mae La camp and would see his family. He asked if I could bring them down to see him. It had been many months since they had seen each other. I promised to do my best and he just grinned from ear to ear. After taking lots of pictures and making plans to see each other again, Mary and I said good bye. I didn't want to take advantage of our driver so only stayed about an hour. I was pretty quiet on the way back to Mae Sot thinking about my old friends I had just seen and wondering what this coming year would have in store for all of them. This past year had been pretty brutal.