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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time with Bali's Children

I spent last week on Bali, Indonesia's famous vacation destination. Bali is known for its friendly, relaxed atmosphere, its stunning rain forest to rice field landscapes, challenging surfing and amazing dive locations. As you may have understood if you've read the book, Eat, Pray, Love, Bali is also known as a spiritual place, a place that seekers of many kinds flock to, especially when their chips are down. I have been to Bali many times, but this was the first time I traveled there alone. This visit gave me the opportunity to get a better read on what makes Bali so special. More on this topic soon.

All activities at  Yayasan Anak Community Center, located in Bali's Guwang Village, begin with a prayer.  The prayer before my story reading was devoutly lead by an eight year old boy.
I went to Bali to participate in one of its finest events: the Ubud Writer's and Reader's Festival. 135 authors from 27 nations presented at the festival which was attended by thousands. The festival offers so much- workshops on travel writing, writing for the media, editing and publishing, writing a memoir, a short story or a novel, as well as the opportunity to hear many fascinating authors speak. The festival has a decidedly adult focus, but there were numerous story readings for children. And that's where I came in.

Being one of the few children's writers that participated in the festival, I was kept quite busy! But I didn't mind at all. I spent time at two wonderful international schools, did storytellings at numerous community centers, places that are similar to America's Boy's and Girl's Clubs, and a reading at Periplus bookshop.

I always love reading my books with kids. But my readings in Balinese community centers were extra special for me. Why? All these readings were bilingual and bilingual readings are always a bit of an adventure. But that wasn't the main reason. It was the kids. They came from local Indonesian schools, schools that don't have much in the way of materials, books or guests speakers. I am sure these kids have never seen anything like me- a crazy American woman dramatically telling a story and asking them to play some kind of odd musical instrument! The children were transfixed! When the story reading was over, they just didn't want to go home. This was especially true of the older children, who came entirely of their own accord; they soaked up every word I said. Their eyes were so bright when I talked about the power that books can have in their lives. Those moments were so dear, they brought tears to my eyes. Below are pictures from all my readings on Bali. Enjoy!

A bit of fun in the Pondok Pekak Library, located in the arts community of Ubud.

Most Indonesian communities don't have libraries, something we take granited in America. Though anyone can read in Ubud's small library, one must pay a deposit to take books home.  But the librian sadly informed me sadly, the deposit is too expensive for many Indonesian families.

The children of Guwang village were great listeners.
They probably thought I was a bit crazy, but the kids from Guwang seemed to enjoy every minute of the story readings.

Chunggu Community School students may have been dressed like their favorite storybook character, but that didn't stop them from participating in the story reading!

These are some of the eager kids who came to the Pondok Pekak Library in Ubud for my first ever bilingual reading of Adventures of the Treasure Fleet.  Whenever I talk with children, I always encourage them to read. I tell them, "Read books that you enjoy because books can take you anywhere you want to go!" However seeing how eager Indonesian children are to learn while knowing that they have very limited access to books, made my readings on Bali especially poignant!  
I enjoyed getting to know the fabulous interpreter, Alex Ryan, and her family. Thank you to Alex, Pauline, Gustra, Margareth, Caroline and all the festival volunteers who helped with my story readings! You were awesome!  

Superman, Dorthy and other favorite book characters played the musical instruments during Gecko's Complaint readings at Changgu Community School. 

The Ubud Writer's and Reader's Festival was begun in part to promote literacy throughout Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Many schools take advantage of the Festival by encouraging their students to attend story readings and by celebrating books in a variety of fun ways at their schools while the Festival is going on.

Fun was had by all at the the Pondok Pekak Library.

The kids enjoyed the songs.

The treats were greatly appreciated by youngsters who attended my Periplus bookstore reading.

The adults enjoyed the songs too, especially Margareth, who has quite a dramatic flare! 

 Margareth is a gifted interpreter. She flew in from Jakarta to take part in the Festival. Margareth's story is an interesting one; she is one of four sisters who developed a love books because of their mother who wouldn't allow them to watch TV or wander out in their village much.  However, their mom loved books and learning and she shared her passion with her daughters.   


1 comment:

Genny said...

What a pleasure to read about your fantastic trip. And what great photos!