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Monday, October 31, 2011

Travels in Asia,

My granddaughter, Alma, is one of the happiest people
I know. She particulary enjoys playing with balls.
Nazla's first time behind the wheel.
I recently returned from two wonderful weeks in Indonesia. Trip highlights were playing soccer, reading and hanging out with my grand kids, taking Nazla on her first spin behind the wheel and other perfectly delightful grandmotherly duties and helping my son and daughter-in law at their farm. I found a way to pack in numerous rewarding book ventures and I even found time to do a bit of writing. No wonder I was tired when I got home!

My grandson, Howi, is quite a lively fellow.
He always has something going on.

What did I write? I put the finishing touches on my next book, King of the Jungle. I’m not going to give the plot away just yet but it’s sufficient to say that it’s my most kid-pleasing book to date and I am delighted about that. The 3rd-5th grade students from Global Jaya International School in Jakarta were astonishingly enthusiastic about the story, especially since it was sans pictures; this eager group of kids was kind enough to give me some valuable feedback about the tale’s ending. Thank you, kids! What’s more, King of the Jungle quickly became my grandson Howi’s favorite book, despite the lack of illustrations and his fairly typical 4-year-old attention span. I can’t wait to see this book in print!

It was extra special to be there for Nazla's 11th birthday

Another highlight: Watching my son Jocean teach his kids the
same things we taught him. 

I very much enjoyed telling stories to the children at the YAT
community center!

 I so enjoyed doing presentations at this year’s Ubud Writers Festival. What I enjoyed most was the fact that for the first time, public school, not just children who attend private schools, came from great distances to attend the festival.
Story reading fun!
These students traveled from West Java to attend the conference.
These students and their teachers were delighted, no ecstatic, to be at the festival attending workshops on books. For, you see, it was the first time many of these kids had traveled by airplane anywhere as well as the first time they atteneded a book festival.

It warms my heart to see these kids enthusiasm for
books- and for life.

One classroom's library.

I got the sense that these students were absorbing everything they could from the festival. I gave one of their teachers a copy my book- you would have thought I had given him gold.

Why was that teacher so excited? These photos might give you a good idea. They were taken in the village school in Chimaliti, just down the hill from my son’s farm located 1 ½ hours south of Jakarta. The photo shows one classroom’s entire collection of books. This school has no library, and sad to say, neither does Chimilati or the larger town nearby. For you see, Indonesia has no public library system. This small shelf of books (and there were no great reads in the stack, I promise) are pretty much the only books available for the students in this classroom.

Can you imagine? It’s why I am such a fan of Room to Read which has built 12,074 libraries and distributed 9.4 million books in developing Asian and African nations. I encourage you to check out their work!

The school in Chimalati

The students from Global Jaya School offered great feedback on my new book. 

I also enjoyed spending time at Global Jaya International School during their book week. The week’s theme was “One World, Many Stories;” one day everyone dressed up in clothing from other lands which created quite a colorful display of cultures. They had four authors visiting for the week and all kind of special book-related activities. Thanks to Librarian, Deborah Cholesy, who created quite a motivating week for Global Jaya students!

Librarian, Deborah Clohesy, put together an amazing book week for the students of Global Jaya International School.
And finally, I was delighted to see the progress that’s been made at my son Jocean's organic farm, Lodges Ekologika, which is slowing being developed into a farmstay and a place to host workshops on the environment. What makes this farm so special is that everything being used to build the farm’s buildings has been produced locally or is from reused materials.

The entry hallway.

 This includes the Javanese teak buildings that have become the guest cottages, the gorgeous antique teak furniture they’ve refurbished and even the plumbing fixtures. Jocean and his wife Ayu are developing a unique and beautiful farm stay that destined to become a popular destination, especially because it’s located up the side of a mountain where it is cool and quiet.

Furniture in the process of being restored.

I read The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, a Memoir by Bill Bryson during my trip. Bryson is a fine storyteller; his stories always make me laugh, but this book, a memoir about his childhood growing up in the 1950’s in Iowa, hit a special cord with me. He wrote about how simple life was in America during the 1950’s, and about how happy people were during this time period. He lamented that in America today, we have more, we expect more, but we aren’t necessarily any happier for all our possessions.

And so, as I traveled in Indonesia, I studied life in this swiftly growing economy and this crowded equatorial nation. There’s was much food for thought. First of all, Indonesian food is delicious and abundant; I am a special fan of their fresh fruits- you’ve never tasted anything as good as a tree-ripened Indonesian mango. And their jungle landscape is stunningly different from California’s dry environs - it’s so lush that plants literally grown out of the walls. This lushness allows many people to gather wonderful foods, stunning flowers and other items that make their lives simple and rich. But it’s the Indonesian people that I am endeared to and fascinated by most.

They are surprisingly kind; they seemed to be filled with such a relaxed, contented energy, even when there are few books in their classroom or other challenges that we would squawk mightily and justifiably about.

I’ll give you an example- The people in Jakarta squeeze their cars into crazy small spaces as they try to make headway in their sometimes horrible traffic jams.
But they make room for others and they rarely get peeved even when someone cuts them off. Indonesians may break many of our traffic regulations but they do it with gracefulness and with patience, that it’s always a shock to return to California highways. Inevitably, on one of my first days back in California, I’ll make a small, jet-lag induced, traffic error and it never fails, horns blare for the longest of time. I want to tell these short-tempered Californians, “Listen buddy, why don’t you visit Jakarta? You’ll see you’ve got little to complain about here.”

Reading Bryson’s book, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between life in the 50’s in the U.S. and life in today’s Indonesia. Many Indonesians honestly don’t have that much and until recently, they didn’t expect to have much. But Indonesia’s economy is growing and as it grows, more Indonesians are gaining the ability to buy goods and become a part of the consumer world. This is obviously a good thing in many ways but I just hope that Indonesian will able to retain the relaxed, contented energy that I admire so much.

A few more family highlights inclded going to the Bali Safari Park with
Jocean, Ayu, Howi and the gang and some airport antics.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Strong press for All About Korea, Stories, Songs, Crafts and More!

My latest book, All About Korea, Stories, Songs, Crafts and More is receiving lots of postive press. Below and to the left are links to a few of the articles. I hope you enjoy them!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

KAAN Conference - A Letter to an Adoption Nation

I attended the KAAN ( Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network) conference, held last weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. KAAN was founded by my dear friend, Chris Winston. I've heard about the conference for many years but I've never been able to attend. I am grateful I was finally able to participate in the conference.
The conference was amazing! I enjoyed sharing my new book All About Korea and what I know about how adoptees and their families can "Create Authentic Connections to the Korean Culture." But even more, I was honored to be able to get to know many wonderful adoptees, their parents and siblings. I found the experience to be educational, thought-provoking and moving.

Next year’s conference will be held in Albany N.Y. on July 27th-29th. You can learn more about KAAN and their annual conference at www.KAANet.org or an facebook at http://www.facebook.com/kaanet?sk=wall. Check it out!

The poem below was written by a very talented young man, Stephen Johnson. It tells of the complexity, power and potential surrounding adoption.  Stephen wrote the poem during the conference and we were fortunate that he was willing to share it with all conference attendees. It is well worth the read! 

Letter to an Adoption Nation

By Stephen Johnson

Let me begin
With all my adoptee friends here
I think its funny that we barely knew each other
But it feels like we have the same exact mother
Blood brothers, join hands
And support one another
Blood sisters, join hands
And hold up each other
Let’s start a revolution of love
Because we know what its like
To be lost in the night

So, all who are able
Lets join hands with others
Who have no mothers
Brothers who have no others
And those who live at the margins
Because we’ve been there too
Sittin on the side of hurt avenue

This one goes out to all those birthmothers
You’re not alone, even though stones get thrown
And you never feel known
Because of some militarized zone that you feel in your bones
You aren’t perfect
I know you’ve been wrong
But who hasn’t?
You are strong
A survivor of systems stacked against you
Structures in place to displace
The only face you can’t forget
And I know you remember

And to the adopted parents out there
I know we sound angry at times, and I’m sorry
Just don’t give up on us
Even though we fuss and never shut up
About taking your kids to culture camp
You need us
And we need you
To be allies in a world
That defiles and lies
I’m on your side

To all those real Koreans out there
It may be news to a few
But I’m a real Korean too
I love gimbap, dolsot bimbimbap
I’ve even worn a hanbok
But more than that
We’re family

We’re all family
We’ve all got pain the size of a peninsula
Sometimes we keep moving just to move
But please don’t give up.
Even though the ground is dry and the grass is dead
There’s hope on the other side

So let’s start a revolution
Breaking down barriers
Of injustice, oppression, dejection,
And all those ‘ism’s that divide like prisms
Racism, ageism, sexism, narcissism

Let’s join hands and show the world
What their dreams can look like
And if the world tells you that you’re too small
That we can’t make a difference
Trust me seven billion people CAN be wrong

Monday, May 16, 2011

TV Interview/ Come on out to the Pacific Rim Festival!

Below is my recent TV interview on ABC. I talked with Sacramento and Company's Guy Farris about my latest book, All About Korea, Stories, Songs, Crafts and More.  I hope you enjoy my TV debut!


Come on out to the awesome celebration of Asian cultures, the Pacific Rim Festival! It will be held on Sunday, May 22nd from 10:00 am to 5:00pm in  Old Town Sacramento.

I will be there signing All About Korea and my other books. I hope to see you there! 

Monday, May 9, 2011

TV interview!

I'm going to be interviewed on TV on Wednesday, May 11th between 9:00 and 10:00 am. I will be talking about my new book, All About Korea. Tune in if you can!  The interview will be on Channel 10, Sacramento and Company, Sacramento/Stockton

For you out of towners, you can watch the show LIVE from your computer. It will be streaming online at www.sacandco.net. Just click “Watch Live.”

Or... you can watch the interview by searching the archives at www.sacandco.net. Look for the "All About Korea" segment aired on May 11th.
Tune in, then let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Launch for All About Korea, Stories, Songs, Crafts & More

My new book, All About Korea, Stories, Songs, Crafts & More is now available. Will you help me launch my new book?  I will be doing a fun, interactive storytelling of a silly yet thoughtful Korean tale. If you’re game, you’ll get to read the role of the naughty frogs or the ever loving mother frog! Kids will play a variety of frog instruments and we'll all become croakers. (You never know where life's going to take you!)

Here’s the details:
Thursday April 28th at 7:00 pm.
at Barnes and Noble
Eastridge Shopping Center
2200 Eastridge Loop Space #1420
San Jose CA 95122

And if you are attending the amazing LA Times book festival this weekend, I’ll be signing books there both days. I’ll be signing in Asian American Curriculum Project’s booth (#112) from 1-2:30 and Kinokuniya’s booth (#190) from 2:30-4:00 on both Saturday and Sunday. Stop by and see me; I’d love to see you!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A New Book's Coming, Lovely School Visits and Favorite Books!

I am delighted to announce that my latest book, All About Korea, Stories, Songs, Crafts and More, will be released in the U.S. in mid-March. All About Korea takes you to meet Korea's people, places, and traditions.  With dozens of stories, games, recipes and activities, readers will learn the most fun and fascinating things about Korea, from the countryside to the busy city like Seoul.

My two youngest children, Sarah and Jacob, were adopted from Korea.  I believe it’s important for each of us  to know our about cultural heritage, but it's especially important for those who were adopted from another country. Thus our family has gone out of our way to make Korean friends and to learn about the Korea and its culture. Writing this book was extra special for me; Korea became our dinnertime conversation, Jake helped with the development of the book’s crafts and Sarah helped with the recipes.

Educators and librarians, take note! During my lively, interactive All About Korea assembly, students will learn about Korea’s daring favorite games, unique holiday traditions and participate in the reading of a silly yet thoughtful Korean tale. But the All About Korea assembly doesn’t just celebrate the wonderful Korean culture, it celebrates all cultures of the world. Thus this delightful assembly meets the #1 National Social Studies Standard: Cultural Understanding! Contact me at abowler@surewest.net to schedule a visit your school or library.

To learn about my other story readings and workshops, visit http://www.annmartinbowler.com/. Learn more about All About Korea at: https://peripluspublishinggroup.com/tuttle/shopping/product_details.php?id=9780804840125

The next school I visited was anything but small!  My days at the Taipei European School were absolutely fascinating! Located in the heart of Taipei, Taiwan's bustling capitol city, the Taipei European School, better known as "TES," has more than 1,100 students from over 50 countries. TES offers instruction in English, French and German, though many other languages are spoken on the campus. The TES students that I polled speak an average of three languages a piece! Talk about a multicultural education! 

Below are photos, letters and even a newspaper created by TES students about my school visits.

Whenever I visit schools, I ask children, "What is your favorite book?" Some hands shoot up but others don't seem to have a favorite. So I always tell kids, "Find a book that you love! There is a book for everyone. Keep searching until you find that favorite type of book because books can take you anywhere you want to go!" My grandchildren, not surprisingly, are turning into reading nuts.  I've put photos of them and their favorite books at the bottom of the page. I hope you enjoy my blog!

The primary students from Garden Valley School very much enjoyed participating in the Gecko's Complaint story reading.

My friend Susan came dressed for the occasion. She made a fine Emperor!

The middle grade students at Garden Valley School studied explorers, which is what prompted my visit. They knew an impressive amount about the Treasure Fleet voyages and they asked many great questions.  

Thanks to the students from Garden Valley School for their wonderful letters. Here are a few of them:

Dear Annie Bowler,
I really loved the story of the Adventures of the Treasure Fleet. It was stupendous! I really liked the funny and weird instruments.
Zacheriali J.

Dear Annie Bowler,
Thank you for coming to our class to talk to us and read to us. I loved how you let us play the instruments and how you found the diaries from people 600 years ago. Thank the illustrator for her nice drawings.
Rachel S.

Dear Annie,
Thank you so much for coming to our class. The instruments were interesting. I've never seen anything like them. It's also interesting that you travel a lot. The book, Adventures of the Treasure Fleet was well written. I hope I can read, All About Korea when it comes out. I am so glad you came!

Students from 50 different nations attend TES.

A happy group of successful performers. T.E.S. teacher, Mr. Michael Smith, did a particularly fine job playing the bull roarer!

Just like anywhere, the parents at Taipei European School want their children to be successful in school. Many parents came out to hear my thoughts on how to help your children be successful in school.

Interestingly, the sixth grade students at TES were also studying explorers, which is what prompted my visit.  They too asked many wonderful questions, wanting to clearly understand the details of that went on 600 years ago in Asia.

Thank you to the students of Mr. Fagg's 6th grade class for the three amazing newspapers articles they  created. Keep searching for those accurate facts, kids!

My grandson Howi's favorite book is Dinotrux by Chris Gall. The book has so caught Howi's imagination, he searches for "dinotruxs" everywhere he goes! 
My granddaughter Nalza loves to take care of her little sister, Alma Rose. Nazla is always up for some fun. It comes as no surprise to me that Nazla loves the Boxcar Children books, the classic series about four siblings who take wonderful care of one another while having some real adventures.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reflections on Bali & Introducing Alma Rose

 I've been thinking about my experiences on Bali, about why this little island attracts so many people. What makes it so special? Certainly, the amazing scenery, the sun and the surf are all factors. But I've come to believe that it's the Balinese people, and their palatable spiritual energy, that draws people to Bali. During my recent visit, I had a chance to explore their way of life. This is a bit of what I learned:

Most Balinese live with their family for their entire lives. Each walled family compound has enough small homes for each nuclear family, a centrally located, shared, open-air kitchen, areas for livestock and a garden and most notably, a temple that is strictly for their family’s use.

Home of a family's elders   

Senior family members live in the compound’s nicest, and physically highest, home. Though females generally move to their husband’s home upon marriage, males stay in their parent’s compound for life. Family members eat together on special occasions but on regular days, each nuclear family eats by themselves.

Family members gather in their temple three times a day to pray.  The Balinese firmly believe that their ancestor’s spirits reside in their family’s temple thus family temples are vitally important to the Balinese. And so, regardless of income level, family temples are remarkably elaborate.  The Balinese believe that when someone prays in their temple, they are not only praying to their Gods, they are also beseeching their ancestors for guidance and care. This belief drives most Balinese to live with their family in their compound for their entire life, to destroy the family’s temple if they move, and to build a new temple at their new home. If a family member moves away for work or marriage, they return home regularly to visit their family and to pray.

Large numbers of Balinese gather regularly for weddings, funerals and spiritual festivals in village temples, community temples and public temples. Gedi Widianta, the wonderful driver who taught me about Bali’s form of Hinduism, estimated that there are more 1 million temples on the island of Bali. Though no one knows the exact number, temples are everywhere across Bali!

Balinese prayers do not stop at the temple gates. Every day, most Balinese make “offerings.” They make offerings by placing rice and flowers in a small, hand-made woven basket, which they reverently set on the street, the dash of a car, or in front of a statue or business. Some make offerings of beautiful arrangements of flower petals.  From what I understand, it’s the act of offering that is important. So if the dog eats the rice two minutes after an offering has been made, no one worries; the offering has already been heard.  

I read the phrase “All of life is your offering” painted in colorful letters on the side of a barn.  Gedi explained that these words explain why the Balinese pray so much, as well as why they are always happy to help others - it’s their offering.

The fact that generations of family members choose to live together in the same location, and that neighbors, whole villages, have known one another, have helped one another, and have prayed together for generations is simply remarkable. I can’t help to think that these deep bonds change the way a person lives, how lives are played out.  It’s fascinating to witness the ramification of so many long term friendships, such strong communities and of communities that pray together so often.  The Balinese people might not have much in terms of wealth, but they are truly rich in spirit!    

Jakarta Time and Introducing Alma Rose

From Bali, I headed to Jakarta, an absolutely massive, crowded, fascinating city. But it’s my second home, due to the fact that my oldest son, Jocean, his wife, Ayu and their two children, Nazla and Howi, live there.  Their third child, Alma Rose Maharani, arrived on October 18th, healthy as can be. I think Alma going to be a very kind girl; she must have known that I had to go home in early November so she came two weeks early so we could spend a bit more time together.  I feel so blessed to have had extra time to spend with perfect little Alma. It was also special to watch her family interact with and to get to know this new, tiny person! 
It’s fun to watch the enormous impact a tiny, 6 1/2 pound person can have on the people around them! Alma is 3 weeks old now. I thought you would enjoy my son’s recent report,
“…..Ms. Alma finally showed signs of sleeping at the proper hour last night. She is doing well, rounding out about the upper cheeks/temples, actually
considered naming her Alma-hungry-mungry, starting to smile and getting rather noisy. Still tiny, but growing quickly, avoided the flu that all the rest of us got, it seems. The combination of heavy antibacterial milk intake and her setting the rest schedule for herself in total disregard for all other family members seems to be treating her well...Oh! It appears she heard these complaints, time to grab her!"

Besides spending time admiring and tending to Alma and hanging out with with Howi and Nazla, I was able to celebrate Halloween with them, Jakarta-style. This means that we had a lot of fun dressing up and prowling about but not a lot of luck in the candy and trick-or-treating departments. The evening's highlight was having dinner in a mall restaurant. Folks thought our duck/dinosaur/p.j/old hippie clad crew were truly crazy Americans!  Lots of stares...

I also had time to work with my son at his organic farm and soon-to-be-open farm stay, Lodges Ecologicia.  I got to help arrange furniture in the main buildings, one of my favorite activities. They are creating quite a place there, a true refuge for those wishing to escape the Jakarta scene. I can’t wait until it’s open in earnest!    


While in Jakarta, I spent time at two schools, Global Jaya International School and Jakarta Montessori School. I had a fabulous time at each school. I would like to thank Carol Engmann and Deborah Clohesy for inviting me to their schools. A few photos from those visits are below.

 All hands up at Jakarta Montessori!

Miss Noni's preschoolers may be small, but they are good listeners!

Cute kids, especially the one to my left, who happens to be my grandson, Howi!

I had a wonderful day at Global Jaya International School, which has 700 students and is located in West Jakarta. 

Whenever I spend time in schools, I tell students, "Find books that you love! Books can take you anywhere you want to go! Adventures of the Treasure Fleet takes you back 600 years to explore a fascinating piece of Asian history, Gecko's Complaint takes you to a Balinese rain forest that's packed with foolish animals, while fantasies take you to places that don't even exist! There are books on every topic, so no matter what you enjoy, what you are interested in, there's a book for you. Go to your library and find that special book because..... books can take you anywhere!"

Luckily, the students at Jakarta Montessori and Global Jaya International Schools have great libraries to utilize. I wish all Indonesian children were so lucky!

I had one last snuggle with Alma Rose before heading home.