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Hello, Spirit of the Land

“Hello, gods and spirits of this land, my name is Yoshimi Horiuchi.
We will renovate this house to be used as a community library.
I will try my best to utilize this place for the entire community, so please protect us…”

Yes, I greeted out loud.

The village monk told us that if we wanted our activity to flow smoothly, we need to start renovating this month.

Yoshimi with ax

So for the first time in my life, I held an ax in my hand and tare off a part of a door.
Indeed, we REALLY are going to move into a new location!

I Believe I Can Fly, and I Did!

Yoshi in free fall

This is not a metaphor. I really flew, though it was just for 5 minutes. Let me tell you my seemingly once-in-a-lifetime experience of sky diving! I want to share how you feel when you jump from 3000 meters above without sight.

When I told my friends that I was doing sky diving for fund raising for my friend organization CYDA, supporting teenagers from hill tribe communities in Chiang Mai, most of them were horrified. But no worries, I didn’t jump alone. I did tandem, which means that I was strapped to an experienced professional sky diver throughout. We were group of four, and all of us except for Alex, a volunteer from London, had never done it before.

So last Saturday, after four hours of waiting at Thai Sky Adventures in Pattaya, we were assigned a partner each. My partner was Johan, a friendly guy probably from northern Europe. He was so great–explaining me every step and even letting me practice postures during the dive while we were still on the ground.

Climbing onto the planeBut this did not prevent me from getting scared to death as we climbed onto the small airplane. It was running at 80 km per hour only, but I felt as if I was in a unstoppable jet.

 

 

Praying for protectionI was asking my late grandpa and dad to protect me from wherever they are.
As we reached the height of 3000 meters (9000 feet), things happened quite quickly. First, another fund raising challenger Alex jumped out with his partner. My stomach felt strange when I felt the rush of air from the exit as they jumped.

About to jumpFinally, it was my turn. First I was almost sitting on the lap of Johan with my legs outstretched as if I were a child going on a slider with the parent. Then Johan moved in the same posture to the exit. For a few seconds, my feet was dangling from the exit, like I was sitting on a comfy bench. Then as I was leaning against his chest, Johan gave me the count of three, rocking his body slightly to give me the rhythm. Then, we were out!!

Free fall from the back

Free fall in the cloudsWe fell and fell and fell. No chance to scream. The free fall lasted 30 seconds, which felt so so long! We were on our stomach, and I was told to hold onto the harness on my chest, and my feet tacked behind me. Johan told me to imagine as if I become a big banana, but the air pressure was so much that I didn’t know banana or mango. It was like fighting against a enormous wall of wind.

Frog position from the sideThen he gave me taps on the shoulder, then I had to push my elbows out and palms down, as if I were a frog. This is to keep balance, I guess. It was not easy, but somehow I managed.

 

 

Close-up frog positionSuddenly I felt a big tag upwards as Johan pulled our parachute open. I cannot even remember if I felt going up or down, but it was so dramatic that I had to scream. Then suddenly, everything became quiet, as we slowed down significantly.

 

Parachute about to openMy friends told me that at that point, we were still on our stomach, but I felt as if I were standing. I didn’t even feel that we were going down, so I had to ask Johan.

 

 

Slowly descendingThen he showed me how to make a turn by pulling the string of the parachute, and this was so cool! As I pulled the left string, I would feel the left turn, and suddenly a strong sensation as if I was flying upwards towards the right. Later he told me that this is due to the gravity. I really felt like we were flying even though I felt a bit dizzy afterwards. As we were descending slowly, Johan told me that we were flying through the clouds, and that he could see the reservoir and trees below.

This was the best partThe touch down was very soft. I just had to pull my legs up for 10 seconds or so, and Johan let us land from our butt. There was no pain, shock, nothing.

 

 

Touch down!After all, the scariest part was the plane rising up to the jumping point. I’m proud of my team–Alex the volunteer, Frank and Pet (high school boys from hill tribe at CYDA), and myself–for not chickening out. I am very thankful to all of you who made contributions for our challenge 🙂 If you’d like, the fund raising website is still open and we would appreciate any contribution for CYDA.

Would I do this again? Yeah, maybe, a bit later. But I must say that at the moment, I am ever so grateful for my solid ground.

 

Hello Again, ICU!

When I graduated from International Christian University (ICU) in 2007, I never thought that I will be introduced in their clip to be shown to potential students and their parents. I still miss their campus in Mitaka, Tokyo, filled with green and beautiful nature, and even wild animals like tanuki 🙂 Oh, how many times I got lost in that huge campus?

Mr. Sato from Public Relations Office at ICU, and Tim and Bret who were in charge of filming really put their energy to collect good footage for the clip throughout the past 2 days. My colleagues at Bai Mon Library in Suphanburi were amazed at the level of details and sense of professionalism. The children at the library were happy to be in the camera as usual!

I’m half-scared, half-excited to see the end result in about a month. Thank you Sato-san and everyone for coming all the way!

Chilling Out at a Stake House (!) in Phrao

As our 3rd anniversary at Rang Mai Library was very successful, we decided to treat ourselves a bit over lunch. I was so surprised when someone suggested to go to a stake house nearby!! And I tell you, it was really close to our library–litearlly just around the corner.

And, here is what we had–P’Cha, Tuu, and Bhum had fried fish, and I had pork stake. We shared a tuna salad, 2 plates of French fries, and “honey toast”.

The taste? Hmmm… tasted like stake in Phrao. Those you have come to Phrao may know what I mean by this. If you are curious, come and visit!

I’m sorry I didn’t take the photo of honey toast. My colleagues said it’s too pathetic… Hahaha…

One good thing was the price. For all these food, we paid a bit over 500 baht. Good deal for sure. But we think we will go to a somtam place near high school next time :p

When a Polish, An Italian, and a Japanese Have Dinner Together…

This morning, I woke a bit earlier than usual, not only to enjoy the crisp morning of early winter in Phrao, but also to say goodbye to Anna and Andrea, a couple who has just started on a journey around the world.
There seem to be more and more of those globe-trotters who quit the job and go for around-the-world trip, but their mission is a bit unique.
Anna from Poland and Andrea from Italy want to travel from country to country, looking for “changemakers”.
We spent about a week together, getting to know each other, and talking about everything from history of pasta in Italy to the ideal system in the society.
For instance, it was so interesting as we talked about the second world war at a restaurant at a corner in town.
Even though I live in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, I get to meet so many fascinating people like them!?
How nice to run a grassroot organization, right?

Later, they will write about what I do with ARC team in Italian, Polish, and English!
Anna has written a bit about her experience with us here in her blog.

Anna, Andrea, it was so great to have you around!
Please stay safe and healthy, and may there be always kind people around you two during your long journey.
I look forward to meeting you in near future somewhere on this planet.

Packing Night

Tomorrow, I am off to Bangkok, then on Saturday, move to Bali, Indonesia for about a week to participate in a conference.
I am excited as I will be meeting my friends and colleagues.
It’s just that it would have been perfect without the hustle of packing.

As I travel long distance at least 2-3 times a month, packing is nothing new for my daily life.
But it doesn’t make me love it, unfortunately…
All the cables for dozens of gadgets I use, money in different currency, clothes of all occasions…
Thinking about all of that makes me sleepy already.
Where is my little fairy?
Even my cat ran away…

Cool Gift from Japan

This is not just a map, but a “tactile map”.
It’s a map which you can feel the landmarks and roads by touch.
It’s labled in Braille too, so Braille readers can read the map on our own.
I got this wonderful gift from Prof. Tetsuya Watanabe at Niigata University.
It’s so exciting to make many discoveries after 5 years of living in Chiang Mai 🙂
For instance, I didn’t realize how far out airport and the bus terminal are from the main square of the city.
I will bring a copy to the blind school in Chiang Mai, so that the children can learn the map of their city.

Thank you so much, Watanabe-sensei!!

Jump to Science 2015

Jump to Science 2015 group photo

From Aug. 12th to 15th, I participated in Jump to Science 2015 in Aichi, Japan.
18 students with visual impairment aged 12 to 18 participated to do various workshops in the math and science field, and just have tons of fun together day and night!
I was honored to be invited as a resource person to share my experience in Thailand, but I enjoyed my time so much, playing games, cooking, and chatting with new friends.
All grownups put so much effort to make this camp a fun event for the children.
And I was constantly amazed how proactive, expressive, and curious these students were! To be honest, much more than so-called non-disabled students of the same age from Japan.
So grateful for this unique opportunity to meet wonderful people of all ages from different background.
My Thai friends, let’s do something like this in Thailand!

Revelation at the Beauty Shop

Yoshimi with two pairs of scissors

For 32 years, I have no idea how many times I have my hair cut, but this very day, I have got a chance to touch their scissors for the first time in life!
You see, for blind kids (and grownup kids like me), if we don’t have a chance just to touch, we have no idea how anything look like.
I have always imagined that they must be much bigger scissors.
It may be something so trivial for you who can see, but it’s very important memory for me now.
You cannot imagine how many things around our life I have no idea how their shapes are, like doctor’s instruments, things that are used in professional kitchen, etc. etc., just because we don’t have a chance to feel them with our 2 little hands tongue emoticon
If you know any blind kids, let them feel everything around them! It’s easier to do when they are small–a bit awkward to ask when we are grown up, hahaha.