It all begins with Monica. Probably one of the most enthusiastic Indonesians I’ve ever met. Her passion for children and their literacy and education is highly contagious. After a 30 minute catch up at the Gardena Hotel, I’m already completely and utterly hooked in Taman Bacaan Pelangi.
The next day we hop on an early boat and head to Papagarang Island, a beautiful particularly red earthed island perched in the midst of Komodo and Rinca. Papagarang is not your envisioned touristic attraction. On the contrary and more interestingly is a glimpse to what life for locals is this part of Indonesia is all about.
Papagarang like all the other islands of the area is blessed and surrounded by a great abundance of marine life which becomes obvious the moment you arrive to the pier. However, the most staggering and memorable sight is, of course, the children. Like most islanders, these kids are full of energy, wit and smile. They are far from being shy which creates an almost instant sense of welcomeness.
Papagarang is habited only on the west coast of the island by probably a little more than 1,000 people, which makes most of the island’s land natural and pristine. The school is located right in the middle of the town and it’s without doubt the beating heart of Papagarang. This is also where you find the Taman Bacaan Pelangi library, an unmistakably green building packed with 1,000 donated books. This is where you’ll find the most silence around the school with enthusiastic children reading softly out loud.
Our day continues with a series of physical activities like volleyball, yoga and football. All fun and games, while a group of students prepare in the library to star in a collaborated film. The film consists in a collectively narrated book which ultimately will unify the voices of more than 50 children to tell an epic story. The preparation is key and the teachers along with Monica prepare the kids.
Later, we are taken to our hosts, the principal’s house. Words fail to describe the kindness and welcomeness of this family. Hosted with outstanding food, chats and abdominal crunching laughs. Nur, the principal’s wife, is if anything an Indonesian mother to any of her hosts. Dinner is served, amazing as mentioned and lights out. Ready for a new dawn.
The next day is showtime. We prepare our camera gear in different locations inside the school and begin filming one by one the kids as they narrate the story. I was impressed by how organised and efficient the children where. It was a laborious job but after 4 hours it was a wrap.
You can’t complete a day in Papagarang without taking a bath at the pier. Without question, one of the highlights of my visit. Accompanied by herds of playful and smiley children you walk the 50 meter pier to then dive countlessly to the crystal clear waters.
A series of water games are played as well as some bretahtaking snorkeling. This simple ritual becomes an unforgettable memory. It’s a realisation beyond any touristic expectaction that paradise is finally found and it’s all about the people.
A piece of my heart will always stay in Papagarang with it’s majestic nature and it’s most beautiful children. Taman Bacaan Pelangi is, in my opinion, an optimistic glimpse to the future of Indonesia. Being myself half Indonesian, I’m profoundly grateful and proud of the work of Monica, Nila and Taman Bacaan Pelangi.
The potential of all the kids of the island is beyond obvious. Their heart, soul and spirit is as strong as the ocean that surrounds them. If my visit positively affect them half of what it affect me I remain content.
Long live Papagarang.