HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 16, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

Well, We Hit the Roof

We got a lovely invitation from the new RIMBA – we think it still qualifies as “new” since it hasn’t yet been open for a year – to attend a svelte bash on Apr. 12 to launch its Unique Rooftop Bar. Of course we went along. We like an affray and it’s always good to catch up with friends including Marian Carroll, who runs the corporate and PR effort of both RIMBA and AYANA.

The Grand Launch featured a live performance by Lee Dewyze. RIMBA’s landscaping and architecture is quite stunning. It was a grand night.

Friends who stayed there over Nyepi tell us the guests in residence for silent night Bali style were mainly Indonesian. It’s good to see the emerging middle classes spending rupes in felicitous places.

 

Nice to be Back

Fresh off the plane from Australia, circumstances led us almost immediately to Candi Dasa. This was a benefit, because it took us back to a favourite spot, Pondok Bambu, a beautifully cool sea breeze and fine views to Nusa Penida and Lombok.

We dined one night at Vincent’s, also a favourite. The Diary’s tofu dish was divine and the Distaff’s beetroot salad concoction looked marvellous. Vincent’s now has live jazz on the first and third Thursdays of every month. Regrettably, our visit this time coincided with neither of these opportunities. We shall have to return.

Degustation also took place at Quarante-Huit, Le 48, the restaurant attached to the Zen resort. It is no longer under French management, having been sold to a gentleman from Surabaya. But the cuisine is still determinedly (and happily) Gallic and the waitresses still remind one, by their attire and attentive presence, of the pretty fillies one once used to bump into in Paris.

 

Says It All

Those innovative signs on Bali’s highways that say “truk gunakan lajur kiri” (“trucks use left lane”) are working as expected. They are universally ignored as yet another traffic rule the police can’t be bothered to enforce. It remains easier, much more fun and certainly more profitable for them to create traffic jams by staging random hold-ups to check licences and vehicle registrations.

The drive up to Candi Dasa on the East Coast highway on a Friday afternoon perfectly illustrated the pointlessness of regulatory signage on Balinese highways. It also brought to attention a chap who immediately won Madman of the Week award for the way in which he drove his heavily-laden green truck.

The windscreen was basically obliterated by stickers and anyway was of what looked like 100 per cent tinted glass. But it was the custom-painted legend on the truck’s rear bumper bar that told the real story. The first time he stormed past us, weaving through the 80km/h traffic at breakneck speed, we noted the sign with close attention.

It read, “I don’t care!”

 

New Line-Up

The Bali Hotels Association’s 2014 board, announced recently, has some interesting names worth placing on record. Ian Cameron (by complete coincidence a neighbour of The Diary at Ungasan) is director of finance. He’s general manager of the Grand Aston Nusa Dua.

Another name, hitherto undiscovered, is Laetitia Sugandi, general manager of Harris Riverside Hotel and Residences in Kuta, who got the gig as director of sports and cultural activities. That’s an area of particular interest to The Diary.

Chairman for 2014 is Alessandro Migliore, GM at The Royal Beach, Seminyak. Past chairman Jean-Charles Le Coz of the Nikko is vice-chairman.

 

Give Her a Break

Schapelle Corby’s parole rules apparently require her not to wear a motorbike helmet. We surmise this from a report in The Beat Daily that said she had earned a rebuke from parole officers for having done so while making her way to a scheduled meeting with them.

It’s sensible to require parolees, who after all are still serving sentences albeit with some authorized freedoms, to remain in plain sight. Unless they’re on a motorbike that is, where to the surprise no doubt of the traffic police and various other minor functionaries, wearing such head protection is required by law. That’s notionally, of course, in the way of most things here.

Corby is in a delicate situation. For some reason that entirely escapes logical explanation, she is a person of interest to the Australian media. On any risk analysis, where she is concerned, the potential presence of an intrusively rude little person pointing a camera has to be factored in. Avoiding such incidents by being invisible in transit, since her visibility has already earned her a rebuke or three from her official minders, would seem to be sensible policy.

But bureaucrats everywhere are not well known for a capacity to think laterally.

 

Hospital Pass

Australia’s Channel Seven, late of the Schapelle shemozzle, is running a series of documentaries that take viewers inside the private BIMC and public Sanglah hospitals. The series is called What Really Happens in Bali and also showcases the lives of expats who now call Bali home.

Thankfully The Diary was not approached to participate. It would have been very difficult to top the éclat of the guy who apparently claims (breathlessly one might imagine) to have had sex with more than 100 women in 90 days. Evidently he was on a very special social visa.

The series is great exposure – and it’s well deserved – for both BIMC and for Sanglah (whose link with Royal Darwin Hospital in Australia is very valuable). If the series lives up to the promise in its title, many more Australians will be better informed about Bali than they are at present.

 

For the Record

According to some among the expatriate population, we’re not supposed to refer to the many feet of clay that clog up the works in these parts. This segment of the expat community has adopted the general Balinese response that if you don’t like it here, you should go home. That’s classic sand-pit stuff, best left behind in one’s toddler years, and we certainly take no notice. Our rule is: If there’s a snafu, say so.

The reluctant conclusion that there is now no hope of Bali being declared rabies-free until at least 2016 is a case in point. Like all such targets in Bali it’s a dynamic one, not to say fluid, and infinitely expandable on a logarithmic scale.

When the current outbreak began in 2008, after many years in which no human cases had been recorded and no animal ones noticed, the place for a time looked like a rather bad Three Stooges movie set. Unfortunately the result of that particular farce is that to date an estimated 147 people have died of rabies. That figure, incidentally, would at best win only qualified audit status.

There was a lull in reported rabies cases for while but this year there have already been four suspected cases including two confirmed deaths in Buleleng and a large number of cases in dogs.

Under international rules there must be two clear years between the last reported case and declaration that an infected area is now free of the disease.

The authorities blame community reluctance to vaccinate dogs or to cooperate with the government. That’s a cop-out. After six years of hampering the efforts of others while pocketing anti-rabies money, some in the bureaucracy responsible (and their political bosses) should have worked out which way is up. Or at least, found a conscience.

 

Heart and SOLEMEN

Many charitable organizations are active in Bali, a lot of them working right at the coalface of disadvantage and distress. They all deserve our support. One among them is SOLEMEN, famous for its barefoot walks to raise funds. It treats the sick and handicapped children it helps in a holistic way.

Robert Epstone, who would modestly describe himself as one among many leading lights in the organization, sent us a copy of the SOLEMEN Newsletter No. 5, covering Jan.-Mar. this year. It’s a great initiative and is heartrending reading. It should be required study for any among us who in the western way are apt to consider themselves discommoded by trivial circumstances.

On Mar. 27 there was a charity fundraiser partly in aid of SOLEMEN and organized by Sunset Vet of Kuta to celebrate its first birthday, with funds going to assist SOLEMEN’s efforts to help the poor and disadvantaged in Bali in the way they do best, by focusing on individual cases of immense suffering and providing immediate help.

SOLEMEN is completing its first permaculture garden in one poor village in Denpasar to encourage self sufficiency plus raised self esteem within the community. As well as feeding families, the program – planned as the first of many – will supply a surplus to provide an income for them.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser May 29, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Family Time

The ties that bind otherwise widely disparate families and characters into a familial network are very apparent in Bali, as in many other cultures. They are decreasingly visible in western societies where the state has long since taken over the role of matriarch (or patriarch if you like) and individuals are far more mobile and have much wider choices of employment and location.

So it is good still to be numbered in the declining percentile and be firmly for the family. This was reinforced during a week in Scotland in mid-May, a sojourn deemed necessary for remedial, toe-in-the-gene-pool therapy. It was a time spent among the family in the Border country where the churches are Episcopalian, a goodly portion of the ecclesiastical architecture has identifiable Norman leanings, and the food is, well, fantastic.

It is true Sassenach country (Saxon country), very far from the Scotland of the picture books and tourist brochures. This made it altogether strange that the railway station near where we were staying with a lovely cousin was named An Druim, in Scottish Gaelic, as well as Drem, the name by which it is universally known.

There was a lovely party on the weekend before our departure for notionally warmer clines, involving several cousins and including a representative of the family’s Australian connection – a genuine one, not the ring-in Diary version. There are few people with whom it is possible just to take up a conversation where one left it two years earlier; and even fewer who on first acquaintance seem instantly to be family.

Auld Reekie Revisited

We were twice in Edinburgh, a city that soothes the soul – big enough and sufficiently cerebral to be a genuine national capital, yet small enough to be both manageable and scenic – and which is a great place for lunch.

The weather was bleak in the unforgiving way that bleakness acquires only nine degrees south of the Arctic Circle, but the food makes up for any chill the city can throw at you, especially in the Grass Market and on Lothian Road. Soup warms the bones as well as the heart; and at certain venues Italian cuisine, in good company, absolves all sins.

What the weather serves up in the way of inclement conditions is in any case offset by the long days at this time of the year. It’s a treat to be able to sit outside (rugged up if necessary) and drink in the 10pm twilight.

Marchon! Marchon!

From Scotland we went on to Marseille (it’s better, and authentically, spelt that way) which was to be our base for a month. Our apartment, a particularly fine home exchange option, overlooks the Mediterranean (actually the Ligurian) Sea and the sweep of Provencal coastline the north and west of the city: a magic spot.

Equally magic is the variety of eating and shopping experiences close by. We’ve even been to Carrefour, a one-kilometre stroll up the road from our beachside digs, though just as at home in Bali we prefer smaller, local shopping opportunities. We’ve found those too, and in consequence are eating really rather well.

The walking routine is as close as we’ll be getting to the Marseillaise and its command to the citoyens to marchon, even though we are temporary residents of the city that brought the world the French revolutionary anthem. They’ll have to excuse us. Our sang is still a bit froid to make us happily sing about someone else’s nationalistic fervour. And anyway, it’s not July 14 yet.

Schengen Shenanigans

KLM’s Denpasar-Amsterdam service is very good. Even with an hour-plus on the ground in Singapore, the time in air from wheels up at Ngurah Rai to touchdown at Schiphol is well under 17 hours. Flying westward, the effects of jet lag are minimal, especially on the KLM schedule which effectively makes the trip just one very long night. Just set your watch on Amsterdam time on departure, and relax.

We had a very short connection time in Amsterdam before flying on to Edinburgh, but (in contrast to Air France via Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris two years ago) our luggage nonetheless managed to accompany us to our final destination.

But Schiphol does have a problem with Schengen area passport control and central security screening. On our trip back from Edinburgh via Amsterdam to Marseille that part of the programme was a shemozzle. The queues were huge, unruly and cross, and the airport staff and security personnel similarly distempered.

No one sensible objects to strict passport controls or to invasive security checks. But someone at Schiphol needs to work out that people with short connection times need to be accommodated on a more productive basis than complete lack of official interest in whether they make their flight or not.

We’re in Touch

Not too many years ago departing from anywhere to anywhere out of immediate earshot meant cutting yourself off from current events in your place of origin. Sometimes this was to personal advantage: Raffles, for example, could invade Java free of any worries that someone at head office might see a tweet from him or look at his Facebook and detect a scurrilous plan in the making. Similarly, England’s wayward remittance men could safely be sent to the colonies and never be heard of again.

No more, of course, with the internet ubiquitously available. So even though we’re half a world away (only temporarily; no one should get too excited) we’re fully briefed on Bali business.

Among those things to have piqued our interest is an impending event in the AYANAsphere due to take place in June – happily, on a date after our return to Bali. They’re launching their grand ballroom and meeting rooms, set for MICE (spenders rather than rodents) and introducing new sister resort RIMBA at a function on June 21. We’ll be there.

Family Tree

It might strike some as strange that the new Mangrove Motorway through the fragile marine environment of Benoa Bay – an enterprise we are assured will solve South Bali’s horrendous traffic problems, won’t do a bit of harm to the mangroves, and will be launched (we do hope not literally) by the President in June – has not yet been given a name. They do things differently in Bali.

Never mind. Things are moving on that front now. Suggestions for names are beginning to emerge. Among them is a great proposal from Udayana University academic Darma Putra Nyoman, who says the toll road – Bali’s first – should be named after dance artist I Wayan Lotring (1898-1983), a grandmaster of Balinese dance and percussion from Kuta who contributed mightily to the development of Balinese art and culture both locally and as an international icon.

We really like that idea.  It seems appropriate. There’s already been a bit of a song and dance about the road. And it would be so much better than recycling a name from the political or insurrectionist past or choosing something utterly soul (and culture) destroying as in the case of Jl. Sunset Road. Come to think of it, we’re not much into tautology, either.

Undercurrent

Speaking of Sunset Road, which anyone who has to drive to or through Kuta does frequently, often in less than complimentary terms, we got a giggle out of some of the feedback in The Beat Daily recently about the new underpass at Dewa Ruci.

This followed a report that the Bali legislature is inquiring into the adequacy of emergency escape staircases at the underpass, which is now partially open to traffic. Our lawmakers apparently want to know where this essential bit of infrastructure is and indeed, whether it exists. They could pop down there in their taxpayer-provided limousines and have a look of course, but that’s asking a bit much.

One comment on this issue related to the misbehaviour of motorbikes, a constant issue on Bali’s roads. It also suggested that given the fact that it rains now and then, and that motorcyclists invariably seek shelter, the underpass would inevitably be blocked in anything heavier than a passing sprinkle.

We’re all in favour of upgrading Bali’s arterial road system. But this would be of far greater utility if driver skills were similar improved, by several thousand percent.

(Hector is away from The Cage, on a slightly longer than normal Short Essential Break)

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser. He tweets @scratchings.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 28, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

By Jiminy, a GM

Ayana Resort and Spa, etc, which sits decorously back from the cliff at Jimbaran to which the iconic Rock Bar clings – and to which it is sometimes possible to gain access, if you have the inclinator – finally has a chief man at the helm. It’s been 10 months since Charles de Foucault departed for Mauritius where the ambience, not unlike some of the Caribbean islands also formerly ruled by the Brits, is a kind of eclectic Faux Français. It’s the sort of place where patrons can be heard intoning “Merde, I’d kill for a beer.” Unless they’re South Africans, in which case some of them might say, ”Shit, ek wil doodmaak vir ‘n bier,” and completely fail to make themselves understood.

The new man is Ed Linsley, who was selected in a process personally led by Horst Schulze, founder and chief executive of Capella Hotel Group.  Linsley has more than 22 years’ experience in hotels and resorts – 21 of them with the Four Seasons group – and was resort manager at 4S Bali Jimbaran (once home to the entertainingly enigmatic John O’Sullivan, who these days wears a sombrero having decamped to a plush 4S resort in Mexico) before going to Vietnam last year as general manager of The Nam Hai Resort.

Linsley says he was drawn back to Bali by its people and the opportunity to join the Capella Hotel Group. He rides Harley-Davidsons and he’s from Pennsylvania. Ground Hog Days could be fun.

The Good, the Bad, and the Plain Ugly

The Bali-based Institute for Peace and Democracy has been busy lately, talking to delegations from Egypt and Myanmar and selling Indonesia’s proud record of democratic advance achieved by digging the military out of politics and business, and overseeing completion of its monumental premises on the Jimbaran campus of Udayana University.

The institute is a project that carries the personal imprimaturs of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and is supported through various elements of Australia’s foreign aid programme and those of other nations.  We’ll be hearing much more about it in the near future.

The IPD was closely involved in the recent Bali Peace Forum, a recurring international gabfest that this time, and among many other (more valuable) things, provided yet another opportunity for Iran’s chief curiosity, President Ahmadinejad, to have a free shot at the Great Satan and sundry other lesser devils.

For ordinary mortals, or at least those of them who were trying to use the roads between Kuta and Nusa Dua while troupes of rude police were shooing traffic out of the way so VVIPs and VIPs could get wherever it was they were going before their tea got cold, the forum was chiefly notable, as such things invariably are, for its disruption of normal life.

It’s not over yet. Next year, when the APEC jamboree hits town with lots of HIPs (Hugely Important Persons) along with the VVIPs and the ordinary VIPs, it’ll be even worse. Note to self: Ensure you are away from Bali in November 2013.

She’s a Champ

Christina Iskandar, luminary of note on the glitter circuit (conscience division), has lost a lot of weight. This was deliberate – a girl likes to look trim, after all, though the Diary has never minded chunky if it comes along with brains, conversation and character – and this feat has also resulted in more than Rp 200 million in funds for YPAC, the children’s home at Jimbaran.

She told the world proudly via Facebook:  “We did it! Over 200 million raised for YPAC & new van very soon for the kids, a 20 kilo weight loss for me & a new lease on life… a huge thanks to the dedicated supportive amazing bunch of friends that attended this event for such a worthy cause you are all stars, thank you Motion Fitness Team and all the sponsors.”

Well done, Christina.

Fifty Shades of Bleh

It was amusing to see veteran British publisher Christopher MacLehose on Australia Network’s eminently watchable One-Plus-One programme recently. He was courteously perplexed as to how show host Jane Hutcheon could possibly refer to the blockbuster sex-romp novel Fifty Shades of Grey as a literary work. He said she was the first person he had heard make such a claim.

(We hear from friends, anecdotally, that the expatriate husbands of Vietnam are passing the book around theirs and other’s expatriate wives for serious study, apparently with mutually satisfying results. That alone supports MacLehose’s reflective assessment of the book’s true value and titillating purpose.)

MacLehose, a patrician Scot who reads in French – his wife is from l’Hexagone, as French people with an interest in cartography sometimes call their hexagonal patrie – made a late career change from mainstream publishing into publisher of foreign works in translation. He gave the world The Millennium Trilogy, a true work of literature.

Originally written in Swedish by the late Stieg Larsson, the trilogy – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – had been rejected by a series of publisher’s houses. Apparently this was because the author was Swedish (and so not an English language writer and therefore difficult to sell) and being unfortunately dead was not going to be writing any more books, which precluded creation of further career-enhancing income streams for publishers’ marketing people.

Planet Earth has long been made a better place by far-sighted Scotsmen (and women).

Fine Fare

Australia Network is always good value. On its summer schedule is a new Australian drama series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. This is a period piece, set in Melbourne in the 1920s. The network suggests you should get yourself ready to sashay into the city’s back lanes as Phryne Fisher sleuths her way through jazz clubs and other shady spots armed with a pearl-handled pistol and a dagger-sharp wit.

It sounds fun. The 13-part series will be on the viewing schedule at The Cage. It starts on Dec. 3 (at 9.30pm Bali time). Monday will be a stay-home night for the following three months.

And More Saxy Jazz

Sin City singer Edwina Blush is a regular feature of the saxier parts of Bali, as well as an ambassador for Villa Kitty cat refuge at Ubud, and we look forward to seeing her here again in the flesh –attractive portions of it at least – when next her schedule allows.

She’s been keeping in form for her much desired reappearance here by playing cabaret style at the Camelot Lounge in Marrickville, Sydney (on Nov. 28) with a pared down quartet and guests. The finely named Blush (she doesn’t, but others have been known to) says of the show: “Refuse to run with the pack, take the cat to the beach, comfort a surf widow, have an affair with your barista and surf a tidal wave of love in the quirky comforts of the Camelot Lounge.” It would have been fun to be there, but we didn’t have enough Qantas points to spare for the trip.

Blush launched her latest album, Sea for Cats, in June. She describes it as a lush retro cocktail with an over-proof kick and a hint of kitsch indulgence. Clearly, it should be listened to even though The Cage hasn’t done kitsch since … well, forever. But Edwina says it’s saxy, so of course it must be. The album is available on iTunes or through the Edwina Blush website shop.

So Very Sad

Little Ani, the eight-year-old severely malnourished and physically challenged girl rescued from distressing conditions in Sideman in Karangasem earlier this year by Jimbaran-resident British nurse Sarah Chapman and her Balinese friend Yuni Putu, has died. She had been playing happily at her new home, YPAC, on the morning of Nov. 17 but later that day had to be taken to Sanglah Hospital with serious breathing difficulties. In spite of truly heroic efforts by the Sanglah team, she died a few hours later.

Ani had become quite a Facebook presence – through a page called Friends of Ani – and touched the hearts of everyone who had contact with her actually or through the social media. Losing her is a tragedy, when she had been gaining much needed weight, was beginning the process of socialisation in an adequate setting, and was waiting for essential surgical correction of her cleft palate. It is particularly hard on her immediate carers and on people such as Robert Epstone of the charity Sole Men, who made strenuous efforts to win Ani a new (and proper) life.

But Ani, like all who pass away, will live on in the hearts of those who were her family and friends. Her last months were full of fun and love. She was only eight, and could not speak, but she taught many people the real meaning of humanity.

There’s a proposal to build a hospice in her name and in her memory.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets (@scratchings) and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky). He blogs at http://www.wotthehec.blogspot.com.