Our Kid regularly asks me if I’m watching my book. What he’s referring to is the booked TV programme I’m slumped in front of. I forgive him the odd lexical error because he does like reading, although only in English.
A week ago I brought home James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl and Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, both in Indonesian, and I was surprised when he said that he doesn’t like reading in Indonesian. Are the translations that bad? He has got the Roald Dahl story in English and enjoyed it. He also read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory before I let him (us) watch the Tim Burton movie. You see, I believe that reading is important for so many reasons, not least the broadening of horizons and the fostering of imagination and creativity.
When I was a lad, my library was on the ground floor of this grand building, Charlton House.
Like many expats, I lament the lack of good bookshops and libraries here in Jakarta.Reading is very much part of my culture and there will be few westerners here who haven’t got a book ‘on-the-go’ which they read in the loo, the back of their stationary car or taxi, or just before bedtime.
Many years ago, I worked in a language school here which, at its zenith (before krismon) had nigh on 60 native speaker English teachers. Talking about reading to one of my upper level classes, I said that I could guarantee that all of us had a book they were currently reading. I was wrong. One colleague didn’t have time to read a book: he was writing one, and if you come across a tome about the different types of prahu (indigenous fishing boats) throughout the archipelago by Nick Somebody-or-other then understand that this was a real labour of love.
Libraries are in the news, or rather the lack of them. The Jakarta Post regularly features individual efforts such as the young man in Yogya whose stock was largely destroyed in the earthquake. His readers were youngsters in fairly remote villages, the very ‘clients’ most in need as they wait for rehousing. Then there’s the mobile library which, the Jakarta Post recently reported, will have to come off the road soon as its grant aid has ceased.
This week, well-known social commentator and former Presidential spokesman (for Gus Dur since you ask) Wimar Witoelar is surprisingly chuffed to be called a ‘Blogger’. “So, they (Metro TV) call me a blogger. I feel like John F. Kennedy who came to the Berlin Wall in 1963 and said: Ich bin ein Berliner. Now I can say, Ich bin ein Blogger.
Yeah well, me too, Wimar, me too.
But the reason I mention this is that Wimar has been reading Devi Girsang’s blog and she’s been searching for public libraries. Did she find one in this teeming metropolis? Heck no, but she did manage to post this review of the National Library.
I’ve made up my conclusion; it’s NOT a public library. It’s just a NATIONAL library. Public library lends its collection (for free! Except for the late charges), free access for everyone, provides cozy place to read on, and free membership for all (based on my research of public libraries overseas). No wonder, reading-as-a-habit is not very familiar among Indonesians in general. You know why; it’s hard (to) find … a public library in the city.
But good reading is not that hard to find in the blogosphere and I’d like to welcome back to Jakarta, if only for a very short while, Avi of IndoDreamin’ who has the kind of holidays the rest of us can only dream about. Mombasa, London next (?), China …. this is a very personal, yet readable travel blog.
Footnote: Our Kid has just asked me this question:”Dad, do you still have your sperm?” Can anyone recommend a book I can give him?