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.

Monday, July 7, 2008


The subject of our weekly gathering today was Dreams. What do you dream of being when you grow up? We learned the English words for different careers, and then played an 'adapted' version of charades and acted the different jobs out for the others to guess. What is your dream?? I think it's important to encourage these children and children all over the world to believe that whatever they want to be is possible, despite circumstances of not having enough money to go to college or far from where they already are. Most children in our class today, surprisingly, didn't yet know what they wanted to be. When I was young I remember wanting to be a teacher, and then there was a while when I wanted to be a veterinarian, and then of course an actress... Is this a cultural difference, or was it just the time and the place that they couldn't think of ideas for the future? Or perhaps it's not necessary to think of the future yet, or indeed they don't know yet where they want to go or how they want the future to unfold... but there's always space for dreams..! Who doesn't want to dream? I hope that with time the kids will open up even more to expressing their own wishes and desires, and to believing that the ideas they have are possible.

Taring Padi as a collective also has dreams, one of which we hope will become a reality by mid-August. We plan to build a small playground and community space in front of the library and Taring Padi land, in hopes to draw more children into the library and provide a place for the community to come together. After a meeting today, we drew out a map of the Taring Padi grounds (the open space of which measures about 12 x 12 meters), and discussed what we would like to include in the development of this space. We came up with a list of several possibilities:

-A wooden swing set.
-A bamboo tree-house with a slide going down into a sandbox.
-A small fish pool.
-Several raised gardens throughout the space to grow herbs and vegetables.
-More fruit trees (especially mango, jackfruit and avocado).
-A badminton net and rackets.
-A garbage and recycling system along with a compost for organics. (This and the garden would teach local villagers how to be sustainable and conscious of the environment that they live in).
-A sign in front of Taring Padi to post events, workshops and activities.

We're still in the process of creating the final design, and contemplating where we might also place a parking area for up to 15 motorbikes for larger events. This is all in hopes to create a stronger sense of community, to offer the local villagers a place to come and gather, to learn about sustainable living and get involved in the library. We estimate the price to build everything will come out to about $2,000 USD, and we hope to pull it off by mid-August. One of the main visions of Taring Padi is about supporting the development of a close-knit, sustainable community that is self-sufficient without harming the environment or others, and encourages its children to explore and grow together, to keep learning and believing that with spirit they can be whatever they want to be.

If you're interested to donate to the creation of Taring Padi's playground and community space, please contact me and I will provide you with a Pay Pal account through which money can be transferred directly to Taring Padi. This account is currently in the making, and should be up and running soon! Any donations made will be promptly followed up with updates and specific information on how the money was used and the effect it had on the community. I've included a scanned image of one of the drawings of the tree house and playground in front of the library. More to come...! Thank you!!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Tajam and Bulan

You might refer to Tajam and Bulan as the library's resident children. Tajam and Bulan are the son and daughter of Ucup and Wanti. Ucup is one of the founding members of Taring Padi, and Wanti has also been active since the time that Taring Padi was first being developed. Their home, which they built after their former house was destroyed in the earthquake in Yogyakarta on May 27, 2006, is conveniently located right next to the Taring Padi land and library. Any day you come to the library, Tajam and Bulan will surely be there to greet you. To their delight, I 'interviewed' them to be the first profiles on this website, as I begin to introduce the children involved in the Taring Padi library.

Name: Bulan Fisabililah (Bulan means Moon)

Age: 9 years old

Date of birth: April 7, 1999 in Lumajang, East Java

Bulan is in third grade. Her favorite thing to do is read, and her favorite place to go is the library. Her favorite book is Donald Duck. Bulan likes reading books because of the stories. She loves having the library right next door to her home. She might be considered the "Manager" of the library; since its start she helped to organize the books and borrowing system, and she is often in charge of helping the other children to check out books. Bulan also likes to draw, and in the past won an award for her ceramic design, the money of which was used to fix the family television. Bulan goes to school six days a week, from 7am-12am, except for Fridays, which is from 7am-11am. Every Wednesday she has the job of cleaning at school, and on Fridays all the students work together to organize and clean (called kerja bhakti). Bulan likes spicy foods and chocolate, and she doesn't like things that are dirty. In the future, Bulan doesn't know exactly she wants to be yet. She says she will leave it to when it comes, wait and see..!

Name: Tajam Pariwangi Muhammad (Tajam means 'sharp')

Age: 4 1/2 years old

Date of Birth: July 26, 2003

Tajam will start kindergarden in July. He's excited to start school to have fun! Tajam is often seen rampaging through the library as he goes on another one of his imaginary adventures. Tajam likes to play and ride his bicycle. He also likes people to take pictures of him, and he loves taking baths. His favorite things to play with are robots, swords and power rangers. He hopes some day to become a power ranger himself. His favorite books, of course, are about power rangers. He also likes power, weapons, war, apple trees, and watching television. What Tajam doesn't like is keris, a traditional Indonesian weapon. His favorite food is fish, and like his sister, he doesn't like things that are dirty.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Village Life

Today in English class we learned to write letters. At first most of the children were hesitant, afraid of making a mistake, but with time and some encouragement they became more willing to try. The biggest thing about learning a new language is being brave to make mistakes. This is what I discovered in learning to speak Indonesian as well. It was a big class today, about nine girls and three boys, along with a couple of tag-along younger brothers and sisters. Most of the children live within the same RT; RT in Indonesia stands for a certain section of a village. One village, for example Sembungan where Taring Padi is, is made up of several RT's. Taring Padi is located in RT 02, and most of the kids are either from RT01 and RT 02, with a few from further out.
I'll describe Sembungan village for you to make the picture a little more complete. Sembungan village is edged by a river that runs through on the east side- many of the children live alongside the river and swim and fish in it every day. On the north-west side is Gunung Sempu (Sempu Mountain), which has a large Chinese cemetery. To the south is the neighboring village, Kasongan, which is well-known for its ceramics. This also feeds over into Sembungan, and many of the nearby neighbors make pots, statues and sculptures out of clay and sell them in local markets. To the north-east of Sembungan, past Kembaran village (where I live), is Madukismo, the sugar factory. Madukismo was started back when the Dutch colonized Indonesia, and it is still active today. During production season (six months out of a year), you can often hear the horn of the factory blowing, see a stream of smoke raising out of its towers into the sky, and find little specs of black ash sprinkled across your house. Sembungan also sports a large open soccer field that the young men play in every evening before sunset and makrib (Islamic call to prayer), a front-yard volleyball/badminton court, a twice-a-week ladies aerobics class, and a local gamelan ensemble. It's a lovely village, with lots of trees, animals and friendly neighbors.
At the beginning of class the children arrive on their bikes or are dropped off by their parents. They are always bustling with energy, some shy, some playful, many of them bringing the books they borrowed from last week, and always eager to learn.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

About the Library

Taring Padi has a new children's library. For those of you who aren't familiar with Taring Padi, you might check out the website in the links I have included at the bottom of this page. The website is, however, slightly out of date, so I'll give you a quick low-down: Taring Padi is an activist art collective located in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, that began in 1997 at the eve of President Soeharto's fall in 1998. They were very active in political demonstrations at that time and used their motto 'art for the people' as a way to express social issues concerning corruption, labor rights, farming, women and children's rights, and so on. Ten years later Taring Padi is still active, and following the earthquake that destroyed their space in May 2006, with funding they bought land in Sembungan Village and built their own gallery and children's library. Which is where we find ourselves today, at this moment. The children's library, Omah Buku Taring Padi, is the subject of this blogsite, as a way to communicate the lives of the children and artists involved, and share the experience of bringing books and learning into village life. For the past six months, Julie Little and St. Joseph's School in Seattle, Washington U.S.A., have been sending packages of donated children's books for the children at the library. I hope that this website might serve as a way to communicate and foster understanding beetween the two children's worlds, both in America and Indonesia. This has been a great project, and it's still growing. Every Sunday at the library all the children gather together to learn English, read books and play together. Last Sunday we had a shadow puppetry workshop! The number of children varies, usually from 10-15 children both boys and girls, ages 6-11. Over time with this website, I hope to introduce you to each and every one of them, and their lives here in Indonesia. It's truly a blessing for me to have the opportunity to work with these children; their imaginations are young and bright, they're eager to learn and they love to read! I hope you enjoy this website, and please feel free to contribute comments, ideas, or anything else you would like. Thank you!