I stayed at Rainbow school for two weeks this time. With a sudden change of plan, I joined forest stay for 4 days with Takeshi and villagers to catch fish from the day after my arrival. After the forest stay, we had three day sport festival. On the new year’s eve and new year’s day, we went to Sangkhlaburi for street live. The stay was incredibly rich and full of activities.
[Forest stay and villagers] We left Chule village early morning carrying rice, hammock, knife and headlight only. Started with pleasant hiking, it changed to steep climbing paths where I slipped sometimes. With kind support by the villager who walked slower to pace down with me with constant breaks, we took 4 hours to get to the destination. As I walked behind the villagers, I was surprised to find out that they were wearing flipflops. Arrived was by the river where we based in this forest stay. After we hang the hammocks, we went into the river for catching fish with a spear. It was as simple as spearing fish. While they caught easily one after another, I could not even find one. When 30 minutes passed, I found a mountain of fish by the bank. Even at night, they dived in with the headlight on. Because the fish were sleeping and less cautious, they caught even more than day time. I ended up catching up non after this four day stay, when each villager caught more than 100. On top of that, their skills were ranged from cleaning fish with knife like a chef, utilizing bamboo in many ways such as boiling water, making bamboo stages where they made smoked fish, cups and plates. They even found a natural herbs for cuts and injuries. Their survival skill is beyond human. Perhaps I would die in a few days if I were left. I was envious to see their skills and awed by the gap between them and myself.
[Genso as an interpreter] I would like to mention that a key person or even hero who saved us was Genso, the eldest son of Tomoko. He is only 6 and fluent in both Japanese and Thai. He accompanied us as an interpreter. Although it was 4 hour journey, he didnt wear shoes nor sandals. I was utterly shocked by his strong feet. He was an entertainer talking through the journey, showing us insects and plants we found on the way. As soon as we arrived, he got naked and ready to catch the fish with spear. Thanks to his language skill, villagers and I became friends and communication was smooth. He is like the youngest superman but I was relieved to see him cry from homesick making me feel that he has an aspect of six years old. I wish he grows into a kind and strong adult. Keep it going Genso!
[Life in the forest] Obviously, there is no lights in the forest and becomes pitch dark soon after the sunset. No mobile connection either. No toilet means that you have to find an appropriate location for toilet. We wash in the river. Hammock we sleep in is not comfortable. Every meal we have rice we brought and fish with mountain vegetables we find there. I was confused as it was almost opposite to my life in Tokyo on the first day, but I began to notice that I adapted to the forest life from the second day. At least, I started to feel no stress when there was inconvenience and notice that my five senses were sharpened and open more. Life with hunting and catching fish, cooking with fire and sleeping by the fire gazing the starts made me feel at ease. On the last day, I felt that I want to stay in the forest even longer. I believe we all subconsciously pursue materials and status or search for better efficiency and convenience in order to have more comfortable life. Although I have lived with that perspective and values for long, I noticed that these beliefs were shaken through this experience where I felt simplicity and purity in the environment where I felt “the earth and myself”. I would like to phrase that “there is nothing and everything.” I really recommend that those who live in Japan attend the forest stay. (Since I came back to Tokyo, I kept recommending to my friends)
[Sport festival] Soon after returning from forest stay, started a grand sport festival that lasted for three days. This event invites not only children from Rainbow school but local children and adults too. The first stop was marathon, then followed by some Japanese sport games and Thai sports such as Sepak Takraw, Saba and petanque, all competed by two coloured teams, yellow and green. After I played pretty well in Saba allocated in team green, I had a sprain during 100m sprint. Shamefully, I had to rest and withdraw. The peak was dance competition on the last day. Team yellow practiced cheerleading led by Takeshi. I peeked their practice though the quality was rocket high. I was amazed how children remembered the choreography in such a short time, as well as Takeshi’s leadership and creativity. Therefore our team led by Juju and myself decided to apply a different strategy, a Japanese traditional style with fundoshi, Japanese underwear. In spite of our effort, team yellow won the challenge. I had to admit that team yellow delivered a perfect performance. However, I was touched by how cute these children with fundoshi were, doing cartwheels, so that was a winner for me. At the end of the event, we were giving hug to each one of us appraising. It was filled with blissful feelings during hugging everyone, with shared sense of solidarity and achievement after three days of range of sport games under the beating sunshine. This wonderful event was possible through collaboration between children and adults. I was particularly struck by teachers’ involvement in playing games as a player in full, encouraging children relentlessly, preparation and supporting as a judge. I observed a great team working both in children and teachers at the school.
[Musical] In addition to the sport festival, children showed the guest their original musical. Although they were nervous and still not fully confident as it was a premier, each child performed fully an allocated role in a performance area set using the natural environment. Featuring dances that delivered skills and characteristics that were well reflected a range of age, it was a spectacular with well thought story and structure throughout, in which I lost sense of time watching. The most surprising was that it was performed in Japanese. There were sentences that were difficult even for Native Japanese to remember and say. I was deeply moved by the fact that these children fully engaged in performing this musical in Japanese, in a remote and far place from Japan. If no one was around, I would burst into tears. (My eyes are wet now while writing this) I believe they keep polishing the musical up and can’t wait to watch it again next time.
[End words] The children at the school was so friendly that they talked to me without any hesitation. Although I had a few worries before the visit, it was immediate to get used to and make me feel at home thanks to the children. Now I really miss them back in Japan as I began to know each personality and have a conversation with children. Unlike Takeshi who can teach dance and play the violin, I was slightly frustrated by my lack of skills to share only to find myself contributing just by playing. Because I was given so much from the children, I want to develop myself further so that I can also share and give something to them. Thanks to teachers, Tomoko and Yusuke, other volunteers, my precious experience at the school left me speechless. Thank you very much. I will visit again. PS: Just after I came back to Japan and missed the school, I have booked a flight ticket to Bangkok three days later.