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HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 14, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

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Bag brigade: Part of the rubbish cull at the inaugural clean-up in Tundun Penyu, Ungasan (see DIY Clean-Up, below).

Water of Half-Life

It has not yet been raining on the Bukit this official wet season, in any appreciable way at least, up to deadline time for this edition [Note: The first big rain was on Nov. 9, making a monkey out of publication deadlines.]. It has been hot and humid instead. We southern hill-dwellers have seen the clouds over places apparently more favoured by whichever committee of gods it is that controls precipitation. That this is more scientifically seen as a seasonal phenomenon – a variable one as all of them are – has been dismissed in the minds of some who prefer to believe that a laser being operated on the new Kuta-Nusa Dua highway construction is to blame. The theory goes that the contractors are using the laser to deter rain since getting wet would upset their work schedule.

     It’s a lovely story. It might even be worth believing, since all manner of people here seem to believe in all sorts of things.

    There’s an acute water shortage on the Bukit too. That is also a perennial issue. It might be solved – one day – if anyone here believed in practical things, like planning, or building efficient infrastructure. Or maybe they should look at laser-enhanced public water pipes? That might help get the stuff pumped up the tiny rusted and corroded pipes and if effective would certainly advance science, since it would prove the Indonesian theory that water runs uphill.

    On the other hand, there may now be a glimmer of hope that the authorities will notice there is a problem. The village chief of Pecatu, I Made Sumarta, has got into the act, complaining that local people are also being forced into buying expensive tanker water.  When it’s only “rich Bules” (hah!) and five-star hotels that quibble, well, frankly, no one gives a Rhett Butler.

DIY Clean-Up

Neighbouring Ungasan, where the village authorities have a proud record of ignoring essentials, presents a problem for people who really would like to live without rat, snake, dog and mosquito-attracting rubbish. They’re into you for general levy fees – which we have avoided here at The Cage, preferring instead to pay the local Banjar, since it does useful social welfare work – but outside Ungasan village itself, little activity has ever been detected.

      So it’s interesting to learn that in another part of Tundun Penyu Dipal – the top ridge, from where there are fine views of the litter-strewn Balangan road – the local staff from 27 villas have got together and formed an association to provide mutual self-help and security. They meet monthly (refreshments provided), have a New Year’s party planned, and are benefiting from having friends around them. Many domestic workers do not have the local family support base available to Balinese who work in their home areas.

      Backed by one foreign resident, owner of one of the villas in the project, the association is now also conducting monthly clean-ups in the area. At the first, on Nov. 5, 22 of the available 27 people turned out. A contractor has been appointed to take the rubbish to the refuse disposal centre at Suwung, whose operators will hopefully dispose of it properly.

      Since Ungasan village provides no rubbish collection in the area and there is as yet no appreciable decline in the cultural practice of just tossing your garbage over the fence – or dropping it on the road as you meander along on your motorbike – this is a significant measure to reduce the litter overburden. It’s an idea that is already practised elsewhere and should be copied in many other places.

      It’s self-help at its local best. Pity it puts the village authorities to shame, but there you go.

Five-Oh

Jennifer Bee, who among other things markets Grand Komodo Tours & Diving and believes – so she tells us on her Facebook – that a glass is neither half empty for pessimists nor half full for optimists, but simply has room for vodka in it, alerts us to another astonishment. This year December has five Saturdays, five Sundays and five Mondays. Apparently this happens only once every 824 years and the Chinese have a term for it (well, they would). It’s the Money Bag.

     Bee, a Jakarta native who would look very fetching in a big red hat if only one were still in her possession (she gave it away), is also an aficionada of art. She might possibly be seen distant from her Sanur domain on Nov. 16, at the opening of the Bali Sumba Timor Photography Exhibition, featuring the work of Ari Saaski. The exhibition, which runs through to January, is at Cafe des Artistes in Jl Bisma, Ubud.

     The photos on show include landscape, nature and portraiture and probably should not be missed by The Diary, either.

Pumpkin Heads

It was Halloween on Oct. 31, as no one should need reminding since it occurs on that date every year. It’s the eve of All Saints’ Day, a Christian festival, and is traditionally a night when the spirits are abroad; rather like the night before Nyepi, really.

     But it’s chiefly an American thing, dating from when the fun-loving Pilgrim Fathers landed at the Kennedy Compound in Massachusetts and wondered what they could do with all those pumpkins, since it was plain they could do absolutely nothing with the Kennedys.

     Ever since, whimsy has been the American way. And we’re indebted to American Prospect’s daily news brief (of Nov. 1) for giving us a break from election year politics – that’s all over now too – and instead informing us that according to a leading polling outfit, PPP, 62 percent of US voters polled said chocolate was their Halloween poison of choice, and that if forced to turn into a monster, 22 percent would prefer being a vampire against 12 percent who’d like to be a werewolf.

      It seems that the Democrats are the Party Party. Thirty-three percent of registered Democratic respondents told the pollsters they would be dressing up for Halloween, against only 23 percent of Republicans.

Peaced Off

Perhaps Nick Way, of the Bali Peace Park Association, will have more time to devote to matters of importance now that he’s left Network Ten in Perth.We learned of his departure from the broadcaster, which is having a bit of a commercial struggle these days, through The Australian newspaper’s Strewth diary column.

     It reported that at this year’s West Australian Media Ball, held recently and like all such events an annual bash renowned for feats of alcoholic misadventure, job security was the talk of the tables among the lads and the frocked-up lassies. This was apparently given extra piquancy by the departure of veteran sound-recordist Way and The West Australian’s so-called super sleuth Sean Cowan from the benefits of paid employment.

     Way should now be able to Google bananas (hint: they’re a plant, not a tree) to avoid further horticultural and arboreal embarrassment at the former Sari club site, as well as look for practical ways to progress his association’s long-running sequel to Mission Impossible.

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.

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HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, May 16, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

What Rubbish!

When we heard that “the authorities” – the quotation marks are possibly essential – had suddenly demolished a number of rather well known and heavily patronised watering holes favoured by the Bling-and-Bolly and Boys-and-Girls-Behaving-Badly sets on the beach at Batu Belig, a wreck and rampage event held on May 7, an unkind thought crossed our mind. It was that “They” (the quote marks and capital T are definitely essential) had mistaken the real task upon which a modicum of concentration is required.

It occurred to us that a far-sighted official – Find that man! Give him a medal! – must somehow have become aware of the real problem on Bali’s beaches and directed the troops to clean up the rubbish, but that a critical wire or two had got crossed while the order was being passed down the line. There is a precedent for this, though sadly it too is a joke. An order “Pass the word forward, we’re going to advance,” given to British infantry on the Western Front in World War I was duly passed forward but got lost on the way. It became “Pass three-and-four-pence, we’re going to a dance.”

It is asserted that Karma Kandara, La Barca and other outré establishments were operating without the necessary permissions and permits. They may have been.  We don’t know. But that’s not unusual hereabouts, particularly when if you do pay up you’ve often no idea who is actually going to pocket the dosh.

Oh, THAT Target

Meanwhile – surely to no one’s surprise – environmental specialists are at loggerheads over how the Bali government’s commitment to a plastic free Bali in 2013 can be achieved. The short answer is it can’t be. The real political game is finding some smoke and mirrors with which to claim it has been, or very nearly so.  This little shadow play has now produced a statement – from provincial environment agency chief AA Gede Alit – to the effect that 2013 is just the target for the initial commitment.

Dr Wayan Arthana – of the Centre for Environmental Research (PPLH), which is hardly an impartial player but never mind in this instance – says there is no clear plan to achieve this. He is apparently shocked to learn this, which in turn is shocking. We’re on Planet Bali, where clear plans are never part of the picture. It’s true that Bali has a big waste problem. But even 10,000 cubic metres of waste a day is not insuperable. At the moment more than half is left untreated and scattered around the island. The 10 to 12 percent of it that is plastic could certainly be managed under the right programmes.

Arthana is pessimistic about the target date. “I think it will not be achieved,” he says. Gosh, if betting were legal here he’d make a brilliantly successful bookie.  It’s hard not to be pessimistic about the entire project, frankly. A study by graduates from Reading University in Britain found various impediments in the way, including the behaviour of people who it seems – in the comfortable do-nothing fictions that govern life here – “do not realise” that plastic is harmful to the environment.

Ooh, Yummy

Alila Villas Soori, on the Tabanan coast and somewhere we really must get one day, has a culinary treat in store for guests in June. Michelin chef Tom Kerridge, whose Hand and Flower public house, at Marlow on a picturesque Wind in the Willows-style stretch of the River Thames in England is Britain’s only two-star Michelin-rated pub, will be creating haute cuisine – some of it hot too, no doubt – in-house on his first ever Asian tour.

He is said by some to be the finest chef in Britain today. As far as we know, he’s not one of the rude ones, which is truly a blessing. Kerridge had a hard childhood, a time upon which he reminisced in February in the London Daily Telegraph newspaper. He recalled they were so poor – his divorced mum worked nine to five and then after hours on the till in a pub to make ends meet – that their usual Sunday Roast (a British tradition) was cheap sausage meat from a supermarket rather than prime beef or chicken from the butcher.

He said: “I look back on that meal with really fond memories because it shows my mum didn’t give up. She worked hard to help me get where I am. Now she comes to visit me at the pub, where we’ve just won our second Michelin star, and I get to treat her instead.”

What a lovely fellow.

And that’s not all that Alila Villas Soori has on its schedule next month. Its latest Artist in Residence is Raymond Wiger, a master sculptor in the art of wire mesh, who will show a collection there in June including some pieces inspired by and resulting from his residence at the resort.

Scat, Cat

We heard this story from Villa Kitty, the rapidly overcrowding refuge for deprived felines in Ubud. Apparently at Champlung Sari, a resort property in Monkey Forest Road, unwanted or nuisance kittens – the product of breeding age cats left unsterilized by unthinking owners or the ubiquitous stray animals – are cleared from the property by the cheapest method possible. Someone tosses them over the wall into a dirty little watercourse that fights its way through the garbage to get where gravity would otherwise like it to go.

Villa Kitty tells us a couple staying at the resort recently were upset at seeing a kitten thrown over the wall in this manner and one phoned them up in high distress. Further inquiry elicited the information from the management that the guests had evidently failed to see the kitten then climb back over the wall.

Is this a joke? Sadly it is not. But animal lovers and anyone with an elementary sense of decency might like to get their essential Ubud experience at some other accommodation.

A Ra’re Treat

Hector’s ghost-writer was browsing through his LinkedIn site recently when the ever-helpful People You Might Know feature popped out the name of Angus McCaskill. Well, we don’t know Angus and neither did we know his alter ego, the faux-Maori Willie Ra’re, when he was hanging around the party scene snorting cocaine. That is, we didn’t know him except vicariously as a result of the public notoriety he acquired on being arrested, charged, tried and sentenced to jail on a drug charge. We shared this condition – though ours was legitimate lack of knowledge – with a great many people who, after his sad denouement in a supermarket, suddenly seemed not to know him either.

McCaskill went home to Australia last August after serving a year in Kerobokan jail. He had originally been sentenced to seven years in one of those over-reactive challenges to common sense that the courts here seem to like so much.

He said at the time he was a changed man and that he had used his year in the slammer to reconnect with the non-narcotics-enhanced side of life. We wish him well.

LinkedIn tells us he is now business development manager at a Melbourne-based leisure, travel and tourism outfit called DealsOnDeals and also lists him as owner at the Wall Street Group of Companies. Now that might give us the Willies; not to mention the Gekkos.

Eat Up

Ubud, as befits its status as the centre of myriad universes, many of them very strange places indeed, has plenty of spots where, your head filled with pipedreams, you can also stuff your face. That’s as it should be, even if it’s only a mungbean you’re after. So one more won’t matter and it’s no surprise that Kuta fixture Dijon has wandered up the road to open a café. It’s in tastefully eclectic Jalan Raya Sanggingan, just across the road from a favourite Diary spot, the Beji resort.

Dijon Café officially commenced business on April 29, with all the pomp and circumstance people seem to view as de rigueur when opening a new emporium (of whatever variety) here. It was open – perhaps this was unofficially, or maybe it was just softly – when we were staying in the area last December.

It’s not very far from Mozaic, which keeps getting noticed – the Diary chiefly notices it for its prices – and Naughty Nuri’s, which being extremely tiny is always overflowing with the I-Must-Be-Seen crowd. So it will be good if Dijon cuts the mustard.

Vacant Lot

The April issue of the Bali Peace Park Association’s e-newsletter popped into our in-box right on deadline – ours, not theirs, it now being May – with some fascinating thoughts on fundraising, land acquisition, and building completion. It records that Man-With-the-Udeng Made Wijaya, whose landscaping firm did the drawings for the Sari site development, told them building the park facilities would take six months. Then it says they’re on schedule for October, the tenth anniversary of the first bombings. It’s May, so they now have five months. But they haven’t acquired the site – and there’s not a brick in sight.

We’ll read more. Watch this vacant space.

Hector’s Diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser, published every second Wednesday, and on his Blog at http://wotthehec.blogspot.com. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).