Journal June 30, 2008
Saturday – Shirley and I, with Rhonda and Sarah, went off to find the caves and hot springs mentioned in a sign along the road to the camp. But first, Rhonda and I had to renew our visas. We showed our passports to the Thai immigration folks at the foot of the Friendship Bridge, filled out the forms, and walked across. On the other side, we paid our 500 Bahts to friendly Myanmar officials, turned around and walked back for a new 30 day Thai visa. We then waited over an hour for Shirley to return to pick us up. Unfortunately, she was waiting for us on the other side of the road. Debacle #1.
We met Brian and crew for lunch at a very good restaurant that actually served pizza, but we didn't have time for it. They were going with us to the cave, following on motorbikes. But they went back to their guest house first to change – and never showed up at the cave. Unfortunately, we did.
After driving into the back country in search of this hot tourist attraction, we arrived to find all of the signs in Thai. They might have told us that the cave was at the top of the mountain. We started climbing steps up the hill and through the jungle. Rhonda turned back but the rest of us plodded forward. I guess it was worth it. There was not view at the top, only jungle. The cave was enormous, but by the time we reached it, it was getting dark and looked a lot like more rain. We went back down stairs, and stairs, and stairs.
We found the hot springs on the other side of where we had parked the car. Though a few of the stalls were occupied by hopeful merchants, most had closed for the season, as had the spring. There was an area that must be a large pool/beach during the tourist season – whenever that is – but it was empty.
We drove back to Mae Sot, Shirley ran over a huge curb and the car broke down. Thus ended day one of my weekend.
Sunday – I foolishly climbed into the back of the bus/truck so I could see the sights along the road. The road was twisty and potted; I was bruised and disheveled when we arrived at the church. We'd driven from back roads to backer roads to get there. "There" was through a cluster of houses and the end of the road; a small complex of wooden buildings looking over an incredible vista of corn fields, village, valleys and mountains. After consulting briefly with the young pastor, Rev. Newton began walking down a narrow path through the corn and into the valley. We followed. We walked down the hill and through the village below, the pastor gathering people along the way, stopping at 2 houses especially to collect the two men being baptized. After the village, we walked through another field to a muddy "river." Only a few hundred feet on the other side, a farmer was working his rice paddy as we gathered by the river. Amid hymns and prayers, the men confirmed their new life in Christ and waded out of the river, dripping on the mud. We then wended our way back up the path, through the village, up the hill, and to the church.
There was still time before the church service, so we were invited into the pastor's home for a huge breakfast of rice, hot crab sauce, rice, cucumbers, rice, chicken, rice, noodle soup, and rice. As the girls who had come to sing for the service watched TV, I wandered around with my camera until the service started. The small building was packed. The pastor had said the congregation was 105 and I believe it. The children pulled me to the front pew to sit with them; they crammed into the small space in front, some under the table. There was energetic singing, then the service started and Newton pulled me to the chairs in the front. I was to bring "a word of encouragement" but I didn't really understand that I was supposed to preach so I encouraged them. There was another minister who arrived unexpectedly as the service started, and his message was definitely a sermon. Have I told you I don't usually know what's going on? I just go with the flow. After the service, the children and (I guess) non-members left. The 2 men and their wives (who were already members of the church) were invited forward and Newton married them. They now have a Christian marriage. Then Newton served communion much as we do, though I have no idea what he said. We then shook hands all around, piled back into the bus/truck, and bounced our way home. Thus began my Sunday.
As soon as we returned to Klue Thee Klo, we left for Mae Sot and a "thanksgiving." These are services held in people's homes for birthdays, memorials for a person who has passed, or special events. Sitting in a young man's room (I assume it was his; there were pictures of a body builder on the wall) we sang and prayed and Boo Po preached. There must have been about 60 people there, sitting in the room and on the floor of the porch outside. When it was over, we ate. I asked which one was the birthday boy. Apparently, he has already moved to Canada, but the thanksgiving is given without his presence.
The bus/truck driver took me to the center of town and I caught a line bus/truck back to the camp. I walked the mile of muddy road back into camp, just making it before the rains came – again.