Monday, May 02, 2005


It happened a week or so ago, but I still find myself thinking of it at odd hours of the day, like now, in front of the computer, or yesterday, walking across the street, wondering if I would bump into the kid and knowing that that wouldn't happen, because he was elsewhere. Wherever that is.

Not that it was a major incident, or even a minor one; there was nothing special about it, because there was nothing special about the kid himself. I was in the company van, headed to work, and he walked across the street, dazed but purposeful. His eyes were blank, his clothes ratty, his hair a mess. (Okay, that could describe me, too, but.) He stepped out in front of the van, stopped, and reached out his hand, as if he were Obi-Wan Kenobi and had decided to use his masterful mastery of the Force to stop traffic in Phnom Penh.

The driver of the van wasn't fazed. (In Cambodia, you expect, and usually are rewarded, with various forms of traffic hurtling into your path at any and all times.) He simply honked the horn, and the kid stared at the driver for a moment or too longer. He then lowered his hand and continued on his way across the street, ready for more cars, more honks, more resigned indifference to his powers and his fate.

A lot of street kids here get off on sniffing glue from plastic bags. They sniff and they sniff and they huff and they puff, and they don't blow any houses down, no, but the slowly, methodically snuff themselves out.

I don't know if the kid I saw wandering into the morning rush was high on glue or yaba (the other drug of choice here) or his own unique illusions of life, the ones that told him that cars are anxious, if not eager for him to block and stop oncoming traffic. I do know that there are a lot of lost boys (and girls) in this town that remain hidden much of the time, not lurking, no, because their intent is not necessarily sinister, but stuck in the shadows nevertheless.

Every so often they come out of those same shadows, into the bright light of day. They make their presence felt, they are acknowledged, and then they go on their meandering way. Somewhere.

I'm not sure if I will see that same kid again, or if I'd even recognize him, but there are others to take his place. Other misplaced, displaced youths with deadened stares and outstretched hands. I don't know if those hands are reaching out to smack someone or caress someone.

But I do know that they're reaching.


AvoidingBillableHours said...

gorgeous description ... but I though "yabaa" was the catch-all term for drugs in general? At least it was such in Thailand.

Muktuk said...

Beautiful piece of writing. You should be keeping these ideas for a book soon.

My heart drops a couple notches when I read your descriptions, but I think it's so important that you're writing, documenting, and informing all of us.

I have heard about the problem with kids getting high in Asian countries. It's so interesting becuase it's comparable to the poorest socio-economic classes here where the members of that class are so poor that all they do is try to get high and look for food. That's much of their subsistance. They even become sexless because they don't exist in family units or groups even on the street, they're just wandering. A bottom feeder of sorts, just existing, but barely.

Muktuk said...

Forgot the last thought - it's comparable, but then it's even more heart-breaking that it's playing out with children.

Aren't they supposed to be the joys of nations and the children of governments and to be guided and helped as the nation's future? Shouldn't they be cherished and assisted at any and all costs? Instead of fighting for life, shelter, food.

How horrifying is it when kids are the poorest members of a society.

bethanie_odd said...

This is a very moving post. High kids, lost kids, kids with no runs deep there. I had strong reactions to children in Cambodia, good job describing some of the reasons why that is.

cecealias said...

Hey - I got your message from friendster. Thanks for writing me. I definitely want to chat with you more, as some of my interests and work take me in the direction of UNICEF, particularly in HIV/AIDS.

Part of my work is trying to get people to support the use of our rapid HIV test. Needless to say , it isn't easy trying to get buy-in when there is so much corruption going on.

I don't have a blog currently setup. Actually right now it's not even having the time to keep a blog but here is my email

Btw, it's Christina on friendster. :)