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Friday, October 17, 2008

Stuck between two countries and how to sneak through borders undetected...ha!

Yes...we were officially not in ANY country for about 2 hours yesterday! But before I explain here's a definition of what a border run is for those of you who don't know:

Border Run: the process of going out of Thailand and into another surrounding country and then turning around to go back out of that country and back into Thailand in order to get a stamp in your passport to validate and follow your visa and it's rules.

Our visa requires that we leave the country every 3 months and get a stamp in our passport to kind of keep tabs on us...I guess. The last day we were allowed in this country before having to do a "border run" was October 15th!

So on Oct. 15th as I was leaving for Thai class I saw that I had a txt message. I check it and it was Renee asking if I had to do a border run soon. My heart leaped out of my chest. I hadn't been using the calendar that I made the note in to remind myself. I ran in and check our passports and sure enough Oct. 15th was the day we were supposed to go to the border.

There was no possible way to find a ride and get to the border before it closed that day so we had to plan for the next day. This was our first border run to Myanmar...down south we go to Malaysia for our border run. If there had been any possible way for us to go that day..we would have because we had to pay a late fee. The fee is 500 baht a day per adult. So we had to pay 1,000 baht ($30) fee.

Us taking a break after 2 hours in the car...no I'm not annoyed...I just look that way...

I started really looking around and trying to find a van that does the run everyday like in HatYai (where we used to live) but I couldn't find one! The only way we were able to go was by paying a taxi friend of ours to take us (3,000 baht = $90). We had 1,000 in the bank and that was it! No more! So we had 3,000 for the taxi and 1,000 for the fee and 1,000 in the bank.

After 3 1/2 non eventful, song filled, and car sick (for me..first time in my life) hours...going over mountains...we were there. We got out...took a potty break that went something like this:


and on we went. We went through the Thai border very easily...but we noticed a sign that said that there was a 500 baht fee at the Burmese border so John went to an ATM before we were done at the window and got our last 1,000 baht to pay at the Burmese border.

I assumed (to my detriment) that that was only for adults. Seeing as the Thai side only charges fees for adults. So...John and I came into the office after following the "foreigner signs" and the guy took our passports and I gave him the 1,000 baht and he said that he needed 1,500 more. My mouth just dropped open. I explained to him that we didn't know and didn't think they charged for children and he just looked at me and said...go to the ATM.

I looked at John...and was just like a deer in the head lights. I went on to explain to them that we are not tourists and that we did not have the money in the bank. They just looked at me right back and said go get the money from the bank. I told them we did not have it...and he said..."Then you can't come into Mayanmar(Burma)"

In a moment of shear stupidity I went onto say "We are not toursists...we're missionaries...we don't have lots of money...there is no money in the bank..." Why is that so stupid??? Because Myanmar is a closed country and they could have decided not to allow us to enter period because I said that or they could have thought up some crazy reason to arrest us on the spot because they want to...All 4 sitting at that table looked like the epitome of crooked police if I had ever seen them.

The main police guy had been chewing this root that turns your teeth redish color...it was really gross...anyway, we walked out of the office...trying to figure out what to do. We walked back over to the Thai said and asked them if we could come in...because we had already received our departing stamp but they guy said no - he said that you had to have a stamp from another country to enter.

I asked them if there was someone that could help us in this situation and they said no. I was just flabbergasted. My children are all over the place...Joss was getting heavy...Thai people are jopping (pinching their cheeks or arms) my children left and right and Jude is getting sick of it. So we realized that if we could get a hold of our taxi driver we could ask for the money that we gave him back. So I picked up the phone and called him and guess what happened?

My phone died. So...now John had to get through the border to find our taxi guy and get the money from him then slip back through the border and go with us to the Myanmar border!!! God must have seriously had his hand on John because regardless of the fact that there were tons of guards everywhere - John walked right through the border un noticed.

I waited there for a good 30 minutes for John to return. During that 30 minutes our friend the taxi driver had seen me through the border and called me and the kids over to the border line to give me the money. He hadn't seen John. My heart fluttered a bit...could he have gotten arrested because of no passport?...was he way away from the border still looking for our friend...but about 35 minutes later John came across the border yet again!

So we made our way to the Myanmar office again and paid them the money and they gave us our beloved stamp. Then we were off to the Thailand border again. We were through pretty easy although we made some tourists pretty frustrated while they waited behind us in line for the Thai officials to process all 5 of our passports ha!

Our trip back home was rough...but we made it. When we got back home Renee and Todd let us borrow the money to pay the taxi driver. I'll leave it at that and tell you about something that broke my heart while we were stuck between countries.

A 4 year old girl came up to me with a 2 week old baby strapped to her begging for money. There were many children begging for money and their faces were pittiful. I wish I had had my camera to show you. I tried to speak with one of the boys but he only spoke Burmese. They were so dirty and so disconnected.

It hurt so badly not being able to give them any money...we literally had nothing to give them. Josiah was so moved by it he wanted to go back to the taxi...go back through the border to give them his empty wallet because "they would really like a superman wallet". What an awesome ministry it would be to live on the border and just reach out to these children daily.

Love on them and speak into their lives...give them food so they don't have to go hungry. No telling where their parents were. I watched as some of them hid from the guards as they passed. I can not get that little 4 year old girl out of my mind. I can not fathom my little Josiah having to go and beg for money and OH were they good at it. Even the boy who couldn't speak Thai had learned how to begg for money in Thai.

My heart physically hurts to think about it. Please pray for these children. Even here in the city where we live on the busy highways...at the stop lights there are children that walk out to the cars during red lights to begg for money and to try to sell little flower decorations for your rearview mirror. Some of them Josiah's age and younger.

While I was filling out our paper work a tourist couple came by and was talking about the children and she said something that really hit home...because it's so easy to judge the parents for making their children go out and beg for money...soooooo easy. But to be completely honest with you...what this woman said is so true. When you can't feed your family - you use every resource available to you to get food...and no one wants to give to adults but they will to children.

When we were walking back from the Myanmar border after being told we could not get our stamp...I SERIOUSLY thought about setting out a burp rag on the ground and have Josiah and Jude sing and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that within an hour or less we would have had the money we needed to get through the border. The Thai people love our children and can't resist them. It's just fact.

I know that might sound insane for some but what that tourist said is true. Imagine sitting at home with no way to get any food..the government won't help...and your children are willing...I was willing to allow my children to entertain for money or even take pictures with the Thai people for money...if it would get us through the border and back into thailand...SURE! Little would they have known that we let Thai people take pictures of our kids all the time...no big deal...for free.

So...keep these children in mind and take my advice...don't go on a border run without back up money...not that it could be helped in this instance. But God provided and we're home...no border runs for another 3 months.


When John asked Jude what he was doing he said: "Waitin for the ice cream man..."

Josiah and his invention of the day...

Cutie pie Joss...

3 comments:

katemcdonald said...

Wow...I had no idea about border runs...your life is so adventurous!

I will definitely be praying for you during my time away.

Hey, I wanted to tell you I don't have any puppies right now but I have some coming.. I will look into the cost of shipping...

katemcdonald said...

I pray the next two weeks of work will go quickly and be more enjoyable than you're expecting

Shannon said...

wow. I didn't realize that you had so much extra work just in dealing with the ways of government over there! I'll definetely be praying for those children. I hate to see anyone starving,especially children.