8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 16, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

Well, We Hit the Roof

We got a lovely invitation from the new RIMBA – we think it still qualifies as “new” since it hasn’t yet been open for a year – to attend a svelte bash on Apr. 12 to launch its Unique Rooftop Bar. Of course we went along. We like an affray and it’s always good to catch up with friends including Marian Carroll, who runs the corporate and PR effort of both RIMBA and AYANA.

The Grand Launch featured a live performance by Lee Dewyze. RIMBA’s landscaping and architecture is quite stunning. It was a grand night.

Friends who stayed there over Nyepi tell us the guests in residence for silent night Bali style were mainly Indonesian. It’s good to see the emerging middle classes spending rupes in felicitous places.

 

Nice to be Back

Fresh off the plane from Australia, circumstances led us almost immediately to Candi Dasa. This was a benefit, because it took us back to a favourite spot, Pondok Bambu, a beautifully cool sea breeze and fine views to Nusa Penida and Lombok.

We dined one night at Vincent’s, also a favourite. The Diary’s tofu dish was divine and the Distaff’s beetroot salad concoction looked marvellous. Vincent’s now has live jazz on the first and third Thursdays of every month. Regrettably, our visit this time coincided with neither of these opportunities. We shall have to return.

Degustation also took place at Quarante-Huit, Le 48, the restaurant attached to the Zen resort. It is no longer under French management, having been sold to a gentleman from Surabaya. But the cuisine is still determinedly (and happily) Gallic and the waitresses still remind one, by their attire and attentive presence, of the pretty fillies one once used to bump into in Paris.

 

Says It All

Those innovative signs on Bali’s highways that say “truk gunakan lajur kiri” (“trucks use left lane”) are working as expected. They are universally ignored as yet another traffic rule the police can’t be bothered to enforce. It remains easier, much more fun and certainly more profitable for them to create traffic jams by staging random hold-ups to check licences and vehicle registrations.

The drive up to Candi Dasa on the East Coast highway on a Friday afternoon perfectly illustrated the pointlessness of regulatory signage on Balinese highways. It also brought to attention a chap who immediately won Madman of the Week award for the way in which he drove his heavily-laden green truck.

The windscreen was basically obliterated by stickers and anyway was of what looked like 100 per cent tinted glass. But it was the custom-painted legend on the truck’s rear bumper bar that told the real story. The first time he stormed past us, weaving through the 80km/h traffic at breakneck speed, we noted the sign with close attention.

It read, “I don’t care!”

 

New Line-Up

The Bali Hotels Association’s 2014 board, announced recently, has some interesting names worth placing on record. Ian Cameron (by complete coincidence a neighbour of The Diary at Ungasan) is director of finance. He’s general manager of the Grand Aston Nusa Dua.

Another name, hitherto undiscovered, is Laetitia Sugandi, general manager of Harris Riverside Hotel and Residences in Kuta, who got the gig as director of sports and cultural activities. That’s an area of particular interest to The Diary.

Chairman for 2014 is Alessandro Migliore, GM at The Royal Beach, Seminyak. Past chairman Jean-Charles Le Coz of the Nikko is vice-chairman.

 

Give Her a Break

Schapelle Corby’s parole rules apparently require her not to wear a motorbike helmet. We surmise this from a report in The Beat Daily that said she had earned a rebuke from parole officers for having done so while making her way to a scheduled meeting with them.

It’s sensible to require parolees, who after all are still serving sentences albeit with some authorized freedoms, to remain in plain sight. Unless they’re on a motorbike that is, where to the surprise no doubt of the traffic police and various other minor functionaries, wearing such head protection is required by law. That’s notionally, of course, in the way of most things here.

Corby is in a delicate situation. For some reason that entirely escapes logical explanation, she is a person of interest to the Australian media. On any risk analysis, where she is concerned, the potential presence of an intrusively rude little person pointing a camera has to be factored in. Avoiding such incidents by being invisible in transit, since her visibility has already earned her a rebuke or three from her official minders, would seem to be sensible policy.

But bureaucrats everywhere are not well known for a capacity to think laterally.

 

Hospital Pass

Australia’s Channel Seven, late of the Schapelle shemozzle, is running a series of documentaries that take viewers inside the private BIMC and public Sanglah hospitals. The series is called What Really Happens in Bali and also showcases the lives of expats who now call Bali home.

Thankfully The Diary was not approached to participate. It would have been very difficult to top the éclat of the guy who apparently claims (breathlessly one might imagine) to have had sex with more than 100 women in 90 days. Evidently he was on a very special social visa.

The series is great exposure – and it’s well deserved – for both BIMC and for Sanglah (whose link with Royal Darwin Hospital in Australia is very valuable). If the series lives up to the promise in its title, many more Australians will be better informed about Bali than they are at present.

 

For the Record

According to some among the expatriate population, we’re not supposed to refer to the many feet of clay that clog up the works in these parts. This segment of the expat community has adopted the general Balinese response that if you don’t like it here, you should go home. That’s classic sand-pit stuff, best left behind in one’s toddler years, and we certainly take no notice. Our rule is: If there’s a snafu, say so.

The reluctant conclusion that there is now no hope of Bali being declared rabies-free until at least 2016 is a case in point. Like all such targets in Bali it’s a dynamic one, not to say fluid, and infinitely expandable on a logarithmic scale.

When the current outbreak began in 2008, after many years in which no human cases had been recorded and no animal ones noticed, the place for a time looked like a rather bad Three Stooges movie set. Unfortunately the result of that particular farce is that to date an estimated 147 people have died of rabies. That figure, incidentally, would at best win only qualified audit status.

There was a lull in reported rabies cases for while but this year there have already been four suspected cases including two confirmed deaths in Buleleng and a large number of cases in dogs.

Under international rules there must be two clear years between the last reported case and declaration that an infected area is now free of the disease.

The authorities blame community reluctance to vaccinate dogs or to cooperate with the government. That’s a cop-out. After six years of hampering the efforts of others while pocketing anti-rabies money, some in the bureaucracy responsible (and their political bosses) should have worked out which way is up. Or at least, found a conscience.

 

Heart and SOLEMEN

Many charitable organizations are active in Bali, a lot of them working right at the coalface of disadvantage and distress. They all deserve our support. One among them is SOLEMEN, famous for its barefoot walks to raise funds. It treats the sick and handicapped children it helps in a holistic way.

Robert Epstone, who would modestly describe himself as one among many leading lights in the organization, sent us a copy of the SOLEMEN Newsletter No. 5, covering Jan.-Mar. this year. It’s a great initiative and is heartrending reading. It should be required study for any among us who in the western way are apt to consider themselves discommoded by trivial circumstances.

On Mar. 27 there was a charity fundraiser partly in aid of SOLEMEN and organized by Sunset Vet of Kuta to celebrate its first birthday, with funds going to assist SOLEMEN’s efforts to help the poor and disadvantaged in Bali in the way they do best, by focusing on individual cases of immense suffering and providing immediate help.

SOLEMEN is completing its first permaculture garden in one poor village in Denpasar to encourage self sufficiency plus raised self esteem within the community. As well as feeding families, the program – planned as the first of many – will supply a surplus to provide an income for them.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 2, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

On the Wrong Bus

An outbreak of gratuitous and unnecessary angst caught our eye the just before the 2014 Bali Spirit Festival got under way. It was said – by dog lady and artist Linda Buller of all people, on Facebook, the favoured resort of the whickering classes these days – that Spirit was not what Ubud was all about. Apparently this was because it brought in hordes of yoga practitioners who clogged the streets and seemed to wander around in a little world of their own.

Well, hello? If indeed they do, in that regard Spirit patrons are no different (in any essential that matters) from patrons of the other festivals that feature in the Ubud calendar. There’s little difference, for non-participants, between being obstructed by someone off with the yoga fairies and someone else (say) who is wandering the streets musing about literary things such as from where their next or possibly their first royalty payment is going to come.

Ubud is no longer what once it was. The same can be said about anywhere on the face of the planet. We’d recommend a trip to Leh in Ladakh for any doubters of this fundamental truth.

Nor is Ubud a community in which foreigners (or even Balinese or other Indonesians from elsewhere) can expect to have much of a say in political and social affairs. The early tambourine-bangers who colonized the village may have thought they had found a personal little Nirvana, or Shangri-la, but like any foreign colony anywhere, they were fooling themselves.

Ubud’s future, and Bali’s, depends ultimately on its Balinese. Wisely or not, they seem happy enough to profit from the desire of foreigners and others to buy up rice fields and build little palaces or more humble abodes. It’s that which is changing Ubud, not the Spirit Festival or any other esoteric navel-gazing interests.

It’s possible that Buller was just joshing us, in her Australian way. But in case she was serious, we repeat what we noted in the Diary of Mar.19: Meghan Pappenheim’s spirited baby is perfect for Bali and especially for Ubud, where if you ignore the big buses full of Chinese tourists seeking bric-a-brac you can in fact still almost smell the ether.

 

Watch Out for Spam

An announcement that the national government will invest in water infrastructure for South Bali in partnership with the provincial authorities, Denpasar city and Badung regency, is good news of a sort. The existing infrastructure is creaking, frankly in a terminal fashion.

The South Bali region has been included in Indonesia’s Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Economic Development (MP3EI) to improve existing infrastructure related to the provision of water. The region including Denpasar, Badung, Gianyar, Tabanan and Klungkung (and known in the Indonesian compound fashion as Sabargitaku) is recognised as an asset for the Bali/Nusa Tenggara corridor because it earns substantial revenue through tourism.

It has now apparently come to the attention of those who control the national budgetary strings that there has been pressure on the existing infrastructure of the area. Full marks are due then to Djoko Kirmanto, the Minister for Public Infrastructure, who has now noted that demand has reached unsustainable levels.

Under the Djoko Plan a new water supply system, draining system and sanitation program (delightfully, apparently it is to be known as SPAM) will be put in place to accommodate growing demand. It notes that one of the problems in the Sabargitaku region is the uneven distribution of water throughout the four areas. Well, there you go!

A total of Rp 344.3 billion will be invested from the national budget, Rp 97.5 billion from Bali’s provincial government budget and a further Rp 120.8 billion from the Denpasar and Badung regency budgets.

It would be good if that sort of money got into the pipeline and if quantities of it did not thereafter leach out en route to its functionally productive public destination.

 

K9 KO

Lizzie Love tells us the KK9 project she initiated at Kerobokan Jail has had to be canned, for reasons that have nothing to do with the value of the project, which was to give inmates an opportunity to bond with friendly dogs. Likewise, it had nothing to do with the prison authorities, who supported the program.

That’s sad for all concerned and especially for inmates who had already made friends with a particular dog. But as Lizzy tells us, the welfare of the dogs is paramount. Any uncertainty on that front is an automatic shut-down signal, quite properly.

The demise of this project turned out does not detract from the great work being done – by volunteers and inmates – in other areas at Kerobokan. KK9 may have been a misstep, but that’s all it was.

 

Greying Anatomy

Well, we know it. We’re, well, sort of part of it, really. But it’s good in a way to hear that Bali is set to boom in the coming years, with Australians looking for cheaper retirement options. That’s if they can get the pension too, of course. If they’re filthy rich and can afford to duck the restrictions attached to Australian age pensions, they’d be better giving Bali a miss in favour of someplace else where the gap between official and informal outlays and value for money on the services rendered is narrower.

According to something we saw in The Beat Daily recently Australians – who are now approaching retirement in record numbers courtesy of the post-World War II baby boom – are increasingly looking to Bali as a more affordable alternative. This intelligence reaches us via Matthew Upchurch, chief executive of luxury travel network Virtuoso.

It’s not surprising that Australians are looking at Bali as an affordable alternative to retiring in the Odd Zone. It’s close to home, but free of several irritants. If retirees stay home the nanny state and its overweening bureaucracy interest themselves in everything from their bank accounts to their daily motions.

Bali is gearing up to meet this emerging demographic in a range of areas, from medical tourism – where BIMC Hospital at Nusa Dua is pioneering new facilities – to retirement living on the pattern long ago established in Europe, such as a new facility being built by Sentosa Worldwide Resorts at Umalas.

It’s the coming thing, it seems.

 

Essential Research

You have to plan carefully and be sure not to overdo things, but the West Australians produce such good wine that no visit of a longer than fleeting nature would be complete without a visit to a winery.

Our own “local” vineyards are in the south-west, in the Margaret River and Pemberton wine regions. The fact that we’re there fairly frequently does not mean we can afford to miss updating current research at every available opportunity.

On our most recent trip we visited Aravina (it used to be Amberley) and Wise. We had lunch at Aravina, which is on Wildwood Road at Yallingup, and afternoon tea at Wise, which is in the Cape Naturaliste uplands and offers a delightfully Provencal outlook, complete with plane trees, north and east towards the waters of Geographe Bay.

The rose at Aravina and the moscato at Wise were alone worth the trips. At Aravina we doubled our benefit with a fabulous polenta dish and significant dessert. At Wise, we confined our culinary attention to a rather yummy flourless pear cake.

While we were in the area Noela Newton of Artisan Wines got in touch. She was heading to Margaret River and wondered if our schedules might match. Unfortunately they didn’t. But Artisan and Margaret River have a very close connection. That cannot be a bad thing.

Cheers!

 

Piecing it Together

Nina Karnikowski of The Sydney Morning Herald had some useful guidance for Australian readers recently, on what’s hot and what’s not in Bali. She did a Q&A with chef Chris Salans of Mozaic Restaurant Gastronomique in Ubud and Mozaic Beach Club at Batu Belig.

We’re of the same mind as Cordon Bleu trained Salans on at least one seminal Bali factor: Jajan pasar is a sweet treat not to be missed in any circumstances. It’s a regular feature of the household provisioning budget at The Cage.

Ours comes from the cake shop attached to Bali Jaya, a locally owned supermarket on Jl. Raya Uluwatu at Bukit Jimbaran where the Diary is happily on smiling and chatting terms with the lovely lady proprietor. It’s where we buy our Indonesian wine and whisky and those things in packets of 20 that in most places nowadays you’re not even allowed to think about, let alone mention in polite company.

Salans has been living in Bali since 1995 and will be a double-decader next year. Perhaps that’s why he likes Lawar Nyawan, a traditional Balinese salad that features bee larvae as its chief ingredient. He concedes that it may be an acquired taste.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

Hector’s Diary Bali Advertiser, Mar. 19, 2014

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Stop Being a Pain

BIMC Hospital at Nusa Dua is now offering a revolutionary treatment for chronic joint pain and muscle injuries. News of this beneficence has already piqued the interest of certain elderly diarists around town, whose bodies unaccountably will not conform to the desired 21-Forever Plan.

There seems to be an increasing frequency of events in our life that bring to mind the ultimate predicaments of Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn in the delightful 1992 American dark comedy Death Becomes Her. Apart from trying to avoid accidental upsets on slippery steps and imperfect pavements – and that’s a functional impossibility in Bali – there has lately seemed little to do other than to cleave to classical Stoic practice: Grimace and bear it.

A chat with BIMC Hospital executive chairman Craig Beveridge the other day was therefore interesting. The new Orthopaedic PRP treatment is a four-step process that involves drawing a small quantity of blood from the patient, separating it in a centrifuge to extract the platelets, extracting 3-6 millilitres of platelet-rich plasma (that’s the PRP bit) and injecting the concentrate directly into the injured area.

The technology is new in Bali and a prime example of how medical science can help keep you on the bike (for example) and otherwise mobile. Sports medicine has grown rapidly over recent decades. Many among us have a dickey knee or two from continuing or former affiliations with energetic things. Beveridge and the Diary compared notes on precisely that point during our chat.

We’ll certainly look at the new procedure. People have been telling us for years that we’re a pain in the neck. And these days we know exactly how they’ve always felt.

 

SEB Programme

Regular readers will now what we mean, especially those who live full time in Bali. It’s a great place to live but it’s somewhere you need to escape from now and then. Our escape interval is generally less than six months.

This SEB is highly marginal against that preferred timeframe. It commenced on Mar. 14 and will end (appropriately perhaps) on All Fools’ Day, Apr. 1. When we left for Australia it was just short of six months since the Diary was last somewhere where white lines on roads are not just artwork to be ignored if they are noticed at all; where you can generally count on people complying with give-way and stop signs; where traffic leaves a red-now-green light without delay; and where drivers don’t indulge in a chorus of tooting before they remember that it’s their own inane fixation with their horn that is holding up the traffic behind.

It’s a joy to drive in a place where people stay in lane; indicate turn intentions and know where they’re going; use turn lanes properly; keep left; merge seamlessly into traffic from side-roads; don’t have an unquenchable urge to overtake you so they can then crawl along in front of you; and never overtake on the left.

That’s to say nothing of the absence of undisciplined hordes of motorcyclists who have no idea of the road rules or (if they do have an inkling) show any willingness to accept that they actually apply to them as well; or possess any apparent interest in their own longevity.

So OK, it’s basically boring, far too regulated, and absolutely overrun by the smoking police and battalions of other do-gooders who insist that they have a role in your life and won’t go away even if you give them very explicit and highly detailed advice as to how they should do so, now. It’s true that after two weeks in Australia you feel as if you’ve never left (and wonder why you haven’t).

But it’s good to re-immerse yourself in something resembling order, briefly. Perhaps that’s why Jo Hocking returned to Perth without much notice lately, after a surprisingly short engagement as spruiker for Mozaic beach club at Batu Belig.

 

Micra to Go

We’re driving a Nissan Micra on our SEB. It’s a nice little car of the same type that we hired in the UK over Christmas 2008. That occasion proved its worth. We were driving to deepest Lincolnshire (it’s about two to three metres below sea level and the area is even called Holland).

It’s also deeply agricultural. There are fields with cabbages in them as far as the eye can see, and we could see at that time of day even in midwinter. It was in that strange environment that our little Micra proved her worth. We had been chugging along behind some giant motorized agricultural implement for some little time when a clear stretch of road appeared.

The chance was grabbed. The Diary, who was driving with the lights on, used the right-turn indicator to indicate intention to pass (strange how quickly you lose Indonesian driving practices when you’re away from home) and flashed the headlights on full beam to further alert the driver of the mobile obstruction.

We pulled out and were level with the cab and its headphone-equipped driver when the machine suddenly turned right. It was apparently going home up some farm track. We were on track to go under its giant wheels.

Instinct took over: We jumped on the footbrake, spun the steering wheel full lock right and wrenched the handbrake on. That saved us, turning us 90 degrees in an instant. Or the car did. It’s a beautifully engineered little vehicle.

We stopped just short of a roadside dike (in the Lincolnshire fens that’s a ditch) and spent a little moment recovering our composure. The Diary wondered out loud, assisted by several adjectives of a scatological and even coarser genre, whether he should pursue the heedless moron up the farm track to remonstrate with him. But there would have been no point. He was plainly as thick as a plank and quite possibly only spoke Mangel Wurzel.

Our West Australian travels, courtesy of the good folk at Aries Car Hire in Perth, are far tamer and much better mannered.

 

Well, Hello!

It has been an extraordinarily long time between drinks for the Diary and Distaff and two lovely friends whose fly-in-fly-out Bali visits from either Brisbane or Singapore have for years somehow failed to coincide with our own otherwise all but permanent presence.

But the drought has now been broken. We’re having dinner with them somewhere up Seminyak way just after we get back to Bali. It probably won’t be a riotous night. This isn’t because age has wearied us. It’s merely encouraged us to view moderation as a benefit rather than a bane.

But we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. There will be a few laughs. And that may be loud.

 

That’s the Spirit

Jade Richardson, who blogs evocatively as the Passionfruit Cowgirl, has been busy lately writing about ethereal and other things connected with the 2014 Bali Spirit Festival (Mar. 19-23). This is very clever of her (though this is no surprise; she is one of the brighter stars in the Bali firmament) since she’s in Ecuador. Still, these days you can sit anywhere, even on an ice floe if you want, and write about anywhere else. Unless you say, no one would know where your real as opposed to your virtual self was located.

The annual spirit festival, Meghan Pappenheim’s baby, is perfect for Bali and especially for Ubud, where if you ignore the big buses full of Chinese tourists seeking bric-a-brac you can still almost smell the ether.

Richardson’s offerings include a nice piece on a compilation titled “Music to Surf Clouds to”, that gathers favourites selected by those who will be providing the musical component of the festival. We’ve grabbed it for our music list. It will help us to be virtually present at the show this year.

 

Good Friends

A new Facebook group has caught our eye: Friends of BAWA. It’s good to see, because despite rumours to the contrary that are either scurrilous or misinformed, the Bali Animal Welfare Association is alive and well and (in the Shakespearean sense) still kicking against the pricks. It needs friends.

Animal welfare is a global concern. It’s not just about dogs, even here in Bali where the pathetic condition of many strays – “unhomed” seems to be the buzzword nowadays – and the treatment regularly meted out to them would bring a tear to the most flinty of eyes.

In Bali, there’s a lot of education still to be done about the duty of care humans have to the animal kingdom. This is not a wealthy western community. That’s something many wealthy westerners who come here and bitch about poor services and other demerits should think about, in a context far broader than animal welfare.

We need a full house of not-for-profit community based organizations that look out for the health and welfare of both humans and animals (and the environment) and getting that message out widely is important.

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 5, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Diving Lessons 

The matter of the Japanese divers whose expedition turned into disaster off Nusa Penida on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) is now in police hands. An investigation is apparently under way. The skipper of the dive boat is a person of interest, according to reports.

That seems fair enough. The facts of the case should not be the subject of ill-informed prattle or gossipy rumour. As always, one lives in hope that should the authorities actually discover the facts, they’ll let everyone know about this rather than finding another corner of carpet to sweep them under. One hopes. They do say hope springs eternal.

It was interesting that the rescue authorities – who did a magnificent job and deserve public praise for doing so – suggested at one point (there was a published reference to this) that the dive boat wasn’t where it was supposed to be when the seven Japanese female divers surfaced as scheduled because it was low on fuel and had gone away to get more.

If this is the case, it is yet another astonishing example of the cavalier approach to dangerous behaviour so often seen in Bali and other parts of Indonesia. It would seem to ordinary mortals, for example, that if you’re running a dive boat you don’t run low on fuel. You ensure you have enough for the scheduled task and a safety reserve to cover emergencies or unforeseen events.

The weather was foul on dive day. That’s another issue the regulators should look at both from the local regulatory perspective and in terms of measures to foreclose on foolish decisions to go ahead in risky conditions. The waters off Nusa Penida are not benign.

Five of the seven divers survived their experience, including three days adrift in dangerous waters or clinging to a submerged coral head. Sadly two did not. That makes it a tragedy, not just something that can be dismissed as bad karma.

Lobbying for Art

There was a lovely little soiree at Conrad Bali on Feb. 28 to introduce the in-crowd to the hotel’s Living Lobby Art exhibition. It’s often been pleasant to drop into the lobby at the Conrad in the past, since it has always featured art to catch the eye. It goes with the ambience, so to speak.

Some little time ago, when Michael Burchett was GM, we dropped by to chat with the delightful Cecilia Hatmandayani and while waiting were entranced by the delightfully outré art on display. The erotic does not have to be prurient, after all, and in fact is better for not being so. There are other places to view material that’s more explicit, if that’s your bag.

In any case the hint of hidden delights provides much greater cerebral piquancy. One of the problems with the modern world and its condign attachment to the banal is that you so often find the finer side of life has been abolished in favour of rude vacuity.

We couldn’t make the opening unfortunately. But it was nice of Imuthia Yanindra, Conrad’s marketing, PR and communications manager, to ask us along. We shall have to drop by now and then, while living art from sculpture to painting is gracing the place, and have a look. We’ll have a drink at the lobby bar too. It’s a fine venue.

Evening Wrap

Those who observe Australian matters (of which there are a few and they are important) will have noticed that Australia Network, the satellite TV service run by the ABC, has been attracting some critical attention at home in the Special Biosphere. In part this is because of the curiosity of how it funded, which is by the Department of Foreign Affairs, and debate about how the network achieves its aim of advancing Australia’s interests.

It actually does this very well in an environment (in Australia) where internalized self-interest does not necessarily bring benefits to those who espouse a world view. Its programming is specific and includes a useful English language teaching element. Australia is a small player on the world stage and the resources it can afford to outlay on winning friends (in this case audiences) and influencing people are finite.

Australia Network heavily emphasizes news and current affairs. This is sensible. There’s more than enough pap around elsewhere in the televised ether to service other needs. So it was good to hear that a new one-hour news and current affairs program will launch on Mar. 10. The World, presented by veteran Jim Middleton and former ABC globetrotter Zoe Daniel, will cover the news of the day and in-depth analysis of the most important issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region.

It will screen Mondays to Fridays at 8.30pm in Bali (7.30pm in Jakarta).

Moving Moments

Vyt Karazija, the Australian blogger and closet bon vivant who enlivens several social media forums locally, has recently moved house. This event is unremarkable. It is something many of us do from time to time, as fancy dictates or quantum increases in wet season leaks suggest is warranted.

Karazija’s move did strike a chord at The Cage, however, since he reported that his trusty domestic manager, the sibilant Seven, had taken charge of the program and had made it work. Moreover, it had worked more speedily, to greater effect, and remarkably smoothly.

This brought back memories of a similarly moving event in our own life. Twenty years ago we shifted house in Brisbane, Queensland, from one suburb to another. The Distaff was busy elsewhere at the time, doing important corporate things in Thailand. The Diary’s schedule was constrained by journalistic duties. You know, editorials to write, issues to research, news lists to ponder, copy to edit, writers to correct (“It was the Boer War you idiot, not the Bore War”) and sundry other things to attend to on behalf of Mr Murdoch; dross like that.

Plainly things were not going quite as speedily or efficiently as they might on the necessary domestic movement front. Nor were they ever going to, which was also abundantly clear, especially to our then local equivalent of Karazija’s inimitable Seven. She stepped firmly into the breach. We’ve moved any number of times in the course of our three decades together, Distaff and Diary, but that shift has passed into history as The One That Neither of Us Noticed.

Sanctuary Plus

One of the special delights of living at The Cage is that the little local kitty clan has adopted our securely walled back yard as a sanctuary for its latest kittens. We use it only as a utility area – it houses the underground tank without which we’d be as stuffed for government water as everyone else in the precinct and the gas house, which we built to the wonderment of the locals so we could shift the hot-water service and the kitchen gas out of the crawl space – and therefore mostly leave it alone.

But it is sheltered from the wet north-west monsoons and brightly lit for security at night. Regularly, the latest kittens are settled at dusk by their mums on the warm timber steps at our back door, safe from dogs and snakes and other dangers. They’re wary of us (we often delay daily checks on the utilities to give them time in the sunny mornings to pack up their swags and move on for the day) but each seems quickly to work out that while we’re big and noisy we’re no threat.  We engage in mutual meowing and purring through the glass door now and then. That’s nice.

We don’t feed them and they’re in no sense our cats. It would be unfair to feed them since our schedules make regular feeding impossible. But we like them around because their regular diet (you might call it “ratatouille”) helps keep under control the Norway rats that proliferate locally and which, unless sudden death by cat intervenes, feed and breed well on the selfishly and thoughtlessly discarded garbage of others.

On the mutually supportive neighbour scale, members of the kitty clan are great acquaintances for whom we’re happy to provide light and safety.

Good Work

It was nice to get a little note the other day from Alicia Budihardja, the helpfully svelte No. 2 in the public relations team at the top-line St Regis and Laguna resorts at Nusa Dua. It’s always pleasant to hear from good friends, especially if it’s good news.

It was in this case. Budihardja told us The Laguna Bali had been named one of the island’s top performing resorts by leading online accommodation booking outfit Booking.com, part of Priceline.com. The property achieved an exceptional score of 8.5/10 in verified reviews for consistency in delivery in six review classifications: cleanliness, comfort, location, facilities, staff, and value for money.

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 19, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Let’s Hear No More of Her

Schapelle Corby, celebrity jailbird by Australian media acclaim and blessed (though that’s hardly the word) with a scrofulous family, has finally been freed on parole. That’s a good outcome, far too long delayed but welcome nonetheless. The excessive jail term to which she was sentenced in 2005 will forever be an indictment of a judicial system that risks being seen as one that punishes defendants for the gutter prattle of their mothers and others and sentences them on the basis that their crimes have brought Indonesia into disrepute.

Anyone who watches Indonesia with an objective mind knows that the shenanigans that go on here 24/7 are the real embarrassment. There’s no need to co-opt photogenic teary-eyed little foreign “victims” to the cohort that damages Indonesia’s reputation. There’s a whole home-grown industry that already does that very well.

No need, that is, unless you genuinely haven’t noticed the rampant corruption and criminality, bomb-mad cloth-heads, law-exempt Islamic rabble-rousers, and the endemic social deprivation that blights the country.

That noted, we also note the improbabilities in Corby’s story when she was caught at Ngurah Rai in 2004 (“I didn’t know my boogie board was loaded” is a lame excuse even for someone with a “vacant” stamp on their forehead). We note that the marijuana is said to have come from South Australia, a prime growing spot because the state’s dry climate gives its weed a special zing. And while we’re noting, we should remember that Bali was (and still is) a transit point for drug smuggling. “Why send weed to Bali?” is not a legitimate question. Jakarta, Surabaya and other large Indonesian cities are the real drug markets here.

The post-parole fracas that Corby, her family and hangers-on, and sections of the Australian media engaged in covers them with something far less fragrant than glory. Corby in particular appears to have learned nothing. It is possible that she is so disoriented that she’s barely functional, and if so that’s a tragic shame. Those who care for her should help with her rehabilitation if that’s the case.

Her parole rules, of which she was advised last August, exclude unauthorized media interviews. An objective observer might conclude that the mob surrounding her still thinks it can play the Indonesians for suckers. That’s not just rude. It’s plain stupid.

 

No Fanfares, Just Results

It was nice to escape the distasteful scrimmage of the Corby parole freedom media event by focusing instead on something that’s really positive at Kerobokan Jail. It’s not a nice place, the prison, though none actually is, anywhere, since a prison is not meant to be a holiday resort.

But by Indonesian standards Kerobokan is better than many. That’s something else those fixated on the “Phwaar” rating of incarcerated foreign chicks with happy-snap blue eyes should think about now and then.

Lizzie Love – one of the feistier ladies who lunch around these parts (some of them are truly terrifying, but we seem to have worked out with Lizzie a comfortable way to get a lot of giggles) – tells us of another great scheme at the jail that should be up and running soon. It’s in addition to the wide range of benefits available to inmates who choose to take part.

These include education, skills building, welfare support and an innovative organic garden project supervised by the ROLE Foundation and Canggu Rotary designed to provide fresh vegetables for the prison.

The latest scheme augments existing animal husbandry facilities at the jail and is called the KK9 Inmate Assistance Dog Training Project. Kennels are being built. Organizers are looking for some dog-friendly assistance, which should be widely available given the strong presence here of animal welfare outfits.

We’ll be keeping an eye on that project in particular. From our perspective it’s one that packs plenty of woof power.

 

Smile, Please

There’s a fun evening with benefits at that fine dine and recline venue Cocoon, Seminyak, on Saturday (Feb. 22). Rotary Club of Bali Seminyak and the Smile Foundation (Yayasan Senyum Bali whose leading light is the redoubtable Mary Northmore) have organized a fundraiser billed Have a Heart to support the foundation’s great work with children who suffer disfigurement from cleft palates and other cranio-facial conditions. Harris Hotels is a sponsor.

The show, with music and both live and silent auctions, starts at 6.30pm with dinner at 8pm. Tickets cost Rp800K. It’s a great cause so get along there if you can.

Dress is “semi-formal”. According to the Diary’s new style adviser Lizzie Love, that means the guys where nice shirts and slacks. The ladies will all dress to kill as usual. It’s a girl thing. We’re grateful to Lizzie for this sartorial guidance. Where we come from, semi-formal means you wear matching thongs (flip-flops).

 

Say Hello

We were doing our day job the other day, out in the cyber world, when we chanced upon Linda Coles, content and relationship marketer, speaker and author of a useful social entrepreneurial self-help book named Start With Hello. Well, we said hello and it worked.

Coles is a very positive person. She bills herself as living and working in Sunny New Zealand. Perhaps Auckland gets out from under that long white cloud now and then. No, seriously, NZ is a great place and it’s brimming with entrepreneurial people.

Well, that’s probably brumming, come to think of it. But no matter: Kiwis might all say yis instead of yes and spend a lot of time wishing they were down at the bitch ketching fush, but they’re OK. That’s if you can forgive them for always beating the rest of the world at rugby. It’s a shocking crime that the best part of the match, if you’re barracking for the others, is the Haka before kick-off. Still, we’d like to see more Kiwis here. Nowadays as we’ve noted before it’s possible – Yis! – for more of them to get to Bali without an unnecessary (and often unnecessarily lengthy) stop on that other big island that lies between us and them.

It’s worth dropping by bluebanana.co.nz. Coles’ primers on social networking (she has also written a book titled Learn Marketing with Social Media in 7 Days) are very useful.

 

Have a Nice Stay

A little statement finally fluttered from the office of the Australian minister for foreign affairs on Feb. 11, one on which the Diary, the soul of discretion, had been waiting for some time. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced the appointment of Majell Hind as Australia’s new consul-general in Bali and noted she had already taken up the post. So welcome, Ms Hind. Have a nice stay.

Hind is a career foreign service officer, most lately of the Australian Embassy in Kabul. Bali is, on balance, a softer posting. It has its own special conditions though, including a consistent stream of Aussie travellers who have come to grief somehow or other (they never seem to know why, themselves, which is a big part of the problem).

Her predecessor, Brett Farmer, left the fortified building on Feb. 5.

 

It’s the Money

As is traditionally the case in arguments over land being alienated for development, Bali’s predicament has yet again been laid at the feet of outside investors. The rector of the National Education University, Professor Gede Sri Darma, has lately felt compelled to join the rising chorus warning that this poses a threat to the people of Bali. He says they risk becoming a landless underclass on their own island.

The professor has a point. But sadly it’s a moot one. It would be relatively easy to control land sales in Bali if anyone took any notice of the laws. Zoning restrictions can be very useful. Foreign investment controls are sensible (though an increasing component of property investment here is Indonesian and is driven by the rapacious Wegotalldamoney tribe).

Clear division of regulatory powers would be a great idea. The poor Governor is still trying to get the regents to acquire some common sense. The regents are heads of local governments and should be subordinate in all respects. Their tastes quite naturally run in the other direction. Unfortunately national legislation on devolution gives them every reason to argue that way.

Then again, if Balinese landowners really don’t want to lose their land, they only have to tell acquisitive buyers to go take a running jump. But it’s the money, you see. Bali’s real problem is that it is now a monetized entity. Traditional values always take a back seat in those conditions.

 

Enduring Sole

Browsing through LinkedIn, as he does, Hector’s helper chanced the other day upon an employment advertisement placed by Nike, the fast-shoe-shuffle people. It was for a Senior Sustainability Consultant – Energy in Jakarta.

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings

Clumsy Confections on all Sides

Nick Feik, editor of the online newspaper PoliticsOz, wrote this in his editorial note today (Feb. 17):

TERRITORIAL TENSIONS

The Indonesian government had only just finished protesting to Australian ambassador Greg Moriarty over the Abbott government’s border protection policies when its foreign minister Marty Natalegawa was again fronting the media to object to Australian conduct.

On Friday it was revealed that Indonesian armed forces believe the Australian navy breached its maritime borders knowingly and intentionally, on several occasions.

But yesterday Natalegawa was referring to the latest spying allegations reported in theNew York Times, that the Australian Signals Directorate had listened in and passed on to the US the communications of an American law firm which was representing Indonesia in trade discussions with America. The Australian and US governments have also been sharing mass telecommunications intercepts, according to the new Snowden leaks.

Indonesia’s patience with the Australian government is now threadbare.

In news that may or may not be related, a fleet of Chinese naval vessels has passed through Indonesian territorial waters close to Christmas Island, in what was describedby the Jakarta Post as an unprecedented exercise. American secretary of state John Kerry, visiting Indonesia this week, will doubtless urge Indonesia not to accommodate China’s increasingly aggressive territorial manoeuvres. For its part, Indonesia plans to raise Australia’s naval incursions into its waters with Kerry, as well as the raft of spying allegations.

But as these discussions will be conducted behind closed doors, we can only guess at the real state of affairs, and try to read the coded language of international diplomacy.

“It is the responsibility of (US & Australia) … to salvage their bilateral relations with Indonesia,” said Natalegawa.

Whereas Julie Bishop maintains that relations with the Indonesian government are “very positive”.

This is all fine, so far as it goes. Unfortunately it doesn’t go far enough. It takes no notice of the other side of the coin.

It is, granted, foolish to rattle the cage with the Indonesians in the lead-up to the legislative and presidential elections this year. Some of the official comment from the Australian side has been unhelpful. Some might say gauche.

But this confection of peril, for that is what all this is, essentially, gives Indonesian politicians an opportunity to focus on foreign impertinence rather than the substantial policy failures at home for which they are responsible. It risks inflaming public feelings by banging the nationalist drum when no such response is justified.

So yes, in regard to the spying allegations, both Australia and the U.S. have broken the first rule of intelligence-gathering, which is “Don’t get caught.” But even there, there’s a rider. They got caught because of the malfeasance of Edward Snowden, another of the bothersome clowns who – armed with mega-data – declare that they are setting out to save the world.

The spying row aside, Australia’s deep problem with Indonesia over the so-called boat people is also not entirely of Canberra’s commission. Indonesia says it doesn’t want asylum seekers in the country, yet until very recently it has done little or nothing to stop them.

The problem is that people are rightly free to travel and are entitled, with the required visas, to travel anywhere they want. In the case of asylum seekers arriving in Indonesia, it’s what happens then that matters. They disappear and become the clients (they are not the victims) of people smugglers.

In the Indonesian fashion, where sluggish and inattentive bureaucracy slumbers at its desk and corruption is virtually an official pastime, nothing much is done to stop the people smugglers. Until someone complains – for example Canberra – and someone in Indonesia stirs themselves into action. Generally, this energy is temporary. That’s what Indonesia is like.

Add to this the fact that from the Indonesian perspective the best policy option is to ignore the presence of people intending to commit a crime (leaving an Indonesian port without notice) because this will remove them from Indonesia. It passes the problem, such as it is and since it is politically defined as a problem in Australia, onto Canberra. Let them deal with it, is the view.

The international political problem has been worsened by the Abbott Government’s even harder line on boats approaching Australian waters. It has taken this approach for domestic political reasons. There is no security threat present. The people on board the boats (excepting the remote chance that some fanatic might be posing as a refugee) are fixed on one aim: securing a better life for themselves and their families.

This needs to be seen in context too. So-called economic refugees are now a fact of global life. They are part of the new international political architecture. Sometime soon, Australia will have to find the moral fortitude to deal with the real problem and not its minuscule side-effect. Better to work for proper global management of elective population movement than buy lifeboats so you can get the navy to send the few unfortunates you find breaching your maritime zone back to Indonesia.

It’s not in Australia’s interest to have a row with Indonesia. Especially on something as no-win as the boat people.

It bears mentioning that the unconscionable policy of the Australian government appears to have staunched the flow of boats. From that pernicious and narrow policy perspective, it would have to be judged a success.

But that doesn’t mean Australians – or their government – should forget that the real feet of clay on the difficult issue of asylum seekers transiting Indonesia are under big desks in Jakarta, not Canberra.

That’s something someone should tell Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who apparently believes it is up to Australia (and the U.S.) to work to maintain relations with Indonesia.

Cooperation and neighbourliness is a two-way street.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb 5, 2014

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

New ROLE for Netball

Netballers have always been vaguely worrying. Their skill at stopping dead when they get the ball – since unlike basketball you can’t run with it – is a complete mystery to people (such as your diarist) whose own sport is of a different sort entirely and requires you to run with the ball until a lot of very hefty boys push you into the mud and sit on you. Furthermore, netballers are all but exclusively girls who (lovely creatures though they may be) you wouldn’t want to risk putting offside.

So of course we snapped to attention the other day when Bec Hamer of the Bali Flames netball club got on to us about a new fundraising scheme the club’s put together to support the ROLE Foundation.

The Flames have been going from strength to strength. Last year’s annual international invitational attracted 10 teams from Singapore, Thailand, Australia and Indonesia. This year 16 teams are down to compete including interest from New Zealand. That Auckland-Bali Air NZ service is clearly paying dividends.

The club, like many in Bali, has a strong commitment to community service. The Flames chose the ROLE Foundation, whose founder is social entrepreneur Mike O’Leary, because it focuses on empowering and educating disadvantaged Balinese women.  

Bec tells us the Flames have handed over a donation of Rp5.2 million from their netball tournament last year. She visited ROLE and spoke with O’Leary recently and is impressed with its training program that teaches young women aged 18-21 computer and hospitality skills in cooperation with the international hotel sector.

“It is truly an amazing place where it is wonderful seeing people making a difference,” she says. We agree. This is also one instance in which you could permit your latent pyromania a brief outing and say may the Flames get higher and higher.

Must catch a game sometime, too.

 

Sing Along with Pete and Susi

It was sad, though of course the event was inevitable at some near date, that American song-master Pete Seeger played his final chord on Jan. 27. He was 94. His was the voice of the American and global protest movement. He sang conscience. He raised consciousness. He played great banjo. He wrote great songs.

Susi Johnston opened her villa at Pererenan on Sunday, Feb. 2, for a celebration of Seeger’s life and performing art. Along with the music she offered marshmallows. It’s people like Susi who put a shine into your life, if you let them.

As Susi herself noted, Feb. 2 was also Groundhog Day, the date when Punxsutawney Phil either casts a shadow or doesn’t when he emerges from his burrow in Pennsylvania to predict an early spring or rather a lot more winter.

They made a movie of the same name, which we’ve seen countless times. Here in Bali it often seems like the movie version of Groundhog Day.

 

General Salute

Australia’s new de facto head of state is a military man whose command role in the international intervention in East Timor in 1999 brought him to Indonesian attention. Among some in the Australian media, the fact that General Peter Cosgrove had been given this gig poses a risk of reigniting disagreement between Jakarta and Canberra.

Why this should be thought to be so is a mystery. The Governor-General of Australia has no political role. As in Canada, New Zealand and a few other places that were once imperial and are still monarchies, the G-G formally represents The Queen and signs all the bits of paper that heads of state get to sign. The prime minister is head of government.

This and next year are significant commemorative and ceremonial occasions for Australia. This year marks 100 years since the outbreak of World War I and 2015 is the Centenary of ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) that is understood, through the landing at Gallipoli and the ensuing months of fighting the Turks, to be the defining moment in forming Australian nationhood.

Having a real general as Chief Nob at ANZAC Cove at Gallipoli on that and other flag-waving occasions is a great idea. In the meantime, if by chance any of Australia’s neighbours notice that Cosgrove’s appointment highlights the social benefit of democratic generals committed to public service rather than strutting autocrats interested in political power and private enrichment, then that too will be a good thing.

Cosgrove takes over next month when incumbent G-G Quentin Bryce’s five-year term ends. Bryce, who is the Australian leader of the opposition’s mother-in-law, has done a good job.

 

Erk! Irked by an Urk

We witnessed an intemperate occasion one day recently outside the Circle K shop near the Puri Gading intersection at Bukit Jimbaran. A people-mover had stopped roadside to let one of its passengers out for a purchase within and – in the nature of parking practice here – had blocked vehicles in the parking area that might wish to leave.

One vehicle did. Its driver did what you do here, which is lightly and politely toot the horn twice and by sign language suggest that moving the other vehicle forward – in this case by about a metre, a manoeuvre for which there was ample space – would allow the other car to leave.

From the front passenger door of the offending conveyance then leapt a Bule of fierce demeanour and disastrously unkempt hair, aged in his late forties (at a guess). He advanced on the tooter and rapped on the window. The tooter lowered his window. “We’re not moving!” was the message delivered to him, in one of those razor-wire Australian accents from which strong and brave people all over the world run away and lock their doors. “We’ll be five minutes.”

Fortunately the driver of his conveyance was Indonesian and had readily understood the request. While the “we’re-not-moving (so go and get…)” message was being delivered, the little bus was in fact moving forward by just the required distance.

The tooter smiled and pointed this out to his unwelcome visitor, offered a short suggestion to the effect that the visitor should depart and precisely how he should do so, and pushed the up button on the window as he reversed away.

 

That’s Karma

We have always believed that when one errs, the thing to do is to stand up and admit it. This is what used to be called doing the honourable thing. Conscience does not permit evasion. Such practices are nowadays much less readily found. Especially here in Bali where any defaulter can apparently reasonably advance a claim that it was his or her friend who did it.

But it’s not just here. Across the western world, where once you took things on the chin, if not like a man, excuse has become the preferred option. Perhaps you have stolen something? Not your fault. Your father used to yell at you, your mother denied you the comforts of custard, and you were bullied in the school yard.

Thus we must report that karma is ever watchful and a horrid thing. It loves delicious irony. In an item on Jan. 8 we playfully took Morgana of Cocoon to task for saying (in print, elsewhere) that she didn’t know where the year had gone. We suggested it was all a matter of mathematics. So it is. But we then wrote, “It’s the Year of the Monkey in 2014.”

It’s not, of course. It’s the Year of the Horse. The Monkey’s next appearance on the 12-year cycle is in 2016. Our maths is defective too. Doh!

 

So Sad

Late in January a sad little post popped up on Facebook from Dian and Barbara Cahyadi, who publish the useful fortnightly Lombok Guide.

It asked this: “Does anyone know anything about an Italian tourist (named Ginevra) who died in Lombok early December 2013 (apparently between 8-13 Dec)? Possibly drowned? Family in Italy are asking. Thank you.”

It was a reminder, should any be needed, that Lombok (along with other parts of Indonesia) is missing many of the markers in matters of policing, public safety and administration.

It’s true that this benefits many people, foreigners among them, who come here to get lost for all sorts of reasons. It’s possible that this one wanted to get lost. But it beggars belief that the authorities haven’t advised the grieving parents of a tourist, whose name and possible manner of death are apparently known, of the results of any investigation.

 

That Other Cocoon

Louise Cogan’s Cocoon Spa in Seminyak has just celebrated two years in business in the broadly defined cosmetic medicine tourism sector. In any business, the setting up period is likely to present little problems. The cautious among us remember the old adage, that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The wrinkles must all be ironed out, then. Good. Congratulations! 

 

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser Jan. 22, 2014

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Facts Please

The sad deaths of Queensland tourists Noelene and Yvana Bischoff shortly after they began a holiday at Padang Bai need to be explained. It’s always better to get the facts in any circumstances, however tragic. And there is very little that is more tragic than a case in which a mother and daughter die in the circumstances the Bischoffs did.

Their bodies were returned to Brisbane at the request of relatives and were transported there by Virgin Australia. The airline deserves praise for its public spiritedness. Queensland coronial investigators performed autopsies. The results of these and any findings as to the cause of death will doubtless be provided to the authorities in Bali.

It is in the interest of Bali and its critically important tourism industry that the facts are clearly established and published. Unfortunately there is a culture here of obscuring the facts when embarrassment – real or imagined, present or merely feared as a possibility – looms as a factor.

It is seen in the way all sorts of things are handled by the authorities. Questions from foreigners are often viewed as attempts to interfere. But such questions have nothing to do with national standing. It is time Bali got truly used to the concept that its circumstances and administration are legitimate matters of interest to many people.

Most of the people with a deep interest in events and rights to be told the facts are Balinese themselves, or other Indonesians. In a democratic society no one should live in a fog of incomplete information.

If the Bischoffs died of food poisoning, we need to know. If they died of some poison naturally found in some ocean fish, we need to know that too. Not because we all want to run around madly pointing fingers at people (we can leave that to the overseas media, which does it so well). We need to know because Bali needs to be run properly in every respect.

The “drugs” police found in the Bischoffs’ room at their Padang Bai resort and tried to make a song and dance about were the sort of medications travellers bring to Bali and other places – to treat stomach upsets and other conditions it is easy to get here. Noelene Bischoff was a highly qualified nurse. We should assume she was being naturally and reasonably cautious.

Sadly whatever killed her and her daughter Yvana was immediately overwhelming.

 

Farewell to a Good Farmer

Brett Farmer who has been Australian consul-general in Bali since 2011 following Lex Bartlem’s early departure in 2010 to become ambassador in that place of many delights Beirut (no, that’s not a joke) is in turn taking his leave. He departs on Feb. 5. Farmer has been a steady hand at his Renon fortress and a pleasant companion on several official and unofficial occasions. We shall miss him and wish him good fortune.

The work that Australian consulates do is not well understood, especially among that cohort of impecunious or troubled Aussie travellers, their relatives and the media, who seem to think the list of duties includes getting them out of trouble or safely home. It doesn’t.

Perhaps the consular function is incompletely understood even by some within the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra, whose website helpfully lists Facebook and Twitter sites operated by various Australian missions around the world. One listing will pique the Gallic worriers at the Quai d’Orsay in Paris: the “embassy” in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia.

Farmer’s successor had not been officially announced by Canberra at diary deadline time. Suffice to say we look forward to welcoming her in due course.

 

A Braw Idea

Jock McDaniels, who when he’s being his usual self is known as Jack Daniels or John M Daniels, is organizing Burns’ Night in Bali.  It’s on Jan. 25, the bard’s birthday (in 1759). Entirely by coincidence this is the day before the Australians celebrate the First Fleet’s arrival in 1788 in what was to become Sydney Harbour and India’s Republic Day, which dates from 1950 when the jewel in Britain’s disappearing imperial age removed itself from the crown.

Burns’ Night is a braw idea (and a welcome addition) to the calendar of Curious Bule Feasts that must confound the Balinese, especially as this one will inevitably involve men dressed as lassies. Memo Jock/Jack/John M: eschew the kilt. It can (and possibly should) be worn by pipers and assorted soldiery as an emblem of confected tradition. But it owes its public popularity to the fact that Good Queen Vic, who was otherwise a rather dour Hanoverian, rather liked the thought of favourite ghillie John Brown swinging through the heather.

Disclosure: Hector’s helper is entitled to wear various Stewart tartans and the Crawford, a lovely plaid. He never has except as a tie. Hector’s helper’s dad, may he rest in peace, always believed that the fates had smiled kindly upon him, since the army unit in which he enlisted under age in the Great Depression was a Borders regiment and wore tartan trousers and not the kilt.

We should never forget the genesis of the garment. It began life as an informal wraparound arrangement for blokes who couldn’t afford trousers. It does have its uses though. One of the images of the 1997 British handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese that will remain forever with us is of a Scottish soldier bending forward – back to the crowd of dignitaries present – to lower the Union Flag for the last time.

The fans installed at the request of Mao’s successors to blow half a gale so that the Red Flag fluttered proudly on its ascent may possibly have been double agents. The soldier’s kilt fluttered hip high and bared his backside for the world to see. We hope he got a medal.  They should have minted one specially. Perhaps The Flower of Scotland? It forever settled the question of whether anything is worn under the kilt. And it possibly delivered a powerfully subliminal message to Beijing.

Burns’ Night – with doggerel (Rabbie’s favourite dish) and haggis plus trimmings (and whisky, Jock; it’s not whiskey!) – is at the Bali Dynasty Hotel in Kuta on the night in question. Haggis isn’t our bag. It’s not even our sheep’s stomach. But aye, we cuid go the neeps and tatties.

Jock’s taking bookings and has all the details.

 

Cultural Flowering

Taman Restaurant in Senggigi, Lombok, which is operated by the delightful Wiwik Pusparini and the intriguingly enigmatic Peter Duncan, is lending a hand to a headlong charge to bring literary culture to the village. This is good news even for people – such as the Diary – who nowadays travel with their entire library in their Kindles or other e-readers.

The restaurant was the venue on Jan. 11 for the launch of local author Derek Pugh’s book, Turn Left at the Devil Tree. Taman and the Lombok Writers’ Guild (memo certain Bali literary persons: note the possessive) put on the book launch along with a wine tasting, wines by Plaga.

Duncan and others tell us Senggigi is experiencing something of a mini-boom at the moment. That’s good to see. Hopefully it’s related in part to the Jetstar service from Perth to Lombok that took off last year.

 

Happy Ending

Followers of the Rhonda and Ketut romance – surely among the most successful product promotions ever even if only for its reinvention of the vastly overrated Kuta Cowboy – will be pleased to hear that it apparently has a happy ending. These might be two a penny in these parts, but some are better than others.

We learn this from the latest ad in the Safe Driving Rewards campaign for Australian vehicle insurer AAMI. The advertisement, from big Aussie agency Badjar Ogilvy, features Rhonda and Ketut apparently answering the question of whether she will choose Ketut or high school heartthrob Trent Toogood. It follows an earlier “Who’s Right for Rhonda?” campaign.

The story line is trite but trippy. Rhonda returns to the empty hall of her school reunion where Ketut had last been seen arriving after Rhonda has gone the grapple with Tentacle Trent. But Trent is a fickle fellow. Later he is snapped to attention by the fulsome charms of Rhonda’s female friend.

Rhonda was introduced to promote AAMI’s Safe Driver Rewards in October 2011. Her trip to Bali and meeting Ketut went to air the following March. The romantic tension between the two characters caught the Australian public’s attention (prurience beats politics every time) and the ad became an internet sensation. A Facebook page was dedicated to Rhonda and Ketut and of course the t-shirt sector made a killing.

Hector tweets @scratchings

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 8, 2014

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Beat That!

The Beat Magazine edition of Dec. 20 carried a little feature quoting what it said were a few notable people around town on what 2013 was like for them and what they were looking forward to in 2014.

Hector, in the person of his ghost-writer, was among this number. We’re sure we’re not really all that notable, especially to the young and playful who read The Beat. But never mind, it was nice to be asked and great to supply responses within the requirements specified. Not more than 140 characters per year. Sort of like a Tweet in print.

Being a senior scribe, at least in years, we can also count. Others either didn’t read Stuart Wilford’s brief or – in the time-honoured practice – chose to ignore it as something that couldn’t possibly apply to them. Editors, such as the Diary in earlier times, have been known to tear their hair out about such things.

Never mind. We did rather empathize with one of the other notables, Morgana, Marketing and Communications Manager at Cocoon in Seminyak. She told us she couldn’t believe 2013 was nearly over. Well, Morgana, each year has 365 days unless a leap year, which has 366. Each year has 12 months. If it’s the twelfth month, the year’s nearly over. Do keep up!

But this little thought from her appealed: “Haven’t been home in a year so seriously looking forward to flying out to Byron on the 1st of Jan and plonking myself down on a white sandy beach.”

Byron Bay is a magic spot at the easternmost point of the Australian mainland and a Diary resort of premium choice over many years. Enjoy, Morgana.

It’s the Year of the Monkey in 2014, the Diary’s own. Perhaps, if Lotto wills it, it may even be a Byronic year.

Load of Rubbish

Linda Buller, artist, BARC lady and interesting lunch companion, spent Christmas at Candi Dasa. It’s a beautiful spot. We always stay at Pondok Bambu when we’re there, because it’s such a great place for relaxed listening to the waves. The views are magnificent: Nusa Penida, the long, low, outline of Nusa Lembongan and sometimes Lombok away to the east; and – at night, if PLN hasn’t pulled the two-pin – the distantly twinkling lights on the Bukit.

So it was rather sad to hear from Linda that rubbish is piling up on the beaches, courtesy of the fine appreciation of Bali’s clean and green environment that one finds widely distributed among the people. Rubbish is invisible, you see, once you’ve tossed it over your wall, or dropped it at the roadside as you meander along on your motorbike, or dumped it in the local waterway.

Marine detritus has much the same provenance, although some of it is the sort of stuff you find washed up on beaches anywhere. Most communities that depend on tourists to call in and part with their money try to keep their beaches clean. Dirty beaches deter dollar-bearers, you see. Here? Well, that’s problematical.

Fresh from her Christmas sojourn, Linda thought out loud about organizing a clean-up. We’d happily grab our floppy hat and lend a hand as well as a pen.

It’s an all-over problem. John Halpin of Oberoi Bali was having a bit of a rant on Facebook the other day. He and a crew from his multi-starred lodgings had just cleaned up Seminyak Beach (again). He said this: “[T]he answer is not just ‘clean it up’ … the answer is ‘stop throwing’.”

Sound the Retreat

Ubud’s a fine place for retreats. They come in all shapes and sizes and something can be found to suit nearly all tastes. The little hill town suits seekers after truth and other substances. Walking the streets it looks as if it’s thoroughly urban but in fact it’s not. It’s more like a Hollywood movie set. Look behind the shop fronts and you’ll see rice fields. Look into the rice fields and you’ll see timeless, natural space.

It’s this environment that has now attracted a very different kind of retreat. Australian natural fertility specialist Dr Alex Perry is running a series of week-long retreats in Ubud this year for committed couples – of any provenance and sexual preference – who wish to conceive using his signature patient-to-parent program. Perry is a doctor of Chinese medicine whose Canberra clinic, The Perry Centre, records an 86 per cent pregnancy success rate with infertile couples.

Perry is moving to Ubud run the retreats, the first of which commences on Jan. 19. He keeps numbers small to ensure personalized treatment for couples. The aim is to de-stress – stress is a huge inhibitor of fertility – through a tailored program including massage, meditation, proper diet and reconnection between partners.

He says of his program, to be held at Ananda Resort & Spa, that that while the world has other fertility retreats, the Bali program will be different. “I want couples who join me in Bali to enjoy the environment, relax, have fun and take away with them new and lasting skills for conception. I’m very excited about the retreats and their potential to give couples the children they long for,” he says.

There’s more about Perry’s innovative treatments and the retreats program at http://ganeshafertilityretreats.com/

Heart and Soul

The seasons change – it’s a natural cycle, rather like hotel management changeovers – and we note that the long summer of public exhibition openings at Ganesha Gallery at Four Seasons Jimbaran has come to an end. These affairs are now for house guests only.

That’s a pity and not just because they used to give you half-decent wine. They afforded an opportunity to chat with the artist and network with interesting people, or even with Four Seasons executives. More importantly, Ganesha Gallery presents an eclectic range of art.

Next up at the gallery is an exhibition of works by Hengki Pudjianto on the theme of Colour is Life. It opens (for the in-house crowd) on Jan. 20 and runs through to Mar. 20.

Hengki, who grew up in Surabaya and now lives and works in Bali, started his career as an abstract painting artist. He is self-taught, always an interesting concept though not one readily accepted by tenured academia. His latest works are more figurative and
modern, deeply emotional and present art that seems sensual and alive and catches the beauty of colour and form. This exhibition is one to see.

Reality Bites

We do bang on about this, we know. And we know that some people would prefer we didn’t. But we’re not stopping. The issue is rabies, which as everyone knows broke out in the Bukit area of South Bali in 2008 – and then broke out of the Bukit into other parts of the island before the island’s disengaged and somnolent bureaucracy bothered to notice.

Rabies is a zoonotic disease – that means it can be transmitted from its animal vectors to humans – but fortunately not one that creates vast pandemics. It is transmitted by direct insertion into muscle tissue, host to victim. These are parameters you would expect any medical or veterinary body in Indonesia to be right across at all times. That wasn’t the case in 2008 (though that is absolutely no surprise) and we’re still paying a high price for that culpable inattention nearly six years ago.

A rabies control campaign, largely funded from overseas, was instituted after strenuous efforts to get the authorities to realize they had a real problem on their hands. It worked, so far as it went. But it couldn’t go far enough. The bureaucracy and public ignorance saw to that.

In the time-honoured fashion, various targets were set to achieve eradication of rabies from Bali. It was to be 2012. Then 2013 passed, astonishingly without any further grandiose pronouncements. Now it is 2014. The new possible eradication date is 2015. This is because under the rules two full years must pass from the date of the last recorded animal or human case before an affected area may be declared rabies-free.

There was a human case of the disease – fatal as always – in Buleleng last September. It wasn’t publicly disclosed until much later. Again, that’s no surprise. Genuine public information is an ephemeral practice here. Perhaps someone’s keeping count of human fatalities from rabies. But all we can say is that the Buleleng death adds to the “more than 150” since 2008.

Today there are far fewer street dogs around and in some areas villages are seeing the benefits of looking after their dogs and having them neutered and vaccinated. An understanding that if you feed a dog once it believes it is part of your family and that you are responsible for it, is now taking root in some places. That’s great.

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 25, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Christmas Sale Bargain

BIMC has been a fixture at the high end of the medical and hospital sector in Bali for 15 years, the benchmark place for services available to everyone but predominantly accessed by foreign tourists, long-term foreign residents and well-heeled Indonesians.

So the slightly skewed pre-Christmas reports that it had been bought by Siloam, the Indonesian hospital chain that is a more recent arrival in Bali, might have rippled a few affogatos. Bali is Gossip Central, after all, where those who spend their time counting white elephants assume that everyone else is in the same game-park. This is an island where unfounded rumour immediately becomes long-established fact. Indeed this often happens before the rumour has even been voiced.

In fact (don’t you love that expression?) the news is rather more positive. We had another affogato on the strength of it and far from being shaken, it was not even stirred. Lippo Group, which owns Siloam, bought BIMC in a plan to create synergies in the hospital and health care sector. BIMC and Siloam will retain their own branding and continue to pursue their present market focus. BIMC Nusa Dua is focused on medical tourism, a growing element in global travel.

BIMC chief Craig Beveridge will be executive chairman in Bali. He tells us Lippo chairman James Riady is excited by the deal and passionate in his vision to broaden the reach of international standard hospital and medical services here and in the rest of Indonesia, with new medical facilities already in the pipeline in Bali.

There will be more to report in the New Year, when Beveridge gets back from Christmas down under. That LinkedIn post we saw earlier in December urgently seeking new executives for BIMC cannot have been what it might have seemed to those in the rumour mill.

 

Gone to the Dogs

The dexterity demonstrated in the consummate skill with which people here can shoot themselves in the foot while poking themselves in the eye with sharp sticks and cutting off their noses to spite their faces is legendary. It’s so good that the authorities should probably promote bribe-watching as a tourist attraction. You could even do it on rainy days.

We refer chiefly to the bureaucracy – at any level from the lowest village gouger to those in the plush comforts of life at the tip of the pile – since it does this with alarming frequency when it or some luminary within it is after money, preferably untraceable.

It is also practised in the wider community, Indonesia-wide, especially when a mobile ATM (aka foreigner) is in play. Occasionally, since contagion is, well, contagious, cases of this affliction present in the foreign community too.

For instance the fractious business of animal welfare in Bali, which is overwhelmingly a matter of foreign interest since local attitudes are determinedly of the Rhett Butler variety (“I don’t give a damn”) where they are not agnostic. There are some wonderful exceptions to this rule. Let that be well noted.

This is to the point also because as is well known the Bali Animal Welfare Association’s veterinary clinic was shut down in September on a range of trumped-up and self-serving charges that anywhere else would have a hard time making it into the script of a popular stage farce.

It never does to immediately ascribe malicious intent to reactions. Experience shows it’s far more likely to be idiocy or failure to establish the facts before mouthing off. That said, it is astonishing that the Bali Dog Adoption and Rehabilitation Centre, commonly known as BARC, immediately leapt out of its cage to proclaim that since BAWA had been closed everyone should give their money to them instead. And that on Dec. 18 (Diary deadline) it was still doing so.

Moreover, it appears that it has been promoting this disinformation with the assistance of photographs that bear a remarkable resemblance to images owned by BAWA. There may be some personal history behind some of this angst, but that doesn’t matter to the dogs. There are enough sick, abandoned, malnourished canines in Bali to warrant the fulltime attentions of any number of refuges.

A further point: It is BAWA that has runs on the board over Bali’s response to the rabies outbreak that commenced in 2008; on educational programs in the villages aimed at improved living conditions for dogs and the lives of villagers too; on combating the vile dog meat trade and illegal gambling centred around organized dog fights; and much else. So it’s time for a reality check, everyone. Perhaps that might spark a little cooperation for the greater good. Now there’s a thought.

 

Quite a Meowful

Good news is to hand from Elizabeth Henzell at Villa Kitty in Ubud, who reported on Dec. 17 that donations@villakittybali.com, Villa Kitty’s suspended PayPal account, had been restored, verified, and had its funds-in-hand limit lifted. Apparently the powers that be at PayPal had originally said they would close the account. Perhaps the good folk in Omahahahaha, USA, don’t know what a Yayasan is. Here’s a clue: It’s neither a spam/scam computer program nor a Mafia-style crime syndicate.

Elizabeth says: “Thank you again to everyone who offered donations that got us through that week of worry.”

Villa Kitty is a great operation. It’s so good that it is now up to its limit with cats and kittens. That’s consistent with another of Bali’s grand traditions. Anything that actually works is instantly overrun by people fleeing from things that don’t and anyone who offers to help is bowled over in the rush.

The cat refuge needs people to adopt little vaccinated and neutered friends and to give them a good home so there’s room for others who are awaiting their chance for a better life. They do help keep the rats away, too.

There was a benefit evening on Dec. 19 at Mingle in Ubud. It was called Le Chat Noel, which made it irresistible.

 

Aussie Dodgers

Fewer Australians are coming here. That may be good news to the few among us who are incapable of declaring a personal exclusion zone around Jl Padma in Legian on lurch-around-half-naked-night. But it’s not good news overall. Australia is our closest large market. The West Australian capital, Perth, is virtually Bali’s dormitory suburb. For all sorts of reasons we should want to keep it that way. Some of these were outlined in the Diary on Dec. 11.

Foreign tourist arrivals for October 2013 were 266,502 (up 4.3 percent over October 2012′s total of 255,709) and arrivals for the 10 months of the year totalled 2,675,836, up 12.34 percent on the same period in 2012. But the number of Australian visitors in that period (668,902) was 2.11 percent down on Jan-Oct 2012.

They’re still in first place, outnumbering the second-placed Chinese two to one. There are several reasons for the decline. Among them is the fact that Australians – who like to think the English are the whingers – widely believe from in front of their 90cm flat-screen TVs with 50 cables channels pumping out pap at them and fast-fat food at the front door, that their country is up Ordure Creek. It isn’t. Another reason, much more valid, is that places other than Bali are now presenting holiday “experiences” that match or better Bali’s on price.

On the bright side, the long comatose Japanese market is reviving.

 

Ivan Ivanobitch

We hear, anecdotally, of an incident at a popular Bukit area Thai restaurant recently that involved a party of Russians who claimed they had been poisoned by the plate of the day and told the staff to call the police, pending which they wrecked the joint.

If you are a very Volga boatman indeed, one with permafrost for brains and a suddenly blotchy fair-skinned squeeze possessed of DNA that might not be an exact fit with spicy Asian cuisine, it may be easy to become enraged. Cossacks probably swept angrily across the steppes for eons on far lesser excuse. On the other hand, if you think you have been poisoned, it’s possibly better to go to the clinic down the road than to demand that the plods be summoned.

It must have been a potent poison. They returned some days later seeking further compensatory funds – their meal bill had already been waived – and threatened to wreck the place again.

Such people really are more Rouble than they’re worth (boom-tish).

 

The First Noel

This year, for the first time, the annual rite of Carols on Christmas Eve in Nusa Dua was held in Church and combined with Holy Communion. Previously the function has been held in a hotel but this year it was at Bukit Doa International Church, the Protestant Church in the unique complex of five religions at Puja Mandala, popularly known as Temple Hill.

It was a great chance to experience true Christian Christmas fellowship in the Protestant tradition, including Midnight Mass.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and see you all in 2014.

 

Hector is on Twitter. He tweets @scratchings

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 543 other followers