HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 22, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Bloody Hell

Your diarist is a blood donor. Well, he’d like to be, although it seems a rather difficult function to perform in Bali. He possesses a blood type that is very rare in this part of the world, and so has registered with the Red Cross blood bank at Sanglah in case they ever need an emergency contribution. It seems only fair to share under such circumstances, after all.

Such an instance arose on a recent weekend and, when alerted to this by a handy Facebook post, a text message was immediately sent to the contact number provided. It said that if needed, an arm with the required type of blood in it could present itself at Sanglah within 90 minutes. A text came back immediately: Please come now.

This feat was duly performed, despite it being national ride around blindly day or something. We eventually found a doctor at the blood bank. He looked at your superannuated diarist in the way most Indonesians do – you can almost see them thinking “Mengapa tidak orang ini mati?” (“Why isn’t this man dead?”). Then he made a delicate inquiry as to the age of the near cadaver that had somehow managed to get itself up the stairs and into the blood room. A-ha! Too old! He seemed to think that this was a relief, despite the ultra-emergency that was being responded to. Sixty is the cut-off point for donors in Indonesia. So it is, but in Australia, where your diarist’s blood managed to healthily regenerate itself over several decades and is still perfectly fine, thank you, it’s 70.

He went off to consult his superior. He returned saying yes it was OK, provided all the vital signs were similarly in the green bit of the dial.  Oh dear. The stress of safely navigating to the middle of Denpasar from the faraway Bukit in the short timeframe required, amid the frenetic crowds of suicidal bods on bikes, dotty drivers of defective cars, and complete madmen at the wheels of smoky yellow trucks, had lifted the blood pressure a tad over the designated limit.

There is still a year or two between your diarist and the western-standard don’t be a donor barrier. But on this performance we must judge it unlikely, unless levitation can be achieved, that he will ever get to Sanglah in possession of a “normal” reading.

Of course, a nice quiet cuppa and a lie-down would probably have fixed the problem. But doctors don’t seem to go in for lateral thinking; and maybe they’d run out of teabags.


We were looking at our diary the other day and October is shaping up as a bumper month. Two lots of very old friends are due here on visits – one set for an extended stay – and of course there’s the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival as well, which as it happens is not unrelated.

Plus the Diary has promised Antony Loewenstein – Australian blogger, writer, activist and verbal partisan for something approaching common sense in Israel/Palestine: he can’t make it to HQ Navel Gazing this year – that drink shall be taken on his behalf on the terrace at Indus, Janet DeNeefe’s culinary-literary headquarters. The poor chap says he loves that terrace.  Well we all do, which is precisely why we shan’t mind, at all, dedicating one drink to an absent friend.

He will be in eminent company, albeit vicariously. Australian-born worrywart John Pilger, Timor-Leste’s former president Jose Ramos-Horta, and Australian musician, songwriter, author, screenwriter, composer and occasional film actor Nick Cave will be at the festival, along with (one hopes) a front-up-with-the-dosh naming sponsor.

Lowenstein is most recently in formal print with a chum, Palestinian-American Ahmed Moor, with After Zionism, a tome that argues for a one-state solution to The Question.  The Diary is reading the book – thanks to London publisher Saqi Books’ grasp of new technology and to Amazon Kindle – and may have a public view about it later.

At festival time we’re set to have a quartet of friends with us: Uli Schmetzer and his wife Tiziana (we mentioned them before; we gave them back their pushbikes in Beijing, remember) and Very Old Chum Bob Howarth and his wife Di.

Howarth, whose journalism career has taken him to lots of places including Papua New Guinea (another shared destination) and Timor Leste, is due here on an Australian aid project education programme. We were in touch recently, about this and that. He drily reported that he was on Moreton Island where, that evening, the westerly wind would blow a dog off a chain. This oversized and perennially windswept sand hill is just across Moreton Bay – though the Diary prefers its mellifluous Aboriginal name, Quandamook – from Brisbane, Queensland, where August is famously a blowy month.  Local lore has it that this is because that’s when the city, Australia’s third largest, stages its annual exhibition (the Ekka).

The Diary felt quite homesick, just for a moment.

We’re Unsurprised

BIMC tells us, in response to an item in the Diary last edition, that Sanglah Hospital’s precipitate ban on other hospitals using its under-performing medical waste incinerator came as a complete surprise. We’re very far from completely surprised to hear this, since the general rule here seems to be that you are told about upcoming disasters, emergencies, snafus and other discombobulations only after the event.

This particularly applies to questions of equipment maintenance, which in Bali is widely practised only after something ceases to function. Preventive is apparently not a word in the local maintenance lexicon, even though it exists in the Bahasa dictionary (it’s pencegah; look it up, guys).

Roland Staehler, marketing chief at BIMC, says that having your own medical waste incinerator is not cost-effective for a small operation and has nothing to do with international standards. We agree. We would merely observe that it’s probably not cost-effective, either, to have a generator at your house, or additional water tanks, or water purifiers, or a lot else. But in the absence – either total or to be expected on the basis of past non-performance – of adequate public infrastructure, the cautious might prefer to outlay a little extra to protect themselves from the promiscuous range of complete surprises you get here.

Staehler adds that BIMC put alternative medical waste disposal arrangements in place immediately. We would never have doubted that for a second. And just so we’re clear: BIMC is our household’s preferred place of quality medical and hospital treatment, should those needs arise.

Far Canal

A dear friend bobbed up in Amsterdam recently, not long after departing Bali. Spotting this (isn’t social media fantastic?) we sent a quick message: Mind the blue roads. Somewhat naturally, this from-left-field response mystified the recipient, especially as her first language is Spanish, not English. She asked: “What?” We replied: “Old story, tell you later.”

So here it is, Leticia. It’s one upon which we have allowed ourselves a quiet giggle over a number of years, though discreetly, since it involves the Distaff.  She it was, in Amsterdam on a business trip and contacted by mobile phone for the daily check-in, who said she wasn’t quite sure where she was (she knew she was in Amsterdam: that much at least was clear, which was a relief) and what were the blue roads on the street map.

From the distant antipodes, all it was possible to advise was that they were probably canals. We forbore to add – though we were sorely tempted – that she shouldn’t try to walk on them unless she first got herself deified.

We Won

No, not that Olympic Games thing, which we happily managed – mostly – to avoid; it was the flag up the pole race that we won. It’s an annual event in the neighbourhood of The Cage, on the breezy Bukit where flags, and lots of the other things, flap madly. Last year we weren’t in residence: we were in Scotland (equally breezy but considerably chillier) for a family occasion. So the Bendera Nasional didn’t get to flutter in honour of Independence Day 2011 atop the makeshift bamboo pole we stick in a piece of poly-pipe tacked onto the outer wall of the bale.

The Merah Putih is the only flag that ever flies at The Cage. We fly it there proudly, once a year, on and around August 17, because – despite everything – we’re proud of Indonesia and feel privileged to be part of its annually licensed contingent of temporary residents.

Usually the kampung across the gully gets its flag up first – it’s bigger and on a proper pole, too – but this year they were tardy. Well, perhaps we were bit ahead of ourselves. Ours went up on August 7: First in, best dressed.

See the Light

Bali-based photographer Yoga Raharja has an exhibition at Tom Hufnagel’s lively JP’s Warung, in Jl Dhyana Pura, Legian, which anyone interested in photography as art should certainly take the time to see. It’s on until September 3. Yoga is from Ungaran, Central Java, and lives in Sanur.

He tells us, inter alia, that his son is also taking photographs. We’ve seen some of them and they’re very good.

We recommend getting along to Yoga’s show. It includes a photograph, of a Hindu ceremony on a beach, that is not only thoroughly spiritual in its composition but effects an ambience in its toning of which J.M.W. Turner, the 18th and 19th century English painter whose stunningly colourful portrayal of skies owed something at least to an Indonesian connection – the eruption of Mt Tambora in Sumbawa in 1815 – might well have been very proud.

Hector’s Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser newspaper, published every second Wednesday. The newspaper’s website is http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector is on Twitter @scratchings and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

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