HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 8, 2012

by 8 Degrees of Latitude

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Oh Rats! Another problem

All of a sudden, The Cage has rats.  We are taking steps to eliminate the problem (and the rats) but the incident has prompted further intemperate thought about the vagaries, and difficulties, of life on Pulau Rusak. The rats in question appear to be brown (Norway) rats rather than ratus ratus – that’s the genealogical name, not pidgin Indonesian for hundreds of the beggars; our infestation fortunately seems to be in rather smaller numbers – and as well as trying to eradicate them within the household and its surroundings, we are trying to establish their provenance.

Their initial appearance, unidentified by type at that time, caused some moments of mirth. Having lived in places where plague is endemic – it’s a zoonotic disease that generally affects humans in large numbers only when its animal vector is overstressed, exactly as rabies periodically breaks out and bites people – your diarist’s instant response, aside from acquiring poison, was to fly around madly spraying the whole house against fleas.

This is not a deadly necessity in Bali, or at least it is not known to be. There are two listed foci of wild plague in Indonesia and both are in Central Java, said to be (though this may also be questionable) remnants of the great 1894-1925 China-India pandemic – which actually began in Burma – that spread around the world, fortunately for the most part in controllable outbreaks. A note on that: the last World Health Organization-recorded plague outbreak in Indonesia – it was only minor – was in 1997 and not in Central Java at all. It was at Pasuruan near Surabaya in East Java.

As with rabies, of which Bali was “free” until the current (150 deaths and counting) outbreak surprised everyone by appearing in 2008, it perhaps pays not to be fooled into thinking that absence of reports of a disease equates with actual absence of the pathogen responsible.

But guarding against itinerant rat fleas is still desirable, as well as necessary.  In Bali they can carry murine typhus, a much less deadly but still highly unpleasant disease. Rats are also vectors for a range of other unnecessary distempers. They thrive in filthy environments. We have redoubled our local efforts to get people to deal properly with their household rubbish. A tip: it won’t do to just toss it away in the bushes, or over the wall, and forget about it. The rats won’t.

Burning Question

Speaking of rubbish, readers may remember a story that surfaced in the Bahasa press a little while ago and was duly reported in précis in some of the local English-language media, concerning the problem of medical waste. The official incinerator at Sanglah, something else that’s apparently on the Rusak List, was no longer able to cope with the quantum of contributions from other hospitals, which had therefore been denied access to the facility and presumably were told to dispose of their medical waste as best they could.

One of the hospitals named on the no-more-access list was BIMC at Simpang Siur. Since this establishment – it now has a sister hospital at Nusa Dua, opened in May – promotes itself as an international-standard health facility, it was surprising to learn that it had not hitherto been incinerating its own medical waste in infrastructure furnished at its own expense.

We wanted to do the right thing by them, however, and asked for comment, hoping that we’d hear something positive. We’ve heard nothing yet.

Greener Pastures

Leticia Balacek, architect and artist (and The Diary’s Most Favoured Argentine) has flown the coop. She’s gone to Europe on a new venture – which we sincerely hope will be properly remunerative, since people here go ooh and aah about art and much else but are Scrooge-like when it comes to parting with their money (which despite appearances and assertions to the contrary many of them don’t have, unless it’s someone else’s) – and has left with strict instructions to keep in touch.  It’s not often you meet someone whose vibrancy level consistently exceeds the safe limit; it is tremendous fun when you do; and it’s not a good thing to let friends go.

Balacek’s art, as we’ve noted before, has an attractively naïf quality and would look good in a collection, or even just on a wall. For her exhibition in 2011 that helped promote the then newly opened El Kabron, the fine watering hole on the cliffs at Bingin on the Bukit, she presented among other works Yellow Dog, a delightful ink and wash sketch that precisely captures the ambience of Bali.

Yellow Dog is but one among many, but it’s our pick of the season.

More on Annie

Robert Epstone of Rotary Seminyak and – more importantly in this instance – the charity group Sole Men has given us a cheering update on little Annie, of Sideman in Karangasem regency. We reported in the last edition on this poor little mite, aged eight and at that time weighing 8kg, who was found living distressed, disastrously malnourished and at serious health risk and was immediately assisted by Jimbaran resident Sarah Chapman and her Balinese friend Yuni Putu.

Epstone’s group took on responsibility for raising funds to help Annie as an individual case and got her into Semarapura Hospital for full assessment, which indicates she’ll need long-term rehabilitation – the works, in fact – since her family lives in abject poverty and Annie herself has significant medical and developmental problems.

Epstone told Seminyak Rotarians in an update after his own visit to Annie:  “I have to say that yesterday was one of the most distressing days I have experienced – I have never seen a human being as close to being an animal as Annie who is the very sweetest little person totally damaged by her situation caused by poverty, ignorance and superstition in the community up where she lives. Thankfully due to veritable Angels like Sarah Chapman and her friend Yuni, little Annie may now stand a possible chance of rehabilitation but only with a great deal of time, work, therapy and no doubt ongoing costs involved as well as a HUGE amount of TLC.”

Anyone who would like to help Annie or her family is welcome to drop Hector an email at reachme61@yahoo.com and we’ll put you in touch with Chapman and Epstone. If you’re on Facebook, you may want to friend Indonesia Sole Men.

By the way, Sole Men have their fourth Barefoot Walk coming up in September, a major element of their fundraising and awareness-raising effort. They’re looking for sponsors. In July they distributed copies of their Child Protection and Safety book – partly sponsored by Rotary Seminyak – to children, parents and teachers at schools, orphanages and villages around Bali during medical checks and health presentations.

A Sad Loss

Jack Daniels, of Bali Discovery Tours and Bali Update, lost a very good friend recently and has The Diary’s deepest sympathy. He wrote a lovely piece about him, so touchingly that it made us sad we hadn’t known him too. Bobby was a Labrador, but according to Daniels, was probably the best editorial assistant he’ll ever have. Among his many self-selected office jobs was to ensure that piles of newspapers did not fly away in the breeze. He was very good at lying on them, Daniels writes – and even under them, if the leaf-through-and-discard process was under way.

Apparently Bobby was a dog of several significant other talents too. He was often to be seen following the gardener around with a bucket or some other implement he deemed essential to the task at hand.

No pets reside at The Cage. One of us is a cat person, the other is a dog person, and this domestic political schism – now of three decades’ standing – has never been resolved and indeed may never be so. But we have neighbour pets whose days, we hope, are enlivened by our visits.

Here’s Cheers

We hear some good news from Voyager Estate, the winery in Western Australia’s Margaret River region that offers attractive Cape Dutch architecture and magnificent roses along with a wide range of very superior plonk.

After extensive planning and renovations, they have opened their new Wine Room, saying it offers a completely different wine experience in Margaret River. Their email magazine e.magnum (neat!) tells us it’s all about the discovery and celebration of wine, whether you’re a wine aficionado,  are keen to learn more, or just enjoy tasting and comparing wines.

We must make a date with sommelier Claire Tonon on our next visit to the wine country, scheduled for October when – we hope – the chills of southern WA’s unusually cold winter will be long gone.

And Jeers

The wicked price of alcohol in Bali has always had a capacity to astonish anyone who comprehends that tourism is an essential element of the island’s economy. There are the mark-ups, of course, which tend to rise in concert with the level of class drink-serving establishments award themselves. But then there’s the availability, licensing and excise and other duties components to be put in the mix.

It’s a hefty cocktail, and one that periodically gives everyone a headache. At the latest industry grumblefest about it, Rizki Handayani, director of MICE and special interest promotion at the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, promised to follow up on the input with related agencies at the ministry and other institutions, including the Trade Ministry. “This is valuable information to be shared with the minister,” Handayani said.

Is anyone holding their breath on an outcome?

Hector’s Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser newspaper, out fortnightly (and online at http://www.baliadvertiser.biz) and also on his blog http://wotthehec.blogspot.com. Hector is on Twitter @scratchings and Facebook (Hector McSquawky)