Friday, November 10, 2017

Volunteering at Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2017 (Part One)

Drew Ambrose, an Al Jazeera journalist giving workshop at one of international school 
at Kerobokan, Bali about Story Telling

Last 25th-29th October 2017, I was volunteering at the 14th Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, which is an annual festival on literature spanning from intimate lunches with writers and readers, workshops, mind blowing main sessions, until art exhibitions and stage performances. This year was my third time coming to this festival and from the first time I came there I have this bucket list that I have to be able to be a volunteer here. But, because of my previous hectic schedule, just got the chance to tick my bucket list this year, and I am beyond happy!

I submit my admission last minute and propose to be placed as a volunteer on international writers liaison or MC, but apparantely those positions are full, so then they offered me to be placed at Children and Youth Programs. Although I do not find my self attracted to children or youth, I said yes anyway because I know it will all be about educating our young generation, and I put so much interest in education. 

But, oh what a surprise, this humble position is just what I am actually looking for! I got the chance to accompanying the writers which gave workshops to children and young adults from some various school means I am working as their liaison, I get to see their mind blowing workshop, I get to see how interested these children and young adults in this kind of education, and I get to also be an MC sometimes, so this position is just a perfect package! 

Above I accompanied Drew Ambrose, currently works at Al Jazeera as their journalist, producing documentaries at their program 101 East, focusing on current affairs across Asia Pacific. At his workshop he wanted to show the student how journalism nowadays have shifted in this digital age, how people are no longer getting their news from the newspaper in the morning, but how nowadays they get it real quick, unschedule but always up to date, fresh from the onlinesphere ranging from twitter, podcast until youtube. 

He wanted to show the student how to make their own version of journalism, how to tell their story, how to make their story great by giving conflict into it. So at the beginning after giving some brain storming to this student by few questions about journalism, he played us his documentary at 101 East Al Jazeera about Mongolia's child jockey who risk death to do a horse race. Then he asked the student to analyze what conflicts are being shown from the video. 

I am amazed by how this 7th-8th grader students analyzed this documentary. They were so very enthusiastic in participating on the discussion and could analyze such detail conflicts, from how the horse race activity for such a young children is illegal and dangerous until how there is a conflict between this activity being an important culture but also in a modern way of thinking there is some disadvantages from this activity. And at the end of the workshop, some students approached Drew Ambrose to say thank you for such an interesting class and how they wanted to become a journalist. I do not think I ever saw my classmate that enthusiastic about any subject taught at our classroom! I do not think I ever saw my classmate love the classroom's activity at all. What is wrong here? The student? The classroom's activity? The system? Nevertheless, to make things better let's start with ourselves by doing the best we can do with what we have instead of looking for matters to be blamed, though. 

Leza Lowitz, author of Up From The Sea, a novel in verse about a Japanese boy survived the march 2011 Japan tsunami which devastates his village

The next day some students from an international school at Jakarta, came to Ubud to this workshop presented by Leza Lowitz. Yes, that's right, they flew all the way from Jakarta and spent a week at Ubud specifically to attend Ubud Writers and Readers Festival and some of its workshop, how fun is that! 

I helped Leza preparing her class, presentation, and taking pictures of them along the workshop. She is very humble and we talked a bit and she gave us, the volunteers, a little postcard she bought at Japan from mothers of autistic children who sold it in order to get fund for their children's therapy because in Japan this autism issue has not been widely recognized and supported. How considerate, right? What I love about her is her attention to details. While helping her preparing her presentation I know she wants the children to experience the workshop best so she make sure that everything is in order and could support her delivered the best presentation!

She presented to the children the background of her novel in verse, Up From The Sea; where her ideas came from, how she decided to make a novel in verse because she thinks that it would be the best form to easily be enjoyed by different kinds of people who some of them might not like to read a long long words of the usual novel, and told the story of people and places which inspired some of the verses.

It was magical.

If I were those children, I might be wanted to make a novel and be a writer immediately! 

Rondji Restaurant, the venue of Michael Vatikiotis' Book Launch with me as the MC

Yes, I get what I wished for at the beginning, to be an MC at one of the session. Some technical issue arised and we need an extra MC for this book launch and I happily said yes! I went to Rondji Restaurant with no expectation and was surprised by how beautiful the setting of this book launch here overlooking the busy activities down the street and the serene of Ubud's paddyfield in the horizon. 

This book launch was moderated by Rio Helmi, a well known photographer and writer, talking about Michael Vatikiotis' new book Blood and Silk: Power and Conflict in Modern Southeast Asia, yes, a rather heavy material book. But despite how serious this book launch can be, the readers seem so very interested and ask a few intriguing questions and it became a mind blowing discussion with the writer. 

I am only here to open and close the book launch so it was only a small part in bringing this magic came to live, but it made me happy already, to be here, exchanging few words with this great writers, well maybe, maybe one day I can be the one sitting in the speaker's chair, maybe? :)

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