A helping hand

  By LYNDON ZAITZ Of the Keizertimes The telephone call came out of the blue. Late one evening in September Mike Smedema received a call from the family that had bought his house elsewhere in Keizer. The caller said they had been visited by a Japanese man with a bicycle looking for the Smedema family. The man was 21-year-old Masaki Takisawa. The Smedema family hosted him as an exchange student in 2012 as part of a program to help Japanese kids affected by the tsunami. The young man got to the Smedema‚Äôs previous house by memory. After a 2,900-mile bicycle ride. Across the United States. Alone. The reunion of Masaki (who goes by Masa) and the Smedema family was emotional and joyous. Masa wanted to find adventure and challenge himself and he wanted to see the United States. He decided to start his trek in Charleston, South Carolina and ride west. He chose to start on the east coast because for more than 100 years immigrants to America landed in the east and made their way westward. Working part-time in his home town Iwate Prefecture on the northern end of Honshu Island, Masa raised about $5,000 for his six-week journey. He is also currently a university student studying to become a teacher. The bike arrived at the Charleston airport in a box. Masa assembled it when he arrived in...

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