Sunday, March 1, 2009


Today at Taring Padi we played badminton. For the past two weeks the Tuesday class has been quiet. Many of the children have been busy with other things. While they still come to the library to read books, the Tuesday class has been conflicting with other activities. Which, of course, is to be expected sometimes. The children have a variety of activities in Sembungan village. Several of them have recently been rehearsing for a gamelan performance. Most of them frequently have activities at the mosque. Others are busy babysitting their younger siblings while their parents are working. And some of them just want to take the day off to play.

At the library, however, there are still always things to do, and I take advantage of a quiet day to work with one or two children who do come to clean up the library, organize, and like today, catalogue new books arrived from America. After our hard work, we grab the badminton rackets to play a game of badminton in the yard in front of Taring Padi, and wait for the sun to go down.

Late afternoon is an excellent time of day in Sembungan village. By this time the heat has cooled down a bit and the sky is a deep red-orange. The neighbors are freshly bathed and outside, conversing and enjoying the last light part of the day. Many of the villagers stroll over to Taring Padi, the ibu's (women) holding their freshly powdered babies, an older woman with a new batch of betel nut leaf stuffed in her bottom lip as she sits on a swing and watches our rackets fly. The birdie of the badminton game swoops in the air as Bulan lets out her roaring laugh, two butterflies dancing around the birdie as it soars. A man strolls over in his sarong with his small child to return a book to the library, exchanging it for a new one, while another woman comes with a bag of jewelry and other trinkets to sell to her neighbors. It is peaceful in Sembungan village at this time of day, as we play badminton at Taring Padi until the birdie and butterflies are no longer visible, until the old woman with her betel nut leaf strolls home, and the sounds of the call to prayer (maghrib) echo into the night.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


What are birthday traditions like in different parts of the world? In Indonesia, individual birthdays are not as big of a deal as they are in say, America. My birthday memories in America include birthday parties where all my schoolmates were invited, presents were exchanged, cakes were eaten, and games were played. As a child, a birthday was a big deal for me. A birthday was something to share with everyone else, a day where I became the star. For my birthday this year, I decided to throw a birthday party with the children at the Taring Padi library. I did not do this, however, to become the center of attention, but rather, I thought it would be a fun way to share some of my own traditions with the kids, and have an excuse to throw a party!!!

For the party we played dress-up with wigs and various costumes, which the kids absolutely loved. Then we drew tails to play 'Pin the Tail on the Donkey', a traditional birthday game from my childhood, only this time it was 'Pin the Tail on the Dog'. We also played a game where the kids had to throw a ball through the nose of a clown, and then had a bit of balloon mayhem, where there were more balloons than children and we had to keep all of the balloons from touching the ground. So much fun! We didn't have a cake or candles, but we had some yummy snacks including rambutan, a hairy Indonesian fruit similar to lychee, which is currently in season and for sale on the streets everywhere.

The biggest surprise for me on this day was that the kids had gotten together beforehand, and prepared some 'birthday presents' for me. Wrapped and everything. I did not expect this at all! The presents were wrapped in traditional birthday paper, and inside recycled food boxes I discovered a huge variety of little jewels and gems, earrings, hair clips, pencils, handphone decorations, key chains, notebooks, and even a couple of motorbike stickers! Very, very sweet. Their letters included in the boxes touched me so much, wishing me a good year to come, a long life, happiness, success... all addressed to 'Kak Emilia', or, big sister Emilia.

It's been over a year now that I have been actively involved with the Taring Padi library. New children show up every day, and the old ones from before still stick around. It's a wonderful group of children, and we are lucky to have created our own little learning community. The kids are fun, sweet, eager to learn, and of course, love to play and have fun. What more could one ask for? It's a wonderful job to take on, and there are new discoveries every day!

Drawing Class

Ucup has been teaching a children's drawing class in the library on Sunday afternoons. Here are some of the pictures from his class!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

We're back!!

Class is back in action!! We began again two weeks ago, and the children have returned with fervor. Class numbers are rocketing, with more children from nearby villages showing up to join in the fun. We gather every Tuesday afternoon, from 4pm-5:30, before call to prayer at 6. Many of the children are brought to class by their parents, who are ecstatic to have discovered a free English and reading class. Other children who live closer ride their bikes. Last week we learned about animals, and played games which challenged the kids to bring the animal characteristics into their bodies, while helping them to memorize the names in English. We also read a fabulous book sent from our good friends in Seattle, titled "And the Bear Snores On", about a big bear who hibernates in a cave while the other animals party around him. Very cute, and fun for the kids. So things, at last, are back to their normal routine, with new excitement to learn and grow together!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tree house!!!

At last, the wonderful treehouse is finished. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten a picture of the children playing in it yet, which they usually do every afternoon as the sun sets, but I can guarantee you that it is a well loved new addition to the library playground. More pictures soon. Thank you to the Littles!!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Break for Ramadhan

Since September 1st until the beginning of October our weekly English and reading class will be on vacation. The reason being, of course, is for Ramadhan, the Islamic fasting month. Most of the children who usually join class are fasting and have activities at the mosque in the evenings.
Yogyakarta during Ramadhan has a unique feel to it. In the days many food stands are closed, and most people aren't eating or drinking anything. By five o'clock the snack stands begin to come out, until the streets are full with stands selling everything from fried spring rolls and tempe, to fruit juices and coconut sweets. Between 5:30 and 6:00, before sunset, is Maghrib, and the call to break fasting (referred to as buka puasa) calls out through the speakers in every nearby mosque. People at this time gather together to eat and drink, breaking their day-long fast. You will often hear fireworks throughout the village at this time, as people like to set them off after fasting has been broken. The eating continues into the early morning hours, until before sunrise when the call for "Saur" (Imsak) rings out, a call to eat one last time before fasting begins again until the following evening. People wake up to walk to nearby food stalls or cook at home, and the diligent ones from there go to the mosque to pray.
Thus are the activities of our little students for the month. I've observed that most of the children are quite diligent with their fasting, and there's a sense of excitement amongst them in the evening hours when they eat together and enjoy all the yummy treats they've gathered. Ramadhan will end with Lebaran, also known as Idul Fitri,which means to festively break the fast, and is coordinated with the first sighting of the new moon. The important and fun part about Idul Fitri is the gathering of community. People wear their best clothes and visit from house to house, drinking sweet tea and specially made pastry snacks together. They gather with their family and friends to ask forgiveness for any wrongdoings they have committed in the previous year, often expressed in the saying: Mohon Maaf Lahir Batin, which means "forgive me from the bottom of my heart/soul for my wrongdoings in the past year". This year Lebaran falls on the 1st and 2nd of October. After that, our weekly classes will begin again, with new inspiration and fervor!! Until then, it's back to organizing books and joining in the festivities...!

For further information about Ramadhan customs in Indonesia, try visiting the following website:

Friday, August 22, 2008

Special Guests and New Improvement

The past two weeks have been very busy at the Taring Padi Library. From August 11-18, we had special guests from Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. The Littles (Julie, Dan, Grace, Garrett, Mary-Jane, Mark, Jason, Jacob and Eli), in the short span of a week, helped us to establish a garden, build a swingset, and make a fish pond and fountain in front of the library. In this process the parking garage was relocated, books reorganized, tables painted, and more books, learning posters and a fan were added to the library. As if that was not enough, a sports basket was bought, provided with a badminton set (the Indonesian national sport) and a soccer ball, which was later used in the Independence Day women’s soccer game (pictures included). To top it all off, a bamboo tree-house and slide is currently in the process of being built and should be finished within the next week . Amazing!! The Littles came equipped with four strong boys ready to dig their hands in the dirt and make something. Mary-Jane was prepared with information on how to make a compost, including several laminated sheets of instructions in Indonesian to offer as lessons to those interested in learning. Grace, Julie’s daughter, was very helpful in the library labeling new books, organizing, and wrapping presents for the big painting contest, which I’ll explain later in this post.

Somehow, within one quick week, we managed to multitask and finish everything, and feel really good about the work that we did. I was amazed at the energy that the Littles brought with them, their willingness to try new things and strange foods, and their determination to donate their time and money (not to mention summer vacation) to the development of the library and community center at Taring Padi.

I first met Julie Little in Seattle in 2002, when I was doing my undergraduate degree in Theater at Cornish College of the Arts. At that time Grace and Garrett, her two children, were still small, and I worked for Julie as a babysitter, gardener, and various odds-and-ends helper. We quickly hit it off, and our connection has continued to this day, six years later. When I went to America for a visit in May 2007, I told Julie about my involvement with the Taring Padi arts collective and the newly established children’s library. Coincidentally, at the same time Julie and her husband Dan were hoping to start an organization focused on sending books to places in the world with less access or money to purchase books. Upon my return to Yogyakarta, Julie offered to begin gathering donated books from Grace and Garrett’s school community in Seattle, and sending them to us in Indonesia for the Taring Padi Library. Today, the amount of books at the library has increased tremendously, thanks to the Littles and their community of generous friends. While in Indonesia, the Littles purchased a variety of children’s books in Bahasa Indonesia to match the growing number of books in English. Amazingly, the library stock is ever-growing, with a great variety of books to inspire the growing amount of children who are coming to read.

For Indonesian Independence Day on the 17th of August, we had a big children’s painting competition at Taring Padi. The children, who numbered to about thirty-five from local and nearby villages, were divided into small groups. Each group was provided with a stretched canvas, paint and paintbrushes. Over several hours, each group worked together to make their own painting. Later the paintings were gathered and all children were given snacks, a writing book and special pen for their participation. The event was perfect timing with the newly-built playground, and the children had a blast swinging on the new swing-set, playing badminton and wading in the fish pond (luckily no fish yet!). It was a very nice event. On the 30th of August, we’ll exhibit all of the paintings created at the local village center, and two groups will be selected as the winners and receive drawing books and individual pastels. We hope to encourage all the children involved with activities at Taring Padi to be creative and believe in their abilities to make good art. I also hope that the event will draw more children into the library and more students for the Sunday English and reading class.
We were sad to see the Littles leave on the 18th of August. We enjoyed their presence at Taring Padi very much, and greatly appreciate all their help and support. Not only was it a good experience, but I hope it will establish a life-long friendship between two different cultures so far away, and yet so close at heart.