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!