8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Month: January, 2015

Survival of the Sickest – the mess, the cause and how to fix it.

Now this is worth a read.

Passionfruitcowgirl

If you’re on the path to peace, you’ll find out pretty quick that those be shark-infested waters! A guide to finding happiness, the Curse of Darwin and who’s who in the spiritual zoo.

David Yarrow, http://edition.cnn.com/2013/11/26/travel/africa-wildlife-david-yarrow/ David Yarrow, http://edition.cnn.com/2013/11/26/travel/africa-wildlife-david-yarrow/

Twenty years’ down the road less traveled and that gorgeous, lonely path is now some of the most fought-ever real estate on the planet.

This far along, and with a little bit of overview, I wanted to write about the world out here, reflect upon the hullabaloo, and offer some insight to those considering a bit of a Walkabout.

From Cusco to Ubud; Kathmandu to Ko Samui, it’s true that New Age profiteers have hung their shingles everywhere you’re thinking of heading.

They eclipse the pretty views of nature, and lure would-be questers with a buffet of spiritual experiences. A booming spiritual industry sells anything you can think of – shamanic travel, kundalini for cats, conscious…

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HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 21, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Guys, Get Serious!

A photo taken on Dec. 21 and displayed on Facebook this month of a 500-metre wide by unknown kilometres long stretch of garbage floating offshore from around Tanah Lot (it’s an important temple: might that resonate with any of the stumblebums officially responsible for the island’s environment?) lays bare the filthy joke that is Bali’s official non-position on waste management.

We all know, here, that garbage immediately becomes something that is not your problem if you throw it over the wall or dump it in the bush or a dry watercourse. The well-meaning assert that this is because the population needs to be educated and companies that produce masses of plastic pre-waste – packaged food producers largely – need to be forced to comply with the law.

The realists among us, well-meaning or otherwise, would suggest that since ever- increasing amounts of non-degradable rubbish have been a feature of Bali for a period that now approaches three decades, the actual causes are sloth, crass stupidity, blind selfishness, and a desire not to spend money on waste management because there are far more exciting things to waste money on.

It’s true that except in a few (commendable) cases, public waste disposal services are a sick joke. Organizing them requires a sound plan, good administration, ample funding, and that most elusive of public assets, real leadership. So something’s missing, and it not just all eight cylinders in Pak Plutocrat’s big limo.

It’s also true that Bali has only an embryonic tax base, even though except for Jakarta it is the richest province in Indonesia. Most people, those the tourists won’t tip because Rp 50,000 is a good screw for the work they do, yeah, and I’m here for a holiday and I don’t give a toss, are outside the collectible tax base.

There are environmental laws that require packagers to produce packaging that won’t litter the landscape for a millennium or kill marine life in the ocean for a hundred years. Like most laws here, especially the ones that emanate from the national level which are universally ignored, they are not policed unless someone’s suddenly got a bee in their bonnet or wants money, or both.

The packagers have lobbied heavily – on the tired old argument of anyone bothered by regulations: that they can’t afford it – against having to comply with these laws. The proper answer to that self-serving pitch is that if your business model can’t function within the rules then you should shut up shop.

The government proclaims that Bali is clean and green. It should try to make some progress towards that thoroughly laudable goal before someone invents a counter-slogan: Bali Unclean and Queasy Green.

 

You Don’t Say!

Governor Made Pastika frequently reminds us, via the little homilies about this and that which he likes to deliver as directional-correctional thinking, of the perils of being trite. His latest such utterance is to assert that Bali can no longer be referred to as the Island of Paradise or as Paradise Island, because there are a lot of poor people in Bali who need better welfare.

As with much that is trite, this is also right. The churlish might mutter “Oh, he’s noticed” and have a chuckle and find in that some temporary relief from his promotion of the scheme to murder the mangroves in Benoa Bay to build Port Excrescence and attract lots more tourists who aren’t in the least interested in the local culture. But that would be a little unfair. Pastika has shown commendable interest in the fortunes of the poor – or their lack of fortunes rather – and his critics should remember that there wouldn’t be free health care for Bali’s poor without him.

He went on to say this: “If we’re honest, we see a lot of poor people in Bali, but still dare to say this is an island paradise? In heaven there aren’t any poor people. In heaven it is all fun, and a nice house.”

Well, that’s a lovely thought. And it was apt for his audience. The Governor was speaking at a dialogue session that discussed the issue of whether the vast array of religious ceremonies affects poverty in Bali. It would be foolish to put money on the answer being “No”.

 

Bon Voyage

It was sad to hear that Christian Vanneque, a veritable institution in the expat community, lost his courageous battle with cancer early this month. He was in his sixties, which is far too young to shuffle off.

He will be missed by many and not least by our favourite Yakker, Sophie Digby, who told us this when we spoke about him:

“He used to call me Hello Bali so I used to call him Living Room, or Daniel. It was always a pleasure to see him. Always a pleasure to share a quick word ‘en passant’ as they say.

“He was part of the fabric that makes up Bali; more Aubusson than tie-dye; a gentleman; and I was his friend, not his closest by far, but a friendship that goes way-back-when and a few hundred bottles of wine in between, of that I am sure.

“Following the way of my mind, he is not gone but will still pop up on any given sunny afternoon, just as I walk in to commandeer our favourite table at Sip – Table 10. He will call me Hello Bali.

“So ‘bon voyage’ Christian, we enjoyed your company just like we enjoyed some pretty good wines … ones you gracefully taught us about and encouraged us to drink.

“Santé and Sip!” 

 

Eastward Shift

Kim McCreanor, who used to do save the doggies things for the Bali Animal Welfare Association and then moved on to make local noises elsewhere in the same field, has moved on yet again. She has become chief barker at an NGO based in Australia’s “northern capital”, Darwin, as chief executive officer of AMRRIC (Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities).

AMRRIC is an Australian not-for-profit led by veterinarians and academics; and health and animal management professionals. It works to improve the overall health and wellbeing of remote Indigenous settlements, including their dog populations, which are integral to those communities. The organization’s 10th annual conference in Darwin last September, which McCreanor attended, was supported by IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Here in Bali, IFAW funds a very valuable village-level education project run by BAWA.

 

Freedom of Joyce

Hector’s helper has an interesting life, sometimes. He received a connect request the other day on LinkedIn (it’s where he does his serious work) from someone called Joyce Smith, of whom up to that very moment he had never heard.

Since Ms Smith’s profile was not visible when he tried to look it up – it’s what you do: that’s what LinkedIn profiles are for – he sent her an in-mail thanking her for her request and suggesting she provide some details about herself (e.g., a profile) and they’d take it from there.

He got a note back from LinkedIn immediately which advised that the said Joyce Smith had declined his in-mail. There was a message with it, however, which further advised: “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not interested.”

Normally Hec’s helper would leave things there, on the basis that there’s never a lot of point in talking to the plainly certifiable. But the devil was in him that day. He sent an in-mail back asking: “So why did you send me the initial connect request, Joyce?”

He forbore to inquire what it was that she wasn’t interested in.

 

No Regrettas

In these days of instant interconnection and virtual space filled with homely though sadly too often vacuous aphorisms designed to boost the reader’s self-esteem (the latter are mostly from WWW.con) you find all manner of litter in the corners of your social media sites when you fire up in the morning.

So it was the other day when an item posted by The Mind Unleashed was brought to our attention. It retailed Maxwell Maltz’s quote that “If you make friends with yourself you will never be alone.” The Mind Unleashed ran it in support of a little primer of its own invention for those who have difficulty thinking for themselves even after their first cup of coffee in the morning: Sometimes you need to disconnect and enjoy your own company.

Greta Garbo probably put it better, but it is useful advice nonetheless. We often take it ourselves. At least when you’re alone, no one argues with you.

 

Stuff It

We were dining at a Jimbaran restaurant one evening recently when the activities of the attendant loud-crowd, which seemed largely to hail from Jakarta and Surabaya, prompted a disconsolate thought: We have seen the future and it is stuffing its face.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the fortnightly Bali Advertiser

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 7, 2015

 

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

BAWA with a Bang

BAWA, the pre-eminent animal welfare organization on the island because of focused effort and the seminal role played by founder Janice Girardi in dealing with rabies when it broke out in Bali in 2008 – the disease is now endemic, but that’s Indonesian bureaucracy for you – ended 2014 with a bang, though not one that would frighten the doggies.

It held a Bridge to New Year fundraising dinner on Dec. 29 at Ubud’s Taksu Restaurant, an event at which the organization was able to brief guests on its plans for 2015 and beyond. It came complete with musical entertainment provided by BAWA staff members who, when they’re not doing their day jobs, sing and strum a guitar with enthusiastic aplomb.

Earlier in December BAWA announced a real coup. Ubud prince Cok De Piko (Tjokorda Gde Dharma Putra Sukawati) has become a BAWA ambassador and, because of his enduring love for dogs and particularly the very special Bali Dog, will be seen out and about with BAWA teams as they perform their daily work.

His favourite quote is from Mark Twain: “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” Cok De studied in Australia, where he did not adopt a dog because he wouldn’t have been able to leave it behind when he returned to Bali. That’s the sort of thinking casual pet owners the world over should get their heads around.

Ubud’s traditional royalty remains very influential in the local community and is extremely well connected where it matters.

On Jan. 3, BAWA hosted the third of its series of events at Kuta Beachwalk, themed around its Adopt-Learn-Chat with a Vet program. That came along with really good music that ran late into the evening; a selection of beautiful puppies; ready-to-chat veterinarians; and some lovely art from Urban Sketchers. The event was sponsored by Beachwalk, Legian Beach Hotel, and others including Scooby-Doo, the dog food-delivery people.

BAWA’s Christmas card was interesting, by the way. You might say it was highly traditional. There was snow everywhere. This did not bring to mind Snowing in Bali, Kathryn Bonella’s book about the drug scene. Instead, it reminded us that snow looks great on Christmas cards and is murder anywhere else. We did wonder what the lovely Bali dogs and the little monkey on the BAWA card were thinking.

Please, Do Amuse

Jade Richardson, the peripatetic scribbler, recommenced her writers’ workshops in Ubud this month. This is good to see. Her approach to the written word is unique and she has a mind that is fun to engage. It’s no surprise that in Bali, where Ozymandias still lives in self-nominated splendour and where so many have built glittering local reputations upon the geographically distant rubble of pasts imperfect, she’s not on everyone’s most-favoured list.

Her mission with The Write Path is to get intending authors of books, biographies, short stories, poetry and those with ideas for articles or scripts fictional or factual, to take that first bold step and release their inner muse. Richardson, who is not one with whom to trifle, says that her process with writers “releases a genie from the bottle – meaning that I can assist those who have the call to write to discover a genius for storytelling that they never knew they had.”

She started her workshops in Bali and they’ve since been to Ecuador, the Galapagos and Thailand and online. It’s good to see her home again. It’s worth looking at www.heartbookwriting.com too.

Play-tonic

Plato always gets a good rap at The Cage. He’s well up Hector’s Top Ten Thinkers list. So it’s a bit sad, as he is so anciently a posthumous source, that his engaging aphorisms, real or otherwise, get co-opted by the ignorant for all sorts of nefarious purposes.

A case in point: On Dec. 28 there was an event at Dragonfly Village in Denpasar billed as Sensual/Sexual PlayDay – Conscious pleasure with consent, organized by someone called Matthias Schwenteck. This gentleman purloined for his own purposes the Platonic observation (one of the many Plato didn’t actually utter) that “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”.

The event seemed more suited to Ubud, where lots of people like to spend their time examining their navels while harbouring the intent to get a close-up glimpse of someone else’s.

Perhaps the fixation with things better organized privately, or which are undertaken singularly in darkened rooms with the doors locked, really is spreading beyond the confines of Loopville.

Alpha Mail

An item a fortnight ago noted that the new British envoy to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, was still ambassador-designate because he had not yet presented his letters of credence to President Joko Widodo.

Well, he hadn’t engaged in this ancient formality when we sent the previous diary in by its deadline. He did shortly thereafter, it seems, though this was not without a little last-minute hitch. He tweeted on Dec. 18, the big day: “Almost forgot my letter from the Queen – had to run back to get it.”

Banzai!

We had a pleasant drive (we jest) one Saturday evening recently when the Distaff decided she’d like sukiyaki for dinner and suggested we journey to Seminyak to enjoy the table-top cooking at Kaizan. We hadn’t been there for a while, so a plausible excuse to avoid the trip did not spring to mind.

But Kaizan wasn’t there – perhaps the extortionate rents now demanded in the area had driven it away – so we dined instead at another favourite nearby, Kuni’s, on seaweed salad, Gyu asupara maki, Gohan, Sukiyaki Nabe, and a delightful green tea mousse. This was accompanied in order by “one large Bintang two glass”, some rather pleasant sake and a nice plum wine.

The Distaff has a thing for Japan. This dates from many years ago. And for sukiyaki, ditto, though it is more a home-cooking dish than a fine-dining experience. Her view on sukiyaki, as on many things, is “Doko ga warui no desuka?” It’s a colloquial Japanese transliteration of an interrogative “What’s wrong with that?” And we agree.

The drive from Ungasan was another matter. Large numbers of idiots were dangerously riding their motorbikes and the drivers of all the tourist buses were clearly on speed. Half the street lights were out on the by-pass. There were Hindu ceremonies everywhere that required fierce-looking village guards armed with Star Wars-style magic wands to stop the traffic so that scattered little groups of celebrants could wander at will across the thoroughfare.

The airport traffic circle was mayhem as a result. Northbound traffic had formed eight (we counted) “lanes” to force a way into the circus. The Distaff closed her eyes and thought of sukiyaki while her driver, whom we know as Perpendicular Pronoun, edged and all but nudged his way through. It helps, we think, to have been a lemming in a former life.

He’s Cooking

Vyt Karazija, the inveterate blogger, was thinking virtually out loud on Facebook on Boxing Day evening as to whether he should go out to eat or stay home and cook. Neither prospect amused him. We (and others) tendered advice. Ours was simple and direct: “Easy. Starve.” In the end he decided to cook and explained why:

“The prospect was get dressed, release security cobras, then quickly lock up premises, don wet weather gear, get bike outside, lock gates, ride to restaurant while trying not to skid, fall off, get hit by some moron, park bike somewhere where it won’t fall over/get stolen/get flattened by some blind idiot with a Hummer, order food, get accosted by friendly drunk, argue about the ++ charges on the bill and then do everything in reverse just to get home.

“Then having to round up the security cobras and put them back in their boxes and pacify them because I forgot to pick up their mice for dinner.

“Or alternatively, cook dinner and eat it.”

It’s a piece of cake, really.

Dance Class

A chance remark the other day, offered by an acquaintance who may have been concerned that some might have missed the module on delicious irony when they were majoring in epithet, prompts us to say that we know the iconic Bali dance that tourists have been going ga-ga about since it was invented in the antiquity of the 1930s is called Kecak.

Readers may have noticed a reference or two to Kecap dances in the diary in recent times.

It is often called Kecap by tourists and in many less than scholarly references on that global kindergarten primer, the world-wide web. Kecap is sauce. Though it must not be confused with ketchup, which is to piquant what semolina is to Bubur Injin.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser and at http://www.baliadvertiser.biz