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Journey Doctor


Thailand -- He Plays With Babies

My hands are shaking...

Feeding time comes at 11 a.m., and one of the Thai women gives me a bowl of oatmeal with a little bit of meat in it and points to this kid and now he's my charge.

I'll call him Hungry though he doesn't seem like it at first. He doesn't want to eat at all, but he does a little, then after he gets about a quarter of the way through he loses interest completely. I press him, putting the spoon up to his mouth and doing the humming and cajoling like I've seen parents do in the movies. My hands are shaking the whole time.

Finally he starts eating, then suddenly he's inhaling the stuff and I can't believe all this food is going into this little kid. He keeps giving me the wai, pressing his hands together like the Thais do when they say thank you but I'm thinking this can't be possible. The kid's two years old. How can he know how to do that?

She pees on the cop's lap...

The ex-cop is feeding Saucer Eyes, and he says she's doing the same thing.

Hungry finishes the oatmeal but not before the other boys come up and dig their hands in what's left of it and jump off my crossed legs like a springboard. The floor in this place is really hard, and the springboarding leads to head-conking and wailing, of course.

The cop looks down and notices there's a huge wet spot on his jeans where Saucer Eyes is sitting. She has urinated all over his leg. The orphanage can't afford diapers, so when a kid has to go she does it in her clothes.

Two showers are necessary...

Nap time up next, which means we're almost through, thank God, but first a shower.

The three Thai women march the kids into a shower room next door. When they emerge, they are all clean with no snot running down their faces and they are all wearing clean clothes and smelling like soap.

Then this two-year-old takes a big poop on the floor. Another kid walks over and sticks his hand in it. I have to lead the second kid to the Thai women and explain in sign language what that stuff is on his hand. Both kids are led to the shower for another go round.

They just want your touch...

Nap time. 11:30 a.m. Thirteen cots are dragged out, 13 pillows. The kids lie on the cots, some gurgling, some sniffling, some sleeping. And there's a boy and a girl crying.

I don't recognise them.

They've been here the whole time obviously, but they've stayed clear of us and just kind of blended in with the others.

The American cop and I look down at the two criers, and he says: "I know what this one needs." He kneels down and puts his hand on the boy's shoulder and the kid stops crying immediately.

I kneel down and put my hand on the little girl's back and she stops crying and shuts her eyes and falls asleep.

Women's words on babies...

Now the thing about having a baby - and I can't be the first person to have noticed this - is that thereafter you have it.

waaaa with spoonHaving a baby is like suddenly getting the world's worst roommate, like having Janis Joplin with a bad hangover and PMS coming to stay with you.

It sometimes happens, even in the best of families, that a baby is born. This is not necessarily cause for alarm. The important thing is to keep your wits about you and to borrow some money.

I feel sure that unborn babies pick their parents.

Home alone with a wakeful newborn, I could shower so quickly that the mirror didn't fog and the backs of my knees stayed dry.

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Penguins and the Paparazzi


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