His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences
Far Queue Again
The periodic struggle to get vehicles into and out of Ngurah Rai airport was worse than usual on Feb. 5, apparently. We weren’t there, which is probably a good thing. One hour-plus irritation a month already tests our toleration limit. It isn’t that we’re unsympathetic to local rites, religious or otherwise: far from it in fact, and far further than many might think. But of course we’ve only been here 10 years, much less time than many Resident Bules who clearly know a lot better, and that must be why we don’t really see the need to exponentially expand mayhem as a function of Bali life when it’s actually simpler not to.
In normal circumstances the absence of the phrase membentuk antrian tertib (form an orderly queue) from both everyday Bahasa Indonesia and local consciousness – to say nothing of whatever the equivalent might notionally be in Basa Bali – creates road conditions that are interesting. That’s in the old Chinese sense. It’s not just at the airport. The chaotic Mille-Feuille Roundabout on the By-Pass is a case in point. That’s where traffic dashes in, using an anarchic multiplicity of “lanes” from four directions, including the airport and the toll road, while the traffic police look on (in desperation, it sometimes seems, and we sympathise) and drivers ignore everything except their own apparently desperate need to get in front of everyone else. In lighter traffic this can work, as long as you have nerves of steel. And you can jag a dream run round that funny round bit in the middle if you’re there at 4am, though you still need to be watchful for idiots who are doing 80km/h, aren’t looking, and don’t have their lights on. It’s a bit like the flood drains we don’t have here. They’re a waste of space when it’s not raining.
The Feb.5 mess at the airport resulted from roads being closed for local ceremonies. The important Galungan (Feb. 9-11) festivities were coming up. Galungan is second only to Nyepi (Mar. 9 this year) for which the airport is officially closed. We’re told that on Feb. 5 it was taking vehicles an hour or more just to get into or out of the airport. The area resembled a parking lot. Leaving aside the issue of convenience for road users and the tedious matter of missing your flight, an unmovable traffic jam is a security concern in such a vital piece of public infrastructure.
Two things need to be looked at. One is the requirement for the airport operating company, a featherbed state corporation, to bother about its responsibilities beyond collecting money. It should look at the airport’s ridiculous car parking arrangements and the road layout, for a start. The other is for the Bali provincial government and local councils to work with banjars on a plan that will recognise and facilitate both the requirements of adat (custom) and traffic needs. Public thoroughfares are no longer the village pathways that once could be blocked off at no great inconvenience to anyone.
Hindu ceremonies are a crucial element of life in Bali. They must be protected and encouraged. They are the very essence of Bali and they’ll remain so even when Hindus become a minority in some areas, and even island wide, which ultimately seems inevitable.
We went with a lovely friend the other evening to the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel in search of dinner. The desire had been expressed for the sort of meat and three veg dinner that is traditional in certain cultures and which can be difficult to find here. We went where we went because the lovely friend thought that’s where she might have been once, when such fare was apparently on offer.
It wasn’t the place and there were no roast dinners – the Diary was not at all displeased – and we dined at the resort’s beachside Tamarind restaurant. The food was very good indeed, the intricacies of true medium-rare steak were clearly understood, a further bonus; and the Californian red zinfandel (a Berringer) was a very nice drop.
We had a drink before dining. That was a slightly more enervating process. It was Happy Hour, they told us, on the standard two-for-one plan. The waiter brought two drinks menus. The Diary pointed out that there were three of us at the table. Oh yes, um, OK. A third menu eventually arrived, with an expression that bordered a tad too closely on exasperation. We then ordered “one large Bintang two glass” (the usual Diary and Distaff deal) and the lovely friend asked for a Gordon’s gin and tonic. The waiter tried to give the Distaff the large Bintang and the two glasses. Maybe the Diary really is invisible. Or perhaps the training sessions there mandate that when two women and one man are ordering, the man is a Non-Presence; or is just along for the rides.
We chatted and drank our drinks, enjoying the tropic ambience and browsing through the dinner menu. Then we called for our Happy Hour second round. Oh no, they tried to say, Happy Hour ends at 7pm. But we ordered before 7pm, the Distaff and lovely friend advised. The Diary remained silent, since he was apparently invisible. A manager appeared and tried to reinforce the too-late rule. He eventually conceded defeat and scurried off to get the bevies. The gin wasn’t Gordon’s. This was noticed. What a surprise! It got sent back.
Desert Island Slipped Discs
Very little is more ignorant than breathless tabloid TV and the Australian sector of this disinformation industry is probably well up there with the worst. It’s often well meaning, Aussies being, you know, good blokes. Unless they’ve inadvertently trodden on their bonnets and got bees in them, but that can happen to anyone. So we were not surprised to see a promo for an item on the Seven Network’s Today Tonight show about Aussie couple that had gone to Bali and built a jungle resort on a deserted island.
Suna and Joe Cavanagh, of Perth, have built Castaway resort on Lembongan, towards the rugged western end of the island where the Indian Ocean swells crash spectacularly into the low rocky cliffs. The resort, which is locally managed, looks fabulous and is on the Diary’s list for an unannounced visit. It’s on the sheltered coast away from the rollers.
Lembongan is a beautiful spot. But it is not deserted – the Islanders alone number around 5000 – and neither is it by any measure jungle. Still, as Suna Cavanagh advised fans on Facebook, that’s TV.
Rule of Lore
No doubt it will be appealed all the way to the Court of Final Shemozzle, but the recent decision of the Indonesian Supreme Court to uphold a ruling in a lower court last year to award use of the global IKEA trade name to a furniture outfit in Surabaya is worth a belly laugh, albeit it a hollow one. In a majority decision – there was one dissenting judge, apparently the sentient one – the Supreme Court said that since IKEA had not used its trade name in Indonesia for three years it had forfeited its right to do so. There’s no need to pause for applause. It’s just how they do things here.
The law the judges (minus the dissenter) decided in their wisdom to apply is designed to regulate the bottom-feeders, those who in the usual fashion here have mortgaged their companies to the White Elephant franchise and gone out of business. Foreigners do this too – we’re not making an invidiously focused point.
But the Swedish company IKEA is a global operation. It hasn’t gone out of business. Its Indonesian operations might need a makeover – if so, it’s far from alone in overlooking that imperative – but its global brand name is extant. Its headquarters are in Leiden, The Netherlands, not in Surabaya, East Java, where Intan Khatulistiwa Esa Abadi plies its trade.
Life of George
These things happen, but it can be a little embarrassing when they do. A chap we know who calls himself Richard got a note the other day from George Wright, national secretary of the Australian Labor Party. That wasn’t unusual. George writes to Richard regularly, about this and that and sundry other things.
There was a twist, however, in this instance. The missive that the virtual postman dropped into the virtual mailbox was a little apology, on which George, bless him, had tried to put the best spin possible. A recent message he’d sent, it said, had addressed Richard as Riley, and he was writing to say he knew Richard was Richard and wasn’t Riley at all, and he was sorry about all this. He signed himself off as “George (not Riley)”. We thought that was a nice touch.
Automated mail programs can be painful. They make you think of all sorts of things with which to complete a distempered exhortation that begins “R for…”