8degreesoflatitude

THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

Talk to the Ants

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

In the Bali Advertiser

May 24, 2017

 

JEWEL Topsfield, the Australian Fairfax newspaper group’s Indonesian correspondent, wrote a lovely piece recently after an extended interview she had with Prabowo Subianto, who probably likes to think of himself as president-in-waiting. We’ll have to wait until 2019 to find out, but in the meantime he’s an interesting subject.

Some people seem to think that he’s the fifth horseman of the apocalypse. He’s not, of course. He’s a former army general with some unanswered questions on his record and an Indonesian politician, ditto. He’s far from being in a class of his own on those scores. He possesses the same auto-response mechanism as exists in any Indonesian (and people of other countries too) where it is imagined that a slight has been offered. Foreigners are not meant to criticise, and will be glowered at or worse if they do. There are no surprises in that, locally, politically or otherwise. Nor is Indonesia a western liberal democracy. It never will be.

Prabowo doesn’t think Indonesia will ever become a fundamentalist Islamic state, either. Indonesians like music and dancing, he noted. He’s right. The archipelago is very much its own cultural petri dish, whatever the small local contingent of Arabian adherents might think and seek to promote via their hired nasi bungkus mobs. On that point, taking the argument a little further, it seems silly to get all het up about hijabs. My granny would never go out without a head covering, and she was as Christian and English as you could wish to meet. Times, fashions, and social and religious observances change. The human story is one of constant flux.

Prabowo, who has been criticised – largely outside Indonesia – for talking with the unfunny fundamentalists of the FPI, is more interesting still on quite another aspect of his character. He negotiates with ants, citing the example from Islamic texts of King Solomon. The ants in Solomon’s day did a deal with the palace, staying out of it so as not to be crushed by his soldiers’ boots.

Ants are a eusocial species: they form cooperative groups, often in very large numbers, and create caste systems and practise instinctive altruism in the interests of the community. Bees, wasps, termites and some other insect species do the same. Prabowo told Topsfield he wouldn’t have any living creatures harmed on his property – they were talking at his ranch in the hills of West Java – and that he always takes a special interest in the welfare of the ants there. We do the same at The Cage, especially around the infinity edge of our small swimming pool, where many of them live at risk of disruption or worse when it rains and the water level rises. Everything has its place. Human hubris has sadly sidelined this essential fact of life.

There’s Always a SNAG

SOME men just don’t get it. Well, most, probably. The masculine gender seems to have particular difficulty keeping pace with cultural and social advance. This is not just a western thing. It often seems that there are only two races on Planet Earth: Female and Male.

The Shirley Valentine holiday sector is quite large, therefore, as a result of many things, including but not limited to misogyny. Generally, and beneficially, most people keep their private affairs private. But the “holiday fling” has a long history and certainly predates the social liberation of the 1960s, now sadly under threat again from Those Who Think They Know Best.

It’s a mystery why the romantic affairs of others should be so prominently and pruriently a public interest. Surely, that’s what erotic fiction is for; or porn, which of course is illegal in Indonesia, like so many other things that nevertheless go on willy-nilly here?

So our eye was caught by an article in a recent online Seminyak Times post that drew on a story in an Australian newspaper relating to the activities of SNAGs in the more mannered portions of the companion trade here. That’s SNAGs as in Sensitive New Age Gigolos: Kuta cowboys who’ve worked out that it’s nice to shower, to have a capacity to communicate in more than grunts, and to look a little kempt. The Seminyak Times article quoted a SNAG called Steven, of mixed Balinese and Japanese heritage, who says he sees around four clients a month, from the Australian-Japanese-Korean-Russian cohorts of the female traveller market, and that only about half of them want sex as part of the deal.

Well, women have always been more sensible than men about such things. Dinner and a laugh, flirty or otherwise, is often much more fun than a clumsy grapple and some probably unsatisfactory rumpy-pumpy. For men as well, we note, those of the sentient variety, at least. It’s different at beer-goggles time, naturally, but who wants to go there?

Though we repeat: it’s a mystery why private arrangements outside the realms of fiction are of any interest to other people. Being nosey is nasty, and being proscriptively judgmental is a waste of time. So carry on girls – and boys.

It Won’t Go Away

WE’RE used to traffic congestion in Bali. There often seems no reason for the giant tailback in which you find yourself before you have an opportunity to consult the map app in your phone and plot an escape route, if you can. But Slow Motion Melee is a fact of life here.

Some traffic jams are for a good cause, though, such as the one that gridlocked much of Sanur on Sunday, May 7, when there was another mass protest over the plutocratic plan to turn Benoa Bay into Port Excrescence in hot pursuit (surprise!) of capitalist profit. The top-down nature of politics here reflects the culture of the island – as it does throughout Indonesia – but the guys at the top seem to have forgotten the grassroots democracy that has always informed local life. You can be the Big Panjandrum, if you’re in the now modified governing elite, and it’s your turn, or something. But ultimately you must do what the people want, or that they can be persuaded to desire. If you don’t do that, eventually you’ll be out of a job.

There’s no sign that the mass of Balinese want Tomy Winata’s desecration of Benoa Bay to proceed. The demonstrators, their organisations (including ForBALI whose flags are everywhere) and the local communities aren’t going to shut up. They shouldn’t, and more power to them for insisting that they won’t, and for continuing to point out that Bali’s provincial government is on the wrong tram.

On Your Bike

THINGS must be a bit flat at the wink and nod end of the massage trade here. The Diary, while defiantly young at heart and – to the astonishment of many lovely local people – still perfectly capable of standing up and moving around, even at a fast trot if necessary, is nevertheless in no way a spry youth, and has never been a middle-aged lair. We would not, we’d have thought, be in that cohort of temporarily present foreign gentlemen on whom the rub-and-tug ladies would want to waste their marketing time.

So it was a surprise the other day when, strolling down Jl. Danau Tamblingan in Sanur, we were accosted by a man on a motorbike, who executed a perfect stop-on-a-Rp1000 coin manoeuvre and asked if we’d like a massage. “Not on your bike,” was our first, unuttered, response. “Not on your life” was the second, also unexpressed. It doesn’t do to be rude. Neither would we want to obstruct anyone’s business of the day. There’s a market for that sort of thing. We’re just not in it.

We smiled instead and said, “No thank you.” He looked disappointed, poor fellow, but he smiled back and waved – it’s that sort of thing that makes living in Bali such a joy – and rode off in search of more likely quarry.

We reported the incident to the Distaff. She likes a giggle. We’d been on our way to Chic salon to collect her after a coif and had only minutes before left Randy’s, the nice little place on the bendy bit towards the northern end of Tamblingan that we often visit when we’re in Sanur. There, we’d had an individual apple pie and ice cream (Canadian individual size: we’d struggled as always, but it was worth it) and several short espressos. “Where is your wife?” the lovely waitperson had inquired as we sat down. “Hair salon,” was our response. “Ah,” said the waitperson, with a little smile. She knew there’d be orders for several espressos.

HectorR

Hector’s Bali Advertiser Diary is published monthly. He writes a blog diary between times.

So There!

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali

Saturday, May 20, 2017

THE Bali High Court has added a year to the sentence given to Australian woman Sara Connor, who was convicted over her part in the killing of Kuta policeman Wayan Sudarsa on Aug. 17 last year. The prosecution had appealed, saying that the original four-year sentence was too lenient. It did “not reflect the sense of justice”, the prosecution said in its appeal.

Well, five years for being culpable after the fact of murder (unlawful killing in the circumstances adjudicated by the trial court) hardly seems excessive. Connor might argue that she couldn’t stop the fight that erupted between her lover David Taylor, aka Nutso, and a policeman who on all the evidence had acquired her handbag in unexplained circumstances while she and Taylor were sleeping off the combined effects of alcohol and a round of horizontal folk dancing, but destroying evidence after the fact is not a defensible act. The extra year will effectively add about ten months to her jail time.

The Bali High Court is now led by the judge who presided over the trial of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok), the Christian Chinese Indonesian who was accused of blasphemy for citing the Qur’an in a political pitch to voters. Ahok lost the April gubernatorial election (which was always a likely outcome anyway). He was then sentenced to two years in jail.

Perhaps the prosecution in Ahok’s trial, which had sought a fine and a probationary penalty, would like to appeal the severity of the subsequent sentence. On any objective analysis it fails to reflect the sense of justice, after all, and the presiding judge is now suddenly out of the way. Ah well, just a thought.

May 23 UPDATE: The prosecution has in fact appealed against the sentence; it had sought a suspended sentence on a lesser charge. My original item above ought to have reflected these facts. Governor Ahok has withdrawn his own appeal, filed by his  legal team. 

The Circus is in Town

NEXT week Schapelle Leigh Corby is due to be deported from Indonesia following her three-year parole and previous prison time for the celebrated boogie-board drug crime of 2005. Immigration authorities will formally detain her, on or around May 27, before she is taken to the airport and put on a plane home to Australia, a trip she will make with her sister Mercedes, the gouge artist and Ralph Magazine topless cover girl. Presumably her passport will be stamped prohibited to enter Indonesia. We wish her well with the difficult process she will face in re-immersing herself in Australian life after twelve years away. Corby will celebrate her fortieth birthday on Jul. 10.

Ahead of all this activity, the Australian media is assembling for the feast. It brings to mind that line from Hotel California – they stab it with their steely knives but they just can’t kill the beast – because of the singular, self-interested focus the Americanised tabloid rags and TV infotainment bring to what used to be the sentient process of gathering news and reporting it. Thank goodness for the serious press.

We could blame the Kardashians, whose money and astonishing self-belief has been responsible for many woes, but that would be churlish. Or serial bankrupt property boosters, prevaricators and locker-room humourists, but President Trump apparently only listens to himself. He probably gets fewer raised eyebrows that way. So while they drone on – in Mark Burrows’ and Network Nine’s case literally, we hear; their little aerial spy-cam has been flying circuits over Schapelle’s place – we’ll just get on with our day.

Mercedes Corby, by the way, has managed to put off the next court hearing of the AVO (apprehended violence order) case brought against her by a former friend, financier and business partner in a failed eats and drinks establishment on Australia’s Gold Coast, the Corby family’s stamping ground, where she’d done all the dough again. The hearing date conflicted with her familial duties, we’re told.

A Fine Time

IT has always surprised us that VIN +, the very fine dining venue just back from the beach at Seminyak, is not on many more most-favoured lists. It doesn’t offer a view of the waves or the sound of crashing surf, of course, but it doesn’t get blow-the-food-off-your-plates sea breezes either, which is surely a plus. Its open-plan architecture provides conversational impetus for even the most challenged of small-talkers, its eclectic ambience is nothing short of brilliant, and the victuals and potable substances are first class.

So when we got an invitation from Shelley Epstone to join a table of eight for a Villa Maria Wine Dinner on Friday (May 19), we were very happy to go along. So was the Distaff, who also likes a party, and probably enjoyed being the only dinkum Aussie at the table (The Diary was an “authorised arrival” 46 years ago). It was a lovely evening. We chatted with chief Yakker Sophie Digby, shoeless Sole Man Robert Epstone, and Ines Wynendaele, who is top of our Most Favoured Belgians list.

Chef Ronald Tokilov’s menu was superb. It featured es timun (the honey green chilli sauce was divinely piquant), lobster bakso, tuna and es rujak, a nice duck confit (the sambal kelapa was very tasty) and dodol to die for. The Diary is a chocolate cake tragic, after all.

The New Zealand wine pairing was good. A 2015 Villa Maria Private Bin Dry Riesling with the es timun, 2013 Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc with the lobster, a 2015 Private Bin Chardonnay with the tuna, a nicely understated peppery 2014 pinot noir with the duck, and a 2014 cabernet merlot with the chocolate cake to finish. It was a doddle.

Minor Triumphs

THE Cage is in the midst of the latest minor works program and the spring cleaning that must follow. These are regular occurrences designed to keep leaks to a minimum, repair the damage caused by sneaky termites who manage to evade the defensive perimeter we have in place (obviously it’s not a Mexican wall) and replace loose bits of timber and tiles that have dropped off the building. Or, like the trellis over the garage below the pool, were threatening to do so. Such is life in Bali, where even strontium 90 would have half a half-life.

But we did get the red-for-hot dot on the relevant kitchen tap. Sometimes the gods of little things smile upon you.

35-Stretch

MONDAY (May 22) is a big day: The Diary and The Distaff mark thirty-five of married bliss, excusing the normal vicissitudes of life. That’s worth a drink or three.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. It is published monthly. The next appears on May. 24.

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 Ridiculous Travesty

Bali, May 9, 2017

THERE are several things that can be said about the two-year jail sentence meted out to Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaya Purnama (Ahok) for his astoundingly correct but politically incautious observation that matters of religion are often subject to varying interpretations.

One is that no one sentient would argue with his point. But he knew, or he should have known, that he was dealing with the wall-eyed crowd from the Islamic Defenders Front, the FPI, which apparently believes rational thought is a pernicious disease found only in kafirs who ignorantly and unwisely follow other, haram, religions.

Another is that Ahok, who is not a good politician (that’s not necessarily a bad thing) and who has a habit of tripping over wires more cautious beings would see in plain sight, was setting himself for a fall. He is a Christian of Indonesian Chinese ethnicity and Jakarta, like most places in the crowded bits of Indonesia, is predominantly a Muslim city.

Anywhere else his faith and ethnicity would be at most a talking point. In Indonesia, where the full sunlight of daytime still has to fall on many things, including good governance and a true sense of participatory national feeling (beyond regional and often obtuse pejoratives) Ahok was foolish to disturb the mediaeval shadows that still inform much Indonesian discourse and significant elements of its culture.

That said, it passes belief that a court would sentence a leading public official to two years in jail for making a general statement with which even a scholarly Islamic cleric would have difficulty arguing. Muslims believe that the Qur’an is literally the word of God. The supporting liturgy with which Islam has equipped itself over the 1,400 years since Mohammad received the word explains and (arguably) sets in context the revelations of the Qur’an. The Hadiths can be interpreted. The Qur’an cannot: It simply is.

Non-Muslims – and even Muslims themselves if they wish to stick a toe into headstrong waters – are equally entitled to suggest that rationality deserves a place in Islamic thinking. But these are things for scholarly debate, not for political argument. That much is common sense, for one thing, as well as polite.

That such politeness is generally not reciprocated, sent in the other direction – from those who repeat the unarguable word of God from the minarets and then apply this deist fiat to political dispatch boxes now found in many a mosque – is by the way. The nuance of the Christian New Testament, where an eye for an eye is sensibly replaced by two wrongs not making a right, is absent from the Qur’an. That is, unless you read it with an eye that suggests things may have changed, not to mention word usage, over nearly a millennium and a half.

Perhaps other, less hide-bound, jurists than the panel that sat on the bench at Ahok’s trial will amend the judgement of that court on appeal. They certainly should. It is for expert jurists to determine whether Indonesia’s blasphemy laws were broken by the otherwise inoffensive comment the governor of Jakarta made to lower economic status electors whose votes were being sought by his opponents. The fact that Indonesia has blasphemy laws – it’s not unique in this: such laws exist, for example, in the overwhelmingly Catholic Republic of Ireland among other places – is beside the point, though it sits rather oddly with the Pancasila principles and rather a lot of modern life.

So those who would like to see Indonesia become Raya (Greater Indonesia) should today be considering the appalling damage that has been done to their cause by the judges of the Jakarta court who decided to jail Ahok on a trumped up political charge of blasphemy.

Among those who should be worrying about great things, as opposed to banal political manoeuvres, however useful these may be to themselves, is former army general Prabowo Subianto. His political pal beat Ahok in last month’s gubernatorial election with the significant assistance of the blasphemy charge, and will become governor in October.

It worked as a political tactic. For that, it required neither moral judgement nor an ethical base. In fact, the absence of these benefits was a decided plus.

But it has seriously dented Indonesia’s claim to be a leading light in Southeast Asia on the basis of its moral authority and its economy. If Prabowo’s vision for Indonesia Raya includes dressing up political manoeuvres in mediaeval misapprehensions, then his vision won’t be seen as great by many people at all, except for a bunch of fundamentalists who insist that Islam is Indonesia’s only way, and who happily blaspheme other religious beliefs (free of penalty) to maintain this flat-footed, fat-headed proposition and their place near the centre of power.

It may well be true that the real target of these shenanigans is President Joko Widodo and that Ahok is simply collateral damage on the way to Prabowo’s great Indonesia, which he will almost certainly campaign on for the next presidential elections.

But that makes it even more dangerous, as well as worse, more venal, and thoroughly banal. In a word: It’s the Trump card.

Hard Times

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious fare

The Cage, Bali, May. 6, 2017

 

IT’S Sigmund Freud’s birthday today. The thought occurred, just at random, that it would be fun to get his, and Zeno the Stoic’s, views on our own times. Unfortunately these proved to be chiefly unprintable. Their shared view, adduced through the ether of time, seems to be that we’ve all gone mad. Freud was more pleased than Zeno about this. There’s more business for psychiatrists these days; Zeno was stoic about most matters.

Of course, it is true that the political class anywhere is not in the least interested in learning any lessons from the past, or in broadening its collective grasp of the fact that there’s rather more to life than place and (in some instances, in the imperfect democracies) re-election. It was also the anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth this week. He was a theorist who, like so many, found that robber barons in disguise suborned his ideas and swiftly turned them to their own murderous advantage. There has never been a Marxist state. There have been plenty which styled themselves communist and weren’t.

A quotation from Das Kapital comes to mind. It’s one of my favourites and it is apposite for the times whichever side of the faux political divide it is that you sit on: “Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the labourer, unless under compulsion from society.”

This weekend, the French will choose a new president, from a final field of two, one of whom is a banker-bureaucrat and self-assessed socialist and the other a rabid right-wing nationalist. Next month there’s an election in Britain in which the government that was formerly pro-EU but after the narrow (chiefly English) Brexit putsch in last year’s referendum now wants to give it the proper finger (and bugger vision and any chance of European leadership).

In America, the Trump regime, while continuing to claim leadership of the free world (whatever that is) carries on with its preferred business of the day: to destroy the country’s social infrastructure, to pick needless arguments with filthy foreigners, and to deflect reasonable questions about how it actually got into office. There’s more, in other places, of course, but we shouldn’t go on. It’s too tedious.

It’s as well not to ask life if it could get any worse. Tempting fate is a bad idea. And it seems pointless complaining after you’ve put the question that it was rhetorical and not a request.

Have a lovely weekend.

Wine for Two

FROM time to time we get along to the Friday afternoon party that the Legian Beach Hotel puts on for returning guests. It’s not that we are in that class of patron; it’s that general manager Arief Billah and his fine hotel are supporters of the Bali Animal Welfare Association, the leading non-profit charity here that fosters the interests of the island’s deprived dogs. It’s a cause that we wholeheartedly support.

The event yesterday was fun, as they always are, and one day The Diary will manage to pick up the steps required to perform the poco poco, an Indonesian dance that you could easily be excused for thinking was Portuguese. Think line dancing without the cowboy hats and the yee-hahs.

It was wine for two in our case yesterday because some special friends from the Netherlands, who come here every year and do things to benefit the doggies, have returned home after their holiday. We thought we should go along and drink their wine for them.

They were home in time for the Netherlands’ 1945 liberation day anniversary on May 5.

Not Helpful

WE are cleaning house ourselves, possibly temporarily, though that is moot. The Cage is not a palace, far from it in fact, for reasons both of penury and politics. Gross excess is not our bag. But we’ve lost our pembantu (house cleaner) which, if this were the first such instance might be defined as merely unfortunate. Sadly it is not the first, so as Oscar Wilde might observe, it begins to look rather more like a habit.

The problem is one that is often mumbled about here. Home help is at the lower end of the employment scale, naturally, and we recognise this and do not make demands on staff – such as others we know do – that would sit uneasily on our collective conscience.

The rule here is minimum effort. Your cleaner, without constant attention, will flick at the dust with a little feather-duster and move it around, preferably into darker corners where, apparently, employers are not supposed to look. She comes late and, unless apprehended, leaves early. Reasons not to be at work tomorrow are advised at the last moment. Most of these reasons appear on the Balinese calendar of feast days and, with a little forethought, might well be mentioned earlier. We understand that things are done differently here. We’re happy with that, for many reasons. Among them are the very reasons we choose to live here most of the time instead of in Australia, where the authorities insist that you comply with their ridiculous regulations.

But in the employment area, the principle of mutuality seems to be missing. We are apparently privileged to be in a position where we give our cleaner money and she skives off, and then gets antsy when this demerit is mentioned. And eventually buggers off, three days before pay day, with no notice, and the house keys dropped on the coffee table as you are quietly contemplating the wonders of the universe. The concept of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face is widely held, here, to be just the thing.

HectorR

Hector writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser. The latest appears in the current edition (Apr. 26). The next will appear on May 24.

 

Bali Daze

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

in the Bali Advertiser

Wednesday, Apr. 26, 2017

THEY do things differently there. That used to be something people said of the past, as in its being a foreign country. In the tried and true practice of Bali, however, doing things differently is something those who rule the island prefer to do in the present. The past is historic and mythical. The future hasn’t yet arrived and is therefore notional and can take care of itself.

Those among with long memories (that is, more than the preceding 12 months) will recall earlier schemes where attachment to reality somehow failed to find its way into the master plan. The round-island railway comes to mind. There are others, but we won’t go on. It is proposed to construct an offshore airport near Singaraja on the north coast, where the submerged landform goes gazompa in a steeply downward direction as soon as the narrow coral fringe of coastal water ends. The scheme got another airing recently. We’d love to see the engineering plans (not the pretty public relations guff; that’s useless).

As usual, the timeframe for development is hysterical. And we’ll ignore the economics, since everyone else is. But these are of no moment. This is Bali. What might be of interest are two elements of the engineering required for the offshore airport and its onshore supporting infrastructure – including the lengthy Jasa Marga toll road proposed to link the south and the north through geologically unstable landforms and forests of unalienable adat ownership.

The runways, taxiways and standing areas for big aircraft require thousands of tonnes of concrete of a thickness that would mystify most Indonesian civil engineers. Keeping that afloat would be a challenge. And then there’s the question of how to engineer the thing to avoid its destruction by a standard-risk 10-metre tsunami.

Way to Go

THE innovative Program Dharma animal health project being run by Udayana University  with support from the international organisation IFAW and locally the Bali Animal Welfare Association is showing great results, which deserve notice. A pilot program in 28 banjars in Sanur (Denpasar) has reduced the rabies threat there to an observed zero incidence, supported community engagement that’s a great model for the government to follow and implement island wide, and improved health in the local dog population.

All of this has been done without unnecessary killing of street and beach dogs, whose right to exist – and to coexist with the human population – is unquestionable, or should be. By keeping itinerant dogs healthy, including by vaccinating them against rabies so that the protective screen against the disease remains effective, and getting banjars (local precincts) involved in caring for them, an integral part of Bali’s heritage can be preserved. There are signs that the authorities at provincial and regency level are at last recognising this.

There’s no shortage of assistance available from foreign sources, including financially. An equally innovative Japanese program, from Kumamoto in Kyushu, is in place. Kumamoto eliminated rabies in cats – the disease vector there – by focused effort and effective administration.

Go Divas!

170426 SYDNEY DIVAS

From left: Sydney Divas committee members Sharon Kelly, Christina Iskandar, Maria Antico, Jackie Brown and Amanda Molyneux at the Apr. 1 event.

CHRISTINA Iskandar, Sydney wife-mother-grandmother and former Bali fixture, isn’t someone to let the grass grow under her feet. The first-ever Sydney Divas charity lunch, on Apr. 1 at the Royal Motor Yacht Club, Point Piper, which we can safely say wouldn’t have happened without her, raised a very substantial sum for the Bali Children Foundation. The money is sufficient to help the children of an entire village, an outcome that is truly wonderful news. We wish we could have been there for the inaugural event, but Sydney is already in our travel plans for a little later this year – 2017 is a big year for really important birthdays – and dollar-deprived diarists are compelled to budget.

Iskandar’s now internationalised Divas, who started the money-raising round here in Bali a while ago – and whose local lunchtime affrays are always worth attending for their ambience and to check for fashion foibles – have given new meaning to charitable enterprise in Bali. The Australian connection was always there, but now Iskandar’s back in her old hometown, it’s stronger than ever.

There are many worthwhile charity causes here, but the Bali Children Foundation, run by Margaret Barry, is right at the centre of the discretionary dollar target.

A Gold Coast Divas charity lunch is to be held on May 26. It’s at Edgewater Dining, a tapas bar and restaurant on the Isle of Capri in the Nerang River, one of The Diary’s long-established stamping grounds.

Soft Cells

THERE is, as the old saying puts it, one born every minute. Apparently quite a few of them then visit Bali for holidays. We instance, in this case, a gentleman from Australia who complained to police that he had been unkindly robbed in a Kuta alley by a lady boy who had offered him a one-minute massage in that informal salon.

We have no view on the sexuality of others, or of their morals, provided they involve only consensual activity and harm no one. It has long been our belief that people are people, and that their peccadilloes are best left to their own decision. For example, the fact that American Vice-President Mike Pence might perhaps feel sexually uncomfortable if he was alone in a dining room with one of Betty Crocker’s fine confections, gives us nary a frisson of fear – as long as he’s never let anywhere near anything that actually matters.

Similarly, if idiotic tourists want to get drunk and imagine that they’re going to find nirvana in an alley way with a lady who owns an Adam’s apple, that’s their own affair. The “lady” in question shouldn’t steal the poor sap’s wallet, of course; and, despite the best efforts of the nightclub circuit here, exposing yourself in public is still frowned upon. But, well, whatever.

Changing Times

LIPPO Group’s takeover of BIMC is now complete, following the 2013 sale of the Nusa Dua and Kuta facilities by BIMC’s Australian principal Craig Beveridge (for Rp208 billion, around US$23 million at current exchange rates). In a rebranding this week (Apr. 26), the flagship facility at Nusa Dua becomes BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua. It’s formally a brand merger, but it also redirects the hospital’s operations towards local people – a positive direction to be warmly welcomed – while keeping a focus on tourist and foreign resident health care.

The hospital, which opened in 2012, has Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International (ACHSI) recognition. In March this year it added crucial Indonesian accreditation from KARS (the national hospital accreditation committee).

BIMC Director I A Made Ratih Komala Dewi, a medical doctor, says of the changes: “Now is the time for BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua to begin providing affordable, quality healthcare to the local market – essentially all of Bali’s communities now have greater access to all hospitals in the group including this fine facility.”

She adds that the merger will generate a positive market reaction once awareness and trust are built. “We are expecting a 40 per cent conversion rate of total patients from local communities. To support the awareness of the brand merger, BIMC Siloam will open a local polyclinic in Badung regency with more affordable prices without compromising healthcare quality.”

BIMC marketing manager Windarini Fransiska says: “We believe the rebrand isn’t just a logo, it’s an experience and one that’s shaped by every doctor, nurse, and associate who delivers it and with this all our stakeholders are on board.”

The BIMC Siloam polyclinic will accept patients (KTP, KITAS holders and those with local insurance) from Monday to Saturday. Specialists practising in the BIMC polyclinic include internal medicine specialists, ENT specialists, paediatricians, dentists, anaesthesiologists, obstetricians and gynaecologists, cardiologists, neurologists, general and orthopaedic surgeons, and surgical oncologists.

BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua is holding an open house on Apr. 28-29 and May 5-6 so the public can see its facilities and inquire about its services.

For Your Diaries

RAMADHAN, the Islamic month of fasting, starts on May 26 this year (at sunset) and runs to Jun. 24.

HectorR

Hector’s Bali Advertiser diary is published monthly. The next will appear on May 24. He writes a blog diary as well, between times.

Capital Capers

HECTOR’S DIARY

His diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

The Cage, Bali

Apr. 22, 2017

 

IT’S a shame that Basuki Tjahaya Purnama (Ahok) lost Wednesday’s ballot for mayor of Jakarta. He has shown a commitment to civic service that’s rare anywhere, but rarer still in Indonesia, where winning office is so often a licence to snooze between fulminations. It’s even more of a shame that he was defeated with the rowdy assistance of the zealots of the Islamic Defenders Front, the FPI, and under the shadow of an inventive blasphemy charge that had still to be adjudicated in court.

But it is only Jakarta, the mayor is only the governor of the capital city province, and the world as Indonesia knows it won’t end because General Prabowo Subianto’s good friend will be in office in that municipality from October. Neither, fundamentally, does it matter that Ahok is a Christian and his successful opponent is Muslim. He won the vote in the ballot office in the Jakarta district where the FPI has its headquarters. He can get a smile, and take heart, from that, as can we all. Most Indonesians are Muslim. Most would most like their leaders just to get on with their day jobs and go to mosque on Friday like they all do.

So it’s a time for cool heads rather than screaming and shouting and running around the burning deck. The deck isn’t burning, for one thing. The new mayor may think that he has won some national role, but the citizens of his shambles of a city will mark him (once he takes office and has to actually deliver anything) on far more prosaic matters. Service delivery, infrastructure improvement, and other measures of local governance have very little to do with Indonesia Raya, ex-general Prabowo’s favourite tin drum; or with fundamental interpretations of Islam, the FPI’s fixation.

Ahok won’t go to jail for his non-offence in quoting from the Qur’an in a political context. The charge has achieved its objective: he lost the election. The boys with the beards and the bother boots didn’t want a Christian in charge.

It’s not Armageddon, but it is, as many have said, a sorry day for Indonesian democracy. Two steps back after one stumble forward isn’t progress.

Wake Up, Little Susi

THERE’S a lovely pop song from the 1950s that sprang to mind this week, when maritime minister Susi Pujiastuti told the Japanese that Southeast Asia’s leading economic power needed the borrow their superseded maritime radar systems on a permanent, non-returnable basis. The key lines go like this:

Wake up little Susie, Wake up

Wake up little Susie, Wake up 

We’ve both been sound asleep

Wake up little Suzie and weep

The movie’s over it’s four o’clock 

and we’re in trouble deep

There’s no doubt at all that Minister Susi is right when she notes that Indonesia needs maritime radar to properly administer and keep the waterways of the archipelagic nation safe. But she needs to wake up (so do a lot of other people). There are many things that are beyond the sensible financial scope of Indonesia’s central government. Expensively unnecessary military hardware falls into that category, along with other toys, and a lot of brown envelopes. Maritime safety does not. It is a question of priorities.

The somnolently boring mendicant movie is indeed over. It’s late, but it’s still not too late for Indonesia’s government to wake up and work it out.

Bless You

WE saw a note the other day from a Facebook friend who had just commenced a camping trip in the New Mexico high country, along the lovely upper reaches of the Rio Grande, and posted a photo to show it. It looked beautiful. It would be great to tramp through that area, and we sent along a cheery greeting and an inquiry as to whether the party had plenty of DEET.

Something must have gone missing in the translation. By return post we were informed that pollen wasn’t a problem this early in the season. That was good to know. But it was sneezes of a different sort that had concerned us. DEET is a very effective anti-flea agent in insect repellents. New Mexico – like Arizona next door, where they even have bumper stickers proclaiming “The Land of the Flea and the Home of the Plague”, plus Colorado and California – is the most affected part of the western USA where, as the health leaflets put it, plague occurs naturally. Every year.

It probably got to the New World with the flea-ridden Spanish conquistadors from plague-ridden Europe centuries ago, though most plague ships of that era were Mary Celestes in the making, but officially it arrived during the 1898-1910 pandemic, the gift that Burma gave to the 20th century.

Fleas on prairie dogs (burrowing rodents) are its chief host. But dogs and cats can get it, along with bears, squirrels, rabbits, and sundry other creatures, including people; and other ground dwelling rodents are natural carriers. But perhaps Taos County is too elevated for prairie dogs. Plague is generally a summer disease. There were four human cases in New Mexico last year.

HectorR

Hector writes a diary in the Bali Advertiser. The next appears on Apr. 26.

Property Bloom

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

The Cage, Bali

Apr. 8, 2017

OK, so in Bali a property boom that will surely be unregulated – if it eventuates anywhere beyond the hype files of realtors – has about as much of a helpful impact as an algal bloom in fragile coral-fringed ocean waters, but we’ll try to be positive. Changes to Indonesia’s property laws that give foreign buyers leasehold rights for 80 years and access to local bank finance are good. They’re fair, for a start, and take account of the market that exists for such deals.

It’s true that Bali’s property market is unlike any other in the country – even Jakarta’s, where it’s underpinned by solidly productive industrial and commercial investment and a growing real economy – but at the same time, practically speaking, there’d be no property boom in Bali were it not for tourism, on which the investment sector of the economy is irrevocably based. So it also makes sense, of a sort, to facilitate private domestic and foreign investment in that job-creating area, as long as this doesn’t squeeze any more myopic local greed out of the souring Balinese lemon. That’s a long-shot option, of course.

Invitations to hop aboard the latest bus to paradise are popping up everywhere. One reached us the other day from Bali & World News and Views, an online thing that is run by Lawrence Bellefontaine, of PT. Bali. He has organised two free seminars in Sanur on Apr. 13 and Apr. 15 at which, he says, he will reveal the wealth to come to anyone who invests in what passes here for bricks and mortar.

There are certain fundamentals in the Bali property market that realtors of all stripes seek to explain away, if they cannot hide them. There’s been, so it is said, a “correction” in the market lately. Real estate is subject to the same range of cyclical factors as any other economic sector, so on the face of it that’s a fair statement.

It overlooks an essential point, however: that markets only work – indeed can only operate – when sellers meet buyers’ expectations. There’s a great deal of property in Bali that has been on the market for a very long time, because sellers put prices on their property that are more than buyers will pay. That’s the correction we need to have. This concept doesn’t suit sellers, of course, but that’s the way the crumbling cookie has always turned to dust.

It doesn’t suit realtors, either. They want to make a profit, and of course they should, for otherwise there’s very little point in being in business. But they’re increasingly unlikely to do so, except at the opportunistic margins, in the unregulated building environment here. A prime villa with sea views – just for example – becomes sub-prime the moment someone builds out that view. That they’re more than likely to do this very soon and compound their offence by building on your wall as well, ignoring regulated requirements for space between properties, makes it worse.

The key to proper property and development management is fair regulation that is enforced. Neither of these factors is present in Bali.

Gut Feeling

FACEBOOK’S capacity for instantly advising you of where friends are and their circumstances of the moment is of course very useful. Some of those old enough to remember the days when if you sailed away from the homeland you were never heard from again are still trying to come to grips with the fact that, these days, there’s nowhere to hide.

A note posted by one of our more peripatetic pals the other day reminded us of this modern benefit. “Breakfast in Bangkok”, his Facebook proclaimed. At the time, we hadn’t had the second morning cup of coffee before which persons possessing natural caution do not approach us. “As long as it’s not dinner in Dhaka, you should be right,” we replied.

Lala Land

IT’S not just this side of the Arafura Sea that you find bureaucratic nonsense under foot wherever you turn. A friend who has recently moved back to Australia from Bali relates a sorry tale of Aussie-style bureaucracy run amok. Having heard the tale in all its risible detail, we shall never again complain about Indonesian rules. Well, OK, we might, but you know what we mean.

Apparently, if you’re applying for a driver’s licence there, and not just renewing one, you must now provide details of your first Australian licence. It’s not clear why that should be the case. Surely the last valid licence would be sufficient.

Difficulties arise, in the Australian way, because state authorities issue driver’s licences and databases do not necessarily match and may in fact not be accurate.

It certainly prompts the thought that even if you are away from Australia for an extended period of time, you should try to renew your driver’s licence on expiry. If you have an address in Australia, that’s simple enough, though of course you need to be there to renew.

On a related matter, new banking rules in Australia mean that even as a long-established customer with a local address, a registered signature, and all the other bumf that you need on file these days, including a tax file number, you cannot now establish, say, a new term deposit (or even add to one) without fronting up at the bank to sign in person.

No doubt the fat controllers fear that retired folk on reduced incomes trying to scratch an extra measly sou out of catatonic depositor interest rates are actually undercover agents of the global money laundering conspiracy.

Barker Beach

We spent a pleasant hour or so the other day at Karang Beach in Sanur, where locals and foreigners alike look after the beach dogs as if they are family. It was lovely to see. They’re friendly beings (the dogs we mean; the people are nice too) and appreciate the food and contact they get. Most are still statistically underweight and have health problems, but they’re better than many, and that’s fabulous.

Sanur benefits from a strong sense of community and the extensive canine health programs that local banjars have embraced. Among other things it has eliminated rabies as threat in the area. They’ve done this via efforts by local and overseas not-for-profit animal welfare agencies, and an innovative project that Udayana University is running as a result. It’s good to see.

Just Joshing

ALL Fools’ Day has now passed again for the year. We decided not to post a diary on Apr. 1 because of this factor, even though, by many marks, it’s always all-fools’ day around here, as well as around the globe.

The origins of April Fools are obscure, but whether it stems from confusion in 16th century France over the new Gregorian calendar which moved New Year’s Day to Jan. 1, from ancient Roman and Greek spring rites, or even from Holi, the Indian Hindu festival, it’s a day to believe even less than ever of what you might read and see.

HectorR

Hector writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser. The next appears on Apr. 26.

PLN’s Best Day

HECTOR’S DIARY

in the Bali Advertiser

HectorR

Wednesday, Mar. 29, 2017

 

IT was Nyepi yesterday (Mar. 28): Bali’s Silent Day. It is celebrated on the first new moon in March – at the same time as Indian Hindus mark their festival of Ugadi – and ushers in the Balinese New Year. It was then 1939 when we were again lawfully allowed to pop the kettle on to make a nice cuppa.

On Nyepi day, as is now well known even by challenged Australian tourists and most Chinese whose package tour operators failed to remind them that they’d be confined to barracks, very little happens in Bali.

The streets are deserted, except for Pecalang patrols checking to see that everyone’s indoors being quiet and contemplating no one’s navel except their own, and any emergency vehicle that’s been let out on duty with an authorised blue flashing light. So the road system copes quite well. Electricity use plummets by 40 per cent, which means PLN can meet demand, also a novel one-day-a-year arrangement.

The airport remains officially operational. It must, as an international airport, so it can function as a landing place for aircraft in distress. Otherwise, only transit flights are permitted over Nyepi and these are not allowed to embark or disembark passengers. Maritime navigation lights also remain on, including for ships at anchor, as international maritime law requires. So anyone with a sea view can find amusement by spotting riding lights and harbour beacons. Designated tourist hotels can keep minimal lighting on for guest safety. Otherwise, clouds permitting, it’s a starry, starry night. Which is lovely.

At The Cage, we keep things quiet. No noise is allowed to escape our perimeter. No light is either. That’s our mark of respect to local regulations and the honoured and honourable requirements of Balinese Hinduism. We’ve lived here for 12 years, but we are still guests in someone else’s homeland, and guests should respect their hosts by behaving themselves.

Religion, though, is not for us: we don’t even observe the strictures of the one that we are forced by Indonesian law to nominate as ours. Years ago we cut to the chase and gave up Lent for Lent. It’s Lent (the 40-day Christian pre-Easter fast) at the moment, just by the way.

These days we stay home for Nyepi. We’ve given up going away, or checking into some tourist accommodation where unruly children and their indifferent parents ruin your day.

Some years ago we booked for Nyepi at a favourite spot (it’s in Candi Dasa) and took our usual room overlooking the pool. We and the other guests were chivvied out of the restaurant by 7.30pm and sent to our rooms where the doors had to be closed and the curtains drawn tightly across the windows lest light or sounds of muted merriment be evident. We sat in the dark on our terrace and were amused by the staff, of which numbers soon turned up at the darkened pool with all the pool toys. They had a rare old time.

Miscreants and Others

BALI’S courts seem to have been processing job lots of foreigners lately, for the usual run-of-the-mill offences like drugs (“I didn’t know it was illegal”) and killing people. We sympathise with the judiciary, which has a tough enough job dealing with Indonesian-speaking criminals without having to cope with idiot visitors who can’t understand what’s being said, or the procedural practices of Indonesian law and the courts, and who probably shouldn’t have been allowed on the planes that brought them here in the first place. Such is life, in the age of mass tourism.

It’s true of course, if you believe the inmates that is, that jails everywhere are full of innocent people. The scope and range of implausible excuses is infinite. Criminal law is an interesting area, but we couldn’t take it. Our fuse is not long enough.

That’s why we took up scribbling for a living (though the living bit is moot these days). As so many assume is their right to tell you, it’s easy to fulminate. You just need an outwardly imperturbable nature and a thick skin. Though to do so sensibly, in the hope of encouraging objective thinking, in yourself or in others, you must be broadly informed. Sadly, Google long ago declared this practice archaic. These days you just cherry pick by cut-and-paste to reinforce only what you want to believe.

In the specific instance of the thrill of the moment, the trials of Briton David Taylor and Australian Sara Connor for the killing of a policeman on Kuta Beach on Aug. 17 last year, it’s appropriate to note that the sentences plainly reflect a very full judicial assessment of all the circumstances.

Taylor, a DJ whose performance name and apparently preferred lifestyle is Nutso but who sensibly shed his dreadlocks and his attitude for his trial, has accepted his six-year sentence. Connor, a mother of two (which some non-Indonesians seem to believe should mediate sentencing policy) was at last report considering counsel’s advice that she should appeal. She got four years. Our advice would be to cop that sweet.

Traditional Dress

SOME people are said to think that Governor Pastika went a bit over the top in his choice of attire when he said cheerio to King Salman of Saudi Arabia at the end of his extended stay. The Governor wore traditional Balinese dress. King Salman wore traditional Saudi dress.

They could have swapped, perhaps, just for the heck of it and the photo opportunities. But the Governor is Balinese. Why shouldn’t he turn out in full ceremonial rig for a ceremonial occasion? Bali’s unique culture deserves protection – and promotion. King Salman seems perfectly content with the notion that Bali is not part of Arabia Felix. Apparently he has the same opinion about the rest of Indonesia. This will disappoint only very few people.

Multilingual Cats

WE spent a lovely weekend recently as house guests at a villa in the Ubud area, an establishment where the two resident cats – kittens, really, and rescue animals at that – are showing remarkable linguistic aptitude. The household is French-speaking. The help is Indonesian. The visitors in this instance were from the Anglo side of the resident foreigner community.

We took along a couple of toys for the cats to play with. They seemed to enjoy them. One of them even went as far as to purr in our presence, a very high honour. But what impressed us most was that they seemed to be equally at home all three languages, as well as being completely fluent, as you’d expect, in their own Meow.

We tried our French on one of them, a lovely little ginger fellow whose name – surprise – is Ginger. In French, that’s “Jzhonzh-air”. He is the one who had purred at us. We think we got a meow in response. But it could have been a meh. Such a put-down! French vowels have so often brought us undone. We were in Paris once and were trying to find the Louvre, and got sent to the pissoir instead.

Ah, Yes, that Rabies Thing

IT won’t go away. It won’t, at least, until Bali’s authorities find some way to get really serious about it, and apply to the reduction and eventual elimination of rabies the established rules and practices that work everywhere else. The island’s new compact with the Japanese city of Kumamotu might help there. It is designed to put in place a controlled and properly administered program of the same sort that was commenced here in 2009, was then handed over to the local authorities, and then fell in a heap.

We know from reports in the local media that rabies-positive dogs have recently bitten people in the Bangli, Tabanan and Jembrana regencies. As usual, there was the absence of ready access to vaccine to cope with. That really is something the health authorities need to get on top of right now. Rabies is a zoonotic disease (human infections are from animal vectors) in the same way as plague is, for example. It is also 100 per cent fatal, unlike plague. But prevalence of zoonotic disease in close proximity to human populations indicates an absence of effort to eradicate it, including by spending the money required to do so. This is not something any local government should permit.

Rabies has been known to be present in Bali since 2008. It is unsafe to assume that any area of the island is free of it. We should remember that it started on the Bukit, not far from that popular draw-card, the GWK cultural park, and will certainly still be present there. It does seem, anecdotally, that infection levels in dogs are now at relatively low levels. That’s a benefit.

But all it takes is one dog. Someone who drives around in a plush government supplied SUV should have a real think about that.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in the Bali Advertiser appears in every second issue. Follow 8degreesoflatitude.com for more up to the minute material.

 

Lights Out!

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Bali, Saturday, Mar. 25, 2017

IT’S Nyepi on Tuesday, Bali’s Silent Day. It is celebrated on the first new moon in March, which this year is on Mar. 28, at the same time as Indian Hindus mark their festival of Ugadi. It ushers in the Balinese New Year, so that when we wake up on Mar. 29 from our dark night and can lawfully again pop the kettle on to make a nice cuppa, it will be 1939.

On Nyepi day, as is these days well known even by challenged Australian tourists and most of the Chinese whose package tour operators may or may not have reminded them that they’d be confined to barracks, very little happens in Bali.

The streets are deserted. Only Pecalang patrols are allowed out, to check that everyone is indoors and being quiet, and that no one is contemplating any navel except for their own. Nooky, or even thoughts of same, is prohibited. Also exempt from sanctions against disturbing the peace is any emergency vehicle that has to respond to something, has been authorised to do so, and may therefore beetle about with its blue flashing lights. Bali’s road system therefore copes quite well over Nyepi. Electricity use usually falls by 40 per cent, which means PLN can meet demand. This is also a novel one-day-a-year arrangement.

The airport remains officially operational. It must, as an international airport, so that it can function as a landing place for any aircraft in distress. Otherwise, only transit flights are permitted over Nyepi and these are not allowed to embark or disembark passengers. Maritime navigation lights also remain on, including for ships at anchor, as international maritime law requires. So anyone with a sea view can find amusement by spotting riding lights and harbour beacons. Designated tourist hotels can keep minimal lighting on for guest safety. Otherwise, clouds permitting, it’s a starry, starry night. Which is lovely.

At The Cage, our custom is to keep things quiet. No noise is allowed to escape our perimeter. No light is either. That’s our mark of respect to local regulations and the honoured and honourable requirements of Balinese Hinduism. We’ve lived here for 12 years, but we’re still guests in someone else’s homeland, and guests should always respect their hosts by behaving themselves.

Religion, though, is not for us: we don’t even observe the strictures of the one that we are forced by Indonesian law to nominate as ours. Years ago we cut to the chase and gave up Lent for Lent. It’s Lent (the 40-day Christian pre-Easter fast) at the moment, just by the way.

These days we stay home for Nyepi. We’ve given up going away, or checking into some tourist accommodation where unruly children and their indifferent or plainly dysfunctional parents can so easily ruin your day.

Some years ago we booked for Nyepi at a favourite spot (it’s in Candi Dasa) and took our usual room overlooking the pool. We and the other guests were chivvied out of the restaurant by 7.30pm and sent to our rooms where the doors had to be closed and the curtains drawn tightly across the windows lest light or sounds of muted merriment be evident. We sat in the dark on our terrace and were amused by the staff, of which numbers soon turned up at the darkened pool with all the pool toys. They had a rare old time.

Gaijin Light

AS a rule, the Japan Times is a good newspaper to read. It provides an easy window into some of the deeper meanings of the country it reflects in print. This is very useful for regional readers. It’s in English, which helps if the mysteries of the Japanese language, its historic character script, or even its modern Roman script transliteration, are beyond you, as they are for us. We can say hello and goodbye, and thank you, and ask for a beer. This covers the chief essentials, even during Sakura, the annual cherry blossom festival in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Sometimes, however, the Japan Times allows its liberal gaijin predilections to show. That’s fair enough, but analysing politics is difficult anywhere and especially so in opaque Japan.

Fortunately, we have an immensely valuable sounding board in someone of our long acquaintance whose immersion in things Japanese, including the language and therefore its deeper national nuances, is historic and very sound. It was to him we turned when we read an opinion piece the other day that attempted to draw link-lines through a contrived dot-pattern: between rising nationalism, private efforts to reintroduce the concept of Japan Redux into the education system, and politicised invitations to enmesh Prime Minister Abe and his wife into the murkier elements of supposed recidivism. It also reinforced the view of some foreign observers that Osaka, the venue of the matters under discussion, is a beacon of liberalism rather than Japan’s singularly self-interested business centre.

There is another view, to which (for context) The Diary adheres. This is that it is well past time Japan changed its post-war, foreign-imposed pacifist constitution and allowed itself to legislate and fund effective defence and other security policies, and that in the new global security situation it should do so sooner rather than later. Such moves make sense seven decades after the end of the Pacific War in an environment in which Japan is a democracy that is fully integrated into the global economy.

The modern Japanese monarchy is constitutional. The domestic political apparatus is far less likely to fall into the hands of autocrats than are those of neighbouring – or even distant – powers. And the Americans should be encouraged to retreat in good order, rather than by tweet, from the post-1945 global hegemony they assumed by default and have since invidiously enshrined as their national ethos.

It should be clear even to them that it has not developed in a way that is completely beneficial to America or, in this instance, Japan, or to others whose foreign and defence policies rely on an American umbrella being unfurled without question whenever there’s the threat of inclement weather.

In the era of emergent Chinese hegemony, it is not only Japan that needs to make such adjustments.

Hey! Great Idea!

FROM our Giggles to Go file: The operators of Bali’s Jasa Marga Mandara Tol, the mangrove motorway over the shallows of Benoa Bay, have come up with a plan to bolster revenues in a way that will defray the shortfall in proposed vehicular toll income and allow to service their financial obligations.

They would like to offer their road, which allows traffic to get around the Kuta traffic bottleneck, as a place where people can take wedding photos or make videos of the same. Um, yes. What a lovely thought.

It’s just a tad impractical, though. Perhaps this factor hasn’t been fully thought through. This would not be a surprise. They did after all recently suggest that the 12-kilometre motorway would benefit from being equipped with a rest area at about the halfway point on the 15-minute (in the left lane at the legal 80kmh speed limit) run from Nusa Dua to the Sesetan intersection south of Sanur and vice versa.

You can do it quicker, of course, but you have to weave around the trucks and the tourist buses hogging the right line because none of the drivers seem able to read the signs that tell drivers to Lajur Kiri (keep left).

They’ve gone as far as working out a scale of fees for stopping the traffic: Rp.15 million (US$1,100) for a still photo opportunity and Rp.30 million ($2,200) for a video session. The problem is that annual toll revenues (Rp.142 billion, around US$10.6 million) are falling a little short of the Rp.160 billion ($12 million) a year the operators need to service their debts.

Hector writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser newspaper. The next appears on Mar. 29.