Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Wonder Of It All

Nine days ago Peelawat became 6 months old. He is doing very well.

He has been living in Tahsang Village for about two months now. He spends most of his hours inside the family's small market in the village. If he is not awake, he is sleeping in his homemade hammock at the back of the market. When he is awake he is either being held by someone or motoring around in his walker.

Peelawat's life is typical for a baby in an Isaan village. His world is filled with many care givers. Relatives and neighbors ensure that there is always someone holding, playing, or talking to him whenever he is awake. Although babies and children in Isaan do not have many toys they are exposed to a great deal of mental stimulation through interaction with adults and other children. Grandmothers and aunts in Isaan ensure that there is always a pair of arms and a smiling face to care for the little ones. People talk to and joke with babies a great deal. In addition village children of all ages manage to stop by to talk to and entertain babies several times a day.

The children play and amuse themselves with whatever is available. For Peelawat a cardboard box, a plastic bag, bags of snacks, a blanket, a plastic bottle of talcum powder, my foot inside a sock, and a small Winnie The Poo stuffed doll are enough to keep in busy while awake. Sometimes he is satisfied to just scratch and grab my face or pull the hair on my arms. For Kwan, who is 1-1/2 years old, her days are spent playing in the sand with a broken bowl and a plastic plate. When she is bored with filling and emptying things with sand she walks around to Duang's mother's house to check up on Peelawat. Older children in the village play with balls and bicycles. There is not much television watching available for the children.

Peelawat has learned to motor around in his walker and keeps himself occupied playing with the bags of snacks displayed in a metal rack in the market portion of the room. He is constantly exploring his world by either scratching things or bringing items up to his mouth for analysis. I did not think that it was a good idea for Peelawat to be playing with merchandise or chewing on a metal rack so I grabbed his walker with one hand and attempted to pull him away by turning my wrist. No luck. Peelawat hung on with all his might and silently resisted my effort to move him away. It was quite comical. After awhile of playing tug of war I used both my hands to pry his fingers from the rack and relocated him to another part of the room.

Yesterday, he started to crawl for the first time. In five minutes he had managed to tip over his basket of lotions and medicines, grabbed a bag of boiled peanuts, and made a good run at getting to the electrical receptacle at the end of the extension cord.

The other day when he visited us at our house, he was fascinated by the stereo system. He was aware of the music coming out of the speakers but kept looking as if to find the people singing. He is curious about everything.

He sleeps in the same bed as his mother and father. He is the first one awake and starts each day off by slapping his mother on the leg two or three times before scratching her with one hand. He then does the same to his father.

Whenever Peelawat encounters a new object, he first checks it out by slapping it two to three times and then giving it some detailed scrutiny by scratching at it with his thumb and fingers. He is constantly probing and investigating his environment.

Although he does not have many toys, he is getting a great deal of stimulation from direct communication and contact with people. The television does not substitute as a care giver for him or for many children in Isaan.

People in Isaan make do with what is available to them. Peelawat is learning at an early age to adapt. So far, he seems to be enjoying it very much - the wonder of it all.

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