The next day we got up early again and headed back to Phnom Penh. The
kids were sleepy that morning on the bus. A few of the girls sang a
soft lullaby for a while, but soon we were rolling quietly through the
misty lowlands. It wasn't until the first food stop, an incredibly busy
market at Cham Srei, that they perked up. We bought bread and bananas
and water and pomelo and papayas and continued on. We stopped again for
another bus blessing. It was sweet how the kids looked after the
driver, making him a banana sandwich.
Back in town I spent the afternoon at the orphanage. The kids that I
had not yet met mobbed me as I got off the bus. Everyone wanted to know
my name. Moreover, they wanted me to personally tell them my name.
Overhearing it wouldn't do.
One of the smaller boys, Toal is a particularly gentle soul. He had
been burned by his caretaker as a small child, the skin on his hands
and arms is papery and crinkled, but he has a winning smile and a
gentle touch as he grasps your hand and tows you off to show you some
sight or curiosity. I hold his tiny hand and fight back the tears
and wonder what the rest of his life will look like.
Another boy, small, wizened, emaciated, was found in the city dump. He
never spoke or responded to anyone until somebody brought a dog to the
orphanage, at which point he opened up completely. He too will grasp
your hand and take you off on miniature tours of wherever you happen to
be. He is developmentally disabled, but the staff at the
orphanage tells me he has progressed light years beyond his condition
on arrival. He colors in the most minute pointillism, applying one
parsimonious dot of color to each area on the page from the coloring
The girls showed me their classrooms, making sure that I saw their
particular drawings and projects scotch taped to the walls. We
had lunch, the kids eating fish and rice; I opted for a cucumber and
egg salad with a liberal dose of chili.
Begin repeated theme of: Nap. The Cambodians have perfected the art of
the nap, and readily embrace all manner of surfaces and circumstances