PLN’s Best Day

HECTOR’S DIARY

in the Bali Advertiser

HectorR

Wednesday, Mar. 29, 2017

 

IT was Nyepi yesterday (Mar. 28): Bali’s Silent Day. It is celebrated on the first new moon in March – at the same time as Indian Hindus mark their festival of Ugadi – and ushers in the Balinese New Year. It was then 1939 when we were again lawfully allowed to pop the kettle on to make a nice cuppa.

On Nyepi day, as is now well known even by challenged Australian tourists and most Chinese whose package tour operators failed to remind them that they’d be confined to barracks, very little happens in Bali.

The streets are deserted, except for Pecalang patrols checking to see that everyone’s indoors being quiet and contemplating no one’s navel except their own, and any emergency vehicle that’s been let out on duty with an authorised blue flashing light. So the road system copes quite well. Electricity use plummets by 40 per cent, which means PLN can meet demand, also a novel one-day-a-year arrangement.

The airport remains officially operational. It must, as an international airport, so it can function as a landing place for aircraft in distress. Otherwise, only transit flights are permitted over Nyepi and these are not allowed to embark or disembark passengers. Maritime navigation lights also remain on, including for ships at anchor, as international maritime law requires. So anyone with a sea view can find amusement by spotting riding lights and harbour beacons. Designated tourist hotels can keep minimal lighting on for guest safety. Otherwise, clouds permitting, it’s a starry, starry night. Which is lovely.

At The Cage, we keep things quiet. No noise is allowed to escape our perimeter. No light is either. That’s our mark of respect to local regulations and the honoured and honourable requirements of Balinese Hinduism. We’ve lived here for 12 years, but we are still guests in someone else’s homeland, and guests should respect their hosts by behaving themselves.

Religion, though, is not for us: we don’t even observe the strictures of the one that we are forced by Indonesian law to nominate as ours. Years ago we cut to the chase and gave up Lent for Lent. It’s Lent (the 40-day Christian pre-Easter fast) at the moment, just by the way.

These days we stay home for Nyepi. We’ve given up going away, or checking into some tourist accommodation where unruly children and their indifferent parents ruin your day.

Some years ago we booked for Nyepi at a favourite spot (it’s in Candi Dasa) and took our usual room overlooking the pool. We and the other guests were chivvied out of the restaurant by 7.30pm and sent to our rooms where the doors had to be closed and the curtains drawn tightly across the windows lest light or sounds of muted merriment be evident. We sat in the dark on our terrace and were amused by the staff, of which numbers soon turned up at the darkened pool with all the pool toys. They had a rare old time.

Miscreants and Others

BALI’S courts seem to have been processing job lots of foreigners lately, for the usual run-of-the-mill offences like drugs (“I didn’t know it was illegal”) and killing people. We sympathise with the judiciary, which has a tough enough job dealing with Indonesian-speaking criminals without having to cope with idiot visitors who can’t understand what’s being said, or the procedural practices of Indonesian law and the courts, and who probably shouldn’t have been allowed on the planes that brought them here in the first place. Such is life, in the age of mass tourism.

It’s true of course, if you believe the inmates that is, that jails everywhere are full of innocent people. The scope and range of implausible excuses is infinite. Criminal law is an interesting area, but we couldn’t take it. Our fuse is not long enough.

That’s why we took up scribbling for a living (though the living bit is moot these days). As so many assume is their right to tell you, it’s easy to fulminate. You just need an outwardly imperturbable nature and a thick skin. Though to do so sensibly, in the hope of encouraging objective thinking, in yourself or in others, you must be broadly informed. Sadly, Google long ago declared this practice archaic. These days you just cherry pick by cut-and-paste to reinforce only what you want to believe.

In the specific instance of the thrill of the moment, the trials of Briton David Taylor and Australian Sara Connor for the killing of a policeman on Kuta Beach on Aug. 17 last year, it’s appropriate to note that the sentences plainly reflect a very full judicial assessment of all the circumstances.

Taylor, a DJ whose performance name and apparently preferred lifestyle is Nutso but who sensibly shed his dreadlocks and his attitude for his trial, has accepted his six-year sentence. Connor, a mother of two (which some non-Indonesians seem to believe should mediate sentencing policy) was at last report considering counsel’s advice that she should appeal. She got four years. Our advice would be to cop that sweet.

Traditional Dress

SOME people are said to think that Governor Pastika went a bit over the top in his choice of attire when he said cheerio to King Salman of Saudi Arabia at the end of his extended stay. The Governor wore traditional Balinese dress. King Salman wore traditional Saudi dress.

They could have swapped, perhaps, just for the heck of it and the photo opportunities. But the Governor is Balinese. Why shouldn’t he turn out in full ceremonial rig for a ceremonial occasion? Bali’s unique culture deserves protection – and promotion. King Salman seems perfectly content with the notion that Bali is not part of Arabia Felix. Apparently he has the same opinion about the rest of Indonesia. This will disappoint only very few people.

Multilingual Cats

WE spent a lovely weekend recently as house guests at a villa in the Ubud area, an establishment where the two resident cats – kittens, really, and rescue animals at that – are showing remarkable linguistic aptitude. The household is French-speaking. The help is Indonesian. The visitors in this instance were from the Anglo side of the resident foreigner community.

We took along a couple of toys for the cats to play with. They seemed to enjoy them. One of them even went as far as to purr in our presence, a very high honour. But what impressed us most was that they seemed to be equally at home all three languages, as well as being completely fluent, as you’d expect, in their own Meow.

We tried our French on one of them, a lovely little ginger fellow whose name – surprise – is Ginger. In French, that’s “Jzhonzh-air”. He is the one who had purred at us. We think we got a meow in response. But it could have been a meh. Such a put-down! French vowels have so often brought us undone. We were in Paris once and were trying to find the Louvre, and got sent to the pissoir instead.

Ah, Yes, that Rabies Thing

IT won’t go away. It won’t, at least, until Bali’s authorities find some way to get really serious about it, and apply to the reduction and eventual elimination of rabies the established rules and practices that work everywhere else. The island’s new compact with the Japanese city of Kumamotu might help there. It is designed to put in place a controlled and properly administered program of the same sort that was commenced here in 2009, was then handed over to the local authorities, and then fell in a heap.

We know from reports in the local media that rabies-positive dogs have recently bitten people in the Bangli, Tabanan and Jembrana regencies. As usual, there was the absence of ready access to vaccine to cope with. That really is something the health authorities need to get on top of right now. Rabies is a zoonotic disease (human infections are from animal vectors) in the same way as plague is, for example. It is also 100 per cent fatal, unlike plague. But prevalence of zoonotic disease in close proximity to human populations indicates an absence of effort to eradicate it, including by spending the money required to do so. This is not something any local government should permit.

Rabies has been known to be present in Bali since 2008. It is unsafe to assume that any area of the island is free of it. We should remember that it started on the Bukit, not far from that popular draw-card, the GWK cultural park, and will certainly still be present there. It does seem, anecdotally, that infection levels in dogs are now at relatively low levels. That’s a benefit.

But all it takes is one dog. Someone who drives around in a plush government supplied SUV should have a real think about that.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in the Bali Advertiser appears in every second issue. Follow 8degreesoflatitude.com for more up to the minute material.

 

They’re a Scream

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Bali

Aug. 17, 2016

 

If the acquisitive cartel of private interests and public officials that really runs Bali wants to turn the island into Disneyland, it must be conceded (through gritted teeth) that they can. The electoral check on such excess is even more notional here than in other more functional democracies.

We’ve seen in the proposal to bury Benoa Bay under masses of defective concrete and frightful architectural kitsch and turn it into Port Excrescence (a project of PT I’m Gonna Make a Motza) that the environment runs a poor second to the heady thrill of grubbing out another zillion rupiahs. We’ve seen too that the considered consensus views of the villages and banjars that are protesting mean absolutely nothing; at least so far.

Ditto with the despoliation of the reef and surf line in the vicinity of the new Kempinski and Ritz-Carlton hotels under construction on the southern Bukit. There, some curious alchemy conjured up a very dodgy bit of paper featuring a magic official signature.

We now hear, via the Bali Post newspaper, a particularly vacuous thought bubble from the head of the Buleleng chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), a gentleman by the name of Dewa Suardipa. He would like to see dolphin cages built in the sea off Lovina so as to “optimise” (as Jack Daniels’ Bali Update reports from the Post on Aug. 8) the attractiveness of dolphin tours promoted to tourists visiting North Bali.

Perhaps these disgraceful prisons for highly intelligent sea creatures could be built near that other future-planner’s delight, the proposed offshore North Bali airport. (We do wonder whether they’ve thought about tsunami barriers, not to mention whether they’d work, but that’s another topic.) That way the hordes of gawkers they would like to attract to see the pernicious results of extraordinary rendition in yet another guise wouldn’t ever actually have to set foot in the real Bali.

They wouldn’t have to interact either with the local boatmen who at present make a modest income from taking small parties of tourists out to see the dolphins in their natural habitat. Maybe these dispossessed persons could be armed with gaff hooks and employed to whistle at the captive dolphins and wave fish at them; by this means, according to Pak Dewa of the Buleleng PHRI, the poor creatures (the dolphins, we mean) could be trained to perform on demand and would soon learn not to be distressed or depressed.

Hey, they could co-opt the deprived dolphins from that sick excuse for an attraction at Keremas to give them lessons. Oh no, that wouldn’t work. They’re still depressed, poor things. How can that be? They get fed fish and can see the sea if they breast the edge of their swimming pool for a wistful look at their home.

It’s so often an Edvard Munche Day in Bali. You know, when you just have to let out a manic scream.

Saurian Point

While we’re on the topic of potty ideas, something from Kupang in Indonesian Timor blipped the radar recently. Crocodiles have presented themselves as a problem for the capital of East Nusa Tenggara. They’ve apparently been doing so since 2011, but it takes a little time for officialdom to notice these things.

Saltwater crocs are endemic to the area, though they seem to have stayed decorously out of sight until five years ago, when suddenly they started eating people. I say, chaps, that’s poor form!

In the Australian city of Darwin, 800 kilometres away to the southeast, the city authorities have built fences behind the popular beach area so that sunbathers and other playful types can lie around in peace, or play ball or whatever, without the statistical risk of being grabbed by a leg and dragged away for an unwanted death roll. In Kupang, the solution is not infrastructure. It’s a croc-capturing competition. The current score-line is Crocs 19 People 0 and the city fathers would like to even things up.

This we learned from a story by Jewel Topsfield, the Fairfax group correspondent in Jakarta, and Amilia Rosa, that appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald and other Fairfax papers in Australia. We silently thanked them when we read the yarn. It’s so nice to get a chortle with your morning cuppa.

The competition, with prize money of Rp5 million per capture, was set to start after Independence Day. We’ll watch that score-line carefully.

Direct Aid

Elizabeth Henzell, who is among the nicest people we know, had a lovely story to tell the other day. She’s not exactly flush with funds. Who is these days, except a Jakarta tycoon? But she does recognise, as many do, that even the poorest expatriate lives better and has more than most Balinese. So she helps beggars, those people (the ones from Karangasem are in the Governor’s sights at the moment as unwanted elements of his preferred touristic streetscape) who wander the streets of Ubud in search of money so they can eat.

On her way through to Villa Kitty at Lodtunduh – which is where her money goes, the NGO being as short of funds as most in the animal welfare area – she made a stop as she often does at the Pertamina petrol station on Jl. Raya Pengosetan. Instead of just handing out money to the little “family” she helps, a “mother” and several children, this time she asked what they’d like to eat. It was something very modest from the food stall just across the street. She took them there and bought them a meal. It would have cost more to have coffee at Starbucks.

Hunger is a pervasive distemper. It saps energy and in the end intellect too. A full tummy is a wonderful tonic. Henzell said of the evening in question: “This was at 9.30pm last night. They were so hungry. I left four children and a very tired mother all sitting in a little circle eating their Bakso. All for Rp 68,000, but who will feed them tomorrow?”

Hopefully someone will have done so. For the moment, we just say this: Elizabeth, we love you.

Truck Off

We hear that at long last the authorities in Bangli regency have cracked down on the profitable extraction of lava gravel in the Lake Batur basin and told the trucks that make a menace of themselves on the narrow roads up and down the mountain to cease and desist. They haven’t, quite, we understand. No surprises there. But the traffic has reduced.

Apparently this late accession to something notionally resembling sound principles of environmental protection followed a word from the UN to the effect that the prized Batur Geo Park would not be goer without an end to extractive vandalism.

One day, perhaps, the island’s authorities will work out that Bali’s environment actually is precious and not just a PR pitch. And that returning it to something resembling nature and – where this is no longer possible – a state of cleanliness means doing something more than just proclaiming the aim of being Clean and Green.

It’s green at the moment, because the dry season is being damp, courtesy of La Niña, and at first glance it’s clean – in parts – because the leafy glades hide all the garbage that at this time of year would normally lie revealed in all its noisome horror.

Sad Departure

Our paths never crossed – we walked a different beat – but Joe Kennedy was a Name, a master of his craft of photography, and that he is now no longer with us is a tragedy. He’d had a motorcycle accident on Jul. 29 and had suffered mild concussion and broken ribs, but was recovering well and was expecting to be discharged from Sanglah General Hospital in Denpasar when a sudden and quite unexpected heart attack carried him off on Aug. 4. This was three days short of his 57th birthday. That’s far too young.

Kennedy was born in Northern Ireland and worked in the oil industry for nearly a quarter of a century before starting a new career as a professional photographer in 2004. He set up Joe Kennedy Photography in 2006 and quickly established himself as a snapper of choice.

His funeral was at the Yasa Setra Mandala Crematorium at Taman Mumbul on Aug. 9. Friends held a wake for him afterwards at Villa Ramadewa in Seminyak.

Flag This

It’s Independence Day (Aug. 7) and we should mark this. A nation’s birthday is always important. Indonesia’s is especially so to the Diary, because it is a wonderful country and because we are almost of an age. (Indonesia Raya is slightly younger.)

The Merah Putih flies at The Cage once a year, for two weeks: the week prior and the week after the big day. It does this from a bamboo pole stuck into a bit of PVC piping nailed precariously to the outside wall of our balé. It is mirrored prettily in our little swimming pool and looks lovely when it’s fluttering in the Bukit breeze.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser.