Famine hits again and Loung grows weak. She gains a permission slip from the reluctant Met Bong to go to the infirmary, which is a few hours from the camp. She reflects that another New Year’s has passed, and counts the dates since she has last seen each member of her family; dates are the only “sane thing” she knows can understand in this new world. Loung reaches the makeshift infirmary and thinks of how Keav died there alone. When people are too weak to work, Pol Pot sends them there to die.
Loung having to walk miles while ill further reveals the terrible living conditions in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. She continues to feel deeply connected to her family even in death. Finally, her assertion that Pol Pot sends sick people to the infirmary to die reiterates the Angkar’s utter disregard for the value of human life.
Loung hears Ma calling to her and thinks she has gone crazy until she sees that Ma, Geak, Chou, Kim, and Meng are, in fact, all really there; it is the only infirmary for miles and all came with separate ailments, which Loung quickly deduces have been caused by starvation. Kim says work in his camp is similar to her and Chou’s, and also has propaganda meetings. Meng still lives with Khouy and his wife Laine, though no one asks about her, having learned that under the Khmer Rouge some things are better left unsaid. No one brings up Keav or Pa either, choosing to keep their memories private.
Starvation and malnutrition are clearly widespread, pointing to Khmer Rouge cruelty and inefficiency throughout Cambodia. Despite the time that has passed, the Ungs remain deeply bonded to one another and find strength and joy in being reunited.
Loung is still starving and steals a ball of rice from an old woman in desperation. She knows the woman will probably die, and feels she has “put a marker” on her grave. The family is able to stay happily together for a few days, though they’re still hungry. Loung has a nightmare about Keav transforming from her beautiful figure in Phnom Penh to skin and bones. Loung vows to steal food the next morning to stay alive. After a week she is kicked out of the infirmary to make space for new people. She looks back at her family as she walks away, wondering when she will see them again.
Loung again makes a painful choice in the name of survival, stealing rice as she did from her own family years before. The thought of Keav grants her strength, however, as well as the knowledge that her parents and siblings would want her to do what it takes to live. Loung’s final musing about when she will see her family again creates a sense of foreboding.