The Sisyphus Factor

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

 

Bali, July 6, 2016

The retreat of the resources sector is apparently hitting the accommodation and pembantu sectors in Jakarta, as well as business generally. For a country such as Indonesia, just as for Australia, depressed demand and sinking prices for commodities hit hard. It can have escaped no one’s notice that at the moment the global economy is not quite what it could be.

Bali is less directly affected by global economic factors, except in tourism, since its main industry appears to be creating bureaucratic bumf and impenetrable thickets of regulations that are sometimes enforced and frequently overlooked in return for brown envelopes.

But it is these ever tighter and ever-changing regulations that are impacting on Bali. These affect Indonesians too. Everyone’s tearing out hair in frustration. Toupee makers and retailers could make a killing. That’s if they could acquire the right permits. On that point (and see below for more) a song comes to mind: “There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza…”

Perhaps the provincial government doesn’t care that new and unrealistic demands for possession of a KITAP (an expensive five-year permanent stay visa) for the most basic of expatriate needs, such as vehicle ownership, registration renewals, even a local driver’s licence, are beginning to annoy people, and are making numbers of them have difficulty justifying remaining in paradise; especially since it plainly isn’t. It’s more reminiscent of poor, mythical Sisyphus’s problem with that rock he was condemned forever to roll up a hill (and on which the existentialist Albert Camus forensically intoned in his 1942 philosophical essay).

There’s more, but as this is both a moveable and a continuing feast, there will be time to come back to further comedy later. In the meantime, since the property market is profoundly depressed – in part by unrealistic asking prices, another constant in Mittyland – and because the benefits of bothering to stay are reducing with depressing regularity, the pembantu sector here should also be getting concerned.

Housework is not only an entry-level job in the real economy, but also a lifeline for people with very little money at all. Some evidence that the provincial government understands the principle of attracting residents who will employ such people would be a boon.

Fools’ Rules

We heard a sorry tale the other day. Someone – an Indonesian; as we noted above it happens to them too and far more often than it does to expatriates who complain but have overlooked the fact that here the best policy for foreigners is laugh or leave – went to a government office to apply for permit X. The answer? “Sorry, you must have Letter Y from the police station first. New rules.”

At the police station, they said: “Sorry, you must bring permit X to us before we can issue Letter Y. New rules.” Apparently there was stalemate, as both offices refused to budge because it was not their problem.

Perhaps someone should tell Governor Pastika, who might then tell President Jokowi, that Indonesia is never going to be Raya, except in popular imagination and by political paean, until this sort of bureaucratic idiocy is eliminated.

Singing in the Rain

It’s been raining in Bali quite a lot recently. The comics among us have noted that this must be because it’s the dry season. But lest this inclemency lead to more apocalyptic pronouncements from ignorant scribblers writing in tabloids, virtual and real, in Australia, where anything to bash Bali is apparently regarded as de rigueur, we posted a little Facebook note on Jun. 27 for them, and others, to read.

It said this:

It is raining here in Bali, musim hujan style when it is supposed to be musim kering. This is not because the forest spirits are angry with us, or that Gaia has had to put on a thicker facemask when she’s belting around in the pollution on her scooter. It is, by the look of it, the effect of a strong La Niña swiftly superseding a particularly feisty El Niño. Google it.

Brexit Strategy

We can all sit here in Bali – if we can find an empty seat while Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya are having their annual holiday jamboree here over the post-Ramadhan Lebaran stand-down, or get through the traffic to where we’d like to plunk our posteriors – and say that Brexit is of peripheral interest only. And on one level, that’s certainly true. But the vote has shaken the post-war order, threatened the unity of the UK, undermined the EU as a visionary concept, and will have given the Putinists (or perhaps the Vladists) in the Kremlin ideas for all sorts of inventive mischief.

The referendum on leaving the European Community was apparently organized – though that hardly seems the right word – to engineer a Remain outcome. Instead the Leavers narrowly won, though not in Scotland or in London or in Northern Ireland. The unintended constitutional and economic consequences were not foreseen, and still can’t be fully discerned: it’s early days in what will surely become known as the Great British Cock-Up.

There’s a lot wrong with the EU. It is run by quarantined bureaucrats, not by elected legislators, and shouldn’t be. Globalization is everyone’s bête noir, though it too shouldn’t be. Instead, the world needs to limit corporate power. It has the political means to do this. It simply needs the will.

The British-Australian lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, writing in The Guardian after the Brexit vote, said this, which is worth pondering:

“Our democracy does not allow, much less require, decision-making by referendum. That role belongs to the representatives of the people and not to the people themselves. Democracy has never meant the tyranny of the simple majority, much less the tyranny of the mob (otherwise, we might still have capital punishment). Democracy entails an elected government, subject to certain checks and balances such as the common law and the courts, and an executive ultimately responsible to parliament, whose members are entitled to vote according to conscience and common sense.”

Among the chumps who came out shouting before thinking after the vote – we exclude the British prime minister, who quietly announced that he would resign, having finally worked out that his miscalculation was political suicide – was the Republican presumptive nominee for POTUS, Donald Trump. Arriving in Scotland the day after the Jun. 24 referendum that rocked the UK and may well trigger further political shocks, and apparently to open the latest of his hotel excrescences in the kingdom, Trump tweeted to the effect that he congratulated the Scots on voting to quit the EU.

Hopefully he is now better informed, though a cautious punter wouldn’t bet on that. But he should certainly now know a thing or two about Scottish humour. It is of the withering sort that would cause a toupee to combust at two hundred paces. The Scots probably invented humour. They needed it to go with the golf. Presumptive Candidate Trump immediately received a barrage of tweets in return. Try this: Scotland voted Remain, you tiny fingered, cheetah faced, ferret wearing shitgibbon. Ouch. There were others, even less kind.

Vin+ Indeed

It’s a trek to Seminyak, for those whose domestic quarters are sited on the breezy, cooler Bukit, but there are occasions when getting out on the Lemming Highway and playing dodgems for 90 minutes to travel 20 kilometres make the journey worthwhile.

So when our favourite Brazilian, Alexsander Martins Paim, general manager at Vin+, asked us along to a friendly four-course wine pairing dinner on Jun. 27 with cuisine by chef Arief Wicaksono, late of Métis, and wines by leading Chilean winemaker Casillero del Diablo, we were far from disposed to decline.

Had we foolishly decided not to attend, we’d have missed out in particular on the 18 Hours Tokusen Wagyu beef, which would have been a crime, and the P125 Dark Chocolate Parfait, which would have been complete idiocy. The wines were paired very well. Our favourite was the 2010 Concha y Toro Terrunyo Carmenere. It went brilliantly with the beef and with the chat around the table with Marian Carroll of Four Seasons and Bali-based British travel writer Samantha Coomber.

Vin+ is also doing a very affordable wine free-flow session from 4pm-8pm daily. The Lemming Highway might be getting more of a workout from the Diary in future.

We’ve marked our diary for Aug. 16, when Vin + has a sundown wine carnival with entertainment, fine food and great bottles of vin very far from ordinaire from around the world.

Save Our Oceans

Waterman’s Week 2016, the idea of Mike O’Leary of ROLE Foundation, is under way as we go to print. It runs from Jul. 1-10. Saving the world’s oceans and their precious marine life forms is not just a good idea. Without viable oceans the global ecology will literally sicken and eventually die, and so will we.

Think about that.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jun. 10, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Let’s Get Nauti

It is Ratty, in Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful 1908 children’s fantasy story Wind in the Willows, who reminds us that there is absolutely nothing better than messing about in boats. As a theory, this is quite possibly an incontrovertible statement. As a practise, if one is of the sort whose natural nautical agilities and skills equate with those of Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, avoidance is the best technique.

The Diary’s preference, despite some early messing about in boats, has always been to be aboard something rather larger than the fierce marine creatures that inhabit the waters upon which one is sailing. So we were very pleased when Pulau Luxury Charters invited us aboard its latest acquisition, a 22-metre catamaran called Haruku, for a day of fun and frivolity arranged for the media by The Diary’s favourite local dish, Diana Shearin. This event took place on May 8, shortly before we needed to make an unscheduled two-week-long visit to the chilly climes of pre-winter southern Western Australia. The recalled warmth of the occasion kept us going throughout that later ordeal.

Aboard the Haruku on that sybaritic day all the messing about was done by the efficient crew and the drinks and nibbly things were offered around by svelte young ladies wearing tiny skirts which could easily have doubled as belts. This was, the Diary mused, just how nautical experiences should be enjoyed. It gives you something to contemplate other than the horizon or your own navel.

The Haruku, which has joined five other boats in the Pulau fleet, is a refurbished and upgraded long-range expedition yacht that purrs along at 12 knots and is pushed through the briny by two Cummins 700hp diesel engines. Its twin hulls flatten most of the wind waves one might encounter in our waters, though the Indian Ocean swells punching up the Badung Strait made the trip from Serangan to Nusa Penida a little interesting for some on board.

There’s plenty of space and lots of headroom, plus all the kit you expect in these days of state-of-the-art music systems, monster flat screen TVs and on board WiFi. On day trips the boat can accommodate up to 25 guests and for long-range cruising it sleeps up to eight passengers in three cabins.

The open aft deck is a great place for lounging. It leads down to dual swim/dive platforms and the range of watercraft available to guests. It also leads up to the spacious fly bridge where further comfy seating is available to people whose on-board job is to relax and have fun.

The boat was built in 2002 and refurbished in 2014-15. It’s very comfortable and well equipped. One quibble: It did seem a shame that the refurbishment did not extend to changing the two-pin power points to universal points. Pulau Luxury Charters is part of the group that includes boutique villas at Banjar Anyar Kelod in Umalas and the eclectic Cafe Cous Cous whose Moroccan cuisine and ambience are worthy of inclusion on anyone’s must-do list.

Big Day

We note with pleasure that two lovely people we know – Australian Marian Carroll of Four Seasons and long-term Bali resident Brazilian Alexsander Martins Paim – tied the knot on June 5. It would have been a grand party, especially as it also tied together two representations of the Southern Cross, the stellar icon of the southern hemisphere night sky. It features on both the Australian and Brazilian flags.

The nuptials took place at former Alila Manggis executive chef Penelope Williams’ destination for gourmets, Bali Asli at Gelumpang, near Amlapura in Karangasem, and featured a megibung feast, served in the style of the royal family of Karangasem. We’re sure the Brazilians in the party were happy to forgo pão de queijo and coxinha on that occasion.

We hear there was a spot of Capoeira on hand, however. This will have helped the guests feast not only on the fine fare but also the spectacular views of Gunung Agung. Alex is from Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, where the local mountains aren’t quite as lofty but do occasionally sport picture-postcard snowfalls.

Bali Asli recently hosted the Great Chefs of Bali dinner. Female chefs from all over Bali cooked their signature dish as part of a meal celebrating the not to be missed feminine component of exemplary cuisine in kitchens. They raised Rp 56 million to help the nearby village of Pangi restore a traditional paon kitchen and also to build a needy family a bathroom and a family temple.

Scumbags

A sickening video showing a group of men from Tabanan regency savagely beating to death a black dog that they had led to a pole and then tied to it has gone round the world. Even more tragically, the dog was obviously a pet or at least habituated to being around people, since it was happily wagging its tail as it walked towards its execution place. It only panicked and began yelping piteously when it finally realized what was about to happen.

Such incidents, less the videoing, are regrettably possibly commonplace wherever thick young men with too much testosterone and too few brain cells gather, but that neither excuses nor explains it. Specifically, it is very bad for Bali’s image as a place of great spirituality. That’s already taken a hammering from the authorities’ fixation with killing dogs, vaccinated or not, in their mad and unnecessary panic over the rabies crisis that they have prolonged through their own negligence.

It’s against Indonesian law to mistreat an animal, especially in a way that causes painful death. So since these ridiculous and unpleasant young men had themselves videoed committing their crime and laughing while they did it, and since this incriminating evidence was downloaded elsewhere before their brain cells picked up enough power to think that perhaps they shouldn’t have posted it on Facebook, no doubt the police will take action.

We’re keen to see the outcome of the judicial proceedings that will naturally follow.

In the video a man – he was not one of the murder-party – is filmed riding up on a motorbike without a helmet. That might bring the traffic police into the action too, since it is also against the law to ride a bike without a bone-dome, however thick your skull is.

A Frisson Too Far

The Diary’s international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, who has just enjoyed a sojourn in Bali and should return as soon as possible for further talks in the 2015 Made’s WarungWatercress series, reports a curious incident when she arrived back in Sydney and went out to buy her morning bagel (it’s the sort of thing you do in Sin City).

She tells us: “Being just back from Bali where I smile at my neighbours, the local mangy dogs and even the devious money exchange boys on the corner, I smile hither and yon. Oops, well sorry folks, I didn’t realize it was some sort of taboo.” She notes, though, that the resident nutcase acknowledged her. And that she still loves Sydney. Well don’t we all?

Feliç Aniversari!

We missed the party, since we were still in the pre-winter chill far to the south, but it seems incredible that it is four years since El Kabron opened on its pretty cliff-top at Pecatu on the Bukit and brought a Catalan-Spanish flavour to the sunset scene. That was where we fell in love with Yellow Dog, an evocative water-colour by Leticia Balacek that to our mind completely captures the true expression of modern Bali.

Balacek has long since returned to her native Argentina – and to Buenos Aires, which has been our favourite global city since a fabulously long holiday there in 1986 – and we can only hope that Yellow Dog has found a suitable home.

El Kabron’s fourth birthday party was on Jun. 7. We’re sure David Iglesias Megias and the crew made it a memorable occasion for party-goers.

Coup d’État

Ku De Ta is an icon of Bali’s beachfront eat-drink-and-be-merry sector. Its name is globally known for its ambience – less for its victuals, in the Diary’s subjective assessment – and its premier position as a spot to watch the sun go down. It’s where the party set parties and the wannabes want to be.

Its name is its essence, its commercial actuality, and it was therefore surprising when an establishment entirely dissimilar to the Seminyak venue opened on top of one of Singapore’s lofty towers and began trading under the same name. So it was good to read the other day that after a five-year court battle over the rights to the name Ku De Ta, the Bali partners have won the case and a name change for the crowd-pulling Singapore club.

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