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 book.
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 as nap-worthy.

Copyright Estate of Anthony Vail Sloan 2009