From Thighland to Thailand

February 26, 2010

Thailand 3.7post eviction

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 1:45 am

Thailand 3.7

February 25, 2010-Thursday-7th day

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FLASH!:  AMERICAN MISSION TEAM BOOTED OUT                                      OF BURMA

First of all I thank God that I am even able writing this at this time and not on a piece of toilet paper in a jail cell that I have to smuggle out and that we (see the definition of we in yesterday’s blog) are not in jail, or prison, or out in the roadside walking home empty handed, or something more terrible.

Secondly, I wish Allison Happy 18th Birthday and I love you and I want to see many more of your birthdays.  I wish I was there instead considering what happened here.

Thirdly, we are back in Chiang Rai, luckily crossing the border before it closed, which, on the bright side, will give us more time in the clinics here.

Here’s the debriefing of today’s excitement:

FAST FORWARD: Woke up. Fewer roosters. Larry happy. Wrote blog. Group to flea market. Irma bought tablecloth.  Ate crispy worms. Bumped into patient. Bob and Libby lost. Have breakfast. Turned in laundry (yeah!). Guy yells “Free Clinic” to local market.  Walked down street to church for clinic. Set up shop. Being watched. Crowds form, Car loads come. More crowd. Start clinics. Got generators. Blew fuse. Jack looses bags again.  Find bags again. See patients.  Police come to check commotion. Oh crap. Pastor confronted. Crowd grows. Some sneak up.  Kicked out. Police talk. Pastors yell.  Ready to rumble. Constable told… Pray to God.

“STOOOOOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPPPP!“ Pastor Jack yells and tests authority.  Few minutes past.  “Resume.”

More minutes past.   Hid satellite phone.  Download ejournal to flash drive.  Police go talk.  Not happy. Ready for lunch. Lunch cancelled. Evicted. “YOU’RE FIRED!”
“Every one pack your bags, we’re leaving NOW! We have 2 hours to get to the hotel and get out of here.” “GO, GO, GO, GO, GO!!!

Frantically pack. Grab things. Grab my daughter. Stuff bins. Pee our pants. Say “Bye-Bye.” Good-bye hugs. Few tears. Dry eyes. Pack truck.  Bob MIA. Rush to hotel. Find Bob. Pack bags. Grab laundry. “GO, GO, GO, GO!!!” Pack vans. Escorted out of town.  Police follow. People wave.  Immigration office. Wait… We leave. Good Riddance. Pray to God. Bumpy road. Throw up. Check points. Wait… Pit stop. Play Squat N Point. déjà vu. Hall butt.  Take naps.  Reach the border. Stand in line. Wait… Feed beggars. Get passport. Cross the border.  Thank God. Kiss the ground. Civilization. Street market. KFC. Pig out. Lick fingers. Go home. Hug Pillow. Thank God. Go to sleep. Close call. Escape with lives.

Whew! And how was your day?

MTI teams is now known as the BOOB team: Booted Out Of Burma.  A BOOB job gone bad.

REWIND: The day started like any other day.  Woke up refreshed waiting for the generator to kick it and noticed the paucity of roosters crowing. We are looking forward to do good deeds today having been encouraged by our production the day before.  A bunch of us gather to go to the farmer’s market.  It’s a huge market several acres large just below this large nice hotel.  It would have been ideal to stay there and go to the market everyday.  This is their livelihood. Whether its pastries, clothes, stuffed animals, food, hardware, flowers, drugs, this is the place to be, kind of their version of Costco.  “The more you buy, the more you save.”  Bargain hunters think they got a steal while the sellers are laughing all the way to the bank.  Some try a delicacy of grubs, crispy worms.  “Good flavor” as Lena would say.  It’s the after taste catches you.  Some guy starts to talk to me.  I don’t speak his language but he shows me his hands and I recognize him as a patient I saw yesterday.  Small world!  We get to the vans and Bob and Libby are gone so we have to look for them but Bob is the least likely to get lost here.  We return to the hotel to have breakfast and Richard says that we just missed a guy with a bullhorn yelling down to a group in the mini-market that there is a free clinic down at the church today, which is just down the street. He chuckles at the thought.  Maybe it’ll drum up some business we think but we don’t realize what’s in store ahead.

It’s so close to the hotel, we walk.  We are relieved that we have power today thanks to the generators.  A crowd is already forming and they are choosing their spots in line and find empty chairs.  We set up shop and have plenty of room.  The dentists are downstairs and Lester nonchalantly hangs out his satellite phone in case he needs to reach the outside civilization.  People are watching.  Carloads carrying people from miles away show up.  We assumed we were going to treat mainly church members and some local folk.  You know, however, when you ASSUME you make an A.. of U and Me.  U being them and us being Me. We are being watched by the authorities, as police come around and check things out.  They get concerned about the crowds that are forming and who we are and what the heck are we doing in there and who gave us permission to do so in the first place.  I dunno.  Quick play dumb.  “Officer, we just happened to be in the area and were just observing and demonstrating how to set up a remote clinic in some 3rd world country in case they wanted to do the same.  Those aren’t real patients; those are actors!” They query, “Aren’t you guys listed as tourists?” “Hmmm…let…me…check.” They have a point.  Maybe that’s why Luka suggested for us to look like tourists and don’t wear our blue scrubs or our photo badges (I didn’t like them any way) when we go into Burma to avoid confusion and misunderstanding. And maybe that’s why we hid the bins way under the luggage. Now I get it.  Because remember, we ARE tourists just bringing our belongings with us so they don’t get lost or stolen.  We just like to play Doctor.  Hey Bill, this was all thought out ahead of time right? What was the worse case scenario that you didn’t want to talk about, the fate of Baptist missionaries in Haiti perhaps?  Luka assured us it was “Safe.”  I realize that the meaning of “safe” is lost in translation.

Pastor Jack runs in the room and waves his hands and yells, “Stop! Stop what you’re doing.”  Then we wait patiently to see what’s going on.  He feels comfortable to say “Resume” and then the church people say let’s pause and have lunch while this gets sorted out in an hour.  Then Pastor returns quickly and says, “Pack up we’re going home.”  Back to the hotel? “No, out of Burma.  We’ve been evicted!”  Then it’s a mad house but we want pack up before all hell breaks loose.  They might confiscate our things and take us to jail.  So I download 3 days of ejournal to flash drive.  We hide the satellite phone because they don’t like the fact that was have access to outside world.

The police are concerned about crowd control.  They don’t want a riot.  The constabulary want control of their turf.  They got a bunch of foreigners coming into a country that is prideful and make it look like the country can’t take of their own people and that looks bad.  We weren’t exactly invited nor welcomed and were working under the radar.  Now they see a blip and we have bogies on our tail ready to fire and blow us back across the border.  We are seen as the “Meddling Team International.” The country likes control even with electricity.  They flip the switch when they want to.  They don’t need your help. After discussing with the local pastor of the church and with the police they want us out and want us out fast.  We have two hours to get out of town and be escorted to the immigration office.  I don’t want to know what “Or else” means.  I did want to spend more time with Jennifer but didn’t expect to be cellmates.

We pack our things, pronto, faster than unpacking.  We don’t have much time.  We say our quick good-byes.  See you later; maybe not.  Bob is missing. But we have a motto, “No man left behind.”  Even Bob.  We later found him at the hotel. How he’d get there first?  I hope he was going to wait for us.  Was there something he knew that we didn’t?  We pack our bags like there is a fire approaching.  Women and children first.  “Adios amigos” Irma yells as we leave a trail of dust.  We are getting out of Dodge.  We run with our tails between our legs. We. We. We. Go. Go. Go.  How apropos that Pastor Jack gave us a wrist band with John 10:4  “We will go…” 10:4, roger that.

A private judicial escort takes us to the Immigration office where we wait nervously as they determine our fate.  Will we be let go to returned to Thailand or will we be detained?  We get through the 1st checkpoint and then the next and so on.  I wont’ bore you with our details going back but we shaved an hour off our road time because we had to get back before 6 pm when the border closes.  If we are late, then what?  Cold cell, bread and water?  We get detained at the Thai/Myanmar border and it takes some time to process and we have to fill out papers. I want to list my occupation as “journalist.” No, no, no, no, no!!! Worse thing to put down. Just kidding, “physician.” We are wondering if there will be a “problem.” We scope out the lay of the land to see if we can make a run through the border.  The runners have an advantage but we can always trip them.  There is a small stream that we can swim across but the toxic water may kill us.  Viagra might not even get us out of this, so I don’t waste them.  The end is in sight. Eureka!  We get our passports and clutch them tightly and cross the border into civilization and I mean civilized.  The feeling is different in Thailand.  The feeling is even better in America.  God Bless America!

We don’t know if we have rooms at the Golden Triangle Inn so I suggest the hotel the late David Carradine frequented.  I always liked “Grasshopper.’  It’s too bad he rubbed his legs in the wrong place.  Bill feels bad for the experience.  Don’t worry we are all in this together.  Like the Army says, “It’s not a job. It’s an adventure.”  So he decides to splurge and says “Dinner’s on me.”  So we head to Kentucky Fried Chicken for a special Thai cuisine.  Thanks Bill.  Always keeps us humble.

We make it home safe and sound. Remember, God won’t put you in situations that you can’t handle. What a relief.  Thank you God.

John 10:4 modified…”We will go…to bed.”

Signing off….Team embarrassed.

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