8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Month: April, 2014

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 30

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

A Shocking Disgrace

Someone made a video of quarantine officials killing 31 dogs by cruelly amateurish injection at Gilimanuk on Apr. 15 (it looked like strychnine from the way the dogs died). It doesn’t matter that the video was made by someone who had planned to illegally ship dogs to Bali and didn’t care enough to pay to save his own animals.

What do matter are two issues that have returned to the debating table. First, that because of the nature of social media these days, the inhumanity of what occurred has been seen around the world. Bali’s carefully nurtured folkloric and touristic image as the Island of the Gods has been damaged – yet again – by the clownish actions of the authorities.

Second, the action was justified by reference to regulations that prohibit transhipment of dogs and some other mammals as an anti-rabies measure. Those regulations are in place legitimately and should be observed by everyone, but again that’s not the point.

But rabies is not epidemic on Bali. If the report we saw in the Jakarta Post is accurate in quoting a quarantine officer at Gilimanuk as saying it is, the gentleman and the newspaper are profoundly misinformed.

However, the disease is now endemic. This is because of six years of government action and inaction, that deadly duo, and prevarication.

First, it failed to respond in time when the first human cases occurred in 2008. In time-honoured fashion it then (a) engaged in hideous and counterproductive culling campaigns alongside international and NGO action to vaccinate free-living dogs and reduce their numbers by sterilization programs; (b) indulged in the usual siphoning off of funds to line official pockets; and (c) became embarrassed and then angry when people told them they weren’t doing things the right way and when its sorry succession of “rabies free” target dates could not be met.

It’s true that long held practices and beliefs here relating to animals and their care require significant education to overcome. Perhaps the government should attend classes too if it insists on writing the reports on rabies control that go to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the American based World Society for the Protection of Animals.

Rigorous accuracy in formal reporting is an essential bureaucratic skill.

 

Mugger Menace

The perpetrator probably doesn’t care, if in fact he knows, that the elderly expat lady he pulled off a motorbike and mugged and severely bashed in Jl Drupadi in Seminyak on Apr. 10 is still in a coma in hospital and very ill indeed. Muggers are not misfits. That’s a cosy western fiction. They’re vile little criminals.

Her name is Valeria. She is Italian and has lived in Bali for 30 years with her husband and son. They are not rich, except in the relative sense in which Balinese and other Indonesians view foreigners. Fate has dealt them a cruel blow. They have no medical insurance and € 170,000 is now needed to fly her home to Italy for critical care at state expense. (Mugger to note: This is equivalent to Rp 2.7 billion. Did she have anything like that in her purse?).

An appeal for funds was started by friends. Money raised so far has been spent on daily medical bills. If you can, donate here:

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-save-valeria/161690

It’s unwise to resist a mugger or any violent person. But in situations such as that which cruelly afflicted Valeria, instinct tends to prevail. On that score, we note that in another mugging incident recently – not the one in which a French woman was similarly robbed in Kuta as she rode her motorbike – the perpetrator got a painful lesson. The 15-year-old girl he attempted to rob chased him down and put her karate skills to work.

Perhaps the police will notice that motorcycle banditry is getting a bit out of hand again and do something. It’s not just foreign women who are targeted after all. Local women are just as much at risk.

The police are not usually visible unless they’re flashing their lights to push through the traffic because they’re late for tea, or are traffic police out collecting lunch money from the day’s preferred cohort of motorized miscreants. And public safety on the streets is anyway better left to local communities to organize.

In Bali that means the banjars. The Basangkasa banjar in Seminyak operates a security system using local village guards. It’s paid for by the local ATMs, the foreigners who live there, but that’s just the way things are here. It keeps Jl Oberoi and part of Jl Drupadi on the “safe zone” list. Few muggers would want to risk mixing it with the Pecalang.

It’s an idea that could be adopted widely.

 

He Came Bearing Gifts

Diary and Distaff had a lovely lunch on Easter Sunday with an old friend, Robin Osborne, who was transiting Bali on his way to Kupang. We went to the Jimbaran Beach Club, just along from the fish cafés, and ate and drank lightly and watched the tide come in and go out while we talked of many things.

There was rather a lot to talk about. We hadn’t seen him since 1983 in Port Moresby when we were all jobbing for the yellow press. He was at our wedding there in 1982. We agreed it would be unwise to wait another three decades for Reunion II, the flesh being mortal and the march of time inexorable.

Osborne is no stranger to Indonesia or to Bali. He was until fairly recently with the Northern Territory health department where another Bali fan, Kon Vatskalis, was the health minister who pushed forward the Royal Darwin Hospital-Sanglah link.

One of Osborne’s missions on this trip was to look for rare Lombok weaves, in which he has a collector’s interest. He went to Lombok in search of same and stayed at Villa Sayang at Lingsar north of Mataram. In Bali he also visited Ubud where the navel-gazers are always worth watching.

He left us with a fine bottle of Taylor’s very drinkable red and the new book by Damon Galgut, Arctic Summer, which has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Its central character is the English novelist Morgan Forster (E.M. Forster). The Diary reads anything – even the labels on tins of baked beans – but Forster, although a writer who richly deserves his place in the Pantheon, had never seemed attractive as a subject. He was a repressed homosexual in the manner of his time, a womanish, waspish man.

Fortunately the world (largely) has moved on from conformist, proscriptive Victorian-Edwardian ill-humour and rudely intrusive desires to regulate the sexuality of others. And the book is tremendous. It was instantly devoured.

 

We’ve Been to Dubai Too

Though it might surprise Made Wijaya and his Jakarta based publisher Alistair Speirs to hear this, the Diary and the Stranger do share a view rather more often than either of them apparently believes.

Wijaya had a lovely line in his Stranger in Paradise column in Now Bali’s April edition that made a neat point and is certainly worth repeating. He was, he wrote, on his way to a Barong ceremony at Pura Dalem Tunon on the beach near the Ramada Bali Bintang at Tuban.

Tripping as lightly as he could over the 200 non-heritage metres required to reach the temple from the hotel on Jl Kartika Plaza, he had just passed a lone Batak singing Tie a Yellow Ribbon, widely believed locally to be a favourite with tourists, when his gimlet eye for cultural excrescence fell upon a large vacant space walled in by New Architecture.

He wrote:  “We walked on the new dimly lit beach promenade, past a big empty restaurant called The Wharf (how do they come with these dumb names in a sea of rich local culture I think; hoteliers must just close their eyes and think of Dubai).”

Wijaya’s far from subliminal suggestion that the de-Bali-ing of Bali culture is a serious mistake and a clear danger to the island’s appeal is very much to the point. It’s true that it mightn’t worry the new tourists from Indonesia’s big cities, China and other smog-shrouded East Asian places, where crass is the new black.

Few visitors seeking unique cultural experiences would want to waste their money on a facsimile of the Big Durian, however.

 

Load of Rubbish

Three tonnes (3,000kg) of rubbish was collected from five kilometres of beaches at Seminyak, Kuta, Legian, Kedonganan and Jimbaran on Easter Saturday, as part of the 2014 Earth Day global program. Earth Day itself was on Apr. 22,

Six hundred residents and tourists took part in the clean-up, which was sponsored by Coca-Cola Amatil, Quiksilver and Garuda Indonesia.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 16, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

Well, We Hit the Roof

We got a lovely invitation from the new RIMBA – we think it still qualifies as “new” since it hasn’t yet been open for a year – to attend a svelte bash on Apr. 12 to launch its Unique Rooftop Bar. Of course we went along. We like an affray and it’s always good to catch up with friends including Marian Carroll, who runs the corporate and PR effort of both RIMBA and AYANA.

The Grand Launch featured a live performance by Lee Dewyze. RIMBA’s landscaping and architecture is quite stunning. It was a grand night.

Friends who stayed there over Nyepi tell us the guests in residence for silent night Bali style were mainly Indonesian. It’s good to see the emerging middle classes spending rupes in felicitous places.

 

Nice to be Back

Fresh off the plane from Australia, circumstances led us almost immediately to Candi Dasa. This was a benefit, because it took us back to a favourite spot, Pondok Bambu, a beautifully cool sea breeze and fine views to Nusa Penida and Lombok.

We dined one night at Vincent’s, also a favourite. The Diary’s tofu dish was divine and the Distaff’s beetroot salad concoction looked marvellous. Vincent’s now has live jazz on the first and third Thursdays of every month. Regrettably, our visit this time coincided with neither of these opportunities. We shall have to return.

Degustation also took place at Quarante-Huit, Le 48, the restaurant attached to the Zen resort. It is no longer under French management, having been sold to a gentleman from Surabaya. But the cuisine is still determinedly (and happily) Gallic and the waitresses still remind one, by their attire and attentive presence, of the pretty fillies one once used to bump into in Paris.

 

Says It All

Those innovative signs on Bali’s highways that say “truk gunakan lajur kiri” (“trucks use left lane”) are working as expected. They are universally ignored as yet another traffic rule the police can’t be bothered to enforce. It remains easier, much more fun and certainly more profitable for them to create traffic jams by staging random hold-ups to check licences and vehicle registrations.

The drive up to Candi Dasa on the East Coast highway on a Friday afternoon perfectly illustrated the pointlessness of regulatory signage on Balinese highways. It also brought to attention a chap who immediately won Madman of the Week award for the way in which he drove his heavily-laden green truck.

The windscreen was basically obliterated by stickers and anyway was of what looked like 100 per cent tinted glass. But it was the custom-painted legend on the truck’s rear bumper bar that told the real story. The first time he stormed past us, weaving through the 80km/h traffic at breakneck speed, we noted the sign with close attention.

It read, “I don’t care!”

 

New Line-Up

The Bali Hotels Association’s 2014 board, announced recently, has some interesting names worth placing on record. Ian Cameron (by complete coincidence a neighbour of The Diary at Ungasan) is director of finance. He’s general manager of the Grand Aston Nusa Dua.

Another name, hitherto undiscovered, is Laetitia Sugandi, general manager of Harris Riverside Hotel and Residences in Kuta, who got the gig as director of sports and cultural activities. That’s an area of particular interest to The Diary.

Chairman for 2014 is Alessandro Migliore, GM at The Royal Beach, Seminyak. Past chairman Jean-Charles Le Coz of the Nikko is vice-chairman.

 

Give Her a Break

Schapelle Corby’s parole rules apparently require her not to wear a motorbike helmet. We surmise this from a report in The Beat Daily that said she had earned a rebuke from parole officers for having done so while making her way to a scheduled meeting with them.

It’s sensible to require parolees, who after all are still serving sentences albeit with some authorized freedoms, to remain in plain sight. Unless they’re on a motorbike that is, where to the surprise no doubt of the traffic police and various other minor functionaries, wearing such head protection is required by law. That’s notionally, of course, in the way of most things here.

Corby is in a delicate situation. For some reason that entirely escapes logical explanation, she is a person of interest to the Australian media. On any risk analysis, where she is concerned, the potential presence of an intrusively rude little person pointing a camera has to be factored in. Avoiding such incidents by being invisible in transit, since her visibility has already earned her a rebuke or three from her official minders, would seem to be sensible policy.

But bureaucrats everywhere are not well known for a capacity to think laterally.

 

Hospital Pass

Australia’s Channel Seven, late of the Schapelle shemozzle, is running a series of documentaries that take viewers inside the private BIMC and public Sanglah hospitals. The series is called What Really Happens in Bali and also showcases the lives of expats who now call Bali home.

Thankfully The Diary was not approached to participate. It would have been very difficult to top the éclat of the guy who apparently claims (breathlessly one might imagine) to have had sex with more than 100 women in 90 days. Evidently he was on a very special social visa.

The series is great exposure – and it’s well deserved – for both BIMC and for Sanglah (whose link with Royal Darwin Hospital in Australia is very valuable). If the series lives up to the promise in its title, many more Australians will be better informed about Bali than they are at present.

 

For the Record

According to some among the expatriate population, we’re not supposed to refer to the many feet of clay that clog up the works in these parts. This segment of the expat community has adopted the general Balinese response that if you don’t like it here, you should go home. That’s classic sand-pit stuff, best left behind in one’s toddler years, and we certainly take no notice. Our rule is: If there’s a snafu, say so.

The reluctant conclusion that there is now no hope of Bali being declared rabies-free until at least 2016 is a case in point. Like all such targets in Bali it’s a dynamic one, not to say fluid, and infinitely expandable on a logarithmic scale.

When the current outbreak began in 2008, after many years in which no human cases had been recorded and no animal ones noticed, the place for a time looked like a rather bad Three Stooges movie set. Unfortunately the result of that particular farce is that to date an estimated 147 people have died of rabies. That figure, incidentally, would at best win only qualified audit status.

There was a lull in reported rabies cases for while but this year there have already been four suspected cases including two confirmed deaths in Buleleng and a large number of cases in dogs.

Under international rules there must be two clear years between the last reported case and declaration that an infected area is now free of the disease.

The authorities blame community reluctance to vaccinate dogs or to cooperate with the government. That’s a cop-out. After six years of hampering the efforts of others while pocketing anti-rabies money, some in the bureaucracy responsible (and their political bosses) should have worked out which way is up. Or at least, found a conscience.

 

Heart and SOLEMEN

Many charitable organizations are active in Bali, a lot of them working right at the coalface of disadvantage and distress. They all deserve our support. One among them is SOLEMEN, famous for its barefoot walks to raise funds. It treats the sick and handicapped children it helps in a holistic way.

Robert Epstone, who would modestly describe himself as one among many leading lights in the organization, sent us a copy of the SOLEMEN Newsletter No. 5, covering Jan.-Mar. this year. It’s a great initiative and is heartrending reading. It should be required study for any among us who in the western way are apt to consider themselves discommoded by trivial circumstances.

On Mar. 27 there was a charity fundraiser partly in aid of SOLEMEN and organized by Sunset Vet of Kuta to celebrate its first birthday, with funds going to assist SOLEMEN’s efforts to help the poor and disadvantaged in Bali in the way they do best, by focusing on individual cases of immense suffering and providing immediate help.

SOLEMEN is completing its first permaculture garden in one poor village in Denpasar to encourage self sufficiency plus raised self esteem within the community. As well as feeding families, the program – planned as the first of many – will supply a surplus to provide an income for them.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 2, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

On the Wrong Bus

An outbreak of gratuitous and unnecessary angst caught our eye the just before the 2014 Bali Spirit Festival got under way. It was said – by dog lady and artist Linda Buller of all people, on Facebook, the favoured resort of the whickering classes these days – that Spirit was not what Ubud was all about. Apparently this was because it brought in hordes of yoga practitioners who clogged the streets and seemed to wander around in a little world of their own.

Well, hello? If indeed they do, in that regard Spirit patrons are no different (in any essential that matters) from patrons of the other festivals that feature in the Ubud calendar. There’s little difference, for non-participants, between being obstructed by someone off with the yoga fairies and someone else (say) who is wandering the streets musing about literary things such as from where their next or possibly their first royalty payment is going to come.

Ubud is no longer what once it was. The same can be said about anywhere on the face of the planet. We’d recommend a trip to Leh in Ladakh for any doubters of this fundamental truth.

Nor is Ubud a community in which foreigners (or even Balinese or other Indonesians from elsewhere) can expect to have much of a say in political and social affairs. The early tambourine-bangers who colonized the village may have thought they had found a personal little Nirvana, or Shangri-la, but like any foreign colony anywhere, they were fooling themselves.

Ubud’s future, and Bali’s, depends ultimately on its Balinese. Wisely or not, they seem happy enough to profit from the desire of foreigners and others to buy up rice fields and build little palaces or more humble abodes. It’s that which is changing Ubud, not the Spirit Festival or any other esoteric navel-gazing interests.

It’s possible that Buller was just joshing us, in her Australian way. But in case she was serious, we repeat what we noted in the Diary of Mar.19: Meghan Pappenheim’s spirited baby is perfect for Bali and especially for Ubud, where if you ignore the big buses full of Chinese tourists seeking bric-a-brac you can in fact still almost smell the ether.

 

Watch Out for Spam

An announcement that the national government will invest in water infrastructure for South Bali in partnership with the provincial authorities, Denpasar city and Badung regency, is good news of a sort. The existing infrastructure is creaking, frankly in a terminal fashion.

The South Bali region has been included in Indonesia’s Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Economic Development (MP3EI) to improve existing infrastructure related to the provision of water. The region including Denpasar, Badung, Gianyar, Tabanan and Klungkung (and known in the Indonesian compound fashion as Sabargitaku) is recognised as an asset for the Bali/Nusa Tenggara corridor because it earns substantial revenue through tourism.

It has now apparently come to the attention of those who control the national budgetary strings that there has been pressure on the existing infrastructure of the area. Full marks are due then to Djoko Kirmanto, the Minister for Public Infrastructure, who has now noted that demand has reached unsustainable levels.

Under the Djoko Plan a new water supply system, draining system and sanitation program (delightfully, apparently it is to be known as SPAM) will be put in place to accommodate growing demand. It notes that one of the problems in the Sabargitaku region is the uneven distribution of water throughout the four areas. Well, there you go!

A total of Rp 344.3 billion will be invested from the national budget, Rp 97.5 billion from Bali’s provincial government budget and a further Rp 120.8 billion from the Denpasar and Badung regency budgets.

It would be good if that sort of money got into the pipeline and if quantities of it did not thereafter leach out en route to its functionally productive public destination.

 

K9 KO

Lizzie Love tells us the KK9 project she initiated at Kerobokan Jail has had to be canned, for reasons that have nothing to do with the value of the project, which was to give inmates an opportunity to bond with friendly dogs. Likewise, it had nothing to do with the prison authorities, who supported the program.

That’s sad for all concerned and especially for inmates who had already made friends with a particular dog. But as Lizzy tells us, the welfare of the dogs is paramount. Any uncertainty on that front is an automatic shut-down signal, quite properly.

The demise of this project turned out does not detract from the great work being done – by volunteers and inmates – in other areas at Kerobokan. KK9 may have been a misstep, but that’s all it was.

 

Greying Anatomy

Well, we know it. We’re, well, sort of part of it, really. But it’s good in a way to hear that Bali is set to boom in the coming years, with Australians looking for cheaper retirement options. That’s if they can get the pension too, of course. If they’re filthy rich and can afford to duck the restrictions attached to Australian age pensions, they’d be better giving Bali a miss in favour of someplace else where the gap between official and informal outlays and value for money on the services rendered is narrower.

According to something we saw in The Beat Daily recently Australians – who are now approaching retirement in record numbers courtesy of the post-World War II baby boom – are increasingly looking to Bali as a more affordable alternative. This intelligence reaches us via Matthew Upchurch, chief executive of luxury travel network Virtuoso.

It’s not surprising that Australians are looking at Bali as an affordable alternative to retiring in the Odd Zone. It’s close to home, but free of several irritants. If retirees stay home the nanny state and its overweening bureaucracy interest themselves in everything from their bank accounts to their daily motions.

Bali is gearing up to meet this emerging demographic in a range of areas, from medical tourism – where BIMC Hospital at Nusa Dua is pioneering new facilities – to retirement living on the pattern long ago established in Europe, such as a new facility being built by Sentosa Worldwide Resorts at Umalas.

It’s the coming thing, it seems.

 

Essential Research

You have to plan carefully and be sure not to overdo things, but the West Australians produce such good wine that no visit of a longer than fleeting nature would be complete without a visit to a winery.

Our own “local” vineyards are in the south-west, in the Margaret River and Pemberton wine regions. The fact that we’re there fairly frequently does not mean we can afford to miss updating current research at every available opportunity.

On our most recent trip we visited Aravina (it used to be Amberley) and Wise. We had lunch at Aravina, which is on Wildwood Road at Yallingup, and afternoon tea at Wise, which is in the Cape Naturaliste uplands and offers a delightfully Provencal outlook, complete with plane trees, north and east towards the waters of Geographe Bay.

The rose at Aravina and the moscato at Wise were alone worth the trips. At Aravina we doubled our benefit with a fabulous polenta dish and significant dessert. At Wise, we confined our culinary attention to a rather yummy flourless pear cake.

While we were in the area Noela Newton of Artisan Wines got in touch. She was heading to Margaret River and wondered if our schedules might match. Unfortunately they didn’t. But Artisan and Margaret River have a very close connection. That cannot be a bad thing.

Cheers!

 

Piecing it Together

Nina Karnikowski of The Sydney Morning Herald had some useful guidance for Australian readers recently, on what’s hot and what’s not in Bali. She did a Q&A with chef Chris Salans of Mozaic Restaurant Gastronomique in Ubud and Mozaic Beach Club at Batu Belig.

We’re of the same mind as Cordon Bleu trained Salans on at least one seminal Bali factor: Jajan pasar is a sweet treat not to be missed in any circumstances. It’s a regular feature of the household provisioning budget at The Cage.

Ours comes from the cake shop attached to Bali Jaya, a locally owned supermarket on Jl. Raya Uluwatu at Bukit Jimbaran where the Diary is happily on smiling and chatting terms with the lovely lady proprietor. It’s where we buy our Indonesian wine and whisky and those things in packets of 20 that in most places nowadays you’re not even allowed to think about, let alone mention in polite company.

Salans has been living in Bali since 1995 and will be a double-decader next year. Perhaps that’s why he likes Lawar Nyawan, a traditional Balinese salad that features bee larvae as its chief ingredient. He concedes that it may be an acquired taste.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter