The little (feisty!) angels of the Garden

[Bahasa Indonesia]

First published at the Rainbow Reading Garden’s blog

Seeing is believing
Reading is bliss
And sharing is even more so

“Seeing is believing.” Cliché, I know, but that’s the most appropriate expression I could think of about my recent visit to The Rainbow Reading Garden in Flores. I have heard about the Garden for the longest time. But never could have I imagined the view, the feeling, and the impact it has on me until I visited the gardens myself and saw them with my own eyes.

It was raining cats and dogs that Saturday morning, when we slowly came to stop after driving for about an hour from Labuan Bajo. We have arrived at Kampung Roe, which hosted one of the 23 Rainbow Reading Gardens (to date).

We got off the car and walked swiftly to the porch of a simple pink-ish house. It didn’t register to me what was before me until I properly stepped into the house’s porch: Sixty plus children religiously read story books that rainy afternoon.

I mean, wow. These are the children for which even having obligatory school books are precious and rare, never mind children story books. These are the children who have to travel to Labuan Bajo if they want to pursue a secondary education (i.e. junior high school). These are the children who probably have not traveled beyond their village or island and have little exposure to the virtual world of Internet.

Yet—yes, there is absolutely a major YET—all I saw was happiness, eagerness, and an amazingly refreshing thirst to learn (more). All I was at that time, was to be in awe and humbled with their honesty, curiosity, openness and bravery to express.

I shared some of my travel experiences and showed them some pictures using my laptop. Their eyes were glued to the monitor. They commented spontaneously on various details, asked questions, and started to mumble what I said, taking the pictures and words to their heart.

Whenever I had finished my ‘presentation’, they feverishly said “more! Again!” Even as our car were leaving the Garden, the children were shouting, laughing and running after our car. Their laughter, happiness, and spontaneity are so contagious.

Gosh, I wish you were there with me. Only then you could feel what I felt; See what I saw.

We went on visiting three more Rainbow Reading Gardens over the next several days: Kampung Melo, Kampung Rinca, and Kampung Papagarang—and passed by two others: the ones in Kukusan island and Labuan Bajo. Each is just as amazing as the next.

I have this vision; my head could not help but compute some kind of a multiplier effect of how this truly benefits the kids. I have a new understanding and respect for the initiative. And to think what Rainbow Reading Gardens has offered them: It is like opening a whole new door to an ‘experience’, to a view of the world, that they probably couldn’t have imagined before.

And most of all, I am so thankful to the children. We thought we were the ones who were helping them, but it is really the other way around—or perhaps: it works both ways, as it always does: They too are teaching us, teaching me, about living with heart and zeal, about the love for book, about the thirst for more, and about spontaneity.

I am so glad that I said yes to Nila’s invitation to visit the Rainbow Reading Garden. I am so glad we’re friends, Nils 😉

I honestly think that the visit to Rainbow Reading Garden has made my trip to Flores worthwhile; or at least, for me personally, it has doubled the value of my visit to the island.

I suggest, you do the same. So you can see what I saw, feel what I felt, and be in awe.

Seeing is truly believing
Reading is such a bliss
And sharing is even much more so

PS: Flores’s nature is also to die for. But let’s save this story for another time.

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