Mae Ra Moe - Day Two

Trip Start Dec 26, 2008
Trip End Jan 16, 2009

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

We awoke early this Saturday from our sleeping-bag slumber to the sound of crowing roosters, grunting pigs, barking dogs, the chatter of children, and the smell of cooking fires. At 4:00am the 'camp clock' first echoed throughout the camp. It began with a series of quick taps on a bamboo pole (to alert attention), and was then followed by slower beats of the appropriate hour. This rythm was repeated several times, until we could hear it no longer as it faded in the distance.

The aroma of breakfast preparations brought us out of our sleeping bags into the cool morning air. Bamboo houses are only as thick as the slat of bamboo placed on the wall, so the outside temperature becomes the inside temperature. We layered on our polarfleece jackets, and climbed down the steep ladder to the lower level of our RiverHouse Guest House. We were priveleged to have the amenities of indoor bathrooms and shower facilities. Otherwise, we would have had to visit the woods and shower in the stream. Around 9:00am we enjoyed a breakfast of steamed rice, vegetables, fried eggs, with coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.

At 10:30am we were priveledged to meet wtih some IDP Pastors (Internally Displaced Peoples). We all sat around tables in the guest house and introduced ourselves, and they, in turn, introduced themselves. IDP Pastors are like circuit preachers who attend to their congregation by consistantly traveling between several villages to preach, teach, and pray. They do this at great risk, however, as they are traveling within a war zone, and could be shot on sight. Each year many pastors and teachers, that are able to do so, will attend the annual Thanksgiving Celebration in Mae Ra Moe camp. Most walk for several days to a week within the war zone just to arrive at the camp. Here, they are refreshed and encouraged to be able to continue their difficult calling, and they give thanks to God for another year of life.

It is quite humbling to meet the IDP Pastors, realizing that they risk their life each day. We had planned to honor them at this meeting, and brought-out our gifts of warm Alaskan sweatshirts. We were also able to bless them with 1,000TB (Thai Baht) each (about $30) for their needs. Then we sang songs to them, they sang songs to us, and we all gathered outside in the (now warmer) sunshine for some photos. (Sorry, no photos of the IDP Pastors will be placed on our website in order to protect their identity).

At 2:00pm we enjoyed an adventure to the waterfall within the camp. Just reaching the waterfall was an adventure in itself! First we drove about 20-minutes from our guesthouse, and parked the truck for a hike. The first part of the hike was to cross a very high, very long extension bridge. The bridge had side-cables to hold onto, but the floor was flexible, so it would bounce and sway as we walked on it. (For some this was a courage challenge). Across the bridge, we meandered through the camp and steadily uphill on a path that brought us to the waterfall. We continued uphill around and over rocks of cascading water, and finally reached the waterfall and a refreshing pool for a swim. 

We also enjoyed a walk through the camp, and snapped photos of children and sights along the way. We saw both children and ducks playing in the stream. We saw some boys playing a game of TaKraw, and decided to try it for fun. The game is played with two teams on either side of a vollyball net. 
A hollow ball made from bamboo (about the size of a small melon) is served and returned by both sides while using only their feet or head. We found the Karen to be quite skilled at this game!

After our evening meal (around 6:00pm), we once again dressed in our Karen clothes, and made our 1-mile walk to the celebration grounds. This evening we were asked to sit in the chairs ON the stage just behind the podium. Jocelyn gave an overall introduction of the Alaska Team, and then each of us walked to the microphone for an individual introduction. Then, we all joined Jack on the chorus of his song, "Grace". Our selected speaker for the evening was Mark, and Deena assisted him with interpretation.  Then we were all treated to more Karen singing --- this time from nine choirs during the Choir Competition. Each choir represented a different church within the camp, and several of them completely filled the stage! The entire camp, we learned, is home to about 12,000 refugees.

Then it was back to the guesthouse via our mile-long flashlight walk for another slumber in our sleeping bags. What a terrific day!
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