One afternoon in one of the hospitals we visited in Tokyo the roles reversed during playtime. I became the patient and a group of little girls crowded around me as I lay still on the ground waiting for my “treatment.”

They worked like busy little bees and buzzed around me saying things I couldn’t understand. I could see their minds working: weaving their past experiences into their play. I was handed little toys that I was made to swallow like medicine, fed specifically chosen meals, and had my body pulled in different directions methodically. The girls never tired of this game. They went on like this for over thirty minutes, constantly moving and creating a whirlwind around my still body. Most of the time I had no idea what was going on. It was hard work trying to figure out what they wanted me to do. My one comfort was when the smallest child handed me her doll “Popo-Ja” to hold onto and patted me on the head with a smile.

That day I got to experience what it’s really like for these children in the hospital.

Caught in a bee hive. What’s everyone doing? What’s everyone saying? I don’t understand what you want from me. I’m so confused. Please don’t sting me. When will the buzzing stop?

I need my Popo-Ja.

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