It’s my last day in Phnom Penh and I’m already dreading saying goodbye to the kids. I know the day is going to pass much too quickly and we’ve got a full schedule to attend too. From 10am to 3pm there is a citywide karate tournament for all the kids in the various NGO’s. It is taking place in a large arena at the nearby Friend’s School and Charam and Bunlong are beside themselves with excitement and pride. They are both competing for CCF and have already dressed themselves carefully in their ghi’s and belts. I’m a little stuffed with excitement and pride myself and am thankful that I am actually there for such an important event.
The arena is about 120 degrees and Karen and I are drenched with sweat within minutes of arriving. She goes off in search of some warm bottled water and soda and I secure us a prime spot sitting on the stage facing the front of the competition floor. The organizers are trying to keep the heat down by keeping the lights fairly low. I am not sure this is really having much of an impact but I’d rather not test the theory by raising the lights. My thin grey shirt has become progressively more transparent in this sauna and lights would probably just add to the show.
Bunlong is up first and he and another boy from a competing school each demonstrate various karate forms. Bunlong wins his round but loses his second and is eliminated from the next match up. When they call Charam’s name my stomach is in knots hoping he does well. I move right up to the edge of the mat with my little video camera like an obnoxious stage parent and bounce nervously on the sidelines. Being bias, I think he absolutely kicks the other kid’s butt. However, I find myself holding my breath waiting for the judges’ decision. Charam wins the round and runs over to me with a huge grin on his face. I give him a big hug and kiss and tell him how proud I am. He struts away looking very pleased with himself.