After another vigorous round of football in the courtyard with my boys, including a game in which the losers had to do pushups, I’m in a Tuk Tuk headed back to the hotel feeling less than fresh. Between the humidity, pollution and sweat – I’m not exactly feeling at my best. Cher puts in all in perspective: “If I was sitting next to you at home, I’d be really offended. But since the city just smells so bad in general, you are not that bad in comparison.” She sweetly informs me.

It’s been a busy day. Cher and I were up very early and headed to a village just outside Phnom Pehn for a meeting with the head of The Sharing Foundation, a multi faceted organization/school that has an impressive track record in their 12 years of existence. 32 of their village born students have already graduated – from college. Cher and I are there because The Sharing Foundation also has several multi handicapped children with CP and we are hoping it may be a place we can move Sum Nang too in order to give him a better opportunity at a productive life. Like any NGO in Cambodia, space and funds are limited and only time with tell if our little CP boy will find a home here.

After our meeting, we are off to the Olympic Stadium where Charam is competing in a karate tournament. Our arrival is timely and the kids wave madly to us as we enter the building, making room in the “CCF” cheering section. Charam wins his first match up and I’m busting with pride. Allie from the Azazi’s Foundation is also there with some of her kids, so I shamelessly pester her for a report on how Linna did her first night. She tells me that Linna has been charming students and staff alike with her quick wit. She’s a charmer, just like her brother and I am feeling very positive about her placement there. I can’t wait till Friday when I can visit her again. We felt it was best to let her acclimate for a few days but it’s been less than a day and already I miss her.

During the competition break I play more football because I’m simply a glutton for punishment and want to see just how many pushups I can do before dying in the Cambodia heat. The boys are rather impressed that someone as old as me can actually do pushups and take turns feeling my bicep muscles. I try to act nonchalant and not let on that I see black spots in front of my eyes and am incapable of speech. Cher decides this football/pushup game is certainly not for her and has a gaggle of girls around her learning Sign Language. They are fascinated with Cher’s ability to sign and are absolutely eager to learn. Leakhena in particular is a natural and Cher teaches her over a hundred signs. When it is time for her to leave for class, she actually uses her new vocabulary to sign, “I have to go to class”. Cher is beyond impressed and tells Leakhena and the other girls that she’s been trying to teach me for 15 years and they are already far more accomplished.

We return to the stadium in the afternoon for the next round of competition and Charam wins his second match. I’m an obnoxious stage mom yelling and taking photos as he moves into the final rounds. Unfortunately, he gets bested in the third match and is eliminated. I tell him how proud I am but I can tell he is disappointed.

With the day’s festivities over – Cher and I begin to walk the long walk across the Olympic Stadium grounds to the street to catch at Tuk Tuk. Then it happens: Poo Water Downpour. Its rainy season here in Cambodia and thus far we’ve been extremely lucky that is hasn’t rained yet. The skies have apparently decided to wait until we were in a wide-open parking lot far from any cover or transportation options. Drainage is not a concept that has made itself at home in street construction and the rain here can quickly build up into a noxious soup of pee, pollution and people. Cher is not thrilled to experience this new aspect of Cambodia and we make a mad dash for a Tuk Tuk figuring now is not the time to barter about price.

Now Cher is on the bed in the hotel beating to death a large bug that is walking across the spread and complaining that she just got out of a cold shower and is already sticky and sweaty again and needs another shower. My clothes from today are going directly into the sink for washing and I’m thinking it’s time for an $8 massage.

It’s not easy being clean.

– Heather E. Connell

Visit the Small Voices website for photos from Heather’s travels.

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