After the daily chaos that was Phnom Penh, Cher and I have fallen into a comfortable routine. First up is breakfast and coffee/tea. “A caffeinated Cher is a happy Cher” my sister informs me. She has taken to ordering a Coke Light with breakfast as well after telling me one sleepy afternoon that her caffeine has no tea in it. The waiters at Shinta Mani hotel, where we are staying, are all graduates of the hotel’s hospitality school. The hotel runs a bakery and restaurant training program for older street kids and then provides job placement for them when they graduate. Many wind up working for the hotel and are all overly eager each day to show off their skills, including their English. You have to be carefully not to glance in their direction while eating – otherwise, they materialize next to you eager to offer more water or simply chat your ear off. Something we found out during our first meal with an overly friend young man named Lyda, apparently named by the Khmer Johnny Cash, perched himself at the edge of our table and didn’t leave the entire time we were eating.
After breakfast we are off to the orphanage via the Khmer Market. The orphanage is woefully lacking not only in proper things for little Sum Nang, but for all the children. Cher and I have become fixtures at the market, buying up powdered milk, baby items, diapers, formula supplements and other necessities. I suspect there is another reason Cher loves the market. On our first visit, she spied Mountain Dew in a cooler and nearly mowed me down in an effort to get to it. I suspect an addiction….
Sum Nang is happily sitting up in his wheelchair when we arrive, ready to begin his morning exercises. He is too cute for words are we go through with the Sisters and an amazing volunteer from Australia named Virgina his new daily regiment. Virgina has agreed to stay in Siem Reap for the next six months to make sure that the new therapy and nutrition schedule that Cher has set up is actually followed through. Though the nuns have good intentions, they also have 21 children and little help. Spending so much time working with one child is really next to impossible for them. I’m also grateful that my friends, Dr. Etolie Leblanc and Dr. Karen Froud from Columbia University, have agreed to provide additional assistance. This morning, Etolie brought a swallow specialist to examine Sum Nang. While he is being examined, I introduce Etolie to Baby Sum Nang – a 10 month old with a large growth between his eyes. We’ve learned that the name Sum Nang means lucky – ironic since both of the boys named Sum Nang at the orphanage suffer from medical difficulties. It turns out there is a small hole in his skull and fluid from his brain is leaking through to cause the growth. It will need to be corrected surgically and Etoile and I discuss options that may be possible through Operation Smile.