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.

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