Sophy (So-pee) has grown into his head finally, which is a relief because I didn’t know if his twig-like body could hold up that dome for much longer. His top-heavy proportion made him a cartwheel expert though. He owned the roll, and I always laughed when I saw him cartwheel randomly as he walked. I hadn’t seen him cartwheel since I had been back so I asked him if he knew how by showing him. He gave me a sly smirk I couldn’t decode right before springing into a full front handspring with an effortless landing. I then understood the smirk to mean: “please…"
Sophy was one of my favorite kids on my last visit, and its great to be with him again. He is small and has a surprisingly deep and raspy voice. He is one of the only kids who is not forced to go to school because he has an unfortunate case of fetal alcohol syndrome. He is 13 years old, but looks about 6. Not too long ago he attempted to jump off the second story of the school because he was upset about something. The director ran over and caught him before he fell. But I’m told that things are getting a little better for him. He used to leave the orphanage during the day and walk around the city, sometimes for the entire day only to return at night. But now he stays at Palm Tree during the day. He still doesn’t go to class, even despite the gifts left behind by previous volunteers to reward his attendance.
I watched him play while Phearon told me these stories. He has always been a joyful and quick-minded kid in my eyes. It seems harmless now, but I imagine what will become of him when he grows older. No education doesn’t give him a future, and comprehending this while I watch him play turns a story about an uneducated boy into a reality. Imagine for a second your own child in the same situation, or a niece or nephew. Scary, huh? “He has no idea how important his education is,” I respond out loud, but it’s mostly a response to my own thoughts rather than the conversation.
I had a great time hanging out with Sophy the other night. We laughed a lot while he did push-ups next to me under the lamps. He has taken a particular interest in my indiglo watch. He likes how it glows at night, and pushes the button during the day only to clasp his hands around it to view it in his own hand-held darkness.
“You give?” He asked as he pointed to himself.
I laughed out loud. “No, I don’t think so.”
“When you leave? Me, watch?”
I thought for a second. “Tell you what. If you go to school while I’m here, its yours when I leave.”
“Yay!!” He yelled in his deep, raspy voice with hands held high.
Nita and I were teaching class the next day when a head poked through the door and looked at us. It was Sophy. “Come in!” Nita said. She gave him a word-search and a pen like the other children. He not only stayed for the whole class, but was eager to participate in the scavenger hunt and was constantly raising his hand to answer questions. I helped him with his homework at the end of class and upon walking out he turned to Nita and asked in Khmer if he could come back.
It hasn’t been easy to get him to come to class over the past weeks though. He goes through frequent mood swings and sometimes leaves class completely when he’s upset. We’ve been studying outside my door at night though and I can only hope it continues. The outcome seems rocky, something written in sand rather than stone, but I’ve discovered the decision is his.
I really like my watch, but it seems like such a small price to pay if it leads to his education. Even if he stops attending when I leave, two months is better than nothing. Funny how a watch can be a seed. I hope I leave for home with a bare wrist on May 16th.
|Sophy taking an exam.|
|Working on classwork.|
|Just being silly..|