“Nila… my butt hurts!”, said Jessy, my friend who was Taman Bacaan Pelangi‘s secretary, when we visited Rebak Village in Flores.
Everybody’s butt would hurt after a 2 hour of motorbike ride on non-stop bumpy roads. I remember the first time I went there, I was just had a little accident in Jakarta where I broke my tail bone. Yet, I still went to Rebak and sat on a motorbike with a broken tail bone. It was like in hell! Even in a normal condition, it wasn’t comfortable to be in that situation, so you could imagine having a broken tail bone and had to be on such trip – back & forth!
Anyway, this time, I couldn’t complain. Hearing what Jessy said, I just nodded and said, “Yeah, mine, too. But this time was much better”.
Rebak Village was located in West Manggarai, Flores. One could only reach here by motorbike or a big truck, due to the rocky roads. At times, we even had to get off from the bike and walked, because it was too hilly or too steep. It was really an adventure.
After a long ride under the sun, we finally reached Rebak Village. Thanks to the dry season, we didn’t have to walk for long. I remember after the 1.5 hour of motorbike ride, I had to walk for another 1.5 hour uphill to get to the village. It was tiring, indeed. Especially if we were not mentally ready for it :D.
To my surprise, when we arrived at Pak Frans’ house (he’s Taman Bacaan Pelangi’s volunteer), there were many people there. Apparently, the whole important people of the village came to greet us. Wow! I felt so honoured! It felt so good that the elders & those people supported the library and gave their blessings to what we did.
Not long after introducing everyone, here came the best part. According to West Manggarai tradition, if they had a respected guest visiting them, they would welcome the guest by giving a… roster! Yes, a live rooster. I’ve experienced it many times, but still it gave me goose bumps to receive it. The rooster symbolised a guardian that would guard us during our trip, so that we would come home safe and there wouldn’t be any bad spirit or bad things happened to us.
As the founder of Taman Bacaan Pelangi, I was the one who had to receive the rooster. And, as soon as I touched it… it bite my arm! Aaaarrgghhh.. naughty rooster! It didn’t hurt or anything, because the rooster was attacking my bracelet, but it was more of a shock to me. And of course, when that happened, everybody laughed their as* off. Ah well, at least I entertained everyone.
It was such an overwhelming experience every time I had meetings with the local community, head of the villages, school principals, teachers and the elders. I loved the energy and the friendliness of the people in the villages. It felt like we’re part of a big happy family. Incredible.
Pak Hendrik, the guy who was also our volunteer in managing the library in Rebak, said, “We’re very happy to have Taman Bacaan Pelangi in the past 2.5 years. We know that our village is hard to reach, that’s why we’re very happy that you visit us. Every Sunday, the kids come to the library to read. They loved the books at the library. But can we request something? Please provide more books to us“.
Awww… my heart melted on the spot. It sounded like a beautiful song to my ear. “Please provide more books to us“. This sentence gave me extra energy, made me want to do more and convinced me that we’re on the right track.
I felt so humbled to have them as our volunteers. No salary. Everyone worked based on their goodwill to help the kids in their villages. Very noble, indeed and I was very lucky to know them & work with them.
And plus… the kids were so cute.. as always!