8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Category: Ubud

Straight to the Point

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018

 

IT’S magic what you can do these days with a talking smart phone. The other day we had to drive into Denpasar – a strange bit of it with which we are unfamiliar – and it was a dream. All we had to do was follow the dulcet directions of the lovely lady map-reader who apparently inhabits The Diary’s Huawei and speaks to you with perfect diction and in very sound English. Possibly her name is not Joy, but nonetheless a joy she is.

It’s good too that as you inch along in south Bali’s dense traffic, threatened on all sides by even denser drivers, you can also see from your handy interactive map where your next major tailback is going to be. There’s no escaping it, generally, but at least you know it’s there. It’s a bit like how Lieutenant Colonel Custer might have found himself unhappily pre-advised if he’d bothered to send scouts out ahead of his cavalry column as it trotted up the Rosebud. He could have sworn pre-emptively himself, too, then.

Encore du Vin

HAVING a French friend has always been lovely, as we’ve noted before. The French are often much more interesting than Anglos, and that’s not just because the expressive nature of the language and French culture adds to the joie de vivre.

We’re fortunate, as we’ve also noted previously, to have a good friend who lives in the French style at Petulu near Ubud, in a villa in which astonishingly we are welcome visitors. Even her cats speak French, with a meow of course, and in fact they appear to be trilingual. They understand “Non,” “No,” and “Tidak,” though of course, being cats, they pretend they don’t, or that they haven’t heard you, or that plainly you have directed your latest vocalised imperative to someone else. If pressed upon a particular point, each affects insouciance in the face of unwanted instruction that is both typical of the feline community and a joy to watch: “Moi? Sûrement pas!”

Another benefit of long weekends in a French ambience is the availability of wine and cheese and the cultural necessity to consume these victuals in more than micro-measurable quantities well into the evening and in fact well past the time when your calèche has turned into a citrouille (and you’ve given up worrying about that silly glass slipper anyway).

Lost Their Tackle

THE Indonesian agriculture ministry and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have designated four areas in Indonesia for pilot projects to tackle the spread of zoonotic diseases such as rabies, anthrax and avian influenza, and emergent ones, that normally have animal hosts but can infect humans. There’s another zoonotic disease of deep concern, plague, which is endemic in parts of Central Java, including Boyolali, one of the areas nominated for study, and in East Java, but that’s long been under strict control measures – including effective rubbish control and disposal – and fieldwork to keep an eye on infection levels in rodents.

The four areas in the new study are Bengkalis in Riau, Ketapang in West Kalimantan, Boyolali in Central Java and Minahasa in North Sulawesi. “We select areas based on the risks and the state of medical infrastructure and the commitment of regional administrations,” says the FAO’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) Indonesia’s Andri Jatikusumah.

Bali isn’t on the list. It lost its tackle over rabies when, after international efforts following the 2008 outbreak gave it a great start, it all became too hard for the provincial and local governments. It’s not only in Bali where foolish politics, conflicting priorities (all those Kijiangs and Fortuners) and administrative ennui combine to derail all sorts of things. Bureaucracies everywhere have dreadful trouble with dogs that eat their homework.

Cina Bali

WE’VE just read a really interesting feature in The South China Morning Post, about the symbiosis between Chinese and Balinese cultures. We’d recommend it as reading for anyone who is interested in anthropology, as well as the many who fear that Balinese culture will ultimately be swamped by the tsunami of profane banality that is modern day Indonesian money power.

Among other things, it makes the point that Agama Hindu Dharma – Bali’s unique religion and culture – is an accretion of Hindu, Buddhist and animist beliefs. It is a naturally accepting belief system, not a religion that is hidebound by a book. The point in this instance is that the Chinese Indonesian writer who is the subject of the interview felt no sense of being an outsider when she was growing up in Bali. That ridiculous predisposition in the minds of others only came to her notice when she went to Jakarta to study. At home in Bali she was Cina Bali, properly just part of the human landscape. Off the island, she was “Cina!” or worse, “Amoy”, presumptive and frankly threatening accusations of difference. She was not pribumi: she was an outsider.

The Chinese have a very long history in Bali, as do Chinese communities in other parts of Indonesia. But, here, where for all the set nature of Hindu Dharma religious observance and cultural practice, there is a long tradition of accretion, of incorporating symbolism and articles of faith from elsewhere, a formal veneration of ancestors, and wide acceptance of the benefits of otherness. The Chinese presence – around 14,000 people identify as Cina Bali – has become integral to the island’s culture, rather than something temporarily attached to it.

There’s a book in all of that, and one’s apparently in the works. It should be an anthropological feast.

As We Were Saying

AMID some hoopla, the authorities some days ago downgraded the alert status for Mt Agung, noting that while volcanic eruption was still occurring, there was less pressure within the mountain’s core and therefore less risk of a powerful eruption. The mountain answered that, partly in the affirmative, within a matter of hours. It staged an eruption that sent ash 1,500 metres into the air above the 3,000-metre summit. There was light ash fall from Amlapura to Tulamben on Bali’s eastern coast.

On figures from Feb. 13 from 103 evacuation posts – down 43 from the previous day – there are still 10,890 evacuees registered. More than 6,000 people had left the evacuation camps since the alert status was lowered from IV to III and the exclusion zone was reduced to a four-kilometre radius. Residential numbers high on the volcano show 602 people live within the four-kilometre radius, 986 within five kilometres, and about 17,000 within six kilometres.

But the emergency is not over. This is not the time for anyone to drop any balls.

Festivities

WE had an opportunity while in Ubud to chat with Janet DeNeefe, over sparkling water served at Honeymoon Cottages in Jl. Bisma, about this year’s writers and readers’ festival – it’s in October and is the fifteenth – and the 2018 Ubud Food Festival, which is in April. It was an interesting chat. We’ll come back to the UWRF, at some length, in another forum in a little while. Meanwhile the food festival program is now online. Mouths may now officially water in anticipation.

It’s the Ethics, Stupid!

AS a rule, we avoid too closely associating with the political news that filters out of Australia. It’s generally banal and – unless it’s about something that directly affects you – rather pointless. Scoring political points is for others, trolls and the like, and those for whom partisanship is a way of life.

There are exceptions to this rule, and one such is upon us now, concerning the deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, who is leader of the junior (but essential) branch of the coalition, the National Party. Joyce has made a sad, sorry, and farcical nonsense of his personal life, bedding and impregnating his staff media adviser and leaving his quarter-century-old marriage as a result. That, essentially, is a private matter. If it requires condign and clamorous judgment from outside the home he’s wrecked, this should come from those whose deepest wish seems to be to force their way into the private lives of others.

What actually matters is the ethical question as it relates to public office and expenditure of public funds. As Simon Longstaff of the Ethics Centre (in Sydney) has noted, it is here that Joyce has disastrously failed. For those offences, which are not those upon which one could litigate, he should go. He probably knows this but (another ethical lapse) has been resisting the concept of leaping off the gravy train.

The barnyard farce of Joyce’s personal life has brought forth an amendment to the ministerial code of conduct, which specifically bans sexual relationships with staff. The real scandal is that a ministerial code of conduct is deemed necessary in the first place. It’s clumsy and dangerous anyway, since it encourages those to whom demerit is a notional concept to take the view that something dodgy is OK if it’s not precisely disallowed in the code.

But the real bottom line is this: If you’re incapable of defining what’s right and what’s wrong, or worse, are unwilling to bother doing so, you’re not fit for any senior office, political or otherwise.

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

Mountain Views

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

THE CAGE

Bali

Jan. 8, 2018

 

IT was rather lovely, we thought, that Mt Agung should choose to see out the old year and bring in the new with another minor eruption. It placed immediately in perspective the claims of various luminaries in these parts, from all points, including the risible foreign guru-seer sector, that the mountain and its risks had been blown out of all proportion. It sort of said that you shouldn’t argue with the precise though (like all science) still imperfect discipline of volcanology, which is a very sensible position.

Two Australians helped bring in 2018 in Bali by re-proving the theory that there’s nothing much more stupid than dumb Aussies with a death wish. The gentlemen concerned had climbed Mt Agung and told the police, who then detained them for having done so, that they hadn’t heard of the exclusion zone. Perhaps it is time to introduce an IQ test for adolescent tourists (no upper age limit: adolescence seems to last a lifetime in some people). It should be noted that French and German idiots pulled the same stupid stunt, so it’s obviously not just a cerebral version of the Coriolis effect.

Noah, Goer

WE spent the weekend at Petulu, near Ubud, the village famous for the white herons that live in the area. It’s a favourite spot of ours, for the natural environment of course, but mostly because a lovely French friend lives there. She likes long conversations and coffee, which is always an unbeatable combination.

The drive up from the Bukit on Friday was as uneventful as you could wish, if in Bali; the FPM (frisson per minute) rate seemed marginally lower than usual, and much of the two-hour, fifty-kilometre, trip was not as slow as it sometimes can be. It was still the usual strain on the brain, of course, and a useful test of your driving reaction times. Beneficially for several motor-scooter riders, ours apparently remain within acceptable tolerances. A particular difficulty at one point – it was at Lodtunduh, if any of the relevant authorities are interested in enforcing the laws against underage and unlicensed riding and that which makes wearing helmets mandatory – was that a whole squadron of sky-larking schoolboys on the way home from their regular brush with basic education chose that day to play loony tunes. It would have been fun to shout at them, but they wouldn’t have taken any notice; and anyway, as foreigners who might get voluble here are frequently advised, it’s culturally undesirable to point out local idiocy. Apparently, voicing such perceptions demonstrates a colonial mind-set.

As we approached and prepared to skirt Guru Central – the new park-out /shuttle-bus-in / no parking arrangements there are going as well as anything organised by Gianyar regency’s department of bright ideas ever does, it seems – the sky darkened dramatically and a stiff breeze blew up. Shortly thereafter, the heavens opened. We mean, even worse than usual. Drainage and road engineering also being among the list of essential skills not applied in Bali, the road running up to Petulu swiftly became a raging torrent running down. We’re not sure, but we think we spotted Noah and his Ark trying to stay their course descending the rapids. Though it might have been just another Deadly Yellow truck aquaplaning with bald tyres and no brakes.

Fortunately we know the road and where its chief hidden hazards lie in wait for the unwary. The large forever uncovered drain opening in the road where we make our final turn to reach our destination was surprisingly easy to keep away from: a wave of surf-riding capacity made its position plainly visible. Nosing into the adjacent alleyway scarcely wider than our little car (we retract the wing mirrors to avoid causing neo-colonialist damage to the residential walls) was slightly more challenging than usual, owing to the possibility of unwanted floatation. But, hey, it was all good fun.

Chinese Chequers

TOURIST arrival figures for Jan.-Oct. 2017 show very clearly the impact of the new visitor demographics on Bali. Chinese tourists now account for nearly 26 per cent of foreign arrivals, a 57 per cent increase on the same period in 2016. Australians are now firmly in second place (just short of 19 per cent of total arrivals) and their numbers are continuing a slow decline, as are those for Singapore and Malaysia, albeit at far lower figures.

An interesting aspect of the latest official statistics is that “Other Nationalities” are running at nearly 13 per cent of tourist arrivals, totalling nearly 648,000, which makes this disparate group third in the order of magnitude. A breakdown of those figures by national source would reveal the extent of the so-called Islamic tourism sector’s impact on Bali. That impact is in no way a bad thing, since it reflects among other things the socio-economic facts of life with which Bali must live and from which it can choose to prosper.

Music Book

WE’RE reading The Memory of Music, the book by composer and broadcaster Andrew Ford, whose migration from Britain to Australia in the 1980s was certainly an Antipodean benefit. He writes well and in a chatty style – his broadcast experience shines through there – that makes the story he wishes to tell very readable indeed. The book contains some lovely anecdotes that may not please some, and which are therefore all the better.

Music has a capacity to wound the soul as much as balm it, but in a way that’s different from the written word, and arguably much more powerfully. Ford explains this phenomenon very well.

Several pieces of music bring wounding sensations to The Diary. Perhaps the chief among them is Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings, as we’ve noted before, and which he wrote in 1938 as the clouds of cataclysmic war gathered over Europe. It much later made an appearance as the musical score for the movie Platoon. It’s sad that many people probably only know it as that. It’s hard not to feel, sometimes, these days, now that the winds of change are blowing through the fraying relics of the American empire, that we’re headed for cataclysm again. One hopes not, and that cooler, more measured heads will win the day.

Last Trump

AMERICA’S internal politics, and the serial denouements that it is beginning to produce, are its own affair, mandated by the minority of the national popular vote that got Donald Trump into office via the dodgy business of the Electoral College. Its foreign policy, conversely, is directly everyone’s concern. It’s increasingly worrying, not less so, that this global outreach of American impact is being publicly conducted by kindergarten Tweetstorm from the White House.

It’s possible that Trump, whose grasp of diplomacy seems to flow from his experience shouting “You’re Fired!” at participants in his own TV reality show, is actually aware that tweeting is not the way to go. It’s just something he does, because he can’t help himself, and so that he becomes the news instead of the (hopefully positive) generator of it.

George W. Bush, the 43rd President (2001-2009), whose own grasp of the crucially cerebral nuances of policy and of the particular needs of foreign policy have been judged by some to be deficient, said after being present on the dais at Trump’s inaugural speech a year ago in Washington, “That’s some weird shit.” It was, indeed, whether or not you agreed with Trump’s campaign platform. It’s got weirder since.

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Chin-chin!

Turd World

HECTOR’S DIARY

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

Bali Advertiser, Nov. 8, 2017

 

WALKING out of a restaurant without paying the RP3 million (around US$250) you owe is against the law anywhere. It’s foolish, among other things including selfish, dismissive of others’ rights, and a low act that reflects very poorly on the perpetrators. Mostly those who commit such acts are immune to conscience. They are citizens of what it is tempting to call the Turd World.

A recent incident in Ubud attracted attention, and the interest of police, after a group of foreigners reportedly staged a careful one-by-one disappearing act designed to dodge their accumulated cash consideration. A photo of the group and a report about their bill dodging was posted all over the social media. It would be nice to think that this exposure resulted in their eventual apprehension by the police (a possibility) or that it prompted a group attack of conscience (an improbability).

The problem with social media exposure is that it also provides an unedited forum for those with grotty as opposed to gritty opinions, whose mission in life is apparently to see things with one eye only and to avoid connection with the principle of non sequitur. Two wrongs do not make a right.

Crossed Wires

AMONG the many things here that cause outbreaks of mutual angst – “locals” on one side and “foreigners” on the other – is the thorny question of what actually constitutes “work” for visa purposes. It’s a hardy annual, forever popping up in some form or other. It usually creates a quite unnecessary furore and leads to all sorts of tin drums being banged in a very discordant manner. In large measure this because Indonesia, while it is beset by a tangle of rules and regulations, is also a place where anyone with connections and currency can bend or ignore the rules. It’s that sort of place. People are working on fixing that but it remains a work in progress.

An Italian tourist, Carmine Sciaudone, has just been released from jail in Bali and has gone home after more than year of incarceration. He had helped fix a projector on a locally operated party boat because it wasn’t working (no surprise there) and he knew how to fix it. That’s work, you see, if the authorities choose to decide that it is. And you can’t “work” on a tourist visa.

Interpreted very broadly, such rules also mean you can’t cut the grass, wash the car, mend a fuse in your house, or do anything much at all, on any sort of tourist of temporary resident visa. That’s because, notionally, it deprives an Indonesian of a work opportunity. It’s good that Sciaudone has been freed. It’s ridiculous that he was incarcerated in the first place.

Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!

WELL, not quite as much, anyway. The authorities reduced the alert level for Mt. Agung to level three on Oct. 29 and the exclusion zone with it to six kilometres. This was on the basis of scientific advice, not that of political science.

The highest level alert, level four, implemented weeks ago when the mountain showed seismic and volcanic indications that an eruption might be imminent, led to the usual scaremongering in the Australian press. It also created difficulties – more logical and certainly far more soundly based – in relation to the 100,000-plus villagers removed from their homes and farms on the mountain’s slopes and to travel insurance for tourists, which in the way of the insurance world, suddenly excluded cover for pre-existing volcanic inconveniences.

The national and provincial authorities deserve credit for the way they handled the immediate situation, and the work of both government and local and overseas charities in alleviating the distress of removed residents has been exemplary. The emergency remains in place. It is a virtual certainty that the mountain will erupt. No one knows when that will be. Now is not the time to drop vigilance as a policy.

UPDATE, 27 Nov.: Mt Agung is now in full-scale eruption, and event that was also very creditably handled by the authorities. Among the local expats, and the wider Bali-focused expat diaspora, the eruption caused several renditions of The Boy Stood On The Burning Deck. Our advice: Cool it.

Kia Ora, Emoh Ruo

THE ins and outs of Australia’s particularly prosaic version of parochial politics are rarely of more than passing interest, even to Australians, but the constitutional shemozzle highlighted by the dual-citizenship question is perhaps worth more than just the usual response: a harrumph of tedium and a raised eyebrow of confected surprise.

This is not only because the High Court has ruled that seven parliamentarians – including the Deputy Prime Minister – were ineligible to stand for election because they held dual citizenship at the time. They are people whose second citizenships, in some cases unwittingly, reside either in Britain or the formerly British countries of New Zealand and Canada. The original proscription was meant to exclude citizens of foreign (defined at the time as non-British) dominions. This once desirable but later invidious distinction was then quietly forgotten by everyone from bureaucrats to senior counsel, as well as by politicians. It was not until after World War II that Australia moved in several ponderous steps to formalise the absolute independence that it had de facto enjoyed for some time.

The constitutional prohibition dates from 1901, when the continent’s fractious British colonies united – New Zealand was invited to the party but declined the invitation – to form the Commonwealth of Australia.  Stand-alone Australian citizenship dates only from 1986, when Canberra finally cut its last remaining constitutional ties with Britain, to that country’s great relief. (The Queen remains the Sovereign, but the head of state is the Governor-General: Australia is a crowned republic.)

The high-profile victim of his own inattention in the present case is Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister, leader of the coalition National Party. There is a by-election on Dec. 2 in his New South Wales electorate. Now Joyce has done the little rain dance that today’s embarrassing flag-waving and mawkish hand on heart clasping requires, and has formally renounced any claim to NZ citizenship, as he should have done long ago, he will almost certainly be re-elected.

Partisan politics aside, he should be. He was born in Australia. His mother was Australian. His father moved to Australia from New Zealand before Joyce was born. When Papa Joyce jumped the ditch (the Tasman Sea) he did so as a British Subject. He then married an Australian who was also a British Subject, like all Australians of that time. There were separate immigration controls in both countries, but effectively and legally no distinction existed. The legislative changes that made formal aliens of Kiwis (and the British themselves) in Australia were enacted later. And still today, New Zealanders have the right to live in Australia and Australians in NZ.

Feeling Bookish

A lengthy holiday in faraway places provides great opportunities for reading outside of one’s usual circuit. In Portugal we read The Operators, by Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings, the 2010 work that led to the resignation of the then American commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal. Over the break we also read Capote: A Biography, by Gerald Clarke. Capote has always fascinated, not least for his writing regime, mirrored by our own. He turned his life upside down and wrote at night.

These exercises, and the opportunity to delve into some of the material you find in the better class of in-flight magazines, sashayed naturally, if somewhat jet-lagged, into the 2017 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. UWRF is always a treat and this year’s was better than ever, on the theme of Origins.

The Bali Advertiser was well represented with three columnists doing the rounds and The Diary hanging around the perimeter, as diarists are wont to do. We were docked a couple of degrees on the media pass slung around our neck. The media organisers were clearly very busy, and must have confused six degrees of separation with those of latitude.

Next year Janet DeNeefe’s post-Bali Bomb therapy baby will turn 15, having quite properly grown bigger every year. That will be a benchmark worth noting.

Cheers, Monte

MONTE Monfore, the Californian swimmer who some years ago turned challenging ocean and lake excursions in and around Bali into great charity resources, has died. His body, with head wounds, was found on a beach on Rota Island, in American Micronesia, in late October, in unexplained circumstances. He was living there, it is reported, as a retired gentleman.

We had some dealings with Monte in the past, when we were wearing different hats. He was always pleasant, full of enthusiasm, and quite impossible to refuse. It’s very sad that he has left us.

HECTOR IMAGE FOR BLOG

END NOTE: This was the last Diary column in the Bali Advertiser, which advised shortly after its appearance that it had decided to discontinue its publication. Hector’s Diary, freed of the need to take account of publishers’ sensitivities, will of course continue to appear on this blog.

Living with Vulcan

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

Bali Advertiser, Oct. 11, 2017

 

ONCE upon a time, the activity of a volcano in a distant domestic backyard from which one is temporarily absent would have been something relayed at intervals by news reports, or not at all. Its inactivity ahead of anticipated action would have been even harder to detect through the prism of news reportage. Not these days, when both the mainstream and the social media bring you up to the minute information and misinformation. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is more immediate (though there’s a lot more chaff) but there’s no reason to be uninformed.

So it is with the Great Mountain, Gunung Agung. It is more than 70 kilometres from our domestic premises on the Bukit. When we wrote this Diary, from even more distant Portugal, the mountain was grumbling and had been promoted by Indonesia’s excellent alert apparatus to most dangerous threat, as a result of this misbehaviour.

The story, at that point, was the removal by government order of more than 100,000 people whose villages and farms are within the defined danger zone, and the consequences, individual and collective, of this displacement. Relief efforts have brought out the best in people, Indonesians and foreigners alike. But it was not the sort of shock-horror story the western media so loves, since it was actually a good news story. It was a story of swift and effective action by provincial and national governments and agencies, and the outlaying of significant sums of money to assist those in need.

We know of course that other than in exceptional circumstances, or in the glossy magazines, a good news story about Bali is about as likely to be seen as a phoenix or a unicorn. We’ve had the usual tremulous twittering of Australians fearful that their cheap holidays might be at risk. Travel insurance generally covers such tribulations. That’s if you had the wit to get it (and pay for it) in the first place. If you can’t afford insurance, you shouldn’t travel. If you’re so thick that you can’t work out that it matters, you certainly shouldn’t.

There was one particular bit of very yellow journalism that got right up our nose. It did this in quite a major way. Surprisingly it appeared in The Guardian, which is usually among the more sentient of journals. It reported that foreign holidaymakers had fled Bali’s “tourist towns” because of the volcano alert. But this was the case only in Amed, a tiny place that barely qualifies as a village, let alone a town, and which is in the far east of the island virtually in the shadow of Mt Agung. It’s not inside the precautionary evacuation zone, though if the volcano did erupt then road access to and from it might be compromised. Meanwhile it was business as usual everywhere, including in Amed.

The last time Agung erupted, in 1963, there were large numbers of deaths. The official figures from that time probably understate the actual numbers. This time, half a century on, there are better communications and transport infrastructure that works, in the main. There is also an appreciation on the part of governments and authorities that, with a volcano, you can’t just sit around and hope it doesn’t erupt.

In Balinese Hindu mythology, Agung is thought by some to be a portion of Java’s sacred Mt Meru brought to the island by the original settlers. It has a place in the island’s spiritual life and its actions are accorded godly intent. In 1963 its pyroclastic flows (lava) missed the Mother Temple, Pura Besakih on the middle slopes of the mountain, by only metres. This was seen as a sign that the gods wished to demonstrate their angry displeasure but not to destroy the pinnacle of Balinese Hindu observance.

There were two major eruptions in 1963, the first in February and March, and another in May. Most casualties came from lava flows. Cold lahars (mixed slurries of volcanic and other materials generated by heavy rains) killed many others. A lahar – it’s an Indonesian word – can flow very quickly, unlike lava, and very deeply. When it stops it solidifies like concrete. Look at the landscape around Kubu, one of the areas now evacuated, to see the long-term results of that phenomenon.

We don’t pray, being in the None of the Above classification except on our Indonesian official documents, but we do think. And we’re thinking positive thoughts for Bali and its people while we’re away and Agung is being a threat.

A Rare Double

WE were in Lisbon, enjoying 30C days in the middle of the Lusitanian autumn, when this column was given to the electronic pigeon for transmission to the good folk at the Bali Advertiser. The Portuguese capital is a location long desired as a destination on our personal travel schedule, for many reasons but also because it presents an opportunity to perform a rare obeisance.

Some years ago we were in Kochi in India, where among the points of interest locally is the tomb of Vasco da Gama. It’s empty, but so what? He is still felt as a physical presence in the city, where – just in passing in this instance – there is a thriving Christian presence that was already ancient when the Portuguese adventurer “discovered” the India trade for Christ and His profits half a millennium ago.

Old Vasco is something of a figure in Lisbon, too, so we said hello there as well. His other resting place is in the Jerónimos Monastery at Bélem, fortuitously close to the best custard tarts in Lisbon.

The city is big on history, historiography, and monumental statuary. Dom Joāo I, splendidly mounted and holding his sceptre aloft, is near our digs, a pleasant apartment on the steep slopes just below the Castelo de S. Jorge. He was King of Portugal and the Algarve from 1385–1433 and is referred to as “the Good” and sometimes “the Great” in Portugal, or “of Happy Memory”.

In Spain he was referred to as “the Bastard”, because that’s what he was, and because he preserved the independence of the Kingdom of Portugal from the Kingdom of Castile. Through his efforts to acquire territories in Africa, he became the first king of Portugal to use the title “Lord of Ceuta”.

Ceuta is now a Spanish enclave on the coast of Morocco. It’s not quite analogous to Gibraltar, which is a bit of Spain the British long ago requisitioned as a spoil of war, though the point may be moot.

Joāo (John, as his English wife Philippa, daughter of John of Gaunt, might have called him, though she of course spoke French like all the posh Poms of the time and possibly called him Jean) deserves his statue: he had his day and won an entry in the record.

Spoiler Alert

IT used to be said that there were eight million stories in the naked city. Well, that’s what that old TV series said, so it must be right. There are also eight million hard-luck stories, a matching phenomenon with which every traveller must surely be familiar.

The Diary prefers to deal with these gently and in a non-judgemental way, while trying not to part with too much currency, especially when travelling on a pauper’s budget. The Distaff, being a girl, is made of far sterner stuff. We were lunching out in Málaga, in Andalusia, one day, enjoying in equal measure the warmth of the Mediterranean autumn and a modest beer and some tapas, when one of the local mendicants chanced to pass.

The tale was extraordinary, which is to say it was unbelievable. But since the immediate supplication was for 50 cents (€0.50, roughly Rp. 6500) to buy a loaf of bread, we were ourselves disposed to dig deeply into our diminishing pocket money and come up with the dosh.

Some might say that this indicates a certain measure of softness in the Diary, but that is not the case. Fifty cents to go away quietly, whether or not temporarily buoyed by thoughts of the brotherhood of man, seems to us to be a bargain triple entry in the fiscal, moral and problem solved ledgers.

Not so the Distaff, dear girl. As the pleas gathered length, speed and descant, she fixed the person uttering this tosh with her trademark killer steely glare and said: “You are spoiling my day. Go away.” This was not a request. It plainly invited no further conversation. It worked like a charm. The holiday budget was preserved.

See You Soon

BARRING accidental arrest en route or major volcanic dyspepsia at home, we’ll be back in Bali just in time to run up the road to Ubud for the 2017 Writers and Readers Festival. Unlike arrest or volcanic unrest, the festival is an event not to be missed.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in published in the Bali Advertiser every second issue. The next will appear on Nov. 8. Hector blogs here between times, when he’s not holidaying in Europe.

Just Cruising

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

In the Bali Advertiser

Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017

 

THE cruise market is big and likely to grow further, so it makes sense for Bali to have the capacity to effectively service this element of the tourism trade. The port of Benoa is the logical place to site the infrastructure required, and it seems that moves to do this are under way.

But people who choose to cruise the archipelago are not necessarily looking for the sort of artificial and determinedly kitsch resorts that dot other parts of the globe. Some may see the proposed Benoa Bay Port Excrescence, a real estate project by tycoon Tomy Winata, as a complementary exercise, but this is not necessarily so. There’s room for some remedial thinking on that score, particularly as the communities around the bay don’t like the idea at all and won’t shut up about it. Neither should they.

At the same time, Bali needs to move in tune with the changing global tourism market. A properly functioning cruise ship terminal fits that matrix and, if it’s built as an extension to the existing commercial port, it should not overly intrude on the rest of the environment. It might make the road traffic even worse, but nobody really seems to care about that.

A meeting on Aug. 1 set a September start date for development of the cruise ship terminal and projected completion by the end of next year. That timeframe’s tight, like most here. Never mind. No one seems to care about things like that either. It will be managed and operated by the state-owned port management company PT. Pelindo III.

There are also plans to develop Celukan Bawang in North Bali for the cruise trade, with work scheduled to commence in December and be complete by March next year. We must hope that the cement dries in time.

Essential Paper

PRESIDENT Joko Widodo, who was in Bali recently, said during his visit that one of the chief issues on his to-do-list, was the distribution of land certificates to the people of Bali. He handed out 5903 land certificates relating to title holdings in all Bali’s eight regencies and in Denpasar. He said 200,000 land certificates would be supplied in Bali this year and that all land on the island would have certificates by 2019.

This should go some way towards stopping the perennial problem of competing claims to ownership and might even – well, we can hope – help self-regulate asking prices. What it will certainly do is help Balinese families create real assets with property market benefits.

Attention Please

Robert Epstone, the barefoot British charity entrepreneur who puts both his soles and his soul into his pet project, Sole Men, provided us all with a lesson of another sort the other day. He posted on Facebook that he was attending the birthday party of another charitable Brit in the Sole Men ranks, nurse Sarah Chapman, after being injured in a machete attack he tried to prevent on an elderly woman. There was a photo of Epstone with a nasty pair of machete slices on his upper left arm. It was clearly a spoof, and the “wounds” were prosthetics, but you only saw that if you read on before making a comment.

That’s the danger in the social media these days. Almost everyone seems to be called Peter and they’re forever shouting “wolf” before checking whether what they think they’ve seen is in fact the neighbour’s poodle. Facebook and other platforms are peppered with people who like to fulminate about all the falsehoods they see, and then themselves fail to check the facts before putting finger to cursor, today’s instant and much less sentient equivalent of pen to paper. Ignorance is catching. We should all remember that too.

Sole Men does some great work and Epstone is a great promoter. Their work with the disadvantaged in Bali is a credit to them. Their Facebook is always worth a look-in.

New Look

SPEAKING of websites, the Intercontinental Bali Resort at Jimbaran has a new one. It offers virtual tours of the resort and its facilities – without which these days the competitive tourist dollar may well migrate elsewhere, after all – and the other interactive and phone-friendly bells and whistles that potential guests expect. Its director of public relations and marketing, Dewi Karmawan, must be feeling pretty pleased with the launch of the website, which went live on Jul. 21.

The Intercontinental has always been on The Diary’s favourites list, for its location and range of facilities, especially its dining options and the sunset bar.

Changing Tune

THE east is still determinedly red, for Bali’s tourism sector, with continuing high growth in the number of Mainland Chinese who holiday here. It is a change in the tourism demographic that seems firmly fixed. There are still a lot of Australians about, but they’re no longer the only sausage in the bun.

As more and more Chinese change the face of Bali tourism, so too are their travel itinerary preferences changing. They still travel in groups – though independent and “couple travel” is gaining ground with them, in tune with global travel norms – but anecdotal evidence indicates the groups are getting smaller. They’ll need smaller buses, then, which should help Ubud and other places whose streets are not designed for large vehicles.

The focus still seems to be on shopping. Why Chinese should want to visit Bali to buy things that have probably been made in China is an interesting question. But they are widening their areas of interest. Someone told us the other day they’d seen a (manageably small) party of Chinese emporium prospectors in Jl. Imam Bonjol in Denpasar, some distance from the Kuta shopping horror.

There are some curiosities there, perhaps. Maybe they were looking for bathroom tiles or were going to ooh and ah in Mandarin or Cantonese at those curious sit-upon western toilets.

Don’t Dance

THE Ubud Jazz Festival, held on Aug. 11-12 at the Arma Museum, presented some fine music and associated other entertainment, but it had one downside effect on an element of traditional Balinese culture that people flock to Ubud to see, or should.

The regular (and spectacular) Kecak Rina performance at Arma that would have been held otherwise, on its normal scheduled, was cancelled. It will return, but it seems a shame that it had to be sidelined at all.

Radio Daze

INES Wynn is always worth reading in the Bali Advertiser, and her piece on radio stations in the last edition was especially informative. There’s a lot out there on the wavelengths – chiefly FM of course, since that’s all that young people can listen to on their smart phones.

Wynn related a classic instance of cause and effect. There’s almost no English-language broadcasting here to service the tourist market. The radio stations say they don’t broadcast in English because no English speakers listen to them. But perhaps if they did offer something in the global lingua franca, English speakers would listen, and advertisers would have another money pit to mine.

Shaken (But Not Yet)

FORGIVE us being a tad churlish. You don’t really have to be a professor at Brigham Young University in the U.S. to safely predict that a truly massive earthquake will shatter Bali and other parts of the archipelago at some undetermined point in the future. The Indo-Australasian plate is slipping under the Eurasian plate and has been for eons, with calamitous effect; it will continue to do so whether observed by humans or not.

The risk is not confined to earthquakes, either. Who could forget the 1815 Mt. Tambora eruption on Sumbawa, which killed thousands locally and many others by its effects, including famine and the 1816 “year of no summer” in the northern hemisphere brought about by its volcanic debris in the atmosphere.

Disaster planning, 21st century style, is somewhat more advanced. It pays to be prepared, though it’s difficult to prepare fully for cataclysm. American research geologist Ron Harris told a seminar on disaster mitigation held in Jakarta recently studies indicated events such as the massive Aceh quake in 2004, which generated the worst tsunamis in the historical record, were possible in Java, Bali, Lombok and Sumbawa, and other parts of the eastern archipelago.

A Richter 9 quake immediately offshore could create tsunamis of up to 20 metres, which could reach the shore in as little as 20 minutes. Nusa Dua and Denpasar were at risk in such a scenario, he said. It’s not a happy thought, especially as high ground is not readily accessible within that timeframe for mass evacuations.

Still, we might get hit by an asteroid first, which would render the question academic.

Happy Birthday!

IT’S Independence Day tomorrow (Aug. 17). Indonesia celebrates 72 years of nationhood this year.

HectorR

Hector appears in the Bali Advertiser every second edition and scribbles between diaries, here at 8degreesoflatitude

 

 

Who Let the Dogs Out?

 

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

Bali Advertiser

Wednesday, Jul. 19, 2017

 

EATING dog is something we would never do. It disgusts us, for all sorts of reasons. We also understand that this is largely a cultural issue. Eating man’s best friend is not generally a practice of people whose conditioning originates from what is now Europe.

The issue has surfaced again because of Australian media reports last month that tourists may have unknowingly eaten dog from saté carts. Among other things, it was another opportunity to do a bit of Bali bashing. Tourists do a lot of unknowing things, including, in the case of some Australians, not even knowing where they are. It is a belief held by some, apparently, that Indonesia is a place in Bali.

Nonetheless, governments have a duty of care to all who fall within their purview, whether temporarily or not. This may be a novel concept too, in some parts of the world. So it was pleasing to hear that in response to reports of saté dog, the Bali authorities set off at a fast trot to check whether this was so. Animal husbandry chief I Putu Sumantra said on Jul. 9 that so far no evidence had come to light. Doubtless the word got around the saté cart sector pretty smartly. Never mind, Pak Sumantra’s dog squad is still on the case. He’d also like to find whoever it was that sparked the saucy story, which, as ever in such circumstances, is a little too piquant for local bureaucratic tastes. Shoot the messenger is always good policy, especially for policymakers without a policy.

There are several things that can be said about Bali’s dog meat trade, once you’ve taken your anti-nausea pills. Some estimates suggest 70,000 dogs a year are the unwilling victims of this market. The dogs are usually killed horribly – there’s some suggestion that poisoned dogs are in the mix too, which would very clearly be a human health risk – by people who plainly have no conscience and who, by practising cruelty and theft, actually are breaking the law. Most dog meat is consumed in restaurants specifically serving dog. It’s not illegal to do so, though restaurants have to be licensed. Well, notionally, in the way of things here.

It’s very clear that animal protection laws must be strengthened. Indonesia’s largely date from the Dutch era, which ended three generations ago. Any tub-thumping nationalists who also feel responsibility for other species – ants come to mind, for some reason, in this context – might like to do something about this. The laws here are chiefly concerned with wild life and domestic stock, in the manner of colonial policy. Dogs are not specifically mentioned and so effectively are not animals for the purposes of the legislation.

It’s not only western foreigners or animal welfare organisations that are up in arms about the dog trade here. Indonesians are too. For one thing, their family pets are just as much at risk in the epidemic of abductions by thieves looking for a quick profit from a meat trader as anyone else’s. It’s not something the authorities here can just do a little rain dance about and then forget. So that’s one SOP that’s useless in the circumstances.

Who let the dogs out is not the issue. Running Bali, rather than running around in circles, is what it’s all about.

UPDATE: Since this column was written, a meeting of stakeholders has taken place at which a plan was formulated to deal with the illegal aspects of the dog meat trade. We’ll keep an eye on how that progresses.

Added Spice

CHRIS Salans isn’t a man to let the grass grow under his feet. He’d rather put it in the pot to augment the already zesty fare that he serves at Mozaic, his flagship restaurant in Ubud.

The culinary world is one of constant movement, of subtle shifts, and occasional seismic moments. One such moment has just occurred at Mozaic, where the premises have been upgraded and renovated by Lloyd Hassencahl of Design Solutions, with a stylish lounge and dining room. It’s like dining in Salans’ own house, with drinks before dinner in the living room, according to the blurb.

Along with the new ambience is a new set of menus, which offer a choice of six or eight courses. The eight-course menus are new and come with wine pairing.

New Kevala chinaware and wood and stone service wares have been brought in to give a more organic feel. The food service is “more interactive” and food is served at the table rather than brought there. The signature item is the Table Top Dessert, served from a side table.

Mozaic’s style has always been “French cuisine, Balinese flavours” and this is still the case, but, according to Salans, even better. There are three new tasting menus: “From Our Local Farmers”, “A Trip Around the World”, and “Our Vegetarian Tasting Menu”.

Salans also operates the Spice chain of gastro-bars in Ubud and Sanur, and has now opened one in Seminyak. That’s where the other in crowd goes, if it can get through the traffic.

Farewell

IT’S sad to have to note that on Jul. 11 long-term Sanur identity Peter Dawes died. He had been ill for a little while, but his death came as an unpleasant surprise to his friends.

Fellow scribbler Vyt Karazija, tells us this:

“Peter was one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet. I knew him only slightly, but liked him immensely. A good natured and tolerant man, his great sense of humour, his kindness and generosity attracted many friends who will mourn his untimely passing.

“If he knew you were a reader, he would offer to lend you books. If you were interested in motorbikes, he would happily demonstrate his incredible ‘Bali Harley’, a chop-shop masterpiece that had started life as a humble Mio. If you needed to talk, he would really listen, and not just wait for his turn to speak. I never heard him say a bad word about anybody – a rare and precious trait. And he was a big fan of Magnum ice creams, which, for me, immediately put him squarely into the Good Guys category.”

RIP, Peter Dawes: as Karazija also notes, he will be greatly missed.

Jog On

BRITON Tom Hickman, entrepreneur and coach, who also scribbles for a crust, has been keeping us abreast of preparations for Bali’s first coast-to-coast ultra marathon on Aug. 19-20. We have to say we’re impressed. Coast to coast here, if it’s North-South, which in the case of the ultra marathon it is, involves running up some pretty high hills.

It’s the sort of thing we might possibly have contemplated back in the day when we did all sorts of fitness things so we could properly serve the interests of HM The Queen (lovely lady, wears many hats, and the Brit Floral and Aussie Fly-Cork ones were applicable in our case). But not any more: too old, you see, even to donate blood, which is shocking. Hickman tells us he’s slimmed down a bit as the training for this run kicks in. If we slimmed down any more, we’d disappear.

We digress. So back to the point: the ultra marathon is to raise funds to pay the way through primary school for seven children in Bali. It’s a good cause with some great sponsors.

Java’s Great

WELL, drink up. Apparently two new international studies have found that coffee may prolong life. That’s good news for Java (coffee) as well as for people who apparently want to live forever. It may not be so beneficial for Bali’s oppressed luwaks, but that’s another matter. Two or more cups of coffee a day are said to reduce the risk of death by 18 per cent, if you’re male. At the rate The Diary drinks coffee, we’ll win the Methuselah Cup.

We quote from a rather breathless Sky News Australia item on the topic: “But the latest research bodes better for men than women with one study of more than half a million people across 10 European countries finding men who consumed at least three cups a day were 18 per cent less likely to die from any cause than non-coffee drinkers…Women, on the other hand, drinking the same amount benefited less but still experienced an 8 per cent reduction in mortality.”

Grammar Police Note: Bode is an English verb, of Germanic origin. It can bode well or badly. It’s unclear whether it can legitimately do so “better”, at least grammatically (although in that sense it may be “very unique”). But never mind, it was on Sky News after all, which so frequently proves its worth as a risible source of misinterpreted information and mangled language.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in the Bali Advertiser is published every four weeks. The next will appear on Aug. 16.

A Dog’s Life

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali

May 13, 2017

 

THERE was a revolting instance of animal cruelty in Denpasar this week, which thanks to quick-thinking and wonderfully caring local people swiftly swamped the social media, where it attracted an immediate chorus of shock and shame. The event and its tragic aftermath – the poor dog that was the victim died not long after being reunited with its distressed local owner – was videoed. We’ve seen the footage. It makes us wish we’d never given away the rhino-hide sjambok that we possessed many years ago, in a previous life, on another continent. (There’s an Indonesian connection, from cambuk, imported into South Africa along with Malay indentured workers in the 1800s.)

Two men on a scooter hooked the dog with a wire lasso in Jl. Teuku Umar in the dark of the pre-dawn morning and dragged it away behind their bike. It was plainly intended for the dog meat trade. They were chased and brought to a halt and eventually agreed to hand over the bloodied dog. Its rescuers comforted the animal while others found the owner. This incident should be instructive both for illegal dog meat hunters and the authorities. Indonesians don’t like it – it’s not just nuisance foreigners who complain.

It is not illegal to eat dog meat in Indonesia. It’s just disgusting. But it is illegal, and subject to criminal sanctions, to practise animal cruelty. It is that area of the law that most urgently needs to be enforced. Governments at all levels need to do that.

Unkind Cut

THE language of the gourmet chef world is a little beyond diarists who live in garrets they call The Cage and who exist on bread and water – well, not quite, but you’ll get our drift. So living vicariously is fun now and then, as a leavening, so to speak, and what better way than to virtually attend the annual Ubud Food Festival? It was held this week.

After the opening night feast on Thursday we saw a note on Facebook that told us the prawns prepared by Locovare (an excellent restaurant, by the way) were decimated. We were intrigued by this intelligence, since decimation was a Roman military method of reducing legions, for fiscal and other administrative reasons, and sometimes for tactical purposes. Every tenth man was removed from the ranks.

We inquired whether nine prawns were served instead of ten. It seems there was no printed menu from which to check this, though Cheflish, an interesting language garnished with misapplied superlatives and drizzled with inventive gourmet-speak, may have given decimated yet another meaning. What that might be eludes us, but presumably it does not refer to the sharp decline in prawn stocks in fisheries around the globe.

Anyway, never mind. The food festival – another initiative of Ubud luminary-in-chief Janet DeNeefe, whose Bali recipe book has just been reprinted, and who is also founder of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (Oct. 25-29 this year, don’t miss it) – is an excellent show. Selamat makan!

Chump Towers

IN World War Two the embattled Brits entertained themselves with a wonderful radio comedy show called ITMA (It’s That Man Again). No Names, No Pack Drill, but a clue: It wasn’t Charlie Chaplin; it was a far less funny little fellow with a ridiculously tiny moustache and a Führer complex.

It may be time to reinvent the show, as we trudge unwillingly ever deeper into the swamp that Donald Trump has no intention of draining. He wants to divert its sludge to his own purposes. We know, from a series of earlier incidents it would be nice to forget we’d ever heard about, that Trump is a prize chump. Nearly everyone says so, to amend the sort of comment he likes to make about himself whenever he’s had another brain-snap.

In an interview with The Economist – he could perhaps have got away with it in the Dry Gulch Clarion, which is required reading in the Republican congressional caucus these days – he decided it would be nice if people believed he had invented an economic theory, pump priming, which is 78 years old. This might astonish, if we weren’t all living in that alternative universe where a rapacious property tycoon and low-grade impresario was last year elected the 45th President of the United States. He’s 70 (and will be 71 on Jun. 14).

Perhaps among his yet to be disclosed elements of unquestioned genius is the fact that he invented time travel, scripted Dr Who, and was Galileo’s first tutor. We did hear a rumour recently – it was from the locker room, naturally, where lairs like him like to hang out in the hope that their embellishments will attract acclaim – that he very nearly got into hot water in Athens once. Apparently he’d tried to get into the bath with Mrs Archimedes.

Top Marks

WE heard the other day from a friend, François Richli, a lovely story about the Indonesian health system and how it works efficiently, effectively and cheaply to take care of people who are sick. Two tourists – an American and his Portuguese wife – were visiting Borobudur when the woman was struck down by a bacterial infection. They got themselves to Yogyakarta and went to a local hospital.

There, to the great surprise of the tourist from Donald Trump’s America, where they are busy dismantling affordable health care in the interests of corporate profiteers, the hospital immediately admitted his wife, put her on an IV drip and conducted a series of blood tests to determine whether her condition required treatment with antibiotics. The blood test results were done in 15 minutes and indicated that antibiotics were needed. These were administered and she was able to leave the hospital less than two hours later.

It all cost US$23. Says the grateful American tourist: “I have never experienced such fine health care anywhere and the entire staff were sweet, attentive, extremely capable and oh-so-efficient. I was amazed. Sad that this can’t happen in the USA.”

Blunder Zone

MEANWHILE, from that largish island to our southeast, the one that’s that special biosphere we’re always being reminded about, though sometimes it seems more like a sheltered workshop, we hear that the blunder bus has been about again, causing chaos.

It seems that a consignment of irreplaceable plant specimens imported from France for scientific research was destroyed by the quarantine service – the guys who glare at you and growl “got any fruit mate?” when you’ve finally retrieved your baggage from the arrivals carousel – because an email address didn’t match the documentation. Plainly picking up a phone is something else that’s in the too-hard basket there these days.

An inquiry has been ordered, now that it has been confirmed that the stable door was open, the horse had bolted, and that the lights were on but no one was home.

Say Cheese!

THE Diary’s preference is to ignore most reports on things that’ll kill ya, ya know; those that later research invariably suggests won’t. Life eventually kills you anyway. Enjoy the scenery on the way to your destination seems to be the best rule.

So it was pleasing to read that new research shows consuming cheese, milk and yoghurt – even the dreaded full-fat versions, which some say will strike you down almost on the spot – does not seem to increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Of course, the researchers could be quite wrong. We’ll ponder that possibility over our next cheese platter or three.

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. The next appears on May 24.

A Spicy Date

HECTOR’S DIARY

in the Bali Advertiser

HectorR

Wednesday, Mar. 1, 2017

 

UBUD is the centre of much heritage and tradition in Bali. This remains its principal charm, which is offset only by its other role as a testing ground for the skills – or lack of these – of drivers of huge buses that service the growing Chinese takeaway tourist trade. The narrow streets of Aum Central are believed by package tour operators and entrepreneurial bus companies to be ideally suited to big vehicles.

Fortunately such impediments are only spasmodic. It mightn’t seem that this is the case when you’re caught in one of the regular hour-long crawls around the Monkey Forest-Raya Ubud-Hanoman horror, or the similar stop-start treks up from Lod Tunduh, but it would be churlish and quite wrong to assert that shemozzle is a round-the-clock affair. The roads are generally quite trafficable between midnight and 6am.

Ubud is also Festival Central. It’s home to the Writers and Readers Festival (the 14th, this year, is from Oct. 25-29) and Bali Spirit Festival (Mar. 19-26), and many other celebrations, especially those of the highly favoured navel-gazing variety. Some of these are delightfully boutique affairs where deep and meaningful navel gazing takes on an almost personal perspective. There’s a lot to be said for navel gazing, if this is conducted with an open mind.

Janet DeNeefe’s writers’ festival has gone from strength to strength since its first rendition, which was held as a healing process after the first Bali bombing in 2002. A little while ago it incorporated a culinary element to its programming, which added pedas (spice) to panas (heat). Some wag at the time defined this as fragrant rice meets flagrant lies. The full degustation of the Ubud Food Festival grew from this early appetiser.

This year’s festival is themed Every Flavour is a Story. DeNeefe tells us it is designed to reflect the rich cultural texts that underpin the diverse culinary traditions of the archipelago. Last year’s event attracted around 8000 international visitors, according to the organisers, which naturally provided a spin-off benefit for local traders and accommodation providers. All good.

There are narratives attached to any set of food traditions, of course, and Indonesia’s are richer than many, weaving stories that depict the journey your food has taken from farmer’s plots and livestock owners to the dinner table. UFF, which bills itself as Indonesia’s biggest culinary festival, has invited leading aficionados of the genre to share their insights and kitchen secrets. Leading restaurateurs, food manufacturers, and producers, food writers and gourmands will be on hand to spread the love.

During the three-day event, visitors will be able to join forums, cooking demonstrations, workshops, special events, food markets, musical performances and film showings. Among those down to attend are Tasia and Gracia Seger, known as the Spice Sisters, who recently won a nationwide cooking contest in Australia; Professor Winarno, an expert on tempe; and the “jungle chef” of Papua, Charles Toto, who will introduce unique dishes made from the produce and heritage of Indonesia’s easternmost province.

There’s an international element as well. This year Bo Songvisava and Dylan Jones are down to appear. Their Bo.Lan Restaurant in Bangkok is on the best 50 restaurants in Asia list. They will feature in a special street food event together with Indonesian cooking legend Will Meyrick at his Ubud eatery Hujan Locale.

Also back this year will be the Kitchen Stage presenting Indonesian language cooking demonstrations. Look for appearances by Made Runatha and Made Januar from MOKSA; Chef Made Lugra from The Ayung Resorts; and Made Surjaya from The Standing Stones.

Full details are available at www.ubudfoodfestival.com.

Collectors’ Items

There’s a lot of rubbish in Bali. It is a constant problem that becomes most foully evident when it rains and all the stuff everyone’s dumped out of sight – and sometimes just out of olfactory range – in previously dry watercourses gets flushed out into the sea and ends up on the beaches.

Fighting pollution on the beaches is also a constant problem. Many are recruited to the forces deployed against this threat, by means of regular clean-ups and their commitment to public voluntary service is commendable. It’s true of course that the new mass market tourists, from China, along with the increased Indonesian component and the growing Indian one, are less fretful about rubbish than the western tourists who hitherto have been the preferred market.

But this is not an excuse to continue in the false belief that rubbish is not really a problem. The dengue figures alone prove that, as well as the increase in rats that these days, due to other shortsighted policies, are preyed upon by fewer feral dogs.

There is, too, a lot of rubbish talked about rubbish. Those who might assert that no one cares should study the efforts made by the Denpasar city authorities to implement workable local rubbish collection policies, fund these, and enforce the law concerning them. A very good rule is always credit where credit is due.

Denpasar is a city of more than three-quarters of a million people, in a densely settled and therefore more easily administered area, with a revenue base that is beginning to be workable, and an administration that is keen to create and sustain liveability. Other areas of Bali do not have that civic benefit, the services of broadly educated administrators, or the resources to fund effective waste collection and disposal. That, like so much else here, remains a work in progress.

This element of life in Bali needs to be understood by critics who briefly occupy plush villas and wrinkle their noses at the despoiled environment beyond their privileged walls.

Catch a Chill

The Diary is just back home from a brief visit to that other place, the big island to our south where, to quote from a now venerable pop song, women glow and men plunder (not chunder, just by the way) and Vegemite sandwiches are all the rage. So it’s really good to be home, for all sorts of reasons, not least for the reliability of warmth as a constant factor in Bali’s climate.

Our flit this time took us to the southwest corner of Western Australia. A good friend who lives in Bali’s southern suburb was celebrating an important birthday and we had to be there. It was a lovely show, at a surf lifesaving club on Perth’s fantastic beachfront. It was hot in Perth.

Then we went further south, into the karri forest country that is the ancestral territory of the Distaff, and hit one of those quirks of climate that make life in that part of the world so interesting. Rain’s OK – we’re used to that in Bali. But if we ever want thermometer readings in the teens we can trip up to Kintamani or Bedugul and sample these very briefly before getting back in the car and returning speedily to lower altitude and higher temperatures.

It’s summer in the great southern land. But for some reason, Murphy’s Climatic Law has always followed us on our travels. It’s most unfair.

Water Rites

The unusually heavy rains of this year’s strong La Niña wet season will have partly replenished Bali’s groundwater reserves, which is a good thing. But these reserves have been so heavily plundered by over-use and shockingly absent planning and regulation that it would take several successive La Niña events to make any noticeable difference. The reality of global climate cycles is that nature will not provide that benefit. The girl child’s drought-fixated brother El Niño will inevitably return.

Conservation and responsible use – enforced by both law and the effectiveness of price signals on usage – are the only way to prevent terminal decline. There are of course some things humans can do to build sustainable water resources. They could fix deficient reticulation systems, for example, though that seems to be a bridge too far under water for Bali’s authorities at the moment.

Innovative science can help, where perennial and pervasive losses from leakage and thievery won’t. So it was good to see the IDEP Foundation unveil a recharge solution on Feb. 27 designed to counter Bali’s water crisis. It did so by means of a media launch of its demonstration recharge well under the Bali Water Protection (BWP) scheme started in 2015. It’s part of a longer-term solution to the problem of rapidly depleting aquifers, many of which are being invaded by salt water because of the depletion of the water table. It’s apt that this is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

The program calls for a network of 136 recharge wells to be installed across Bali, harvesting water to balance consumption. The Bali Water Protection program involves educational programs in 132 schools located along rivers, and a media campaign aimed at raising public awareness for water preservation in the province. The demonstration well has been funded by Fivelements, a luxury wellness resort, which is showing the way by supporting the concept of the entire pilot program.

As IDEP Executive Director Ade Andreawan says, it is vital that Bali’s business communities offer strong support for the program.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in the Bali Advertiser is published monthly, in every second edition

Little Ripples

 

HectorR

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other tasty morsels

Bali, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017

 

WHERE Indonesia and Australia are concerned, you can always count on something unexpected to suddenly ripple the waters. It’s a bit the same as an Indonesian volcano: it’s quiet until it goes boom.

In Australia, it’s mostly a careless minor politician or some media “celebrity” who clumsily drops a pebble in the pond, or very occasionally a former prime minister. In Indonesia, it’s just as likely to be a military personage drawing himself to attention by banging a big nationalist drum.

That these little interruptions flow chiefly from ignorance is no comfort. The reverse, in fact, since Indonesia has been functionally independent for 72 years and formally for 68, and was politically and materially supported by Australia in its resistance to post-World War II Dutch efforts to resuscitate their dead colonial dreams.

By the end of the Japanese war Australia had become the least imperially minded member of the Anglosphere. Except for isolated attempts at ridiculous recidivism on the right of Australian national politics, this welcome and natural process has continued.

The latest little political difficulties involve an invidious inscription allegedly seen by a Kopassus officer who was attending a language course in Perth and the raising of the West Papuan flag at a protest in Melbourne.

Neither incident is really worth wasting time on further discussion. Posturing is painful and counterproductive, especially when it becomes fodder for insensate commentary in the blinkered depths of the social media pool.

Tiger Tales

THE sudden imposition of new regulations on the Australian low-cost airline Tiger, which is owned by Virgin Australia, seems to have come straight from the Because We Can clause officialdom likes to cite now and then.

If this were a place where you could have confidence in regulatory policy even if a particular set of regulations disadvantaged you or others, then it would be easy to accept changes. They shouldn’t be sudden, they should be discussed – socialised is the term they use here – and they should of course be facilitative rather than the reverse.

Someone must have had an “oh, doh!” moment, because the Indonesians later gave Tiger permission to fly 2000 passengers out of Bali back to Australia over the weekend.

Tiger was forced to cancel Australia-Bali flights virtually at a moment’s notice. They seem to have been told their scheduled operations here had been transferred from the office that handles scheduled airline services to the one that regulates charter operations and requires much more complex, flight by flight, arrangements. Go figure.

The airline’s scheduled services will resume, we assume, at some point. That’s if Tigerair Australia and its parent airline company can be bothered continuing to scratch for profit when local low-cost players want the lion’s, or in this case the tiger’s, share of the market.

That might be the ultimate twist in the tail, so to speak.

Goon Show

THE shocking events at a Seminyak glitter strip venue the other day, when security guards restrained a protesting Russian partygoer by bashing him so severely that he has lost an eye, demonstrate very clearly how far down the road to perdition Bali has gone in its quest for the tourist dollar.

There is still time to retreat from the precipice, and to regain some of the island’s past reputation as a place where you can have fun – and even be a little naughty – without risking life and limb. But swift action is needed.

Properly trained security personnel can deal with such events easily. A quick knee in the groin and a half-Nelson arm twist will effectively and temporarily disable anyone who has had the temerity to query their bill.

Of course, proprietors of such venues need to possess a socially balanced brain themselves, or be forced to act as if they have, and must spend money on actually doing things properly. That’s another side of Bali’s tourism and regulatory environments. It applies (or should do) to entertainment venues everywhere, especially in the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak-Canggu riot quarter.

The authorities and the police must be proactive. That’s a polite way of saying they really should get off their bums and do something. We know; that’s a difficulty. Goon squads, empowered quasi-official thugs, mobs amok, and fire-and-forget non-thinking is the usual form here.

The latest event was the second publicised one at the venue recently. In the first incident, two Indonesian customers were criminally bashed by security.

For the record, the venue is La Favela, in the thoroughfare colloquially known as Oberoi Street. A favela is a Brazilian slum. Just saying.

Prodigal Return

WE hadn’t been to North Bali for the best part of a decade until last weekend, when we spent two lovely days at Villa Patria on the slopes behind Lovina.

It really is a magic place, set 355 metres above sea level but only some six kilometres from the coast. There’s only one guest villa, plus a lumbung, and the owners live on site with first-class staff running the show.

The food is rather on the yummy side, so if you don’t want to venture out to sample that of others, dinner at home is a good idea. The tariff includes breakfast.

The little resort is set in lovely gardens, with a swimming pool, and high quality massage is available on call. Think of it as a home away from home. We’ll be back.

It’s a bit of a trek from the south of Bali. But if your travel plans can accommodate a 3.5-hour car trip each way – and the magnificent lakes and mountains and plenty of places to stop for a coffee in cool Baturiti or Bedugul – it’s an easy ride.

More Sad Farewells

RIO Helmi, the Ubud-based photographer and writer, wrote a wonderful obituary for Linda Garland, the bamboo lady, who has died in Australia after a long battle with cancer, at the age of only 68. It’s definitely worth reading.

There are many adornments to the expat scene here – there are many others in the resident foreign community who adorn only their preferred views of themselves, in the manner of the self-promotional everywhere, but that’s for another time – and Garland was several dozen laurel wreaths more worthy than most.

Her work here over many decades was immensely practical in terms of the inspirational and income earning opportunities it gave to the Balinese. Helmi’s piece describes all that, at length and much better than we can here.

Another old Bali hand has left us, too. Quirky photographer Pierre Poretti died at home in Switzerland, of a stroke. His art was magnificent and it, and he, will be sorely missed.

What a Shower

THE Australian feminist fulminator Helen Razer is always good. She’s exactly the Diary’s kind of social Marxist. Her summation in a piece she published this week about the greed-and-envy-fuelled collapse of the selfish capitalist dream helped our morning coffee go down with an extra zing on Friday.

It’s the sort of argument that fuels real discussion about things that actually matter. In such a setting, over a table, say, with prime Arabica to hand, we’d probably say this:

Have you read A Short History of Stupid? We found it a wonderful to-and-fro on many issues. Razer wrote it in counterpoint with Bernard Keene, who is exactly not the Diary’s kind of social libertarian.

The argument she puts in her piece is basically sound about the revolting Trump and his neocon mates and Bonfire of the Vanities cheer squads. They can all forever get golden showers from infinite numbers of Russian hookers before anyone should care about the moral and ethical depravity of their private personalities and behaviour.

It’s the moral and ethical depravity of their policies (if discernible) and politics that sicken us.

But the Diary has enough of old journeyman journalist in the veins (Razer does not) to get a good giggle out of the risible idiocy of populist celebrity “leaders” who think debate is about massaging their own egos, or having others do that for them; who apparently think the serial indiscretions that litter their private lives can possibly escape scrutiny in the global porn shop they’ve created and from which they grossly profit; who wouldn’t know a decent social (or economic or health or national security) policy if any of these happened by chance to tickle their coccyx while some fake-bosomed slag was teasing their private parts with perfumed tissues; and who are so functionally useless except in their own interest that they couldn’t boil an egg.

Today (Jan. 14) is T -6, by the way.

Great Going

ONE of the Diary’s favourite R&R places, the Novotel Lombok Resort and Villas at Mandalika beach in the island’s south, has another deserved gong in its collection of awards.

The resort, part of the Accor chain, was named The World’s Best Halal Beach Resort 2016 at the World Halal Tourism Awards during International Travel Week in Abu Dhabi late last year.

WHTA estimates that about 1.9 million votes from 116 countries were lodged in the 2016 awards, over 16 categories and among 383 candidate properties. You can see all winners in all categories here.

Lombok is carving out a niche for itself in tourist and travel opportunities for Muslims, part of which naturally includes Halal food and a rather less raunchy entertainment picture. Even the sexy dancers aren’t, really.

Except in the northern Gilis – Trawangan, Meno and Air – which these days most visitors access direct from Bali by fast boat – the sun-sand-and-sin western tourist demographic is conspicuously absent, at least in large, noisy numbers.

Some people think that’s a good thing.

Hector also writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser newspaper. The next appears on Feb. 1

Dystopian Delights

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Bali

Nov. 9, 2016

 

THERE were no visibly ruffled kebayas at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival session featuring American author Lionel Shriver on Oct. 29. No one loudly rattled their worry beads or furiously flounced out. This was in stark contrast to the thought chasm at the Brisbane Writers Festival in September, where an angry ethnic headdress made a public point of walking out of Shriver’s presentation. Someone else then thumped out an anguished memoir that appeared somewhere or other and, in it, claimed that Shriver was stealing other people’s heritage.

Shriver’s crime is to give voice in her novels to imaginary characters whose culture and ethnicity is not her own. In doing do, so the good thinking collective asserts, she and others perpetuate an invidious imperial-colonial imbalance. These days, this warrants condign punishment, such as being shouted at before being sent to Coventry.

The modern white man’s burden is to be continually assailed by charges that might have applied to his great-grandfather (the point is moot). It’s true that much of the world’s body of literature, fictional or otherwise, is in English. But much of it isn’t. There are other global languages, Spanish, French and Portuguese in particular. And if a culture whose native language isn’t one of these or any of their increasingly incomprehensible derivatives wishes to fully develop literature in its own lingua franca, it is perfectly free to do so.

This of course is not the thing to say at a literary festival, unless you want to have your tea poisoned.

But it is hard to see how Shriver and her ilk are the agents of continued bastardry just because they write into their narratives imaginary representatives of other cultures. Fiction, whether grittily realistic, or enervating, or readable, or otherwise, is neither fact nor claims to be. That alone should eliminate angst among the sentient and offset the risk of injury to readers from that modern plague, acquired cultural offence.

It’s true of course that many authors and their cheer squads claim gritty realism as the leitmotiv of their works and the arbiter of their own social relevance. But these days if you’re not socially relevant, you’re nowhere, baby.

Shriver’s presentation concerned her latest book, The Mandibles, a dystopian romp of sorts through the imagined near-future economic and social collapse of America. Mad Max on Mandrax, in a way. She read from the text. It’s unlikely to set the world on fire, though America might. The session was moderated by Gill Westaway, once of the British Council and now of Lombok.

Better than Chocolate

We spent some time at the festival chatting with Ines Wynn, who writes for the Bali Advertiser and lives in a riparian setting with a small menagerie (of dogs and cats) far from the madding crowd, just an easy three-hour round trip away from the nearest supermarket that’s stocked with anything bules might actually want to buy.

In such a setting, one has to plan. It doesn’t do to run out of something essential. We thought of foie gras, not because we suppose Ines likes to keep it in stock, as indeed neither do we, but just par exemple, to break briefly into one of her eight languages. Ines is originally from Belgium, that confection of four languages, several instances of casus belli, multiple competing legislatures and former Heart of Darkness empire that was invented in 1830 as a sort of final post-mortem act in the overlong and competing narratives of the Holy Roman Empire and the Spanish Crown.

Lunch with her, which we took at Kori, just across the road from the gabblers’ headquarters, was much less complex. It was also very tasty and in a quiet environment where the only noise seemed to be coming from our table. We didn’t have any chocolates. It seemed invidious to suggest that we might, since chocolates are perhaps Belgium’s finest exports. No substitutes permitted.

Solemen Indonesia’s Robert Epstone, by the way, had a sort of TED Talk opportunity at the festival, on Oct. 30 rescheduled from earlier in the program, to introduce the lit crowd to the sterling work his charity organisation does.

We couldn’t be there, unfortunately, but Ines tells us Epstone worked his usual magic and passed the virtual hat round to good effect.

Shoot to Thrill

The executioners have been out and about. We’re not referring to the national drug agency, which says it would like to shoot drug dealers without benefit of judicial process, as in Rodrigo Duterte’s new killing fields in the Philippines perhaps, and which hopefully will never get permission to engage in state-sanctioned murder.

It’s Gianyar regency we’re talking about, again, and its cruel and counterproductive dog-culling program. The latest victims were 21 dogs in Batubulan, after a dog bit someone and was later found to have rabies. Just to be clear, we’re not opposed to killing dogs when circumstances dictate that there is no other option, even though it would leave a heavy shadow on our non-Hindu heart.

Instead, as is much of the world that exists outside the blank-stare fiefdoms of the regents of Gianyar and others, we are opposed to the idea of killing dogs because this is easier than implementing an effective vaccination (and re-vaccination) program and humane population control through sterilisation, and because, being cheaper, it won’t interfere with the Essential Additional SUV Acquisition schedule.

There’s plenty of literature available on how to actually suppress rabies rather than just look as you’re doing so. We’ve had rabies in Bali since 2008, at a cost now approaching 200 human lives. That’s ample time to have assimilated the information and to have translated even the difficult bits into Bahasa Indonesia.

A Fine Award

Puri Mas resorts and spa in Lombok has a new and very fine feather in its cap. It’s just been voted Best Luxury Boutique Hotel in Indonesia at an awards presentation in Doha, Qatar. GM Sara Sanders, who was in the Puri Mas contingent at the St Regis Doha to collect the gong, says this: “Congratulations to Marcel De Rijk and all the amazing staff in Puri Mas. Well deserved.”

Puri Mas has always been a great place – in two places: right on the beach at Manggis north of Senggigi and inland at Kerangandan, where owner and long-term Lombok resident and ballroom dancer De Rijk maintains his residence. The resort truly is a jewel in the crown of Lombok tourism.

Get. A. Life.

It is not a criminal offence to be gay in Indonesia. (That’s a good thing in the other, older, sense of the word, because there’s plenty here that gives you a laugh, even if it’s a horse one.) But, seriously, it’s not a crime.

So the disgraceful hue and cry that was reported last month, involving the police and other guardians of self-assessed moral requirements in Manado, North Sulawesi, was a very sorry spectacle. Two gay men were hunted down and arrested because they had displayed their affection for each other in a Facebook post.

Social media is not a public space. It’s certainly true that public demonstration of affection is not what one does here. It is culturally inappropriate. Tourists of all stripes please note, especially the half-clothed young bucks and does of western provenance whose displays of plainly sexual intent are blots on the landscape in Kuta and other goodtime places.

In the Manado incident, there was no cause for public disquiet. It’s no business of the police what private individuals choose – unwisely or otherwise – to post on their social platforms. “Our team tracked down the locations of the two men thanks to information from netizens, and on Oct. 11 we found the two in Bahu, Manado,” North Sulawesi Police Spokesman Marzuki wrote in a statement.

What a circus. The police should have told “concerned netizens” to go away instead of responding with a farcical witch-hunt. That way, police spokesman Marzuki wouldn’t have had to look as if he’s with the Keystone Kops.

The silly business even reached Jakarta, where IT ministry spokesman Noor Iza was quoted as saying: “Facebook is very concerned about inappropriate content, including LGBT.”

Um, no, Facebook is rather more rainbow minded than Indonesian regulator-enforcers like to think.

End Game

The US election will be all over bar the continued shouting by the time this appears in print, but American scribbler Richard Boughton, who very sensibly lives in Bali, posted a plaintive note on his Facebook on Nov. 2 to which we can relate, both in his specific and our own more general circumstances.

He wrote: “I can’t believe how much time I wasted last night arguing with Trump supporters on Facebook. Not that I don’t have time to waste. But I could have wasted it in so many more pleasant ways. Sleeping, for instance. Or pigging out on junk food. Or picking a scab off my leg.”

HectorR

Hector’s Diary appears, edited for newspaper publication, in the print and on line editions of the fortnightly Bali Advertiser