“If you love your city that much, …”

I might not be the best public speaker you’ve ever met in your life, but I’ve been practicing quite some time due to lots of conferences, seminars and classes. I can now overcome my stage fright as long as I prepare my materials properly and know the subjects well. However, I could still be a bit nervous when it comes to the toughest audience: children. So here’s what happened today:

4th Grade students of Gagas Ceria, watching Helarfest2009 video

A friend, Cici, asked me to accompany her in presenting about “Bandung Creative City” in an elementary school, Gagas Ceria. We knew later that our audience were about thirty 4th Grade students, whose ages range between 9 and 10 years old. This presentation is a part of a “West Java Week” at school, where each class is having its theme for the term, all connected to the culture of West Java: angklung, wayang, etc. It’s only the 4th Grade that has a theme that’s a bit different from the other levels: “creative city”, which means not traditional but contemporary culture of West Java, especially Bandung.

There we were this morning, in a classroom full of kids and about four teachers, chatting about creative communities and creative city. The children were sitting on the floor, while we and the teachers sat on low chairs, if now walking around. I used a video that contain activities of communities that participated in Helarfest2009. I also presented photos / slides of a number of activities and places that provide pleasant spaces for communities to meet and work.Watching the video all over again, it all came back to me that Bandung is indeed rich of communities: fashion, design, art, architecture, children clubs, music of many kinds, dances, motor owners, etc. I wanted to show them possibilities and variations of communities that give Bandung its vibes and events that make the city alive.

The children were listening to Cici explaining about Urban Farming, using slideshows made by Ridwan Kamil, head of BCCF.

Cici presented Bandung Berkebun (an urban farming community in Bandung), how it could also attract a number of communities, by showing a video made by Keuken that captures the event of harvesting and directly cooking the freshly-harvested vegetables.

Came the Q&A session. These kids asked questions such as:

“How did the designer get the idea about making a stool out of grass? Is it real or plastic?”

“Why is there a musical performance at a hospital? Isn’t hospital suppose to be for sick people only?”

“How do we participate in creative city events?”

“Why do some people draw and write their names on fences and monuments that make them look dirty?”

Another question went so: “What about poor street kids? Do they get to join any of these activities?”. But of all the questions, what made me stop and really, really think was one that came from a boy that sat at the back of the row.

“If you love your city that much, what have you done to prove it?”

To be honest, I was deeply moved. Now what would you tell a 10yo boy about your contribution to your city, your society and communities? All I could say was, I just did the best I could to make the city a more pleasant place to be for everybody, especially children. Deep in my heart, I kept asking myself that question over and over again. Have I really done so?

This, I can tell you, was the highlight of the day. It turned out that my audience today was not only among the toughest, smartest ones, but also the most enlightening! Thank you, 4th Graders, for refreshing my thoughts about what it really means to be a part of a society. To be a citizen in a dense, growing urban area. To be among the ones who could actually make the change, for the better, in a community.

A souvenir from the class: a drawing titled "Bandung Creative City"

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