8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Month: October, 2016

That Other Kuta

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Lombok / Bali

Oct. 26, 2016

 

IT’S quieter and rather less crowded than Kuta Bali, though it has grown a little. There’s something that resembles a main street with an Indomaret supermarket and a few other junior emporiums. The warungs along the beach, those symbols of entry-level Indonesian tourism entrepreneurship, where once you could sit and watch the waves over a cold beer, have been cleared away in the future interests of the rather grand Mandalika development. But Kuta Lombok is great at the moment if you’re not looking for crowded bars packed with people out for a good time.

We weren’t when we spent a lovely week there earlier this month. It’s been a favourite place for a decade and a half, since we first stayed at the then nearly new Novotel Lombok in 2001 on a side trip from Bali. We’ve made a point of returning now and then, when we need some down time.

So, we did basically nothing except sit on the Novotel’s pristine beach in a berugak – think balé (gazebo) – watching the tide coming in or going out and occasionally dipping in for a float. Except we ate, rather more than is our custom, but that was nice too because as part of the Accor chain the Novotel does alimentary things in a delightfully semi-French fashion. It was so good that the Diary didn’t even really mind that the Wi-Fi struggled to reach the beach. The fruit sate sticks for elevenses and the mid-afternoon cakes got there.

In the rooms and the rest of the resort the Wi-Fi’s fine. That modern hazard – being obstructed by off-in-fairyland wanderers holding their smart phones and staring at them – must be dealt with. Just learn the words for “excuse me” in, say, 10 of the most widely spoken languages among Novotel guests, and you’ll generally get by; even if it’s sometimes tempting to use the full suite all at once.

Our morning walk program was a talking point. As in Bali, no one walks anywhere. They hop on their scooters to idle 50 metres up the road. Walking for recreation or in the interests of the arteries appears to be something only mad bules do. Several times lovely people even suggested that perhaps we were jogging.

We dropped in on Senggigi – after Cakranegara for fabric shopping – before the R&R in the south, and had dinner with local identity Peter Duncan and his wife Wiwik Pusparini at Taman restaurant, and stayed overnight in a nice room at Howard Singleton’s beachside establishment The Office, at the Art Market.

Hurry Up and Wait

Our return from Lombok was not without misadventure. We’d flown to Lombok with Wings and that went swimmingly, even if it did include the usual diddling about doing circles over the Wallace Line to make the flight worth making, or perhaps longer. We flew back with Lion, a little tardily, for very late-advised “operational reasons”, that class of excuse that brooks no inquiry. Just to add pedas (spicy) to panas (hot), first we were to fly only three hours late, and then it turned out to be nearly five.

Flight delays were not confined to Lion Air. They resulted from regular closure of Ngurah Rai to all except emergency landings for evenings from Oct. 2 to Dec. 26, as notified by international aviation regulators. The runway needs a bit of work and this is being done, if the contractors bother to turn up. The point is, surely, that since this is a lengthy term of mandatory closure, airlines should have adjusted their schedules accordingly. Well, never mind. This is Indonesia. Once, long ago when Lombok’s airport was still at Selaparang in Mataram, we were also delayed, though not for quite so long, by an apparently unforeseen event at Ngurah Rai. They told us then that the president was on the runway.

Lion had been on our personal No Fly paper since 2013, when the flight crew on one of its Boeing 737-800s selected a dubious preference for the briny over the somewhat firmer properties of tar-macadam and landed in Jimbaran Bay instead.

We think the airline has since then secured the services of flight crews equipped to recognise runways and understand their benefits and who will remember to adjust autopilot parameters in time. But on this occasion it would have been tempting to swim home.

So Sad

The deaths of nine people – three of them children – in the collapse of the suspension bridge linking Nusa Lembongan with its smaller sister island, Ceningan, on Oct. 16 are tragic. What’s also tragic is the sequence of events leading up to the deadly occurrence.

Duty of care is not a term – or a principle for that matter – that resonates in Indonesia. The islands are in Klungkung regency (as is the larger island of Nusa Penida) but the district government’s divan is in Semarapura (also called Klungkung) on Bali’s mainland, where it apparently relies on karma to run things.

It was Full Moon, a sacred time for Balinese Hindus. A large devotional procession was crossing the bridge when its cables snapped and the walkway collapsed into the narrow channel that separates the islands. A sign warning that the bridge was unsafe for large numbers of people at one time had been put up two days beforehand. Either this was not read, or it was read and ignored, as most such notices are.

But if the bridge was unsafe in overloaded conditions – and plainly it was: cables rarely snap without provocation – then the authorities should have ensured it wasn’t overloaded. Bali’s traditional system of village guards (Pecalang) is ideally equipped to manage crowds and ensure compliance. They don’t miss a trick at Nyepi: show a light for an instant after dark on Silent Day and you’re cactus.

Some lateral thinking – actually, any thinking – by the regency government appears to be rather desperately needed. The bridge collapsed once before, in Feb. 2013, in a bit of a fresh breeze.

An appeal was launched in Australia to raise funds to help the victims of the collapse.

One Word, Seven Letters, Starts with ‘B’

Elizabeth Henzell of Villa Kitty wrote a dispiriting note on her Facebook on Oct. 16. It speaks for itself so here it is:

“I am so disgusted with humans that feel their need is more than someone else’s! How do they know! Villa Kitty’s tireless admin assistant, Metha, has had her Samsung phone stolen – from Villa Kitty! Who would do that? Who would steal from (a) a yayasan/animal welfare centre or (b) someone who works for a yayasan/animal welfare centre! We have had food stolen, my phone has been stolen, money stolen, medical supplies, by people with NO morals! I am truly sick of it!”

We’re all sick of it, Elizabeth. It’s that other real Bali, the one that doesn’t rate a mention in the feel good fluff stuff.

Happy Snapper

Bali-based British photographer Michael Johnsey, whose faces, sunsets and skyscapes particularly engage The Diary, won deserved acclaim – and 20 per cent of sale prices for the charity Solemen Indonesia – at the opening night of his exhibition Life in Bali, at Bridges in Ubud on Oct. 15.

It was a packed house for the event, he tells us. It’s such a shame we weren’t there. The marathon seven-hour return wait-and-flight to Bali from Lombok the previous evening did terrible things to the schedule at The Cage. Johnsey notes:

“What a great opening event. A packed house. Thank you all at Bridges for making it such a great success. Life In Bali is off to a pretty good start.”

His photographic works are on display at Bridges, so if you’re in Ubud get along there and have a look. It’ll be worth it, we guarantee. We’ll drop in ourselves this week, while we’re in Ubud on literary matters.

Lash Out

Those who apparently desire that Indonesia should become Untustan (untu is camel in Bahasa Indonesia) have been having a field day lately. Aside from public canings for promiscuity and other elective activity defined as sinful in Aceh – caning is a legitimate penalty under Aceh’s Sharia law – Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has been the target of mobs over his alleged blasphemy against Islam. Blasphemy is an offence under Indonesian law.

The governor, usually known by his Indonesian familiar name Ahok, isn’t a Muslim. He’s a Christian, a Chinese Indonesian, and appears to be doing quite a good job as civic leader of Indonesia’s capital city. There’s more socio-political polemic than inter-religious dispute in his current problems.

A quatrain by the mediaeval Islamic scholar Omar Khayyám comes to mind: “As far as you can avoid it, do not give grief to anyone. Never inflict your rage on another. If you hope for eternal rest, feel the pain yourself; but don’t hurt others.” It’s a shame that this useful aide-memoire is never handed out to the mobs along with the nasi bunkus (wrapped rice).

Last Word

The 2016 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival starts today (Oct. 26) and runs to Oct. 30. Hindu obsequies for the late Made Wijaya (Michael Richard White) will be held at Sanur on Nov. 9.

HectorR

Hector’s Dairy is published in the on line and print editions of the fortnightly newspaper the Bali Advertiser

Head for the Hills, Gabblers

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Bali

Oct. 12, 2016

 

WELL, the Diary is ready for the feast. This will not be in Hotel California style. We’re not much into steely knives and we certainly don’t want to kill the beast. Not that what we’re talking about is a beast at all, anyway. It’s Ubud’s annual rite-fest, the Writers and Readers Festival, which has been a treat every year since 2004 and which this year is on from Oct. 26-30.

Our focus of interest in this instance, America-wise (nothing else trumps it), lies on the east coast, where as The Eagles also take time to remind us, the old world shadows hang heavy in the air. Specifically, it’s the New York novelist Lionel Shriver, who a few weeks back caused a frisson of flounces in an address to a literary occasion in Brisbane. Perhaps she’ll ruffle a kebaya or two while she’s here. That would be fun.

Shriver’s fiction is elegant, but gritty in the social-realistic sense. Some people seem to think that fiction writers should not speak in voices that are not their ethnic or national own. It was this apparent prohibition that caused the flurry in Brisbane, when Shriver made an assertion that fiction is fiction and characters within those narratives are fictional too. That seems like common sense. Still, it’s a free world. Read an author if you want to. Don’t, if you don’t.

Shriver, whose background is journalism, is the author of 11 novels, including the New York Times bestsellers So Much for That (finalist for the 2010 National Book Award and the Wellcome Trust Book Prize) and The Post-Birthday World (Entertainment Weekly’s 2007 Book of the Year).  Her book We Need to Talk About Kevin won the 2005 Orange Prize and was adapted for film by Lynne Ramsay in 2011. Shriver won the BBC National Short Story award in 2014. Her latest novel, her twelfth, is the disturbingly dystopian The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047, published this year.

She features in two events at the festival: Talking Fiction and a session on her latest book.

This year, the festival will host five days of “after dark” events with a full program of arts, live music, performance and poetry taking place at various venues in Ubud.

Pecha Kucha kicks off the program at Betelnut (Oct. 26), where presenters will take to the stage to deliver a 20:20 presentation of thoughts, words and ideas: 20 slides at 20 seconds a piece.

The festival’s popular Poetry Slam (Oct. 29) will also be returning for 2016, with a festival-first, in which Betelnut will also play host to a women-of-words Poetry Slam (Oct. 27), a special celebration of sisterhood in the form of spoken word.

Returning for its second year, the festival’s Late Night Laughs at Casa Luna (29 October) will feature Pakistani stand-up comedian and social commentator Sami Shah.

There’s much more – see the program on the festival website for details – but there’s something on Closing Night (Oct. 30) that particularly piques The Diary’s interest: The Scottish Avant-garde noisemakers Neu! Reekie!

This year too there’s a new type of “Residents” pass that gives holders of other visas as well as KITAS one-day passes for Rp 700K.

The full festival program is here.

Helping Hands

Those of us who live here – and a goodly proportion of those who don’t but still find the wit to learn about Bali, Lombok and Indonesia – know that the tourist scene is just a veneer. The real places exist beyond the fly-in-fly-out package tour, the entertainment, and the chance to fire off a quick criticism that takes no account of reality (see next item).

It is always pleasing to see the distressing reality of life here get both an airing and a partial comeuppance, as we did with a story from Sanur resident Elizabeth Travers. She told the saga of little Kadek who has a very rare skin disease and is being helped by Solemen Indonesia.

Kadek needed a bath installed to help with soaking his painful skin several times a day and Travers asked friends here and in Australia and Singapore to consider making a donation. Well, did they ever! They contributed enough to Solemen to provide an undercover bathtub and a hot water system so he can have warm baths. Solemen will also help to pay the electricity for this.

Travers knows of three other children in Bali with the same problem skin and the money will assist them all. From her post she also got referrals to the Melbourne manufacturers of QV cream head office in Melbourne from Caroline Anderson and the Queensland makers of Poly Visc eye ointment. A scientist who researches genetic skin disorders has volunteered his time and travel to visit Kadek to see if there is anything he can do to help.

Poor Show

Australian visitor Tim Hodge felt obliged recently to publicly note that he’d been disappointed while on a white-water rafting trip to Bali to see that rubbish is still being dumped straight into rivers. He wrote: “
I just don’t understand their way of thinking. T
hey think the river is like a magic trick and just makes it disappear?”

That’s a fair point, except that it fails to acknowledge – perhaps understandably since Hodge is a visitor who doesn’t know the whole picture (and couldn’t be bothered to take one himself, apparently) – that many people here, locals and foreigners alike, are doing all they can to properly manage rubbish.

He compounded this felony by posting a picture on his Facebook of a truck in Peru that was engaged in grossly polluting one of that South American country’s rivers, and seemed aggrieved when this was pointed to him. Not good enough, Tim.

Off Your Bikes

There’s a campaign under way in Java to punish parents of under-age motorbike riders. The police take no notice of this law-breaking, of course, because there’s no money in it and no doubt because irresponsible adults would be miffed if they were to be held accountable for their negligence. We’ll see how that goes.

In Bali, meanwhile, the death toll among under-age illegal motorbike riders shows no sign of slackening. Children who seem barely old enough to be let out on their own, let alone zoom off on Dad’s motorbike, regularly ride to and from school and spend weekends riding dangerously around narrow, non-engineered roads. It’s almost as if they’re looking for an accident.

Too often they find one, in a variety of fatal ways. Jack Daniels of Bali Discovery said the other day that if it looked as if he was starting a crusade against this dreadful plague, that was because he was. He makes a very powerful point.

On Sep. 30 a 15-year-old boy and his 35-year-old mother were killed in a head-on collision with a truck in Tabanan regency. The boy was driving the bike. He rode out into the opposite lane to overtake traffic and straight into an oncoming truck. Both he and his mother died at the scene. The truck driver was not negligent. He is undoubtedly traumatised, and will probably be mentally scarred forever, but harm to others is something else little idiots never think about.

It’s time the traffic police started doing their real job.

Gold Standard

Australian businessman Geoffrey Gold, with whom we once had a pleasant dinner at Un’s restaurant in Kuta and who is long-term fixture in Indonesia and Singapore, referred the other day to the dwindling numbers in the Australian business community in Jakarta. That’s a sign of the times of course, on both sides of the tectonic fault-line that bedevils relations. His comment was in the context of the Australian football grand final function in Jakarta, at which this year neither the ambassador (Paul Grigson, with whom, many moons ago and in plentiful company, we also broke bread) nor the Qantas manager were present. So be it. A footy final is just that: a footy final.

Gold has a far more interesting tale to tell about another function in which he was recently involved. He has just been to Yogyakarta where lie the remains of the Australian-British crew of a C-47 (Dakota) aircraft shot down by the Dutch air force in 1947 while on a mission to deliver medical supplies to the Indonesian authorities during the war of independence.

The graves of Australian pilot Alexander Constantine, his British wife Beryl, and British co-pilot Roy Hazlehurst, were unmarked for nearly two decades. Gold rediscovered them three years ago and negotiated to get a new toilet block at the site turned away from facing them. Others, including Constantine’s family, have since contributed a simple new memorial.

Indonesia’s independence narrative has plenty of heroism in it. There’s room too, to mark the heroism of foreigners, particularly Australian and British, who contributed their lives to the struggle.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly on line and print editions of the Bali Advertiser.