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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.


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.

Unforgettable Sunday

Yoshimi with the happy couple

Parn has been my close friend since 2004, my first year in Thailand. We have been sharing a tiny tiny room in the suburb of Bangkok off and on for nearly 10 years.
On Sunday, she got married to Aba-chan, a Japanese guy who is running an organic farm at the foot of Mt. Fuji.
Next month, she will go to Japan to live with her husband.
Not having her in Thailand is just the same as losing a real sister.
But at the same time, I will have a new friend who will be in Japan when I go home.
Parn and Aba-chan, congratulations again for the memorable day of your life. I’m glad that you have found each other whom you can count on all the time.
Life is not always romantic. For sure, you will have bitter arguments and awkward moments from time to time.
When you feel tired and fed up with each other, look at the photos of your wedding, and remember us who are wishing all the best for both of us.
Happy happy wedding na!

Beauty of Bangkok People

This evening, I flew back from Yangon, and took a taxi at the airport. As I got off in front of my street, the rain started to pour like the sky turned the bucket upside down. I waited and waited for the rain to stop by the roadside, but it didn’t stop at all.

Finally, the lady who sells papaya salad across the street came over, and asked her brother to fetch me on his motorbike. I was almost soaked wet, but my inside is so warm with this act of kindness.

Moments like this really refresh my love for Bangkok. Within the caotic city full of ugly things, I have found countless people like this, going way beyond their way to help me. Yes, this is why I fell in love with this country, as Bangkok consists of people who come from all over Thailand.

Big Three

I’ve been 30 years old for 1 week already! Yes, the big three came and has become a part of me, but I don’t feel that I have changed the slightest.

Everyone, thank you very much for wishing me happy birthday. Thanks to the help of all the people, I have lived for 3 decades in this world already! Quite unbelievable when I come to think of it.

On my 30th birthday, I got 3 big birthday cakes! The best part is that I got to share them with my beloved ARC family and the young future-bearers of Phrao at Rang Mai Library. Thank you, guys, for such a memorable day in my life.

My 20’s was full of transitions and new experiences. I’m quite anxious to know what is waiting for me in my 30’s. We grow older every year anyway, so we might as well enjoy it, right?

Thanks again, and keep in touch!!

Million Thanks to Security Guards in Thailand!! (Letter from a Blind Bookworm)

With Security Guard Guy at the Stamp Shop, MBK (Jun. 16, 2012)
With Security Guard Guy at the Stamp Shop, MBK (Jun. 16, 2012)
    Those of you who live or have lived in Thailand must know that we can see a lot of security guards all around the country. Department stores, airport, bus terminals, stations, schools, government buildings… I cannot even imagine how many people stand on guard for all of us.

    But do you know that they play very essential roles for life of persons with disabilities–especially blind travellers like me? They are always there to help me navigate through the caotic city of Bangkok, get on the right bus at the terminal in up-province, and even to go shopping.

    Today, I met some friends at Victory Monument station, and went to Siam Paragon to stop by at bank. Afterwards, I went to MBK Center to pick up our new stamp for ARC. I did it all by myself BECAUSE I got help from security guard staff at every single spots. To honor their friendly and untold work, I would like to list up all of them here:

    1. At Victory Monument Station from the ticket gate to the platform
    2. At Siam station from platform to the entrance of Siam Paragon
    3. Inside Paragon, from entrance to the bank, and back to BTS gate
    4. At the Siam station, from the gate to the platform again
    5. At National Stadium station, from platform to the entrance of MBK Center
    6. At MBK, at the entrance to the stamp shop (with some wandering around, trying to locate the small shop), and back to the BTS (This is the guy in this photo with me.)
    7. At National Stadium station, from the gate to the platform again.

    I know that most of security guards might not be on Facebook, and nor do they read English, but I just want to take this chance to express my gratitude for their work that is rarely appreciated publicly. Brothers and sisters, without your help, my life in Thailand would have been much harder than it is!

    With much much respect and gratitude,


City Blind Mouse and Country Blind Mouse

I regard myself as quite independent in terms of daily life including mobility. I go anywhere I want to go on my own, although I do ask my friends to go with me in some occasions, like shopping clothes.

 I started to walk around without sighted guide when I was 15 as I entered a boarding school 800 km away from my hometown. There was no protective family and caring neighbors there. It was not easy at first as I am very bad at directions up to now, but practice makes somewhat close to perfect, right?

So I have taken it granted that I can move around like any other people. But… it seems that the country mouse has gotten used to the city life a bit too much and forgot about the countryside.

This month, I started to live in a small town called Phrao, 90 km away from the province capital of Chiangmai, the second-largest city in Thailand. Here, ARC will start two new projects in collaboration with Warm Heart Foundation. I’m very lucky to be here, and things are going smoothly, except one tiny stumbling block…

Near my house, there is a bus stop, yes. But the bus comes only a few times in an hour (if any). Almost everyone move around on their neat motorbikes, if not vehicle.

So how do I move around?

Well, lucky me again. My colleagues and friends here comes to pick me up and drop me at home every day when I go to work at Warm Heart office. If I need something to eat, someone can take me on a motorbike.

It’s just like when I go back home in Kochi… I totally depend on people around. The only difference here is that I have to work constantly, not just relaxing at home with occasional outings.

Needless to say, I feel so grateful to have friends who offer me transportation. And like the famous Isop fable, the country mouse love the modest and peaceful way of living that she has been used to from childhood. I must admit that I do miss the freedom that I enjoy in the city like Tokyo and Bangkok…

If ever possible, genious people out there, please invent motorbike for blind mice like me! I wouldn’t be greedy and ask for the car, you know :d

Or, maybe it’s easier if I get a horse, and train him to be my guide horse that I can ride anywhere in this beautiful countryside!

“Oh, I Have SOOO Many Friends!”

Today, I received a call from the mother of a blind boy. The boy’s family lives in Srisaked province, hundreds of kilometers away from Bangkok, and he goes to a blind school in Roi-et province under Christian Foundation for the Blind in Thailand (CFBT), which is even further away in the northeast. His mother told me that he is at home as it’s the summer break now. Here is a little chitchat I had with him over the phone, which happens to be the one of the happiest conversation I have ever had in Thailand.


Yoshi: Hi! How are you doing, dear?

Boy: I’m fine.

Yoshi: How’s school?

Boy: Oh, it’s fun!

Yoshi: Are the teachers kind to you?

Boy: Yes, they are kind.

Yoshi: Have you got new friends yet?

Boy: Oh, I have sooo many friends!


Why do I think this was one of the happiest conversation I have had in Thailand?

Well, that’s because this has been his first year at school at the age of twelve, and at one point, we thought we would never be able to get him into education system.


I met him about five years ago when I was an exchange student at Thammasat University. I visited my close friend’s hometown, and this boy’s family happened to be in the same village. My friend took me to his house, hoping that the parents could be convinced to send him to school.


He was very very shy boy, and was always staying at home. He has been to a blind school before, but his family had to take him back as he couldn’t stop crying, missing home. His mother is a lovely person, but she loved him too much, and din’t dare to let him go to boarding school alone.


Previous to that, I had met a professor from Poland, who really puts his passion into education for blind kids, especially in the field of tactile recognition. He kindly gave me something called “Wikki Sticks” which is a kind of soft rubber sticks which sticks onto smooth surface. You can form shapes and letters, and you can recognize them by touching.


So I tried to play with him with bits and pieces of Braille patterns and Wikki Sticks. But to my surprise, he was not at all interested. I soon realized that it was probably because he has never been expose to so much “touching” and “feeling.” I myself enjoy touching various objects around me and explore the world in this way, but obviously, this has been possible since people around me, like family and teachers, have encouraged me to do that.

Then, I really felt the needs for him to start learning in more stimulant setting like school.


Though it took a bit too long than we wanted, his family decided that he was old enough last year, and sent him to the school. And my goodness, how confident he sounded on the phone! It’s quite hard to put it into writing, but he sounded like a different boy. And how happy I was to learn that he now can read and write Braille, and best of all, “have sooo many friends!”


He showed the true power of education to me.

He taught me by himself that going to school absolutely change someone’s life, regardless of different circumstances.

I cannot be more happy for his wonderful start at school, and would love to congratulate his family to make a positive decision for his future.

Target the Market: A Blind Mouse Shopping Under the Sky

This weekend, Parn, my ex-roommate came to stay at my place. So we decided to go for shopping at a nearby local market and cook something for dinner together.


Now, the market… Actually, I love them. What I mean by market here is of course not the conventional supermarket with air conditioner. What I love is the traditional fresh market under the sky. When I travel to a different country, I cannot miss a visit to a local fresh market. I miss the local dialects thrown back and forth in the local

  • Sunday market in Kochi, Japan, my hometown. I smile to myself how we got shocked to find lots of chicken cages right in front of the chicken meat shop in Kerala, India. (You can imagine how fresh the meat can be, right?) In a way, it gives me a sense of locality much more than museums and famous infrastructure, as markets are filled with things that directly speak to all senses.


    Here in Thailand also, you can find fresh market anywhere, and they are filled with mouth-watering smell of freshly cooked food, cheerful calling voices of all sellers, and people of all ages. How I wish I could go there as often as I like! It would be so great to be able to walk casually to the market after work and get some fresh food that you cannot get in normal roadside stalls.


    But the problem is, a local fresh market is a huge challenge for a totally blind woman to walk around. Wait, let me put it again. I can walk around, yes, my O&M teachers, but to get what I need?? Hmmmm… that’s a different story. The small vendors constantly changes their spots. The market is normally packed with people, so my beloved white cane cannot be of much help (Otherwise I’d trip and poke a dozen of people there). Certain things are quite easy for me to detect, like grilled corn on the cob, grilled chicken, fresh and not-so fresh seafood, pungent durian, etc. But what about Chinese cabbage and tomatos? Eggs? Meat, yes, because I can hear the butcher cutting meat with bones with a big butcher knife. But how about bread and uncooked rice? Hmmmm, right?


    So a visit to the local market is a kind of luxury for me at the moment. Actually, there is a trick: I could take a motorbike taxi, and let the driver accompany me. But sadly speaking, those motorbike drivers are not keen shoppers like us many women… Someone techy out there, please invent a cool device that can shout out “Passing a meat shop!” and “Fruits to your right” to me.

  • Welcome to APCD Empowerment Cafe: Click to Access!

    As many of you might know, I’m working part-time at APCD (Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability) near Victory Monument, Bangkok. Today, I want to share a piece of news from there.


    From Feb. 3-5, APCD hosted an intensive working session to kick-start a new project called APCD Empowerment Cafe, or ECafe for short. It’s a nice and cozy cafe, but you don’t have to fly all the way to Bangkok to enjoy our coffee.


    Actually, it’s an online information platform, where baristas (like journalists in this sense) from 5 subregions of Asia Pacific region post interesting news, innovation, latest research, personal stories, videos, and photos about persons with disabilities.


    We are a team of 12: 1 cafe owner, 1 chief barista, 6 baristas, 1 chef, and 3 cafe staff, including persons with and without disabilities.


    As a barista mainly in charge of East Asia, I am determined to portray both positive and negative side of disability. Just like anything else in the world, there are both brighter side and darker side for disability. Persons with disabilities, just like you and me, have jumped up and down in joy and nearly drowned in tears out of despair. People with disabilities are as diverse as people without disabilities.

    It’s just that people have seen and shown negative side of disability much more than positive side of it.


    If you want a cup of information or a bite of knowledge, please visit our cafe.


    We also have

    Facebook page and Twitter.


    If you like the taste of our coffee/tea, please spread the words about us so that we will have more customers.

    The more, the merrier!


    Last but not least, if you have an interesting news/article to share, please send it to me via email.

    I am happy to cook it into a cup of coffee and serve it in our ECafe 🙂