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THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Month: June, 2015

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, June 24, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Mama Mia!

We failed to wear pink for the occasion because – well, just because. But we were present at the June lunch of the indomitable DIVAS, who gathered at Slippery Stone in Jl Batu Belig, Kerobokan, for fun, frivolity, a clear absence of fasting as a practice any girl in her senses would endorse, and to raise money for the women’s empowerment group the ROLE Foundation.

We had promised chief Diva Christina Iskandar that we’d get along to the show, on Jun. 12. This was made easier by an arrangement to appear as Lizzie Love’s handbag. ROLE chief Mike O’Leary presented some interesting facts about his organization and the useful – actually essential – work it does to shift disadvantaged women out of poverty. Eva Scolaro sang some songs, sultry and otherwise, and ended with Mama Mia, that old ABBA staple. That created an amazing scene, at least in the view of superannuated diarists. Crowds of women from dowagers to dinky divas leapt up and began punching the air. It was quite alarming until Lizzie, dear creature, calmed our rising fears. Apparently it’s the done thing.

Lizzie, who didn’t do the punch-the-air thing, was in fetching Flapper-style pink but she had along with her for the show a lovely Sydney friend, Jocelyn Johinke, to whose presence we formed an immediate attraction. Like the Diary, she was wearing the “new pink” which is, well, basically white.

It was all good fun with no disappointments since we never win raffles anyway, and now we know it’s safe to be in the middle of a moderately raucous female crowd we’ll get along to the next one, in September. That’s if Lizzie will extend the handbag option.

Free For All

Well, not quite. But President Joko Widodo has issued a decree that suspends the effect of legislation to the contrary and lists 45 countries whose citizens will be able to visit Indonesia without the financial embarrassment and onerous queuing involved in first paying $US35 for a VOA and then lining up again to get a stamp in their passport.

Apparently the reciprocity rule doesn’t matter any more. If Indonesia wants to exempt certain aliens from paying for tourist visas, it’s no longer germane whether their own countries offer the same privilege to Indonesians. One of the President’s stated aims is to get 10 million tourists a year to Bali by 2019. That’s just four years away. Perhaps he hasn’t realized this, since mathematics is apparently a problem to him. Making the announcement in Denpasar he said that 10 million was nearly double the present 4 million a year.

Then again, maybe the idea is to prove the local theory that the availability of infrastructure to cope with such an influx really doesn’t matter a damn.

There might be a little confusion in the queues though. In the grand tradition of bureaucracies everywhere, which is of course played out in spades in Indonesia, the signs in the arrival hall at Ngurah Rai International are also, shall we say, to be decorous about it, not quite right. Never mind. Just mill around and marvel. That’s what Bali wants its tourists to do anyway, once they get out of the airport. So they can just start a little early.

The U.S., Canada and New Zealand are on the free list. Pointedly, though not surprisingly given the tedious you’ve-got-feet-of-clay two-way exchanges across the Timor Sea that have recommenced lately, Australia is not.

A Note for Scribblers

It popped into our in-box recently from Janet DeNeefe, doyenne of the literary tea set in Ubud and founder of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. The twelfth rendition of this felicity takes place between Oct. 28 and Nov. 1. Do make a note in your diaries. It’s always worth getting along to the program of events DeNeefe and crew put on for the festival.

Having reached the halfway mark of the year, DeNeefe notes, there are only four short months until the 2015 festival. We’ll leave aside the fact that discounting June (now all but gone) only September is a short month in that timeframe. We know she meant.

More than 150 writers and creatures she calls creatives from Indonesia and beyond “will gather to discuss extraordinary stories and big ideas”. Gabfests are always fun, so we’ll certainly be planning to join the jamboree.

All the latest details, including the names of writers in the fields of fiction, human rights and research, are on the festival website. If you’re writing a book and would like to launch it at UWRF 2015, applications are now open. The Diary’s alter ego is engaged in just such a venture, but it may not be ready in time and in any case its genre might better suit a more outré venue.

Early Bird tickets go on sale in July.

Barking Mad: Latest Update

Some shocking figures have found their way into the local Bahasa press on rabies, which has been a feature of Bali, though not an attraction, since 2008. They show that in 2013 the percentage of dogs vaccinated against rabies – and therefore providing the vital screen between canine rabies and its transmission to humans – was 68 percent, just below the 70 percent level international standards say is necessary for effective herd immunity and suppression of the disease. (In 2010, at the end of the successful campaign led by the animal welfare NGO the government now loves to hate, the figure was 80 percent.)

It gets worse. In 2014 it was 44 percent. By June this year (without figures from Klungkung regency which is either playing silly beggars or has gone to sleep) it was 36 percent. That’s effectively half the optimum protection level. No wonder we’re seeing a procession of local animal husbandry worthies panicking while they do their repertory performances of Cpl. Jones in Dad’s Army, whose catch-cry was “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!”

And that’s not all the bad news, either. In 2013 the risk that a dog might be infected with rabies and thus likely to bite you and cause you to die an unnecessary and horrific death was 4.1 percent. In 2014 this figure had risen to 10.2 percent. In the middle of 2015 it is a shocking 20.8 percent – one in five dogs.

Another of Cpl. Jones’ favourite aphorisms was “They don’t like it up ’em”, and this too is a feature of Bali’s disgraceful failure to counter rabies. Animal husbandry authorities have warned that anyone interfering with their kill-at-will response to the disease they have allowed to become endemic is breaking the law and could be jailed. Animal welfare organizations could face closure if they pursue an activist agenda.

Bali’s authorities might win first prize for idiocy and short sightedness over this. They won’t win anything else, far less the battle to control rabies.

There are also problems with supply of human rabies post-exposure vaccine. It’s basically an argument over money (sigh) but it’s symptomatic of the deficient budgetary processes that are ubiquitous here and the vacuous policy of judging risk as functionally absent until something actually happens.

Indonesia Raya

Britain’s ambassador to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, told a gathering in Jakarta to celebrate the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II that Indonesia, along with China and India, will dominate the global economy as the 21st century progresses, because of its large population. The proprietors of countless bengkels relying for their livelihood on perforated mufflers and wonky suspensions will be pleased to hear this.

No, seriously, British analysis of global trends clearly identifies population mass as a key driver of economies, and notes that Britain, with a medium population (it’s around 59 million) relies on partnerships or strong cooperation with larger countries. This factor alone argues against the developing tendency in Britain to view with favour an exit from the European Community, though that’s a separate issue in this context.

The Queen’s Birthday is celebrated in June – it’s not her actual birthday – so that the Brits have an outside chance of seeing the grand military parade in London called Trooping the Colour held in conditions rather more clement than the usual shivery temperatures and intermittent drizzle.

Tweet, Tweet 

The Japanese city of Yokohama – it’s Tokyo’s port city – is working with the Indonesian government to help conserve the endangered Bali Starling by donating birds for resettlement in the Bali Barat National Park. It’s the second three-year program. The first began in 2012.

The Bali Starling (Leucopsar Rothschildi) is locally known as the jalak or curik. In 2005 there were only five birds known to be survivors in their natural habitat, the national park in west Bali. Today the population is more than 100, including 40 that have been released in the park.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jun. 10, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Let’s Get Nauti

It is Ratty, in Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful 1908 children’s fantasy story Wind in the Willows, who reminds us that there is absolutely nothing better than messing about in boats. As a theory, this is quite possibly an incontrovertible statement. As a practise, if one is of the sort whose natural nautical agilities and skills equate with those of Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, avoidance is the best technique.

The Diary’s preference, despite some early messing about in boats, has always been to be aboard something rather larger than the fierce marine creatures that inhabit the waters upon which one is sailing. So we were very pleased when Pulau Luxury Charters invited us aboard its latest acquisition, a 22-metre catamaran called Haruku, for a day of fun and frivolity arranged for the media by The Diary’s favourite local dish, Diana Shearin. This event took place on May 8, shortly before we needed to make an unscheduled two-week-long visit to the chilly climes of pre-winter southern Western Australia. The recalled warmth of the occasion kept us going throughout that later ordeal.

Aboard the Haruku on that sybaritic day all the messing about was done by the efficient crew and the drinks and nibbly things were offered around by svelte young ladies wearing tiny skirts which could easily have doubled as belts. This was, the Diary mused, just how nautical experiences should be enjoyed. It gives you something to contemplate other than the horizon or your own navel.

The Haruku, which has joined five other boats in the Pulau fleet, is a refurbished and upgraded long-range expedition yacht that purrs along at 12 knots and is pushed through the briny by two Cummins 700hp diesel engines. Its twin hulls flatten most of the wind waves one might encounter in our waters, though the Indian Ocean swells punching up the Badung Strait made the trip from Serangan to Nusa Penida a little interesting for some on board.

There’s plenty of space and lots of headroom, plus all the kit you expect in these days of state-of-the-art music systems, monster flat screen TVs and on board WiFi. On day trips the boat can accommodate up to 25 guests and for long-range cruising it sleeps up to eight passengers in three cabins.

The open aft deck is a great place for lounging. It leads down to dual swim/dive platforms and the range of watercraft available to guests. It also leads up to the spacious fly bridge where further comfy seating is available to people whose on-board job is to relax and have fun.

The boat was built in 2002 and refurbished in 2014-15. It’s very comfortable and well equipped. One quibble: It did seem a shame that the refurbishment did not extend to changing the two-pin power points to universal points. Pulau Luxury Charters is part of the group that includes boutique villas at Banjar Anyar Kelod in Umalas and the eclectic Cafe Cous Cous whose Moroccan cuisine and ambience are worthy of inclusion on anyone’s must-do list.

Big Day

We note with pleasure that two lovely people we know – Australian Marian Carroll of Four Seasons and long-term Bali resident Brazilian Alexsander Martins Paim – tied the knot on June 5. It would have been a grand party, especially as it also tied together two representations of the Southern Cross, the stellar icon of the southern hemisphere night sky. It features on both the Australian and Brazilian flags.

The nuptials took place at former Alila Manggis executive chef Penelope Williams’ destination for gourmets, Bali Asli at Gelumpang, near Amlapura in Karangasem, and featured a megibung feast, served in the style of the royal family of Karangasem. We’re sure the Brazilians in the party were happy to forgo pão de queijo and coxinha on that occasion.

We hear there was a spot of Capoeira on hand, however. This will have helped the guests feast not only on the fine fare but also the spectacular views of Gunung Agung. Alex is from Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, where the local mountains aren’t quite as lofty but do occasionally sport picture-postcard snowfalls.

Bali Asli recently hosted the Great Chefs of Bali dinner. Female chefs from all over Bali cooked their signature dish as part of a meal celebrating the not to be missed feminine component of exemplary cuisine in kitchens. They raised Rp 56 million to help the nearby village of Pangi restore a traditional paon kitchen and also to build a needy family a bathroom and a family temple.

Scumbags

A sickening video showing a group of men from Tabanan regency savagely beating to death a black dog that they had led to a pole and then tied to it has gone round the world. Even more tragically, the dog was obviously a pet or at least habituated to being around people, since it was happily wagging its tail as it walked towards its execution place. It only panicked and began yelping piteously when it finally realized what was about to happen.

Such incidents, less the videoing, are regrettably possibly commonplace wherever thick young men with too much testosterone and too few brain cells gather, but that neither excuses nor explains it. Specifically, it is very bad for Bali’s image as a place of great spirituality. That’s already taken a hammering from the authorities’ fixation with killing dogs, vaccinated or not, in their mad and unnecessary panic over the rabies crisis that they have prolonged through their own negligence.

It’s against Indonesian law to mistreat an animal, especially in a way that causes painful death. So since these ridiculous and unpleasant young men had themselves videoed committing their crime and laughing while they did it, and since this incriminating evidence was downloaded elsewhere before their brain cells picked up enough power to think that perhaps they shouldn’t have posted it on Facebook, no doubt the police will take action.

We’re keen to see the outcome of the judicial proceedings that will naturally follow.

In the video a man – he was not one of the murder-party – is filmed riding up on a motorbike without a helmet. That might bring the traffic police into the action too, since it is also against the law to ride a bike without a bone-dome, however thick your skull is.

A Frisson Too Far

The Diary’s international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, who has just enjoyed a sojourn in Bali and should return as soon as possible for further talks in the 2015 Made’s WarungWatercress series, reports a curious incident when she arrived back in Sydney and went out to buy her morning bagel (it’s the sort of thing you do in Sin City).

She tells us: “Being just back from Bali where I smile at my neighbours, the local mangy dogs and even the devious money exchange boys on the corner, I smile hither and yon. Oops, well sorry folks, I didn’t realize it was some sort of taboo.” She notes, though, that the resident nutcase acknowledged her. And that she still loves Sydney. Well don’t we all?

Feliç Aniversari!

We missed the party, since we were still in the pre-winter chill far to the south, but it seems incredible that it is four years since El Kabron opened on its pretty cliff-top at Pecatu on the Bukit and brought a Catalan-Spanish flavour to the sunset scene. That was where we fell in love with Yellow Dog, an evocative water-colour by Leticia Balacek that to our mind completely captures the true expression of modern Bali.

Balacek has long since returned to her native Argentina – and to Buenos Aires, which has been our favourite global city since a fabulously long holiday there in 1986 – and we can only hope that Yellow Dog has found a suitable home.

El Kabron’s fourth birthday party was on Jun. 7. We’re sure David Iglesias Megias and the crew made it a memorable occasion for party-goers.

Coup d’État

Ku De Ta is an icon of Bali’s beachfront eat-drink-and-be-merry sector. Its name is globally known for its ambience – less for its victuals, in the Diary’s subjective assessment – and its premier position as a spot to watch the sun go down. It’s where the party set parties and the wannabes want to be.

Its name is its essence, its commercial actuality, and it was therefore surprising when an establishment entirely dissimilar to the Seminyak venue opened on top of one of Singapore’s lofty towers and began trading under the same name. So it was good to read the other day that after a five-year court battle over the rights to the name Ku De Ta, the Bali partners have won the case and a name change for the crowd-pulling Singapore club.

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