HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 5, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Diving Lessons 

The matter of the Japanese divers whose expedition turned into disaster off Nusa Penida on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) is now in police hands. An investigation is apparently under way. The skipper of the dive boat is a person of interest, according to reports.

That seems fair enough. The facts of the case should not be the subject of ill-informed prattle or gossipy rumour. As always, one lives in hope that should the authorities actually discover the facts, they’ll let everyone know about this rather than finding another corner of carpet to sweep them under. One hopes. They do say hope springs eternal.

It was interesting that the rescue authorities – who did a magnificent job and deserve public praise for doing so – suggested at one point (there was a published reference to this) that the dive boat wasn’t where it was supposed to be when the seven Japanese female divers surfaced as scheduled because it was low on fuel and had gone away to get more.

If this is the case, it is yet another astonishing example of the cavalier approach to dangerous behaviour so often seen in Bali and other parts of Indonesia. It would seem to ordinary mortals, for example, that if you’re running a dive boat you don’t run low on fuel. You ensure you have enough for the scheduled task and a safety reserve to cover emergencies or unforeseen events.

The weather was foul on dive day. That’s another issue the regulators should look at both from the local regulatory perspective and in terms of measures to foreclose on foolish decisions to go ahead in risky conditions. The waters off Nusa Penida are not benign.

Five of the seven divers survived their experience, including three days adrift in dangerous waters or clinging to a submerged coral head. Sadly two did not. That makes it a tragedy, not just something that can be dismissed as bad karma.

Lobbying for Art

There was a lovely little soiree at Conrad Bali on Feb. 28 to introduce the in-crowd to the hotel’s Living Lobby Art exhibition. It’s often been pleasant to drop into the lobby at the Conrad in the past, since it has always featured art to catch the eye. It goes with the ambience, so to speak.

Some little time ago, when Michael Burchett was GM, we dropped by to chat with the delightful Cecilia Hatmandayani and while waiting were entranced by the delightfully outré art on display. The erotic does not have to be prurient, after all, and in fact is better for not being so. There are other places to view material that’s more explicit, if that’s your bag.

In any case the hint of hidden delights provides much greater cerebral piquancy. One of the problems with the modern world and its condign attachment to the banal is that you so often find the finer side of life has been abolished in favour of rude vacuity.

We couldn’t make the opening unfortunately. But it was nice of Imuthia Yanindra, Conrad’s marketing, PR and communications manager, to ask us along. We shall have to drop by now and then, while living art from sculpture to painting is gracing the place, and have a look. We’ll have a drink at the lobby bar too. It’s a fine venue.

Evening Wrap

Those who observe Australian matters (of which there are a few and they are important) will have noticed that Australia Network, the satellite TV service run by the ABC, has been attracting some critical attention at home in the Special Biosphere. In part this is because of the curiosity of how it funded, which is by the Department of Foreign Affairs, and debate about how the network achieves its aim of advancing Australia’s interests.

It actually does this very well in an environment (in Australia) where internalized self-interest does not necessarily bring benefits to those who espouse a world view. Its programming is specific and includes a useful English language teaching element. Australia is a small player on the world stage and the resources it can afford to outlay on winning friends (in this case audiences) and influencing people are finite.

Australia Network heavily emphasizes news and current affairs. This is sensible. There’s more than enough pap around elsewhere in the televised ether to service other needs. So it was good to hear that a new one-hour news and current affairs program will launch on Mar. 10. The World, presented by veteran Jim Middleton and former ABC globetrotter Zoe Daniel, will cover the news of the day and in-depth analysis of the most important issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region.

It will screen Mondays to Fridays at 8.30pm in Bali (7.30pm in Jakarta).

Moving Moments

Vyt Karazija, the Australian blogger and closet bon vivant who enlivens several social media forums locally, has recently moved house. This event is unremarkable. It is something many of us do from time to time, as fancy dictates or quantum increases in wet season leaks suggest is warranted.

Karazija’s move did strike a chord at The Cage, however, since he reported that his trusty domestic manager, the sibilant Seven, had taken charge of the program and had made it work. Moreover, it had worked more speedily, to greater effect, and remarkably smoothly.

This brought back memories of a similarly moving event in our own life. Twenty years ago we shifted house in Brisbane, Queensland, from one suburb to another. The Distaff was busy elsewhere at the time, doing important corporate things in Thailand. The Diary’s schedule was constrained by journalistic duties. You know, editorials to write, issues to research, news lists to ponder, copy to edit, writers to correct (“It was the Boer War you idiot, not the Bore War”) and sundry other things to attend to on behalf of Mr Murdoch; dross like that.

Plainly things were not going quite as speedily or efficiently as they might on the necessary domestic movement front. Nor were they ever going to, which was also abundantly clear, especially to our then local equivalent of Karazija’s inimitable Seven. She stepped firmly into the breach. We’ve moved any number of times in the course of our three decades together, Distaff and Diary, but that shift has passed into history as The One That Neither of Us Noticed.

Sanctuary Plus

One of the special delights of living at The Cage is that the little local kitty clan has adopted our securely walled back yard as a sanctuary for its latest kittens. We use it only as a utility area – it houses the underground tank without which we’d be as stuffed for government water as everyone else in the precinct and the gas house, which we built to the wonderment of the locals so we could shift the hot-water service and the kitchen gas out of the crawl space – and therefore mostly leave it alone.

But it is sheltered from the wet north-west monsoons and brightly lit for security at night. Regularly, the latest kittens are settled at dusk by their mums on the warm timber steps at our back door, safe from dogs and snakes and other dangers. They’re wary of us (we often delay daily checks on the utilities to give them time in the sunny mornings to pack up their swags and move on for the day) but each seems quickly to work out that while we’re big and noisy we’re no threat.  We engage in mutual meowing and purring through the glass door now and then. That’s nice.

We don’t feed them and they’re in no sense our cats. It would be unfair to feed them since our schedules make regular feeding impossible. But we like them around because their regular diet (you might call it “ratatouille”) helps keep under control the Norway rats that proliferate locally and which, unless sudden death by cat intervenes, feed and breed well on the selfishly and thoughtlessly discarded garbage of others.

On the mutually supportive neighbour scale, members of the kitty clan are great acquaintances for whom we’re happy to provide light and safety.

Good Work

It was nice to get a little note the other day from Alicia Budihardja, the helpfully svelte No. 2 in the public relations team at the top-line St Regis and Laguna resorts at Nusa Dua. It’s always pleasant to hear from good friends, especially if it’s good news.

It was in this case. Budihardja told us The Laguna Bali had been named one of the island’s top performing resorts by leading online accommodation booking outfit Booking.com, part of Priceline.com. The property achieved an exceptional score of 8.5/10 in verified reviews for consistency in delivery in six review classifications: cleanliness, comfort, location, facilities, staff, and value for money.

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 30, 2013

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

Somebody Loves Them

Bali Dogs, that is. And the anti-rabies fighter BAWA too, the Bali Animal Welfare Association, which as no one should have missed or failed to remark upon, has come to grief on the treacherous shoals of Bali’s perversely acquisitive and uniquely dysfunctional bureaucracy.

Jaymi Muzzicato, who is 11 and comes from Cranbourne in Victoria, Australia, has used her big heart and energy to raise funds in Australia for BAWA programs to support the welfare of animals in Bali.

After visiting BAWA in September, she says she just can’t wait to come back to Bali and BAWA as a volunteer. Meanwhile, back home, she’s busy ramping up more support for BAWA among her friends, family and fellow students and staff at her school, Courtenay Gardens Primary, where earlier she won the backing of her school principal and teacher to run a colouring contest for the benefit of BAWA.

To promote the contest, she researched BAWA and shared lots of stories about rescued animals and BAWA’s many other animal support programs. When Jaymi visited BAWA in Ubud in September she presented $150 (Australian) raised from the contest, her personal money and donations. And she made a new friend of Monkey, a street dog that has adopted BAWA’s Jl Monkey Forest shop as her daytime home but likes the street life at night.

Jaymi says her visit to BAWA was the highlight of her two weeks in Bali and that it has motivated her to plan further fundraising for Bali animals in need.

Saying thanks to Jaymi for her efforts, BAWA founder Janice Girardi noted the capacity of young people around the world to make a difference to animal welfare. “We are really heartened when people like Jaymi take the initiative to give their time and energy to promoting BAWA and supporting our work to protect and create a better future for Bali’s animals,”  said Girardi.

Some people around here might profit spiritually by noting all that.

 

Kindling a Fire

Inveterate Legian blogger Vyt Karazija has had enough, it seems. But it’s not the terrible traffic, brutish baristas, ‘orrible ‘olidaymakers, importunate Rp600K quick-time girls, predatory premans or any of the other dangerous denizens of Grossville that have him on the outer edge of his temper envelope.

He popped up on Facebook, where like the Diary he spends a lot of time that probably gets him into trouble, with a swipe at Amazon/Kindle for complicating the life of authors from outside the USA. 

It was no wonder, he wrote, that authors from elsewhere other than the Land of the Free hate using that Yankee conglomerate for their works. We quote:

“First, they put you through a tax grilling, making you pay ridiculous rates of tax to the IRS unless you execute some complex document relating to ‘treaty benefits’ with your home country. Then you have to physically ring the IRS and confirm. Then, a year later, they make you go through the whole charade again…

“Here is a typical bureaucratic question on their latest incomprehensible tax form: ‘Do you derive the income for which you can claim treaty benefits?’

“Simple, right? But then they helpfully ‘explain’ how to answer, and melt your brain in the process: ‘Income may be derived by either the entity receiving the item of income or by the interest holders in the entity or, in certain circumstances, both. An item of income paid to an entity is considered to be derived by the entity only if the entity is not fiscally transparent under the laws of the entity’s jurisdiction with respect to the item of income. Answer yes or no’.

“Why don’t they just ask: ‘Are you the one getting the money?’ I guess that would be too simple.”

We engaged Karazija on this, pointing out that millions of legislative drafters worldwide would be unemployed were the KISS principle to be invoked. He came back with a lovely line: “Bafflegab rules.”

We can’t beat that.

 

In the Running

Alicia Budihardja, late of Conrad Bali and most recently late of Mantra (the newish Aussie player on the comfy beds circuit) has popped up at the plush St Regis, as assistant director of marketing communications reporting to Stephanie Carrier, director of same. It’s a move “just down the road” but a big career step.

We wish her well. It’s so nice to know cheery people who enjoy their work and are good at their jobs.

The new gig encompasses fellow Starwood property Laguna Resort and Spa. It’s a cluster in the new-speak of the resort world. Perhaps we shall soon be seeing Budihardja winning beach races with all the practice she’s bound to get sprinting up and down Geger Beach to the Laguna and vice-versa.

 

Exit Report

We love seeing old friends who make it back to Bali from far-flung places – even though in this particular instance we were so busy in paradise we could only see them once (for a lovely lunch at a favourite spot, Café des Artistes in Ubud) – and it’s fun getting their post-trip exit reports too.

Thus we hear from Larry Sprecher, of Portland, Oregon, who truly is a senior citizen, as is his wife Maggie, the self-driver on their trips:

“Maggie had no trouble with the missing International Driver’s Permit. We were stopped at only one roadblock. The officer took a look at Maggie, did a double take, saluted and waved her on through.

“The new [Ngurah Rai] International Departure Building is impressive. It will be even more impressive when they get the new restaurants, shops, and provide places for 1000 people to sit.”

Ah Bali! Don’t you just love it?

 

It Ain’t Half Hot Mum

Well it would be, dopey. And very humid: It’s Bali and the rainy season is coming. (Disclaimer: Print deadlines being what they are, this item was sent off 10 days ago; if everything’s changed by the time you read this, and you’re wearing galoshes because it’s sodden underfoot or ugg boots to ward off the rainy season chill, don’t blame your poor diarist.)

Back in mid-October BMKG (the Department of Meteorology) felt obliged to tell people it hadn’t been any hotter than it always was at that time of the year. Then it said it had been, which came as no surprise, since in Indonesia yes is so often no and black so often white. Living within earshot of public discourse here is reminiscent of  listening to Jim Trott (admirably played by Trevor Peacock) in that fine Brit sit-com The Vicar of Dibley, whose seminal contribution to any discussion consists of “no-no-no-no – yes”.

But we digress. BMKG felt obliged, in its public disclosure of the state of Bali’s weather, to advise that the sun was moving south at the time – both astronomers and astrologers will be glad to hear that, no doubt, though boffin-like quibblers could point out it’s actually the earth’s pedantic insistence on oscillating that does the trick – bringing with it the weather we normally expect in October.

We quote Bali BMKG chief of data Nyoman Gede Wirajaya as our expert source: “The position of the sun is directly over the island in October, resulting in quite hot weather,” he said, further explaining that Bali’s position south of the equator affects the weather cycles. Thanks, Pak Nyoman. Glad you could clear that up.

Daily highs average 33C in October but had been 35C. Perhaps at the BMKG 35C is not hotter than 33. We are assured that things will be cooler in November and December, when the sun has moved to the south and is fully-frying our neighbours in Australia.

 

That Sinking Feeling

Tanjung Benoa is sinking, so it is said. Hundreds of residents of the mudflat and sandbar promontory at the northern end of Nusa Dua think so, at least, and as members of a group known as Harmony Bali they recently attempted to apprise the Governor of this unsettling information. Harmony doesn’t get a mention in police standard operating procedures, however. A handily present platoon of plods was resolute in denying them entry to the gubernatorial offices in Denpasar.

An appeal to the shades of successive Venetian doges might possibly bear fruit. The Serenissima was built on much the same sort of shifting and watery ground. It was only stabilized – as an infrastructural entity we mean, not as a political community, which might be another similarity – when Medieval and later Venetians got among the aquatic stuff with megatons of reinforcing material and backed that action with rigid building controls that saved the islands of the lagoon from disappearing into the briny.

In much of the world, you don’t build on mudflats and sandbars anyway, for very good reason.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings