Ayo to the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival!

First the exciting news. Ayo! Let’s Go! Songs for children in Indonesian and English is going to be in the children’s program for the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival UWRFheaderthis year. I’m just thrilled about this! It’s such a wonderful festival and the children’s program is fantastic. And free! I’m looking forward to coming back to Bali and launching the CD in the place where it all began.

The festival is on between 26 and 30 October 2016 with heaps of amazing writers coming from all over the world. I’m especially excited that Magda Szubanski is coming. I’ve seen her on comedy shows on TV for years and now she is gaining fame as a memoirist.

For anyone planning to come, the early bird tickets are still on sale. Don’t delay! Sometime in August they finish and the price goes up by 20%. For people with a KITAS the price is a bargain.

And for those of who planning to come with kids, the launch of Ayo! Let’s Go! is the perfect event for children aged between 3 and 9 who like music. The fantastically talented pianist Thomas Aro Zebua will be playing and the incredible singers Mita, Wisma and Olga Spoelstra will be performing some of the songs they recorded on the CD. We will be playing games, doing yoga and getting the children up and dancing and singing along with us.

Have monkeys ever stolen your hat? Do you like tropical fruit but hate mosquitos? Then this is the show for you!

I’m also planning to have prizes and something for every child to take home. Watch this space to find out when and where, or check the children’s program of the UWRF.

 

 

10 tips for recording children’s songs

Ayo! Let's Go! demo coverThe most exciting thing coming up for me in 2016 is that I have a collection of children’s songs recorded and ready to be released (Ayo! Let’s Go!). I’m so excited about this because it represents a lot of work I did while living in Bali. Just before I left Indonesia in December, I was able to book a music studio, get singers and a pianist together and finally record 11 songs.

I was recently asked for some tips on recording children’s songs. A friend is planning to record his original songs this year. Gee, I thought, I don’t know much – I’ve only done it once. But after reflecting, I realised I learnt an enormous amount from doing this recording. Here are some of my tips on how to prepare for a recording.

First – getting your songs ready to record

1) Revise your lyrics.

Two music teachers heard my songs in the early stages and the first thing they said was: too many words. I crammed so many words in some of my lines that it made it hard for adults, let alone children, sing. Not every song has to be Jack and Jill for rhythm and simplicity. But too many words makes it much harder to follow, especially for kids.

When it came time to prepare for recording I revised every single song. I scrutinised every word and every line. I took out innumerable ‘and’, ‘then’, ‘that’ and unnecessary conjunctions. If a word wasn’t completely necessary, I took it out. I even deleted whole verses when I decided the verse didn’t fit the pattern of previous verses, or made the song too long.

As the songwriter you have one way of singing your song. Trying to imagine how other people will approach it is much harder. Looking at your lyrics on paper as if they are poems makes this easier.

2) Be sure about the structure of the song (this might need to be step 1). It could be: intro, verse, chorus, verse, bridge, verse, chorus x 3 as ending. Or it could be more complicated. There is a wide range of children’s songs out there. It’s okay to do something complicated.

However, don’t be scared of repetition. Kids love that they know what is coming up next. Interaction is also fabulous. Have a think about how to include a call and answer, or some other interaction for the kids. One of my songs has an introduction that is completely different to the main song. I had actually written two bamboo songs and decided to combine them. In between the intro and the song I have a short spoken piece, and then there is counting through the song. It was fun to record, took longer of course, but because I had it very clear about who would do what, and what the accompaniment needed to do, it went very smoothly.

3) If you have time, money or friends who play more instruments, think about doing a more complicated arrangement. What instruments would be best for each song? I ended up going with a simple piano and voice arrangement for my songs, but I always thought if the songs needed it I could get other musicians to add drums, guitar or gamelan on top. Work out the basics first and then have a wish list for improving them.

4) Work out the key signature for each song. This was essential for me as I had a fantastic pianist, Thomas Zebua, creating the accompaniment. One of the first things he needed to know was the key for each song. I wasn’t singing the songs myself. In fact I had four different singers working on the album and we worked out the key for each song at the first rehearsal.

Then – have plenty of time for rehearsal

5) Phrasing, emphasis, dynamics, timing, pauses. All this gets worked out in rehearsal. If you’re the one being recorded you’ll have to record yourself over and over again. Ask yourself—and other people: Was that word clear? Should the song be slower or faster? Or should the tempo speed up? When I was rehearsing I was the one listening to the singers so it was easier for me to pick up on phrases that needed work. Pronunciation of English words was one area where we needed to go over some phrases many times. Funnily enough, even some of the Indonesian was improved upon in the studio when there were other Indonesians listening to the songs.

6) Practice the endings. I didn’t want all my songs to end the same way. I thought it would be dull if every song finished fading out, or if every song repeated the refrain three times and then finished. So I made sure some finished abruptly, some finished with piano, some faded out slowly. The same with beginnings.

Finally – what to expect in the studio

7) Book as much time as you can afford and be very prepared that that might change. I had some crazy idea that we could record 11 songs in one day. Well, we almost did, but that was only the piano. I had to book two more days in the studio after that to get the singers recorded. That was my inexperience showing up big time! Luckily I was in Bali in a small studio near my house in Sanur and the studio was available the following two days. I ended up having not just the Friday in the studio but Saturday afternoon and all of Sunday. It’s unlikely that a song will be recorded in only one take so if you’re the person who has hired everyone to be there, you have to decide when something needs to be done over and when it’s good enough. Singers only have so many takes in them and you only have so many hours in the studio.

8) Don’t forget the mixing. Most of the mixing for my songs was done in the studio straight after the recording and the engineer did a great job. That meant we both stayed in the studio for another two hours after the recording finished to make sure all the tracks were right, and I could leave with all the tracks pretty much finished. But I’ve still sent it to a friend who is a professional musician/engineer in Australia and he is working on it and getting it ready for distribution.

9) Take some photos. You might want to document this experience. It’s so much fun! I had a blast of a time in that hot little bamboo studio in Sanur. I got to listen to my songs sung over and over. And, while it was kind of stressful, worrying that we wouldn’t get it all done and wondering if the singers were getting quite the feel that I’d hoped, it was a fantastic experience.

10) And finally, get copies of all the files. Ask for every possible format that you might need. Mp3 for sure but if you want some more mixing afterwards, you’ll probably want them in a different format. Also, you might want the accompaniment by itself, with no voice over. If you’re a solo performer, suddenly you have your own backing track and you can be free to perform the song without having to play an instrument.

These are just the tips from someone who has gone through a recording experience once. Others are sure to have more.

Publishing in Indonesia: Tips from Sarita Newson

I had a chat with Sarita Newson last year about the latest children’s book she is publishing. With more than 30 years of experience in publishing in Indonesia through her company Saritaksu Editions, Sarita Newson is a wealth of interesting stories and useful information. This is part of our conversation.

How did you begin publishing children’s books?Sarita Newson

We did one way back with an Australian friend of mine Adrian Clynes who is a linguist – his thesis was on the language of Bali. He put together some of the stories that the old people used to tell. We were concerned they were getting lost as the oral tradition petered out with the arrival of TV. That book was called Grandfather’s TalesKakek Bali Bercerita. We sort of self-published it. There wasn’t any proper distribution in those days but Bali is small enough you can spread them about. It was very popular.

At that time, the early eighties, there were very few books for children in bookstores. You could only get Majala Bobo. There weren’t any of the lovely colourful picture books in Indonesian in those days. Now there are some wonderful comic books and picture books.

Tell us about your latest book Rajawali and the Children: Making the lake clean

It is the third book in the Clean Bali series of books written by Maggie Dunkle and illustrated by Margiyono. [Maggie Dunkle was a librarian and author who moved from Australia to Bali late in life and passed away in 2012.]

The book is trying to point out the wisdom of nature. How the birds know how to survive and how we should listen and observe. If the birds leave, it’s for a very good reason. There is a reason they are dying.

Rajawali cover

How long does it take to publish a children’s book?

One book can take six months to a year from taking a manuscript through translation, illustration and printing. This one has taken longer. We ran out of steam. The illustrator got busy, but I wanted to keep the same artist the same way through as I wanted them to look the same. He spent a lot of time learning about the different birds in Bali and trying to depict them accurately.

Another thing that slowed us down was that the author Maggie got very ill and passed away. She was a great force for pushing things along. She was a very grumpy old lady. I was very fond of her and we never had an argument, but she had arguments with everyone else.

Clean Bali booksHow did you find the illustrator?

The illustrator, Margiyono, was working as a stonemason. A friend saw some paintings he was doing and asked, ‘have you ever tried to illustrate anything?’ She encouraged him to do some illustrations and when they had some, they came to me. I told them there is a lot more work to do but I’d love to publish it.

All three books in the Clean Bali Series are printed in Balinese, Indonesian and English. I did the Indonesian translation with the help of my son. And Balinese author Made Taro translated the Bahasa Bali.


What are some of the practicalities of publishing in Indonesia?

It is most important to have a good printer who will be responsible for quality. Not all printers have the equipment or know-how to print books, or the ethics that are necessary, when printing mistakes happen. It is important to be clear on responsibility, and to have a good quality control. Just as with any other production, rushing orders is not a good idea, as it doesn’t allow enough time for checking and control. Storage is also important – it must be airconditioned and/or dehumidified in the tropics.

What are the steps involved in setting up a publishing company in Indonesia?

First one has to be Indonesian, and have a legal, registered, tax-paying company. Second, one needs to have a reliable and trustworthy printer. Third, a team who are willing and able to distribute and follow up with book shops and other places that sell the books.

Is it possible to self-publish?

It is possible to self-publish, but it is important to have a good editor, as few writers are capable of editing their own work. Self-publishers need to be savvy in promoting their own books, both digital and printed, as they are on their own. Preferably they should have their own network or access to buyers for selling the books, as book shops are not always keen to accept books unless recommended by established publishers. It has taken us many years to build our relationship with the bookshops.

How does the price of printing here compare to printing overseas, say in China?

We print the books in Jakarta. The printing is much cheaper and better quality than in Bali. Then we have them trucked here. It used to cost about $200 to ship a truckload of books to Bali but that has increased too.

When it comes to printing in China, importing the books is going to be a problem. In Australia you don’t have to pay duty to bring them back in but here you do. And they’ll never let on how much you’ll have to pay. They can be quite coy about it.

Clean Bali

How do you manage distribution?

We have a great relationship with the local bookshops. They’re really supportive. It may be because the industry is so unregulated. I’m sure it would have been a lot harder for me to do this in New Zealand. Book distributors charge a lot there too. But, you see, people can afford to pay more for books in Australia and New Zealand. But here, for local people, even to buy a book is a luxury. Which is why we give them away – to schools. When it comes to children’s books we give about half away and sell half. The intention is really to teach children about the environment. The first book in the Clean Bali Series has been reprinted once and 10,000 copies have been distributed. We printed 5000 copies of the second book and they have almost run out. Now I am seeking funding for the third book in the series. 

How about getting your books into the larger stores such as Gramedia and Kinokuniya? Are they open to that?

Yes we have an agent who delivers to Gramedia. Kinokuniya is more difficult, as they don’t have so many stores and their purchasing seems to be more centralized. Periplus order direct from us and we keep them informed of the release of new titles.  Rajawali spread

What are the some of the challenges you’ve faced in publishing picture books?

Picture books particularly are very challenging because it’s very unusual to find an artist here who is used to depicting stories. And the fact that the landscape behind the story should not be something completely different every time. And also being constant in depicting the characters is not always easy for the artist – they should even keep the same clothes on if the story is just continuing. All these kinds of details.

It’s a long process to understand how to create a sequence without the child’s face changing into three different children. A lot of artists are not able to reproduce the same face every time. Most of 50our artists here are autodidacts so it is a completely new idea. We had terrible trouble with the monkeys, even, looking the same [for Monkey Tales of Bali].

Sarita Newson

The Clean Bali Series of books all have a song included with the lyrics and music at the back of the book. Why did you decide to include a song with the books?

Song is how I used to love to learn things. My husband learnt his English through singing. Music resonates with children. It gives so much more. Music is very special. My son has written the songs for the first two books and is working on another for the third book now.

 

Sarita Newson first visited Bali in 1973 from New Zealand and moved here permanently in 1975. She had three children with her Balinese husband. Sarita started publishing books under the company name Saritaksu Editions in the early eighties as a sideline to her main business, a graphic design studio. Gradually the publishing took over and, as she wound back the graphics, publishing became Sarita’s fulltime job though she is now considering retiring from publishing to concentrate on writing. She has published more than 50 books including novels, pictorial art and coffee-table books, non-fiction and children’s books.

For more information contact Sarita at saritaksu.editions@gmail.com

Names not to have in Indonesia

Following on from my last post about words that look the same in Indonesian and English but have different meanings, here is a list of names that look or sound the same in both languages but mean very different things.

Carlie – it is a very pretty name but it sounds like the Indonesian word for stream. Ooh, that sounds pretty too, you think! Maybe not when you see the globby green-slime covered waterway opposite our house that is our local kali.

Dan – what a lot of people called Dan there are in Indonesia! Hang on, it just means ‘and’.

Gorden – curtain (ok, I’m cheating here as the name is usually spelt Gordon, but it’s very close).

Lucky – why is this not a good name? Well, it’s totally fine actually, unless you’re a girl. More one to keep in mind when it comes to naming your dog, as opposed to your children. But even so, it’s worth knowing you’ll sound like you’re calling out ‘boy!’

Mara – an old family friend has this name, not very common I know. But I can’t help wondering when she visits Bali and is introduced, if people look at her twice and wonder … ‘is she really angry? She doesn’t look marah.’

Marie – the French way of saying this name sounds quite like mari, let’s go or go on then. Thus: ‘Mari Marie!’

Sandysandi kata means password so does it mean your name is a secret?

Summer – while not a widely used name anyway, you still need to be wary as it sounds like an exceptionally common word in Indonesian – sama – which means same or likewise. So introducing yourself as Summer could have people thinking you have the same name as them. ‘What a coincidence! Your name is Wayan too?!’

Tanya – in Indonesia, tanya means to ask, so you could enjoy a laugh with an exchange like this one.

Mau ke mana besok? Tanya Tanya.
[Where do you want to go tomorrow? Ask Tanya.]

Tim – which tim are you part of? One of the many words that Indonesian has taken from English, it means team.

I’m sure I’ve missed many many funny examples of names and words that have different meanings in these two languages. What are some you’ve come across?

Why are there so many bottles of air and cat ovens in Indonesia?

Most languages have these accidental cross overs where one word looks exactly the same, or sounds the same, as a word in another language. But the meaning is quite different. Called heteronyms, these are a few of my favourites from Indonesian to English.

Air – just to be confusing this is indeed one of the elements, and something you can’t live without. Do you breathe it? No, of course not. It means water.

Get mind-body-spirit alignment and top up your mobile phone credit at the same time?

Get mind-body-spirit alignment and top up your mobile phone credit at the same time?

Are – a way to measure land, it is a hundredth of a hectare (10m x 10m). [note: I just found out that this word also exists in English. Who knew!?]

Ban – a tyre and one of several car-related words on this list.

Cap – the first word in the ubiquitous stir-fried vegetable dish, cap cay, it comes from Chinese.

Cat Oven (or Cat Open) – despite the images this name conjures, it is not a place where kittens are baked (or opened). It means a place that can redo your car’s paint job.

 

A variation on the baked kitten is the open cat (creative spelling at its best). And what could the Poles Body be all about? The mind boggles.

A variation on the baked cat is the open cat (creative Indonesian spelling at its best). And what could the Poles Body be all about? The mind boggles.

Gang – why are there so many gangs in Bali? They even have their own sign posts. Gang means small street.

Got – we have one of these across from our house. A nice big drain.

Jam – I love strawberry jam, mango jam, guava jam. But in Indonesia it’s a different kind of stickiness, it means hour.

Helm – you don’t actually need one of these if you’re at the helm of a boat or plane. But you sure should wear one on a motor bike on these streets. Yep, it’s the underutilised helmet.

Lima – if you resided in the Peruvian capital a situation might conceivably arise where you have to give your address and confusion ensues. At a stretch. But anyway, lima means five.

Big bags of...? Cement. Obviously.

Big bags of…? Cement. Obviously.

Made – one of the most popular names in Bali, you really can say Made in Bali and it would be accurate each time

REM – yep, kind of cheating here with all capitals but otherwise it wouldn’t have made much sense. Rem is another car part, this time it means brake.

Rad – that’s totally rad, man! No it’s not. In Indonesia it means council.

Resort – why are the police in Indonesia always going to resorts? Signs saying Polis Resort are not uncommon but it only means a local division of police. It doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t sun lounges and happy hours though…

Sari – it’s a piece of clothing in India but in Indonesia it means essence. This leads to hotel names like Alam Sari (essence of nature), restaurants named Sari Organik and even health foods like Sari Korma (essence of date).

Yoga sign in Bali

Now, those are two words you don’t normally think of together.

Semen – cement, obviously. Hence the big bags of it.

Tang – ooh yes, that pair of pliers has a nice tang to it.

Tas – in Australia this could be the a shortened form of the picturesque state of my birth. But in Indonesia it’s just a bag.

Yoga – Ubud is well known as a place with more yoga mats per square kilometre than anyway else in the world. But why do all these other little shops have signs with Yoga on them? Some of them are even selling mobile phones. Yoga is a name.

There are sure to be many more that I haven’t thought of. What is your favourite?

The power of punk (and other music) for language learning

Fransoa

A few months ago I came across a song called ‘Aku Lapar’ from Fransoa, a Frenchman living in Bali. Sung to the tune of seventies hit ‘Ca Plane Pour Moi’, he gives a list of 40-odd Indonesian foods accompanied by a punk parody film clip made in a Seminyak restaurant. From nasi goreng to bakso to pepes the list is quite impressive. In place of the original chorus, which means ‘it’s alright for me’, he sings aku lapar (I am hungry).

This song, and the video that goes with it, made me laugh out loud. Why do I like it so much? Many reasons. For a start, the original song by Plastic Bertrand was one of the few foreign language pop songs that was played in Australia in the eighties (it reached number 2 on the Australian charts in 1979), so I have fond memories of it. And it’s already so camp. You couldn’t really take the line ‘I am the king of the divan’ seriously, could you?

The hidden educational value

Also, there’s something about a list song that appeals to me. I’ve written a few myself. One lists 16 fruit and their attributes (in Indonesian); one gives 20 ways to use bamboo. And another gives the names of the major Indonesian islands and cities found on them, in a kind of ‘I’ve been everywhere’ song. I have even written a song for yoga teachers to help them learn the names of poses in Sanskrit. I think the appeal for me is the hidden educational value. If the song is catchy you’ll remember the words. And if you remember the words you’ll have learnt something. I’m pretty sure I learnt some history from Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’.

Fransoa Aku Lapar Xtra PedasIn the case of ‘Aku Lapar’ you could learn the names of some Indonesian food. But even more than learning words I admire Fransoa’s creative spirit and his willingness to write and sing in another language. Indonesia could do with more foreigners being creative in Indonesian instead of so often sticking with English (or another language).

Multilingual music

I also like song that’s sung in more than one language. Let’s face it, I’m a language geek so I get a kick out of hearing pop songs sung in other languages, like ‘Las Cosas de la Vida’, an Eros Ramazzotti song which has Italian, Spanish and English versions (the last a duet with Tina Turner no less).

Tarkan Simarik

‘Kiss, Kiss’ was much better in the original Turkish, by the way (Simarik by Tarkan).

A song that mixes languages, an interlingual song you could say, is also something I’m very fond of. Manu Chao does it better than anyone. A well-known example from the early nineties is ‘Amigos Para Siempre’, which was the theme song for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It featured three languages but it took me until I started studying Catalan at La Trobe University to realise that. I was singing along like everyone else: ‘amigos para siempre means you’ll always be my friend. Duh da da da means our love will never end.’

And if you’re wondering just what those missing words are? Amics per sempre. Yep, exactly the same words as the Spanish (friends forever) just sung in that hard-to-understand-flat-vowels-closed-mouth Catalan way.

Kita Australia

Some years back I was part of a latin choir in Canberra. That’s latin as in viva la fiesta, not as in Gregorian chants. One of the songs we sang was ‘I Am Australian’ by Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton… in Spanish. Yo soy, tu eres, somos Australianos. I loved singing that. It really felt like we were showing diversity in our community and demonstrating solidarity with all Spanish-speaking Australians.

Indonesian would be a great language into which to translate that song. The chorus fits quite well: ‘Saya, kamu, kita Australia.’ Has anyone done it? Maybe the time is right.

Words I’ve learnt from subtitles

Picard Laksanakan

Like pretty much everyone in Indonesia I watch a lot of subtitled television. Most of it is in English with Indonesian subtitles but occasionally I stumble across something more exotic. My semi-regular indulgence is when the boys go to sleep and I’m alone in the living room. That’s when I get to watch my favourite Latin American soapies or telenovelas.

My favourite is Corazon Indomable (Wild at Heart) from Mexico. I get to listen to Spanish and read the Indonesian. It’s like eating a fluffy pavlova with some salsa on top, and sambal on the side.

But, more often than not, I’m reading Indonesian subtitles for an American show and this has helped me somewhat in my language acquisition. Not, I have to say, as much as actually talking to people, but seeing the same words used over and over has aided my memory.

One word I would never have learnt were it not for subtitles is astaga. Many exclamations and expressions of surprise – Good heavens! Crikey! and so on – are translated as astaga! But I have never ever heard someone use this in real life. I feel like I’m on an Indonesian sinetron (soap opera) myself when I use it so I tend not to.

Check out the very funny How to Act Indonesian – 5 signs it’s a sinetron to get an idea of what a sinetron is like.

Check out the very funny How to Act Indonesian – 5 signs it’s a sinetron to get an idea of what a sinetron is like.

Adil is another word I’ve learnt from the subtitles. It means fair. And the phrase ‘it’s not fair’ must get used a lot in American dramas as I’m pretty familiar with its equivalent, tidak adil. This phrase I count as a useful acquisition.

Brengsek is just about the closest thing to a swear word that I know in Indonesian. I think it’s my gender, maybe my age, and certainly the circles that I mix in, but I don’t seem to be picking up swear words. Brengsek means jerk so I occasionally use this when there’s a particularly good example of mindless motorbike riding right in front of our car.

I can’t leave out sial though. It’s the word that is used in subtitles whenever people swear in English. Damn, drat, shit all translate as sial. Do people actually use it? Not that I’ve heard. It means unfortunate.

Another word I have to thank American TV for is laksanakan. We grew very fond of this phrase through watching Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise point to the monitor and say … laksanakan (see image at top). That’s a rough translation of make it so, in case you don’t remember. For a while my husband got a kick out of jumping in the car and saying to our driver: ‘The office! Laksanakan!’ Sadly other people just looked at him strangely if he said it and it hasn’t caught on. Not surprising when you realise it also translates as implemented. Now that’s an English word lacking romance.

I haven’t even started on the staggering eccentricities of pirated DVD subtitles. Sometimes they seem to belong to another movie altogether. And often everything is literally translated including names like Pat and Bob.

As I’m still trying hard to improve my Indonesian, every bit of Indonesian language around is useful, even if I do have to be careful before I start talking like subtitles.

What words have you learnt from television subtitles?

Best and worst of Indonesian picture books (continued)

In contrast to the books in the previous post, the following books were published first in Indonesia though not all were written in Indonesian. Petualangan Anak Indonesia coverDespite its publisher having an English name (Great! Publisher) Petualangan Anak Indonesia is currently published only in Indonesian, though (just to confuse you) the author is Australian. Its English title is Indoventurers and there is an English version that the author Nicholas Mark has offered to email upon request. He has also developed a Teacher’s Guide and worksheets.

This book is much longer and is for more advanced readers of Indonesian. Along with plenty of action in the three separate stories and the vivid illustrations, the book has plenty of local content. The Monkey Forest in Ubud is featured in the Bali story and Borobodur is featured in the Yogyakarta story where the race is on to save the city from an eruption from Mount Merapi. There is also a story set in Sumatra. Indoventurers page

All three are fantasy stories set somewhere in the realm, or fringe, of Indonesian myth, making them an interesting read. Apart from the fantasy elements, the stories are set in contemporary Indonesia and portray familiar characters and scenes. Another interesting note is that the author wrote it while on a university exchange in Yogyakarta when his story written for an assignment caught the interest of a local publisher.

Publishers website: galangpress.com Or contact Nicholas Mark on nicholaspetermark@gmail.com

Sea garden covers

The Sea Garden Series of books by Papa Ine is in two languages with the stated aim of helping Indonesian children learn English. Unfortunately, the translation from Indonesian has not been very successful and the poor English badly lets down the books.

The books have very bright and engaging illustrations and all the characters are animals that can be found in Indonesian waters. I was interested to see a sun fish character, not often seen in children’s stories. Some of the names are based on Indonesian words, such as Kepit being the name for the crab character (kepiting).

Sea Garden pagesPublished by PT Bumi Aksara Group bumiaksara.co.id

Murti Bunanta books

Murti Bunanta is an institution in the world of children’s books in Indonesia. She has written more than 30 books and has received many awards. Many of her books are Indonesian folk tales such as Princess Kemang (Putri Kemang), a folktale from Bengkulu. This is a lovely example of a bilingual book. It features beautiful illustrations from Hardiyono and a story of the adventures of a princess set in some mythical time in Indonesian history. Putri Kemang pagesIt is quite long but I do like this story for several reasons, one of which is that the main character is a princess who is independent and very physically capable and ends up choosing her own husband. The English translation is also very good, thanks to Margaret Mead MacDonald, herself a well-known author and storyteller, who was the English language consultant on the book. Plus the illustrations make it a delight to read.

Published by Grasindo, part of PT Gramedia. www.grasindo.org

The Tiny Boy and other tales from Indonesia is not a bilingual book but I included it as another example of Murti Bunanta’s work. This has been published by Groundwood in the US and is a beautiful book, also with illustrations by Hardiyono.

Bunanta dictionary  page

Another book she published locally is My first dictionary – colour, published by the Murti Bunanta Foundation and illustrated by Aldriana A. Amir. With only nine colours, it’s not quite long enough to be a stand-alone book and may have been better sold with the others in the First Dictionary series. Another 21 titles by Murti Bunanta are listed in the back.

Maggie Dunkle books Penyu dan Lumba LumbaCerita Monyet dari Bali – Monkey Tales from Bali is by Maggie Dunkle, an Australian children’s author who lived several years in Bali until she passed away in 2012. This is set in the Ubud Monkey Forest and I really like the story of the family of monkeys and the simple black and white illustrations by Asroel. It is aimed at beginner readers and the way the words are arranged on the page. The Indonesian translation below each phrase makes it easy to follow the translation.

Maggie Dunkle also wrote Penyu dan Lumba-Lumba, Turtle and Dolphin, a book in the Clean Bali Series (there is one other in the series). In this book the animals worry about the rubbish in their oceans and on their beaches and are then surprised when they witness a group of children cleaning up a beach. It is a book in three languages as it includes Balinese. The illustrations by Margiyono are colourful and the message is a good one, but it is not a book I read over and over.

Penyu page Both are published by Saritaksu. Saritaksu.com

Our Jakarta Series booksOur Jakarta Series is a set of 30 early readers written by Australian teacher Michelle Dudley while she was living in Jakarta. Originally only in English, they have been translated and published as bilingual books. The series consists of 10 books in each of the three levels. One of these was the very first book my five-year-old son read in Indonesian. Initially I wasn’t sure what to make of titles like My Driver and My Cook. But after thinking about it, it makes sense to have these books for expat children. Reading them with my children while we are living in Indonesia works fine. If we were reading them in Australia having never lived in Indonesia, some might feel a little out of place but the majority would be perfect for young children wherever they may live. Overall they give a good look at life in Jakarta through the eyes of a small expat child. The Car Trip is something Jakartan residents know all too well. What’s in my Lunchbook is cute and shows the variety of cultures at an international school through the contents of kids’ lunchboxes.

Available by emailing jakartaseries@gmail.com

Ugh! Ular! It’s snake season in Bali

It’s not uncommon at all to have a fear of snakes. The word alone can hiss out from the lips –  ‘ssssnake’ – and can bring shivers down your spine. In Indonesian the word is not quite so evocative – ular. It almost sounds like a perky French phrase. ‘Ooh la!’ But in a pinch I can imagine someone running away, waving their arms in the air, shrieking ‘ulaaar!’

Third baby spitting cobra caught, out the front of our houseIn Balinese the word is lipi. There is no way I can imagine lipi to be a scary word. It has such a friendly sound, like a name for a guinea pig. Or a snail, as in, ‘Oh no, I just trod on a lipi.’

But what is in a name? They are still the same animal in any language, though of course we see them differently the way they are named. We have had five snake sightings in our yard in Sanur in the past three weeks. The first was killed, one got away, and three others were caught. When I saw the small dead snake I was concerned. But not as alarmed as when the three that were captured were identified as baby Spitting Cobras. Cobras just sounds like bad news in English. And ones that spit must be far worse!

My husband's finger next to the baby spitting cobra gives it some scale.

In Indonesian, however, Ular Sendok (Spoon Snake) doesn’t really inspire terrifying images of hooded cobras rearing up preparing to strike. And the Balinese name, Lipi Oh, even less so.

Don’t panic – call an expert

I’ve since learnt a lot about snakes in Bali and discovered that we have had one of the most dangerous snakes coming through our yard in recent weeks. There are around 40 types of snakes in Bali and only six are identified as highly venomous and potentially dangerous to people. Of these, only four are common and only two often found in the southern Bali built up areas – and the other one usually stays in trees. So we have been unlucky.

Expert advice from Ron Lilley suggests they are coming from the snake haven that is the empty block next door and using our yard as a thoroughfare. Extensive cleaning up of bamboo clumps and leaf litter is now underway as is blocking drains, cracks and mystery holes in the ground.

But as Peter, a volunteer from Bali Reptile Rescue, said, “when you live in the tropics expect to get snakes.”

Bali Reptile Rescue free poster about snakes in BaliAdvice from both these snake experts includes: it’s no use to spread sulphur everywhere – too much of that yellow powder will only kill your lawn. It is advisable to teach the kids what to do if they see a snake (stand still, yell out and walk backwards keeping your eye on the snake). And keep the yard so tidy it offers little cover for snakes to visit. Also, be particularly alert in the beginning of the wet season as that is when baby cobras are hatching and start looking for frogs to eat. Rain means more frogs which means more snakes.

Python peril

Other snakes, though, prefer to live off mice and rats, especially pythons. And quite a few large specimens have been caught in Sanur in recent years. “It’s been a good period for snakes – or bad – depending on your point of view,” said Ron. According to Ron, pythons live all around us unnoticed because they are feeding on rats. But it is when they become big enough for cats and dogs to start disappearing that people notice and call in a snake catcher.

Only a few months ago Ron was at our block, this time to remove a three-metre long python in the roof of our neighbour’s house. It hadn’t been there long, but long enough for two cats to go missing, presumed eaten. Our neighbours know exactly how long the snake had been there because later, their other neighbours told them they had seen the snake going onto their roof. But neglected to tell them! How does someone not go and immediately tell their neighbour this!?

This snake was even longer than the 2.5-metre long reticulated python found in our own ceiling, the year before we moved in. It looked pretty cosy in our ceiling cavity, above the master bedroom ensuite, and there was speculation it had been busily eating its way through the rodent population of the house before the smell eventually attracted some notice.

Man-killer

This python, caught just near my friend’s house a few kilometres from the Hyatt in Sanur some months later, is believed to have been the snake resonsible.

This python, caught just near my friend’s house a few kilometres from the Hyatt in Sanur some months later, is believed to have been the snake resonsible.

The most famous python caught in Bali in recent years would have to be the 4.5-metre-long one that killed a man near the Hyatt Hotel in Sanur (the hotel is empty while it undergoes renovation). Sadly, it seems it was a desire to pose for a photo that saw Ambar Arianto Mulyo wrap the snake (believed dead) around his neck. As quickly became obvious, the python wasn’t dead, and revived suddenly to break his neck. A shocking example of how it is people’s actions that usually cause injury from snakes.

On the other hand, a friend’s mother woke up in her house in the backblocks of Surabaya one day with a snake sleeping beside her. She didn’t panic and the snake simply left.

Now that I am more educated about snakes, I’m going to try and think more like a Hindu Balinese. Snakes have their place and they are all going about their business that usually has nothing to do with us. It may even be possible to be reincarnated as a snake. As long as it is not a poisonous snake that could bite my children if they were unlucky enough to stand on it, I will be sanguine. Just another lipi passing through? Ok. Selamat jalan.

Contacts for snake catchers in Bali

Ron Lilley
rphlilley@yahoo.co.uk
081338496700

Bali Reptile Rescue
balireptilerescue@yahoo.com
082146380270

Instilling a love of books in Indonesia at Dyatmika

Dyatmika School has a reputation in Bali as the school to choose if you want your children to be bilingual in Indonesian and English. A new Indonesian language literacy program is sure to enhance its reputation even further afield; certainly as far as Australia.

Located near Sanur, Dyatmika is a National Plus school which teaches 50 per cent in Indonesian and 50 per cent in English. While their library is well-stocked with literacy books and phonics programs in English, teachers were struggling to find suitable books in Bahasa Indonesia.

Undaunted, the school decided to create its own program and appointed one of the long-term primary teachers, Ibu Sri Utami, as the literacy coordinator. Now in her fourth year working full-time on the program, Utami proudly showed us last week the Literasi Anak Indonesia collection: 57 titles over 14 levels of reading as well as guides for teachers for each book and workbooks for children.

Literasi Anak Indonesia collection

Literasi Anak Indonesia collection

Each book, from the simplest story with one word on each page, up to the more complex Year 4 readers, is set in an Indonesian context. Ibu Utami has written each book herself and the illustrations are done by a variety of talented Indonesian artists and photographers.

An expanding program

The best part about the program is that Dyatmika School is not keeping their resource to themselves. Quite the opposite. They are hoping to share it as widely as possible to Indonesian and international schools alike. So far, through funds from donors, they have managed to sponsor 20 local primary schools in Bali to use the program through providing the books as well as several days training for the teachers.

A friend and I visited last week precisely to see if the program could be used in a pre-school that our kids attend, and also in the early learning centre attached to the East Bali Cashew factory. Ibu Utami was extremely positive and only said training will need to be scheduled for the teachers/carers there. Here’s hoping I’ll be able to post an update early in the new year about this program in those new schools.

Early reader in Indonesian

Early reader in Indonesian

Where are the picture books?

When you think of little children learning to read you think of picture books. This is how children are usually introduced to books in homes in Australia and how they develop a love of books. Primary schools in Australia are full of books and lower-level primary students are read to often. Not so in Indonesia. I am told that picture books in Indonesian schools are non-existent. Instilling a love of books must be so much harder with the bare resources that they have.

Without a culture of shared reading in Indonesian classrooms, Dyatmika teachers realised that the books had to be accompanied by training so they also teach the teachers about how to share a book with the class – stopping to ask the class questions, creating a discussion around the story and so on. Utami even told us some of the teachers they continue to mentor have changed the classrooms from a very traditional set up with all children facing the front, to different ways of groups, even a circle.

All of the readers can be turned into a big book which look fantastic with their bright colours and bold illustrations.

All of the readers can be turned into a big book which look fantastic with their bright colours and bold illustrations.

 

International use

As well as the sponsored schools and Dyatmika itself, there are a number of international schools in Indonesia which have begun to use the books in classes where Indonesian is taught as a foreign language, including Green School. The next step is to make the books available to schools overseas, and especially Australia.

IMG_3495

Unfortunately Utami says the requests to order the books from Indonesian families living overseas can’t be filled yet as they are not yet set up as a publisher.

This year the LAI program was turned into a yayasan (not for profit foundation) which means the program can expand, and more people can be involved.

Wouldn’t it be great if Australian schools could buy the books to use themselves and then the Australian money could fund the printing of books for more Indonesian schools! I’m sure this program will expand but it would be great to have an Australian hand behind it.