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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.


Genny said...

Looks like an amazing time, Annie! Thanks for sharing!

Genny said...

Oh, looks like this was an older trip. Oops! Well, it still looks like an amazing time!

Sari Puspita said...

Hello, I'm from Indonesia
Nice posting :)