8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Month: January, 2014

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