Something’s Missing

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Bali, Aug. 3, 2016

Young Australians and alcohol have a habit of not mixing very well. It’s a part of the national kaleidoscope that fractures the preferred public image of the land down under and reveals the reality of Australia today. It’s not only the blokes, though it seems to be mostly them, perhaps a tedious product of the testosterone to brain imbalance that marks certain kinds of young men everywhere. Young women on a blinder are an ugly sight as well.

It’s not just an Australian problem, though that’s the bit of it that’s most visible in Bali. It is a Western or Western-influenced phenomenon, fuelled by relative wealth – relatively, that is, against global means – and these societies’ inability or unwillingness to insist on individual common sense, or to instil a sense that obligation is the necessary obverse of entitlement. You don’t have to be a reactionary neo-con to press that point. Karl Marx puts it nicely.

Hedonism as such is valuable, since it reflects the fact that all life is not necessarily solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short in the Hobbesian sense. There’s nothing wrong with having fun. But you do need a functioning conscience and a degree of social awareness to enjoy yourself sensibly; and as we too frequently see, these attributes are often missing in those infantile idiots who come to notice.

We are all apt to be foolish at times, particularly when not fully formed. There’s a week in London in 1965, for example, that your diarist simply has never been able to remember, though it certainly didn’t involve brawling on a plane. But even unremembered, it is a continuing once-only lesson. It’s better not to be a bloody idiot.

There was an altercation on a Jetstar flight from Australia to Phuket in Thailand recently. It was one of such blind stupidity that the aircraft captain felt compelled to divert his flight to Bali, where the miscreants were offloaded and handed over to the authorities.

One of this dopey collective later told his friends on Facebook of the events, in a way that clearly showed he hadn’t learned a thing from the booze-fuelled affray, which even if not a participant he had failed to stop. He possibly doesn’t know what contrition is and probably couldn’t spell the word anyway. It was a lol, he said, that they’d been taken off the plane at Ngurah Rai at gunpoint. Yair, mate, lots of laughs! Did your conscience prick you over the expense and inconvenience you caused? Nah; didn’t think so.

Come back and see Bali properly when you and your friends have grown up. That’s if you ever do.

Meowvellous

Villa Kitty at Lodtundah near Ubud is Rp35 million better off – essential funds needed to refurbish the premises – after a very successful benefit night on Jul. 21. That’s good news. Elizabeth Henzell at VK does a great job in a much-needed area of animal welfare. Villa Kitty is now just Rp10 million short of the total it needs to complete its refurbishment.

By all accounts it was a great night at Indus, the Janet DeNeefe eatery with the great view of the green spaces around Ubud. The night was marked by the first appearance in Ubud of chief VK benefactor Robert Elliot, who has been funding the NGO from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast since 2009. He got a loud collective purr for his presence.

Villa Kitty’s Facebook page has the full honours list from the night, but we’d like to especially mention Marta Valbuena, who not only donates a percentage of sales of her designer clothes – the girls say they’re fabulous – to Villa Kitty but is also frequently seen around Ubud on her motorbike on street feeding missions for needy dogs and cats. These days she rescues kittens as well as puppies.

Henzell has had extra volunteer support recently, which also bears mention as an example of people’s kindness. She tells us a young woman named Nancy appeared out of the blue one day and asked if she could help. She then spent three days doing just that. Henzell notes: “It was so much fun to have someone to chat to in my ‘office’.”

Regular VK supporter Lyn Dargan has made a new range of Villa Kitty T-shirts, by the way. They’re available at Villa Kitty.

SMILES

Above: One of the images in Michael Johnsey’s photographic exhibition at Odd, Canggu

Time Traveller

It used to be said that photographs never lie. This was never the case, of course; it was merely another example of the multitude of ways humans can find to fool themselves or others. The point at the time was that while words may be crafted to obscure truth, and frequently are, a photograph is as close to the actuality of something as it is possible to get.

Then along came Photoshop and other means of altering digital data. Two digits instantly went up to veracity. Don’t believe everything you read (or by extension see) on the Internet, as several funny memes claim Abraham Lincoln once advised. From this we must presume he did so only some time after his fatal meeting with the actor John Wilkes Booth at the Ford Theater in Washington on the night of Apr. 15, 1865. We must assume further, one supposes, that there is an afterlife in which the dearly departed actually bother about us at all. That is something that requires additional suspension of belief. But no matter: all that’s for many more millennia of debate; or, perhaps, the return of the prodigal souls.

On a more immediate and essentially temporal level, it is said that Bali is a place of vastly different parallel realities. This is certainly true. There is the “real Bali”, which tourists and enthusiasts are invited to explore among the peasants of the rice fields and woodlands. If in the party crowd in another “real Bali” – the party Bali – there are individuals who care, the ancient rites of Balinese Hinduism can still be experienced in the traditional villages and banjars of the overrun south.

There’s a third “real Bali”. That’s the real Bali of developers and their publicly employed facilitators, that acquisitive cabal whose privileged and protected members will bend any rule they can’t just ignore so that like Ozymandias they can put up things that the elements and deficient engineering will then destroy. Though in Bali this tends to take rather less time than monumental self-statuary in the Egyptian desert would consider anywhere near acceptable.

Happily, there are opportunities to escape from immediate reality, even if only temporarily, and to immerse oneself in the art and skill of photographers whose craft permits them to magically capture moments in time. There are many such moments in Bali and some of these have been depicted in the work of Bali-based British photographer Michael Johnsey.

He has an exhibition at Odd, a gallery in Canggu. It’s titled Moments, opened on Jul. 29, and runs through to Aug. 11. Johnsey says that photographs are not only images but also soulful. They capture the moment and invite reflection on all manner of things. The works are stunning. Do get along to the show if you can.

Best Practice

BIMC Hospital Nusa Dua, which in October 2014 won international accreditation from the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International, has just passed (with flying colours) its mandatory periodic review by the ACHSI. When it won initial endorsement two years ago it was one of only two hospitals in Southeast Asia to hold that status, and the only one in Indonesia.

In the latest review, done by the ACHS’s assessors, Dr Maria Strickland and Professor Marc Tennant, the hospital achieved “mastery” level from the initial survey. The review is an on-site analysis and survey aimed at maintaining the accreditation standards for continuous improvement in quality, safety and service. The ACHSI provides a range of accreditation services applying to the specific needs of each organization, using internationally recognized standards that are focused on key health care attributes.

The Australian Council on Healthcare Standards is recognized as the leading health care accreditation body in Australia and now provides an overseas quality healthcare accreditation program through ACHSI, which was established in 2005.

We Break a Rule

Back in the old, dim, distant days, when self-promotion was viewed as vulgar, journalists wrote about the news rather than insisting on being part of it, and editors’ names were hardly never known and, if they were, were almost never mentioned, an event such as this might never have occurred.

We make an additional appearance in the Aug. 3 edition of the Bali Advertiser, in the excellent Siapa column, where locally based persons judged to be of interest appear and answer questions about their life and times. It is Hector’s first such outing in half a century of scribbling. He generally prefers the quiet calm of The Cage and almost always insists on someone placing his nighty-night cloth over it when anything resembling limelight is judged an imminent risk.

HectorR Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly newspaper the Bali Advertiser

 

 

 

Ordure of the Day

Hector’s Bali Diary

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

May 25, 2016

News that Bali’s beaches are the repositories of sewage is hardly novel, and it’s not by any means confined to the Legian beachfront, where the latest discovery by those who should ensure it doesn’t happen has stirred up a noisome furore.

There is hardly a pristine beach or sea swimming area left in Bali or indeed beyond. They have all been colonized to some degree or other by rubbish of very questionable provenance, not to mention the plastic and other detritus that surfs along with the board riders and wraps itself around the limbs of people splashing around on the waterline.

A story reported in  the Indonesian language newspaper NusaBali, said that on May 9 open sewers from Jl. Padma in the heart of Legian were draining black liquid into the sea and giving the popular bathing beach a terrible stink.

When this news broke (reporters really should stick to just reprinting media releases from the proper authorities, shouldn’t they?) there was the usual scurry of activity. Everyone ran for cover or off to find the bit of paper that says, “My friend did it”.

Legian district chief I Made Madya Surya Natha conceded that the problem of untreated sewage flowing on to the beach was a long-standing issue. But then he said that while efforts had been made to build sewage holding areas, heavy rains had caused these to overflow. Ah! When your friend who might have done it cannot be found, blame it on the weather. It’s not at all unreasonable, after all, in a place where torrential tropical rain is known to occur on a regular basis, to fail to provide adequate storm drainage. It’s so much easier that way. You have to maintain infrastructure, or so the notional SOPs go, if you’ve bothered to build it in the first place.

He said he hoped the environmental agency (BLH) would investigate and provide a long-term solution. (See above re building and maintaining required infrastructure.)

Beach Follies

We were at Pantai Bengiat at Nusa Dua one recent Saturday – it’s our weekend office quite often and we like it because it’s operated by the local cooperative, which tries really hard to look after visitors – and had an opportunity to observe the new demographics of Bali tourism. Our sojourn was punctuated by loud Chinese frivolity. We think these particular Chinese were from Taiwan, on the basis of the women’s nearly daring choice of beach attire and the class of juvenile bonhomie exhibited by the males of the party.

Brazilians were also present, speaking their incomprehensible variant of Portuguese; as well as, we thought, some Romanians.

It was an eclectic crowd, though the crowd was hardly a crowd. There was a brisk onshore breeze, which may have put off some. We briefly ventured into the sea for a splash, trying unsuccessfully to avoid being snared by passing plastic rubbish.

Goodabaya

Surabaya is Indonesia’s second largest city. It is a place with a significant non-Muslim population, an industrial centre, and a city where foreign business people, many of them highly sought-after Chinese with money to burn, visit to develop enterprises.

The city authorities have decided to ban the production, sale and consumption of alcohol. Muslims are forbidden alcohol – it is haram – and that’s fair enough, though many seem to overlook this behavioural proscription. Drinking intoxicating liquor is not compulsory anywhere. You don’t have to drink, or for that matter get plastered when you do.

It is a policy decision of amazing dull-headedness. Neither Surabaya nor East Java is Aceh. And this isn’t the Seventh Century.

No way, José

That’s not his name, of course. It’s Rodrigo Duterte, who has just been elected president of the Philippines. He has promised to reintroduce the death penalty for a range of crimes including drugs, rape, murder and robbery. At his first press conference after winning election in landslide on May 9, he said he favoured hanging to a firing squad because he did not want to waste bullets, and because he believed snapping a spine with a noose was more humane. Last year he said that he would like to see public hangings.

There are those who would tell you that it is wrong to overlook the varied ethnic, cultural and social imperatives in other countries, or the implied electoral endorsement of a “landslide” election win, when criticizing their policies. As a general principle, that’s sound. It is invidious, however, when what is being proposed is a return to Late Neolithic policies.

The death penalty was abolished in the Philippines in 2006, during the presidency of Gloria Arroyo.

Well Done, Champ

Sweania Betzeba Delisa, Bali’s up and coming young triathlete who is sponsored by the Rotary eClub and Solemen, won the under-18 title in the first 2016 race series of the Rottnest Island Surferfest in Western Australia on May 14-15. Rotary eClub sponsored her WA visit just completed.

The event includes a long swim. The ocean water there is not tropically warm. In fact the Diary wouldn’t touch it without several thermal layers between it and absolutely anything that matters, or used to. So congratulations, Sweania, and welcome back to warm water. The second race in the Rottnest series is in November.

The Surferfest series, with events also held in Victoria, is said to be over triathlon courses that are the toughest in Australia.

Sweania’s Perth trip was not all work, though. After the business bit was done, it included some downtime in the city and a visit to the Perth Zoo where she met her first kangaroo. That’s always a treat for visitors to Australia.

Faith, Hope and Clarity

We heard a lovely little story from a friend in Brisbane the other day. She’d been doing reading groups at her daughter’s school that morning and had been sitting chatting with some of the students. They were talking about animals, the next writing job on their list.

As she reports, the conversation went like this:

Child 1: I like bears.

Child 2: Did you know Jesus can run at 70km per hour?

Me: 70km per hour? That’s very fast. Are you sure?

Child 1: They’re furry.

Child 2: Yes, Jesus can run at 70km an hour.

Me: Look I know he could probably run fast, but 70km/h?

Child 2: Yes!

Me: I’d believe 15km/h but not 70.

Child 3: Bob would know! He skipped year 1! He’s smart.

Me: I’ve got no doubt Bob would know, but Jesus could not run at 70km/h.

Child 2: CHEETAHS not Jesus.

Overloaded? No!

The report on the capsize of a Bali to Java ferry earlier this year that resulted in the deaths of four people says the boat was overloaded by more than double its payload limit.

This is not just yet another example of the cavalier approach to rules and regulations, or sensible cautions, which pepper the avoidable disaster calendar here every year. It is nothing short of criminal.

One’s passage through life might be subject to fate, or karma if you prefer. But Indonesia’s creakingly supine bureaucracy should at least look as if it’s trying to do its job. Any bets on when it might start applying itself to what it’s paid to do, other than shutting the stable doors after the horses have bolted?

Twelfth Man

We’re looking forward to our annual Ubud meeting with old friend Ross Fitzgerald, which this year will be on Jun. 13, the Queen’s Birthday holiday in much of Australia. It’s also the official opening of the skiing season in the Australian Alps, but we won’t go there. We’ll be chatting with Fitzgerald,  a Sydneysider these days but a Melbourne boy at heart, over coffee at an establishment that is screening the AFL match in which Collingwood, his team, is playing Melbourne at the MCG.

But that’s not the extra frisson. What will give the conversation a buzz is that Fitzgerald is lead candidate on the Senate ticket for NSW in the Jul. 2 national elections for the Australian Sex Party. This a political party, not one of those indecorous affrays that take place regularly in the Glitter and Gutter Strip favoured by Aussie tourists out for a good time, yair.

Fitzgerald is a professor of history, a four-decade-plus veteran of Alcoholics Anonymous about which he wrote a book, and latterly the author of fictional tales featuring erotic material.

The Australian Sex Party is not a single-issue outfit. It promotes a more liberal view of sexual policy than mainstream political parties do, and no doubt gives the rabid right a nasty turn now and then (good), but it also espouses sensible reforms in euthanasia, recreational drug use, refugee policy, and other things.

It’s a double dissolution election on Jul. 2 so all 12 Senate seats in each state are up for grabs. We’ve suggested to Fitzgerald that he could end up being Twelfth Man. They play cricket at the MCG too.

Oh Deer

Police have arrested a man in Jembrana for looking after deer. The animals had apparently wandered away from the national park nearby and decided they liked his garden. Instead of shooing them away, or worse, he decided to make them feel at home.

It would probably have been difficult for him to establish their regular address, after all.

Hector’s Diary appears, edited for newspaper publication, in the fortnightly Bali Advertiser.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Aug. 19, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Let’s Make a Mess of It

We do try very hard – really we do – to find little political or bureaucratic triumphs to lighten the load of otherwise observing serial dysfunction and give us something positive to write about that has emerged from government. But it’s hard. Since Australian beef imports were slashed – someone had heard the stirring beat of that nationalist drum again and had convinced himself that Indonesia Raya was self-sufficient in that variety of essential protein – local prices have shot up by 180 percent because (and we won’t even bother pausing for effect) supplies were now short. The government has said it will import 50,000 tons of Australian beef to meet the shortfall, or perhaps to fill in the gap in its mind.

We’ll move along to the next little upset apple cart. This is the invidious effect of steep rises in tariff charges on imported wine and spirits, which (to no one’s surprise except the sentient) have caused a conniption in the drinks industry – it’s worth rather more than a snip at US$300 million (Rp Something plus far too many zeroes) – especially coming on top of this year’s ban on beer sales through mini markets. From Jul. 23, importers have been paying 90 percent of import consignment value on wine and 150 percent on spirits. The industry says this will lead to retail price rises of between 15-100 percent. It fears, somewhat naturally, that this may have a negative impact on sales.

It is true of course that observant Muslims are forbidden alcohol – it is haram – and that premium wines and spirits are only ever so rarely found in your average Indonesian household whose occupants, if they have jobs, earn derisory wages that are flat out putting nasi bungkus on the meja. Cheap hooch is widely available and – as we have just seen again in Bali in a separate criminally stupid or criminal profiteering case – is highly likely to have been adulterated with methanol or other dangerous substances. Most Indonesians are unlikely to be affected by prohibition-style, speakeasy-level prices for imported drinks they will never consume.

But there is another aspect to the alcohol issue that should worry a great many people. It is that the drive to suppress consumption is coming from the hardline Islamist push in the legislature and the government. Consuming alcohol is not prohibited for many people who profess Indonesia’s other religious faiths. It is a commodity that the tourism sector must provide to meet the expectations of their markets. There are plenty of other places for tourists – or rich Indonesian elites – to go if they want a drink at a reasonable price with their holiday dinners, after all. This factor is critical to Bali, where tourism is the single most important economic driver. It’s quite clear that Islamic legislators in Jakarta – a world city in which alcohol fuels the metropolitan entertainment sector – have given little thought for the deeper ramifications of their campaign.

Drinking is not compulsory. It is elective behaviour of the sort that sensible, secular states permit (properly regulated) on the basis that people should be free to choose to indulge in lawful, pleasurable activities and ought to be facilitated in these pursuits. Too often when fanatics get into the act all sorts of things are proscribed because it is suspected that somewhere, someone might be having a good time.

Island Faces

There’s a lovely photographic exhibition at Lestari Art Space in J. Drupadi, Seminyak, called The Island’s Faces and featuring an eclectic range of local dials. The photographs are the work of Ayu Swarie. They have been acclaimed by many as emblematic of our island and won deserved applause from the crowd at the opening on Aug. 7.

The Diary could not be present on opening night because of a prior engagement (see below). But the exhibition runs through to mid-September and we’re not going to miss it. The works are for sale.

Beach Style

A good friend, filmmaker and photographer Adithio Noviello, and his bride Adita Dwi Putrianti chose a sunset beach setting for their wedding on Aug. 7. It was a lovely occasion, especially because it was a celebrated with Muslim rites in front of a gathering whose own religious beliefs encompassed Islam, Balinese Hindu, Buddhist, Judaism, Christianity of various sects, and a goodly component of those whose religious practice exists only as an entry on their ID cards. It seemed a delightful allegory of the real world, the one that exists away from Those Who Like to Bother You.

It’s always a pleasure to hear Arabic spoken or sung at religious occasions and, in the old days before loudspeakers took over from the solitary muezzin who intoned from the minaret, the call to prayer was a mellifluous affair. It’s also rather nice to hear Qur’anic Arabic that’s not being spoken or sung by a native speaker of the language. In that respect, it shares qualities with the Latin one used to hear in Christian churches: unintelligible to most and quaintly pronounced.

We said this, at the party at the Holiday Inn Baruna Bali at Tuban, to a fellow guest whose provenance is Jewish, and added that when such occasions bless the ear it is for us very much like listening to Hebrew. Shalom Aliechem.

Noviello recently produced a short film on the under-threat Bali Dog – it was launched at a function at the Mercure Bali in Sanur the week before his wedding – and auctioned the centerpiece work from his brilliant exhibition of still photographs in aid of BAWA, the Bali Animal Welfare Association. One of his other photographs now resides at The Cage, courtesy of the charge-card facility at the show.

From Vulcan’s Lair

Our favourite local blogger, Vyt Karazija, had a lovely take on Mt Raung’s lengthy effluence in nearby East Java that has lately caused distress to airports, airlines, and especially airline passengers who have no idea of the dangerous properties of volcanic dust except that it must be someone else’s fault. That episode had abated at the time of writing – though one should never wholly trust Vulcan not to return to bother us again shortly – but it gave all sorts of people an opportunity to fulminate.

Karazija fulminates quietly, in his own erudite way. He noted on his Facebook one day that his newly cleaned motorbike had acquired a dull sheen of dust – debu in the local parlance – and he became quite lyrical about this. He wrote that it was wondrous that minute particles of Inner Earth had been expelled by pyrotechnic flux and had floated free for the first time in four billion years, seeing the Sun and all the other wonders available above the crust. It was pleasing, he noted, that some of these microscopic and newly free entities had chosen to grace his motorbike.

This is sort of poetic prose that can bring a tear to eye of an old diarist, someone from the dark side who has seen the English language mangled by many for whom it is their native tongue and who unaccountably have been paid to write in that language. We did have a briefly lachrymose moment. But Karazija, while he is light with the virtual equivalent of a pen, is also a practical man. The rare dust that had blessed his bike, he finally decided, might actually be debu from the rampant construction and deconstruction, licensed or otherwise, that takes place round the clock in South Bali.

Then again, we ourselves mused, it could merely have been particulate-laden smog, that other constant in the atmosphere above the murdered landscape of Denpasar, Badung and parts of Gianyar and Tababan. We daily see that dreadful pall – beneficially, this is from a distance – from The Cage in our still mainly wooded and freshly aired bit of the Bukit.

See You in Sanur

The tenth Sanur Festival will be held from Aug. 26-30. Its theme is “Decade”, which is accurate at least, if not a natural crowd-puller of a slogan. Along with the usual mix of such events, including kite flying, a food festival, fun runs (on Aug.23), beach cleanups, turtle hatchling releases, a photographic competition and other entertainments, this year’s festival includes nightly showings of films from the 2015 Bali International Film Festival, which itself takes place from Sep. 24-30. For those more actively inclined there are Village cycling tours; and the Sanur Open golf tournament will be held at Bali Beach golf course on Aug. 29-30.

Sanur Festival chairman Ida Bagus Gede Sidharta Putra makes a good point. “If we do not have a flagship tourism activity, Bali tourism will stagnate and slowly it could be abandoned by tourists.”

Festival details are on the festival website.

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