HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 17

by 8 Degrees of Latitude


His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

The Joke: 1

One looks for good news, in a diary such as this, so as to record – poorly no doubt in the eyes of many – the little illuminations that lighten one’s days on the Island of the Gods. Occasionally one is rewarded. And so it is in this edition, with the delicious “sting” on the stingers at the Lio Square Police Post at Kerobokan. For it was there, as thousands of YouTube viewers have now seen while rolling on the floor laughing their arses off, that a Dutch journalist with a video camera recorded the police extorting him for the serious crime of riding his motorbike while failing to wear a helmet.

The law states that motorbike riders and passengers must wear helmets. This is eminently sensible. It is only because the majority of motorbike riders in Bali are eminently insensible – foreigners as well as locals – that so many do not bother. Mostly, unless of course it’s national fine day or they’re suddenly short of lunch money, the police don’t bother either, especially with locals who couldn’t possibly pay the extortionate bribes demanded of defaulters.

Tourists (ubiquitously defined as any foreigner, whether or not they live here) are of course a prime target. It is assumed they can be dragooned into paying up instead of saying piss off, when nabbed by the traffic cops. They surmise, for the most part correctly, that a tourist won’t know that the best answer to a gouging cop is to say “write the ticket”, since these can be paid at any sub-district police station and is on the official record. (It may still end up as someone’s lunch money but by then it’s not your problem.)  Traffic police probably think it’s a safe bet most tourists won’t have the police anti-corruption office number in their mobile phone. And maybe they think none of them will have the presence of mind to take a snap of them (with name and number) on that phone.

We watched the video (and rolled on the floor laughing our arse off). We got another great laugh a little later, when we heard the proposal – it was short-lived for rather obvious reasons – that the police were considering charging the Dutch journalist with bribing a policeman. If the expression pack of clowns should occur to readers in relation to any of the foregoing, then that seems only fair.

But for our money the best bit of the video, aside from the little cameo where the bandit in the identity-obscuring yellow vest says cheerily of the Rp200K he’s collected, “100 for beer and 100 for my government”, was the continuous footage of helmetless locals riding past the Lio Square police post completely unmolested by traffic police bent on enforcing the law.

The Joke: 2

The Dutch journalist who did us all a service outing the robber cops at Lio Square (five months ago according to the Badung police chief, as if that makes any difference) also filmed at the airport, in somewhat similar circumstances. We haven’t seen that video, since we are under strict medical orders not to laugh too much all at once. But we did hear a lovely story the other day from a returning temporary resident. It concerns cheese.

The lady, who is of a certain age and had travelled alone from Queensland’s Gold Coast via a same-day transit stop in Kuala Lumpur, was armed with a quantity of this delightful staple in her baggage. Like so many of us, she sensibly tries to use her SEBs (Short Essential Breaks) to restock her fridge with the fermented product of lactating cows that hasn’t cost an arm and leg by being purchased through the Criminally Expensive Retail Cheese Supply Cartel.

She duly declared on her customs form that she was carrying food products. She was required to open her luggage. The cheese was discovered by the two customs officers on the scanner to which she had been directed. One told her she had far too much cheese and she could buy it locally. He demanded a truly extortionate amount of money to overlook the offence, or else would take her to the office at the back where, she was invited to assume, even greater extortionate demands awaited her and trouble with the law might ensue.

She did try to argue (pointedly, at which juncture the second customs officer present apparently deemed discretion to be the better part of valour and left the scene) but it had been a long and tiring day. In the end, rather than saying cheerily, “Oh look, that little camera thingy in the ceiling has just whirled around to look at you,” she paid the man Rp300K to shut him up. Well, we’ve all been there. Sometimes the hassle is just too much. But we would like to see a customs form on which it is clearly stated that bringing in cheese for personal consumption is a limited concession, and to what maximum quantity.  If we ever find one, we’ll let you know.

Incidentally, and this will interest author Kathryn Bonella, it must not have been snowing in Bali that evening. Three unkempt Ecuadorians clad in “Yeah, I’m a Surfer” gear and toting bulging backpacks sauntered unchecked through customs control just ahead of her. We’re sure they were perfectly legit and we’re not overly enamoured of profiling as a detection method. But given drug smuggling and its primary South American origin is a rather more serious problem than overindulgence in cheese one does wonder why they weren’t targeted for executive attention.

Perils of Groupthink

You’re never far from best friends these days, even on what is now fast becoming the dinosaur of communications, the SMS. This point was proved late on one recent weekend evening, when the Hec Phone bleeped and advised: “If it’s raining is Plan B brekky at the Rare Pear at 7am?”

Since the message came from faraway Brisbane, we didn’t know. But since it was from a svelte delight who lives in the old home town and who has held the title of Hector’s Fave Blonde unchallenged for 20 years, we thought we should inquire.

So on the Monday morning, we texted back: “Was it raining? So sorry I couldn’t put in an appearance.”

A series of further exchanges took place. They went like this:

Fave Blonde: “Sorry about that – you must have got caught up in one of my group emails. I go for walkies with my gym buddies every Sunday morning at 6am up Mt Gravatt – if it’s raining, we always go to the gym and then meet for brekky.  Fortunately, it was not raining, we did our walk, had brekky, then I did some shopping before catching up with [a mutual friend] for a movie, then to the Max Brenner Chocolate shop where we had strawberries dipped in chocolate with a Kangaroo Cup cappuccino (mine on skinny milk, of course) with a sliver of chocolate on the side and liquid chocolate drizzled on top… hence the 4km walk at the beginning of my day!”

Hec: “No worries! It all sounds fun (except the big walk at the beginning),”

Fave Blonde: “That stops me from feeling guilty about the chocolate.”

Mission accomplished. Favourite blondes should never be made to feel guilty.

Think Pink

Hector is going pink for the day on Sunday, April 28, along with a lot of other people. You should too, dear reader, because breast cancer prevention, early detection and timely and affordable treatment are vitally important. The occasion is the fifth Bali Pink Ribbon Walk, being held at Nusa Dua. Trot off is at 4pm from the grounds of the Bali Tourism Development Corporation offices in the Manicured Area, but the event itself commences at 2.30. Walk Tickets are priced at Rp 150K for adults, Rp 75K for students (these tickets include a free Walk T-shirt) and children under 12 are free and can buy walk T-shirts on the day.

This year’s event is extra special because the new Pink Ribbon House in Kuta is Indonesia’s first breast cancer support centre. On April 25 there will be a free breast health seminar at the Support Centre organised by Philips Healthcare Singapore. Radiotherapy specialists from the Allen Walker Cancer Care Centre at Royal Darwin Hospital led by centre director Professor Michael Tenniment will speak on the effect of radiation on breast cancer patients and on April 28 will take part in the walk.

Bali Pink Ribbon Walk founder Gaye Warren tells us that after Walk Day a team of breast health doctors from Singapore, led by Dr Feliciana Tan, is taking a mobile ultra sound screening unit around the island to offer free breast screening to women in remote areas, in a project coordinated by Bali Pink Ribbon and its medical advisers.

We hear an official opening of the new Support Centre is slated for October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2013 around the world. For walk details: web balipinkribbon.com,  email  balipinkribbon@gmail.com, telephone +62816295815 or +62816966251.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly Bali Advertiser newspaper and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets @scratchings.