HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser Sept. 4, 2013
by 8 Degrees of Latitude
His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences
Ugly and Over It
Australian tourists get a bad rap in Bali. In some ways that’s understandable. The appalling behaviour of some of them in the more licentious parts of the tourist strip and (to be brutally honest) the astonishingly gauche naivety of a lot of them rather grates. But not all Australians are like that. We’re not all like that, rather. The Diary is a citizen of the Special Biosphere; an elective one having been born elsewhere. We didn’t like the bother-boots immigration official all those years ago who reluctantly observed the requirements of the visa and stamped the Pommy passport, but we got over it. Perhaps he did too, the silly duffer.
So criticism needs to be measured on the basis of the observed misbehaviour of the Doh brigade in Kuta and Legian. There’s not a lot worse than a crowd of beer-bellies in vests of a certain brand – or any brand – toting gulp-as-you-go beer bottles down the street; or for that matter their uncontrolled infants and pre-teens having screaming hissy-fits. But that’s the mass market for you. Neither is it only Australians who lurch around drunk and half naked in public. Other westerners do this too.
That said, as an interesting discussion on the Australians in Indonesia LinkedIn group recently showed, there’s reason to feel discommoded. In the old days – ah, the old days, in the Republic of Nostalgia – there were certainly scruffy surfers and seekers after truth and certain other substances. But there were not nearly as many, and they weren’t all crammed into a Patpong of pubs getting slammed and eying off the rent-girls, real or fake, or trying to injure themselves on gazillions of rented scooters.
The huge growth in tourism has benefited large numbers of Balinese and the other Indonesians who have moved here to get a piece of the action. It’s moot whether what has resulted is an example of the law of unintended consequences, though that law is about the only constant in Bali. Cheap air fares and an oversupply of low-cost holiday accommodation practically guarantees high uptake, especially when for many Australians it’s far cheaper to get a passport and an international air ticket to Bali than it is to holiday at home.
We now all know about the Australian rite of passage called Schoolies Week. It’s a staggered affair – no, that’s not a pun – with dates that vary from state to state. We mostly get West Australian school-leavers, off the leash in very large numbers, in November.
It’s such fun. Luckily most of them stay in Fleshpot Central and leave the bulk of the island to the rest of us, who like a bit of peace and quiet; and good manners.
The way you hear it, everyone’s on their beam-ends in Bali. They’re all scratching for the last rupiah; they’re all on the very edge of the precipice of privation; and they’re all quite unable to find a couple of spare rupes to rub together; that is unless they’re lawyers, in which case they’ve probably already got everyone’s last rupiah. And that discounts the real poor – the unfortunate rakyat miskin who have seriously missed out on Bali’s boom times and for whose interests we should all look out.
We understand this situation. It is not dissimilar to our own circumstances, give or take a western perception or two about what actually constitutes deprivation. No one (here, there or indeed anywhere) seems to give a toss about the circumstances of those trying to live on the earnings of retirement savings rendered catatonic by low interest rates and the taxing proclivities of governments, which everywhere claim seizure rights over people’s funds.
So we keep small change around the place to pay bills – such as for example laundry bills – in the exact amount due. At last report, Rp 100 and Rp 200 coins were still legal tender. Products and services (e.g., laundry services) are even priced in these ludicrously small amounts.
It was therefore a surprise recently to learn that the local laundry we use – because so far it hasn’t lost too many of our things or returned too much in a tattered, faded or colour-changed condition – would really rather not bother with the very small change. Rp 500 was the smallest denomination they would take.
Well tough. They’ve now got the message that either they take the money we give them or we’ll take our business elsewhere.
PDAM – the government water monopoly whose acronym should surely be PDAMN – is far from a curious public institution. It goes about its business as it likes, which effectively means it frequently doesn’t bother. In that respect it is depressingly normal, in the way that sheltered bureaucratic workplaces in Indonesia and other places often are.
Its lack of any distinguishing features, as a public bureaucracy, should not however shield it from criticism voiced by concerned non-recipients of its sole product, water. The Cage is situated on the Bukit, which suffers from being at the end of a long, rickety and thoroughly overwhelmed reticulation system. Here, we frequently pay for “hair” – as an Italian neighbour told us once in an excess of over-aspiration – because when there’s no water in the pitiful bit of pipe that reaches our location, the air pumped into it to keep it “open” makes everyone’s pay-by-the-click meters whiz round even faster.
We’re fortunate to have a 5000-litre in-ground tank into which PDAM water trickles from time to time. For a little while recently we were getting water overnight – not a lot but just enough – that kept the tank more or less topped up. We knew it wouldn’t last. And sure enough this beneficent regime was soon replaced by a lengthy drought.
Oddly, or perhaps not oddly, the new Big Dry followed closely upon the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious day that PDAM finally got around to repairing the broken main nearby. They have probably wasted their time. Some clumsy truck will run over it again. It is more or less slap-bang in the middle of the trafficable part of the track that passes for a road, after all.
PDAM is keeping up with some aspects of technology. It has a website page on which you can leave feedback. But oddly (again) this never seems to appear. Perhaps we should not be too disheartened. It does point to the possibility that someone might be reading the messages received.
Tricia Kim, Nagacia jewellery designer and indisputably our favourite New York Korean chick, got on to us recently about an event with a very good aim: a charity night organised by IDEP, the NGO that delivers training, community programs and media related to sustainable development through permaculture and community-based disaster management, to help fund a permaculture garden at Kerobokan Prison.
Convicts are generally in jail for offences that warrant their removal from open society, but – Surprise! No! Really? – this neither deprives them of their human rights nor strips them of their humanity.
There was to be dancing (not at the jail – the fundraiser was at La Finca at Hotel Tugu and was supported by Canggu Rotary) and an auction of artwork donated by the Prison Art Education Program. The bash was on Aug. 29 and the toe-tap and wallet-rummage crowd paid Rp 300K to get in with 10 percent of bar takings also going into the kitty.
We’ll catch up with the result next time.
Taking Us for a Ride
The FPI is a fundamentalist movement that promotes a hard-line version of Islam and is entitled to do so, since Indonesia is a democratic country that constitutionally recognises several religions and guarantees freedom of political expression. Its leader, the über-repressive Rizieq Syihab, was recently here with some of his supporters to persuade Bali to ban the Miss World Pageant. We don’t know exactly what he was told by the Bali authorities, who are not Muslim, but we’re hoping it went something like this: “Back on your camel Rizieq. We’ve already got them to drop their bikinis and that’s as far as we’re going.”
Having succeeded in getting the hump (though he will have recorded it as a triumph of advocacy) he returned to Jakarta, rather quicker than if he had chosen to travel by large non-indigenous ruminant.
And it was there that the FPI staged another of its risible public relations failures. It rode around Jakarta’s thoroughfares, attempting to raise the mob as it does, in expensive American Jeeps. The capital’s twitterfreaks had a field day and good for them. Most Indonesians have a very clear view of the pernicious extent of the FPI’s agenda.
For some reason this event brought to The Diary’s mind the alluring lyrics of a seriously seductive 1974 pop-rock song, Midnight at the Oasis. Specifically these lyrics:
But you won’t need no harem, honey
When I’m by your side
And you won’t need no camel, no no
When I take you for a ride
Hector tweets @scratchings