Bali Daze

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

in the Bali Advertiser

Wednesday, Apr. 26, 2017

THEY do things differently there. That used to be something people said of the past, as in its being a foreign country. In the tried and true practice of Bali, however, doing things differently is something those who rule the island prefer to do in the present. The past is historic and mythical. The future hasn’t yet arrived and is therefore notional and can take care of itself.

Those among with long memories (that is, more than the preceding 12 months) will recall earlier schemes where attachment to reality somehow failed to find its way into the master plan. The round-island railway comes to mind. There are others, but we won’t go on. It is proposed to construct an offshore airport near Singaraja on the north coast, where the submerged landform goes gazompa in a steeply downward direction as soon as the narrow coral fringe of coastal water ends. The scheme got another airing recently. We’d love to see the engineering plans (not the pretty public relations guff; that’s useless).

As usual, the timeframe for development is hysterical. And we’ll ignore the economics, since everyone else is. But these are of no moment. This is Bali. What might be of interest are two elements of the engineering required for the offshore airport and its onshore supporting infrastructure – including the lengthy Jasa Marga toll road proposed to link the south and the north through geologically unstable landforms and forests of unalienable adat ownership.

The runways, taxiways and standing areas for big aircraft require thousands of tonnes of concrete of a thickness that would mystify most Indonesian civil engineers. Keeping that afloat would be a challenge. And then there’s the question of how to engineer the thing to avoid its destruction by a standard-risk 10-metre tsunami.

Way to Go

THE innovative Program Dharma animal health project being run by Udayana University  with support from the international organisation IFAW and locally the Bali Animal Welfare Association is showing great results, which deserve notice. A pilot program in 28 banjars in Sanur (Denpasar) has reduced the rabies threat there to an observed zero incidence, supported community engagement that’s a great model for the government to follow and implement island wide, and improved health in the local dog population.

All of this has been done without unnecessary killing of street and beach dogs, whose right to exist – and to coexist with the human population – is unquestionable, or should be. By keeping itinerant dogs healthy, including by vaccinating them against rabies so that the protective screen against the disease remains effective, and getting banjars (local precincts) involved in caring for them, an integral part of Bali’s heritage can be preserved. There are signs that the authorities at provincial and regency level are at last recognising this.

There’s no shortage of assistance available from foreign sources, including financially. An equally innovative Japanese program, from Kumamoto in Kyushu, is in place. Kumamoto eliminated rabies in cats – the disease vector there – by focused effort and effective administration.

Go Divas!

170426 SYDNEY DIVAS

From left: Sydney Divas committee members Sharon Kelly, Christina Iskandar, Maria Antico, Jackie Brown and Amanda Molyneux at the Apr. 1 event.

CHRISTINA Iskandar, Sydney wife-mother-grandmother and former Bali fixture, isn’t someone to let the grass grow under her feet. The first-ever Sydney Divas charity lunch, on Apr. 1 at the Royal Motor Yacht Club, Point Piper, which we can safely say wouldn’t have happened without her, raised a very substantial sum for the Bali Children Foundation. The money is sufficient to help the children of an entire village, an outcome that is truly wonderful news. We wish we could have been there for the inaugural event, but Sydney is already in our travel plans for a little later this year – 2017 is a big year for really important birthdays – and dollar-deprived diarists are compelled to budget.

Iskandar’s now internationalised Divas, who started the money-raising round here in Bali a while ago – and whose local lunchtime affrays are always worth attending for their ambience and to check for fashion foibles – have given new meaning to charitable enterprise in Bali. The Australian connection was always there, but now Iskandar’s back in her old hometown, it’s stronger than ever.

There are many worthwhile charity causes here, but the Bali Children Foundation, run by Margaret Barry, is right at the centre of the discretionary dollar target.

A Gold Coast Divas charity lunch is to be held on May 26. It’s at Edgewater Dining, a tapas bar and restaurant on the Isle of Capri in the Nerang River, one of The Diary’s long-established stamping grounds.

Soft Cells

THERE is, as the old saying puts it, one born every minute. Apparently quite a few of them then visit Bali for holidays. We instance, in this case, a gentleman from Australia who complained to police that he had been unkindly robbed in a Kuta alley by a lady boy who had offered him a one-minute massage in that informal salon.

We have no view on the sexuality of others, or of their morals, provided they involve only consensual activity and harm no one. It has long been our belief that people are people, and that their peccadilloes are best left to their own decision. For example, the fact that American Vice-President Mike Pence might perhaps feel sexually uncomfortable if he was alone in a dining room with one of Betty Crocker’s fine confections, gives us nary a frisson of fear – as long as he’s never let anywhere near anything that actually matters.

Similarly, if idiotic tourists want to get drunk and imagine that they’re going to find nirvana in an alley way with a lady who owns an Adam’s apple, that’s their own affair. The “lady” in question shouldn’t steal the poor sap’s wallet, of course; and, despite the best efforts of the nightclub circuit here, exposing yourself in public is still frowned upon. But, well, whatever.

Changing Times

LIPPO Group’s takeover of BIMC is now complete, following the 2013 sale of the Nusa Dua and Kuta facilities by BIMC’s Australian principal Craig Beveridge (for Rp208 billion, around US$23 million at current exchange rates). In a rebranding this week (Apr. 26), the flagship facility at Nusa Dua becomes BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua. It’s formally a brand merger, but it also redirects the hospital’s operations towards local people – a positive direction to be warmly welcomed – while keeping a focus on tourist and foreign resident health care.

The hospital, which opened in 2012, has Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International (ACHSI) recognition. In March this year it added crucial Indonesian accreditation from KARS (the national hospital accreditation committee).

BIMC Director I A Made Ratih Komala Dewi, a medical doctor, says of the changes: “Now is the time for BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua to begin providing affordable, quality healthcare to the local market – essentially all of Bali’s communities now have greater access to all hospitals in the group including this fine facility.”

She adds that the merger will generate a positive market reaction once awareness and trust are built. “We are expecting a 40 per cent conversion rate of total patients from local communities. To support the awareness of the brand merger, BIMC Siloam will open a local polyclinic in Badung regency with more affordable prices without compromising healthcare quality.”

BIMC marketing manager Windarini Fransiska says: “We believe the rebrand isn’t just a logo, it’s an experience and one that’s shaped by every doctor, nurse, and associate who delivers it and with this all our stakeholders are on board.”

The BIMC Siloam polyclinic will accept patients (KTP, KITAS holders and those with local insurance) from Monday to Saturday. Specialists practising in the BIMC polyclinic include internal medicine specialists, ENT specialists, paediatricians, dentists, anaesthesiologists, obstetricians and gynaecologists, cardiologists, neurologists, general and orthopaedic surgeons, and surgical oncologists.

BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua is holding an open house on Apr. 28-29 and May 5-6 so the public can see its facilities and inquire about its services.

For Your Diaries

RAMADHAN, the Islamic month of fasting, starts on May 26 this year (at sunset) and runs to Jun. 24.

HectorR

Hector’s Bali Advertiser diary is published monthly. The next will appear on May 24. He writes a blog diary as well, between times.

Gaia Waives the Rules

 Hector’s Bali Diary

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

June 22, 2016

 

This seemed to be the consensus among the worriers, at least, those who observe ephemeral climatic events as a message from someone or other (and of course, themselves) about the dangers of human environmental iniquity.

But climate is cyclical as well as seasonal, warming and cooling in response to all sorts of things, even sunspots. That’s why people were able to grow grapes and make wine in England in the early Middle Ages and then a couple of centuries later could ice-skate on the Thames every winter. It’s why millions of years ago there was a natural episode of global warming – we call it the Carboniferous Period – that produced worldwide rainforests that later turned into the coal with which we are now polluting the atmosphere

The problem today is that you can’t say these things without being buried under a chorus of criticism because you’re denying global warming, or worse, are possibly one of those ghastly dinosaurs who hold that man has no influence on the atmosphere and the climates that result.

For the record, we are not among that challenged cohort.

We do need to stop polluting both the atmosphere and the planet’s surface, stop breeding millions of mouths we cannot adequately feed, and stop chasing economic growth as the be all and end all of human progress.

So, to the point at issue: The recent high tides and big ocean swells that hit Bali were unusual, though far from unknown. The coincidence of lunar cycle high water, the continuing effects of a powerful El Niño event, storms in the Indian Ocean and big Antarctic lows generating huge swells was spectacular. Tragically, as always with such events, there were human casualties. Despoilers of the beaches for profit found that indeed they had built upon the sand. Silly, shortsighted chumps will always collide with karma. It was the same in faraway Sydney.

The moral is that the ocean is for fish and the beach is to visit. We are a terrestrial species. Perhaps, eventually, Governor Pastika and Benoa Bay non-environmentalist Tomy Winata will note this and grasp the good sense of Tolak Reklamasi. Both should be familiar with that term by now.

Make a Splash

Waterman’s Week 2016, which is coming up in July, has many events at many venues designed to honour the marine environment and raise awareness of its human-made problems.

There’s fun to be had that’s not too energetic, as well. One of the sponsors of the week, Island Mermaids, is staging a Miss Mermaid Bali 2016 Photo Shoot Contest. So if you’ve ever dreamed of being a mermaid (and are female and over 13) this is your chance to become one of the mythical creatures and help save the oceans too.

The idea is that mermaids need clean oceans. Well, no one would argue with that. Doing so would certainly set the Sirens off. All funds raised from the contest will go to the new Zero Waste to Oceans Education and Demonstration Centre being built by ROLE Foundation at Nusa Dua.

Details are available at www.island-mermaids.com.

Tea and Sympathy

Ross Fitzgerald, professor of history and erotic writer, has just enjoyed a short sojourn in Bali. He was here with his wife Lyndal Moor and stayed at Puri Saraswati near the royal palace in Ubud.

He and the Diary repaired to The Melting Pot on the Queen’s Birthday Australian holiday (Jun. 13) via a nice light lunch at a nearby warung, to watch the Melbourne-Collingwood AFL match that day. Fitzgerald was a very disappointed man; his team Collingwood got thumped by 46 points. The Diary didn’t care. We get our own doses of disappointment from St Kilda.

But in between groans, and speculation about the very large rat we’d seen running along the top of the wall behind the bar, we had another chat about his candidacy for the Senate from the state of NSW for the Australian Sex Party. We’ve mentioned that before. There’s an outside chance that we could soon be chums with Senator Fitzgerald. The Sex Party’s not all about, um, that. It has some very progressively sensible social policies too.

Fitzgerald told us he had recently debated the Rev. Fred Nile, a NSW state MP of, shall we say, rather rigid Christian views, at a little soiree organized by The Sydney Institute which is run by another old friend, Gerard Henderson. It would have been fun to be there.

He told us another tale. On his Garuda flight up from Sydney the happy arrival video they screen included advice that you’d have to pay $US 35 for a visa on arrival. Um. That was scrapped a while ago. Perhaps the world’s best airline for cabin service would like to update its AV primers? They should also have a chat with their cabin staff. Those on Fitzgerald’s flight didn’t know either.

Ramandhan Special

The official thuggery visited upon a poor food seller in Semarang, Central Java, who dared to keep her little stall open during Ramadhan fasting hours, is a prize example of many things. The woman has debts she needs to pay, and apparently customers who wish to eat, presumably not being required by their religion to fast.

The incident caused a furore. President Joko Widodo, familiarly called Jokowi, gave the woman Rp10 million to compensate her for the food that overbearing religious instructors and heavy handed public order police had stolen from her. Regional police chiefs have now received advice that they should not allow this sort of vigilante action.

There’s a verse in the Holy Quran that seems apposite.

“Their [acceptance] of guidance is not your responsibility. It is Allah who awards guidance whom He wills. And whatever wealth you give away (as charity donation) goes to your own benefit. It is not appropriate for you to spend but for Allah’s pleasure alone. And whatever you spend of your wealth, [its reward] will be paid back to you in full and you shall not be treated unjustly.” (Al-Baqarah 2:272).

Festival Time

Among the panoply of festivals and celebrations that these days grace Bali – or otherwise, depending on individual taste – is the annual Bali Arts Festival, the doyen of the stable, which has been around now for 38 years.

This year’s, now under way, was officially opened on Jun. 10. President Jokowi dropped in for the show and the street parade of thousands of Bali artists. The annual month-long festival showcases Bali’s traditional arts. It coincides with the school holidays, which gives the kids something to do in their down time. That’s always a good idea.

The President made a speech. He began with greetings in Balinese, to loud cheers from the crowd. And then he said this, which is worth absorbing:

“I feel very happy this afternoon that I can be here, on the Island of the Gods, Bali. For me, the Bali Arts Festival is not merely a people’s party or an arts festival. It is an event that has not only cultural and educational functions, but also a function as a driving force for the economy, especially the Bali community.”

Indeed. Indonesia has a rich and hugely diverse cultural heritage. This deserves protection from those who would turn its cities into lookalike Legolands. And properly appreciated, facilitated and managed, it is itself an economic driver.

Up the Poll

Some may have noticed that Australia is having a federal election on Jul. 2. It’s a rare double-dissolution election for the House of Representatives and the full Senate. If you’re a registered Australian voter here you can cast a pre-poll vote in person at the consulate-general in Renon up to Friday, Jul. 1. You won’t be able to vote there on polling day itself.

You’ll need to show your Australian passport or your current Australian driver’s licence to get into the consulate to vote. They won’t let you in without it. The consulate is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm.

Applications for postal votes, which are an alternative way of avoiding a fine for not being ticked off on the bean-counters’ defaulters’ list, close on Jun. 29 via the Australian Electoral Commission website.

Harley Man

Former Bali boy Ric Shreves, now firmly established in Portland, Oregon and working for a worldwide charity doing things that have recently seen him in Turkana, Kenya (that’s a little different from Bali) has acquired a new toy.

It’s a rather tough-looking Harley Davidson hog: Happy riding, Ric.

Surf to Save

The Bali Animal Welfare Association recently got a wonderful offer from visiting American surfer Tommy Michael – he would organize a fun surfing school, Surf2Save, and direct the proceeds to BAWA. The event, on June 4 at one of the Bukit’s famed surf beaches, went so well that BAWA is looking for someone to run another.

Michael’s inaugural event was strongly supported by the local surfing community, which has always been very community minded. He’s now returned to Costa Rica, where he lives and does similar things for local charities there.

Hector’s Diary, edited for newspaper publication, appears online and in print in the fortnightly Bali Advertiser.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 18, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

No Time and High Tide

It’s always fun to read stories in the local press that relate to statistical information. The power of presentational representation (some people call that PR) is a skill that should never be undervalued in Indonesia. Thus we had a little smile when we read that Bali’s Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries reported seaweed production in the regencies of Badung, Klungkung and Buleleng fell last year by 42 per cent on the 2013 figure. Official statistics show seaweed production was reduced from 145,597 tons to 84,320 tons.

A representative of the department, I Made Gunaja, said conversion of seaweed farms into tourist attractions had caused dramatic reductions in production at Pandawa and Kutuh beaches on the Bukit. Hello? How can that be? Who would have expected that to happen if you shooed off the seaweed farmers because their way of life and subsistence income was superfluous to Bali’s modern requirements to turn secret beaches and other lovely natural spots into resorts for the newly rich and wannabe famous?

The departmental spokesman added this hopeful line to his spin cycle:  “Because the land is used for tourists, the seaweed farmers are now switching professions to join the tourism sector.” It’s good to hear that all these displaced persons, casualties of the national struggle for plutocrat enrichment, are getting professional jobs in the tourism-related sector. Executive Manager, Leaf-Sweeping, with the prospect of eventual promotion to bag-carrier, sounds an absolutely ideal new career path.

Part of the problem, according to Dr Spin, is the weather. Apparently it has been inclemently unkind recently to the sort of seaweed that has populated the marine environment in the area forever. So they’re proposing to plant red seaweed, which the department asserts could promise a much bigger crop and which is supposedly rather more resistant to climate cycles (and possibly jet-skis, though Dr Spin didn’t say this).

It would be interesting to read the findings of the EIS on introducing red seaweed into the environment apparently vacated by the green variety and its harvesters. Did we just hear a hollow laugh?

Her Kitchen Rules

Janet DeNeefe of Fragrant Rice fame has added a food festival to her list of Ubud-centred Bali things. She says the idea flowed from feedback from patrons of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival that suggested they’d enjoy the added benefit of exploration in the diverse culinary landscapes of Indonesia. Last year’s UWRF in Bali’s self-styled culinary and cultural capital included a Kitchen Program.

The first Ubud Food Festival is the result. From June 5-7 DeNeefe and others will run a three-day culinary extravaganza. She promises a festival that will bring together Indonesia’s and Southeast Asia’s most celebrated chefs, restaurateurs, producers and food professionals to serve up a program rich in food mythology, authenticity and taste.

Its tastes and sensations will be eclectic, ranging (in her words) from coffee to chocolate and tempe to turmeric. The UFF will include a range of free and ticketed events spanning cooking demonstrations, master-classes, panel discussions, night markets, farmers’ markets, food tours, wine tastings and film screenings.

We must get along to it.

Lost in the Myth

It’s something of a comfort to learn that the trade minister in the new Jokowi Cabinet, Rahmat Gobel, decided to ban the import of used clothes because they could spread HIV. Most of President Widodo’s ministers had seemed, up to that point, to be a serious-minded bunch, even if some of them were there for political rather than qualified reasons. The mirth was missing.

Pak Rahmat has bravely returned us to the comedy routine. There’s nothing quite like a torrent of tosh to get the belly-laughs going. So we all owe him a favour for lighting up our day. Far be it from us to suggest that his feeling for farce is in fact connected with appalling ignorance and morbid misconception.

We can safely leave that to Ayu Octariani of the Indonesia AIDS Coalition (IAC). She put the situation into its correct perspective. She said the minister’s statement was regrettable and reflected a lack of awareness in Indonesia regarding HIV and what it can lead to (AIDS) if not treated with appropriate drugs and qualified medical care.

She also said this: “Let’s not talk about educating the public just yet. Even in the cabinet, which consists of educated people, there’s still a misconception about HIV/AIDS.”

Indeed there is.

Phew – Made It!

When we sent this diary column in on deadline, we were in Brisbane, in the Australian state of Queensland, a place that is remarkable for many things, including having been abandoned yet again by serial schedule-changer Five Star Garuda.

In Queensland, as some may know, they’ve just had another of those “the voters have spoken – the bastards” elections. Attending scenes of chaos, political or otherwise, has been our lifelong work and it was amusing to be back in the thick of it, briefly. We were due to have a chat with the Diary’s international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, on these and other matters, but other matters intervened. We’ll catch up later with the dear girl.

Being allowed into Queensland, though, was a damn close run thing, because the government just given its marching orders (despite winning the popular vote by a margin of nearly four percent) had enacted astonishingly anti-democratic bikie laws during its first (and as it turned out, only) term. Among the rules imposed by this inventive legislation, as noted in the Diary of Feb. 4, was a provision that any gathering is illegal if two or more members of bikie gangs are present.

We were carrying two lovely Bali “German-style” bike helmets for a friend who collects such cultural items to decorate his bar. Fortunately, though we of course declared the presence of more than one possibly bikie helmet to the seriously-minded lads and lassies of Customs and Border Protection at Brisbane Airport, we were told that whatever Queensland laws might suggest, they were not regarded under federal law as evidence of criminal intent.

Celebrity Support

Paris Hilton, whose favourite colour is pink and who recently holidayed in Bali yet again, is a fan of the efforts the Bali Animal Welfare Association makes on behalf of the island’s disadvantaged dogs and other animals.

She told her global fan club this in words and pictures on her Facebook page, which is essential reading for diarists who like to keep abreast of what the international glitterati does between breakfast and dinner. (What it does between dinner and breakfast is its own affair.)

On her latest Bali break, Hilton also found time to chat with the glitter-obsessed macaques of Ubud’s Monkey Forest. Good on her!

Evil Weed

It was very nice of Kerry Ball to invite us along to the Alan Bates Stop Smoking seminar held at Petitenget Restaurant & Bar on Feb. 7. We couldn’t attend since we had just the day before taken our personal pollution program off the island temporarily. But we do agree that people should be encouraged to stop smoking, if they are smokers who wish to stop doing so.

Bates claims to have helped thousands of people around the world give up the pernicious weed first identified as such by King James VI of Scotland – he was also King James I of England, something the untutored crowd south of that particular border are apt to forget – not long after Sir Walter Raleigh returned from the Americas with his first packet of Indian Rough. He wrote a famous treatise about it, in 1604, entitled A Counterblaste to Tobacco.

As Bates notes and as experience suggests, nicotine addiction is both a physical and a behavioural thing. Willpower can do the job if you really want to stop. But you have to really want to stop.

Being told you’re a social excrescence and a rude person of immense stupidity, constantly, is not as much of an inducement to cease smoking as some of the anti lobby apparently would like to believe. But smoking rates are falling sharply in many parts of the world. In Australia, where the Diary is temporarily hiding away behind bushes or toilet blocks to snatch a quick draught, only 13 per cent of people now smoke.

It’s a dying habit, as they say.

Four Play is Such Fun

Putri Wedasari, who used to make noise as an account executive for OZ Radio 101.2 Bali, has changed her style. She now heads Four Play Communication, an agency that operates within her skill sets of marketing and strategic communications, the latter being the field in which she obtained her master’s degree last year.

She lists Zumba dance among her recreational interests. That sounds like just the thing for a young lady on the move.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 4, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Tale of Two Statues

The new style of Bali’s fixation with monumental ornamentation, as seen in the grossly huge and garishly illuminated nightly by circus-style flashing lights “monkey mountain” that has been erected at the junction of Prof Ida Bagus Mantra Bypass and I Gusti Ngurah Rai Bypass just south of Tohpati, is certainly a distraction to drivers. That’s about the kindest thing you could say about it.

It’s true that after a while it fails to totally shock – the brain is adept at repressing all manners of vast unpleasantness – but we can personally attest that for the first several times this visionary excrescence comes suddenly into view one is auto-prompted to utter loudly a crudely pejorative four-letter word before asking (audibly or otherwise, and rhetorically of course) “What on earth is that?”

Fortunately the future of world-class Balinese stone craftsmanship is in safe hands in other areas. Gianyar regency sculptor Ongky Wijana, for instance, has recently completed a work that will honour the mining heritage of the little town of Laxey in the Isle of Man, one among the Queen’s possessions that has never been incorporated into the United Kingdom.

Wijana’s wife Hannah Black, an art editor and designer, is from the Isle of Man, which is in the Irish Sea roughly equidistant from the Irish and Scottish coasts and a little further from the nearest bits of England and Wales. That’s the connection. He has spent quite a lot of time there (he tells us he loves the weather; but he is a very polite gentleman) and got the commission after he was spotted practising his art amid the chill gales of winter as a good way of keeping warm.

It was a nearly year-long task – thankfully this was performed warmly in Bali – to create the statue from a 5000kg block of stone from Ireland and four pieces of Welsh slate. The finished work left Bali in early January and is due to be unveiled at Laxey on May 23.

A Hundred Shades of Grey

We’re not sure of the actual numbers (we were having far too much fun to count heads) but it’s in the nature of seventieth birthday parties to produce fields of grey wherever the eye might fall. And this was the case at The Santosa in Senggigi, Lombok, on Jan. 17, when former leading South Australian and federal Labor politician Peter Duncan had his big bash.

We flew over for the occasion and caught up with some old friends, including Barbara Cahyadi of the Lombok Guide who, because she’s a she, can legitimately crawl away and dye. She didn’t look grey at all. But then she’s nowhere near seventy either. Septuagenarian status in this context is a privilege shared only by itinerant scribblers and former politicians.

Duncan says it was not his idea, and we believe him, but The Santosa had erected a very visible backdrop behind the music stage that loudly (in the visual sense) congratulated “Mr Peter Owner of Taman Restaurant” on his birthday, which was on Jan. 1. It displayed a photographic representation of the present Mr Peter and another of the former political artist as a young man. Well, a very much younger man. This is why we keep our family album under virtual lock and key.

Duncan wore white for the night. His lovely wife Wiwik Pusparini had given him the outfit for his birthday. It was the evening’s one disappointment. Duncan had hinted earlier that he might, in his opening remarks, say that this was a great moment to appear in his birthday suit. Sadly, he flaked on that.

He did make an excellent point in his little address, however. He noted that if he’d held his big bash in Queensland, Australia, all his guests would have risked arrest. Among them were two members of bikie gangs. The Queensland government has outlawed any gathering at which more than one bikie is present. They like their paranoia by the shovelful in Bananaland.

Hang on a Tic!

The endemic political Tourette’s syndrome and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) that afflict Indonesia can be entertaining. Or they would be if they weren’t simply revealing ubiquitous dysfunction and the fact that those creating it would rather play silly games than do any serious work.

The real Tourette’s, a debilitating and limiting neurological condition, and OCB, an anxiety disorder, are involuntary medical conditions. The non-medical and characteristically self-inflicted political variants of these sad conditions are not. They are elective and risible.

It needs to be noted that while Indonesia has pervasive exposure to these syndromes – most lately demonstrated in the Keystone Kops tit-for-tat farce involving the national police and the anti-corruption commission which would be hilarious if it weren’t so dangerous – they are not unique to the archipelago. They are prevalent in many places, globally, including within the Australian political class.

Last year the government announced that five countries would get visa-free entry for short-term visitors. These countries were Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

In 2014 Australian arrivals to Bali, totalled 991,024, which was 26.3 percent of all visitors. Among the countries awarded free visa status from 2015, China last year sent us 586,197 tourists, a more than 50 percent increase; South Korea 106,774 (to Sep.), making it our sixth largest market; Japan, once our biggest market, fell to fourth place with not much hope of any marked improvement in the short term; and Russian arrivals fell 10 percent (to Sep.) due to unfortunate circumstances at home and the collapse of the rouble. Malaysia, which is on the ASEAN free visa list, was our third-largest market in 2014 with 224,962 arrivals.

Now Australia has been dumped from the list of those countries whose travelling citizenry is to be excused the tedious business of being tickled for US$35 on arrival. Officially this is because the free visa arrangements require reciprocity (and that would certainly be sensible on the basis of a short-stay holiday and a return ticket, should anyone in Canberra feel interested enough to notice). But since Australia was on the original list and now isn’t, it seems safe to assume that the move is political.

In the words of Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Indroyono Soesilo: “For Australians, the visa on arrival is enough.” Perhaps he means that US$34,685,840 is nice pocket-money.

But what Indonesia has just said to its potential one-million-plus-a-year Australian tourists, its largest market, is, “Welcome to Bali. Sod off.”  What needs to be understood in Jakarta and Denpasar is that there are now many other places in the region which offer Australian tourists holiday experiences with free visas, less expense, less inconvenience, and better facilities. As blogger of note Vyt Karazija observed, it’s that shoot first, shout later thing: Ready! Fire! Aim!

Move Along Now…

No doubt Bali will give its famous blank stare response to the recent decision of the Supreme Court of India to uphold a ban on cock-fighting in the Hindu state of Andhra Pradesh. An action to overturn the ban on cultural grounds was opposed by Humane Society International, which told the court: “These cruel practices are against the law and should not be conducted under the garb of tradition. These events are nothing but gambling events.”

In Bali, cock-fighting is ubiquitous. Only the blind or the beneficially suborned would suggest gambling is not. Blood sacrifice is integral to both Balinese and Indian Hindu rites but the question is whether a religious validation of cruelty extends to death sports for gain. Animal activists are working (in the case of the Bali Animal Welfare Association, with IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare) to educate communities in animal welfare and animal rights.

Interesting Thought

Waiting for a delayed flight can have benefits, not the least of them the chance to drink even more coffee. So it was when we flew back from Lombok to Bali on Jan. 18 after a weekend visit for a party (see above) and two lovely nights at Sudamala Suites and Villas on the beach at Mangsit north of Senggigi.

The benefit in this case came at our second coffee stop, after we discovered by the sort of osmosis required to obtain accurate information from anyone in Indonesia, that our Wings Air flight would be leaving 90 minutes late.

We were at the Dante’s outlet in the departure area and had switched off the smart phone to conserve its pathetic battery capacity. In an effort to delay terminal boredom, the eye wandered around the establishment’s many promotional billboards and found a reward.

One of these colourful eye-catchers was offering Brazilian Lemon. We wondered, briefly and indelicately, if that was a lemon with the zest shaved off.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 7, 2015

 

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

BAWA with a Bang

BAWA, the pre-eminent animal welfare organization on the island because of focused effort and the seminal role played by founder Janice Girardi in dealing with rabies when it broke out in Bali in 2008 – the disease is now endemic, but that’s Indonesian bureaucracy for you – ended 2014 with a bang, though not one that would frighten the doggies.

It held a Bridge to New Year fundraising dinner on Dec. 29 at Ubud’s Taksu Restaurant, an event at which the organization was able to brief guests on its plans for 2015 and beyond. It came complete with musical entertainment provided by BAWA staff members who, when they’re not doing their day jobs, sing and strum a guitar with enthusiastic aplomb.

Earlier in December BAWA announced a real coup. Ubud prince Cok De Piko (Tjokorda Gde Dharma Putra Sukawati) has become a BAWA ambassador and, because of his enduring love for dogs and particularly the very special Bali Dog, will be seen out and about with BAWA teams as they perform their daily work.

His favourite quote is from Mark Twain: “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” Cok De studied in Australia, where he did not adopt a dog because he wouldn’t have been able to leave it behind when he returned to Bali. That’s the sort of thinking casual pet owners the world over should get their heads around.

Ubud’s traditional royalty remains very influential in the local community and is extremely well connected where it matters.

On Jan. 3, BAWA hosted the third of its series of events at Kuta Beachwalk, themed around its Adopt-Learn-Chat with a Vet program. That came along with really good music that ran late into the evening; a selection of beautiful puppies; ready-to-chat veterinarians; and some lovely art from Urban Sketchers. The event was sponsored by Beachwalk, Legian Beach Hotel, and others including Scooby-Doo, the dog food-delivery people.

BAWA’s Christmas card was interesting, by the way. You might say it was highly traditional. There was snow everywhere. This did not bring to mind Snowing in Bali, Kathryn Bonella’s book about the drug scene. Instead, it reminded us that snow looks great on Christmas cards and is murder anywhere else. We did wonder what the lovely Bali dogs and the little monkey on the BAWA card were thinking.

Please, Do Amuse

Jade Richardson, the peripatetic scribbler, recommenced her writers’ workshops in Ubud this month. This is good to see. Her approach to the written word is unique and she has a mind that is fun to engage. It’s no surprise that in Bali, where Ozymandias still lives in self-nominated splendour and where so many have built glittering local reputations upon the geographically distant rubble of pasts imperfect, she’s not on everyone’s most-favoured list.

Her mission with The Write Path is to get intending authors of books, biographies, short stories, poetry and those with ideas for articles or scripts fictional or factual, to take that first bold step and release their inner muse. Richardson, who is not one with whom to trifle, says that her process with writers “releases a genie from the bottle – meaning that I can assist those who have the call to write to discover a genius for storytelling that they never knew they had.”

She started her workshops in Bali and they’ve since been to Ecuador, the Galapagos and Thailand and online. It’s good to see her home again. It’s worth looking at www.heartbookwriting.com too.

Play-tonic

Plato always gets a good rap at The Cage. He’s well up Hector’s Top Ten Thinkers list. So it’s a bit sad, as he is so anciently a posthumous source, that his engaging aphorisms, real or otherwise, get co-opted by the ignorant for all sorts of nefarious purposes.

A case in point: On Dec. 28 there was an event at Dragonfly Village in Denpasar billed as Sensual/Sexual PlayDay – Conscious pleasure with consent, organized by someone called Matthias Schwenteck. This gentleman purloined for his own purposes the Platonic observation (one of the many Plato didn’t actually utter) that “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”.

The event seemed more suited to Ubud, where lots of people like to spend their time examining their navels while harbouring the intent to get a close-up glimpse of someone else’s.

Perhaps the fixation with things better organized privately, or which are undertaken singularly in darkened rooms with the doors locked, really is spreading beyond the confines of Loopville.

Alpha Mail

An item a fortnight ago noted that the new British envoy to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, was still ambassador-designate because he had not yet presented his letters of credence to President Joko Widodo.

Well, he hadn’t engaged in this ancient formality when we sent the previous diary in by its deadline. He did shortly thereafter, it seems, though this was not without a little last-minute hitch. He tweeted on Dec. 18, the big day: “Almost forgot my letter from the Queen – had to run back to get it.”

Banzai!

We had a pleasant drive (we jest) one Saturday evening recently when the Distaff decided she’d like sukiyaki for dinner and suggested we journey to Seminyak to enjoy the table-top cooking at Kaizan. We hadn’t been there for a while, so a plausible excuse to avoid the trip did not spring to mind.

But Kaizan wasn’t there – perhaps the extortionate rents now demanded in the area had driven it away – so we dined instead at another favourite nearby, Kuni’s, on seaweed salad, Gyu asupara maki, Gohan, Sukiyaki Nabe, and a delightful green tea mousse. This was accompanied in order by “one large Bintang two glass”, some rather pleasant sake and a nice plum wine.

The Distaff has a thing for Japan. This dates from many years ago. And for sukiyaki, ditto, though it is more a home-cooking dish than a fine-dining experience. Her view on sukiyaki, as on many things, is “Doko ga warui no desuka?” It’s a colloquial Japanese transliteration of an interrogative “What’s wrong with that?” And we agree.

The drive from Ungasan was another matter. Large numbers of idiots were dangerously riding their motorbikes and the drivers of all the tourist buses were clearly on speed. Half the street lights were out on the by-pass. There were Hindu ceremonies everywhere that required fierce-looking village guards armed with Star Wars-style magic wands to stop the traffic so that scattered little groups of celebrants could wander at will across the thoroughfare.

The airport traffic circle was mayhem as a result. Northbound traffic had formed eight (we counted) “lanes” to force a way into the circus. The Distaff closed her eyes and thought of sukiyaki while her driver, whom we know as Perpendicular Pronoun, edged and all but nudged his way through. It helps, we think, to have been a lemming in a former life.

He’s Cooking

Vyt Karazija, the inveterate blogger, was thinking virtually out loud on Facebook on Boxing Day evening as to whether he should go out to eat or stay home and cook. Neither prospect amused him. We (and others) tendered advice. Ours was simple and direct: “Easy. Starve.” In the end he decided to cook and explained why:

“The prospect was get dressed, release security cobras, then quickly lock up premises, don wet weather gear, get bike outside, lock gates, ride to restaurant while trying not to skid, fall off, get hit by some moron, park bike somewhere where it won’t fall over/get stolen/get flattened by some blind idiot with a Hummer, order food, get accosted by friendly drunk, argue about the ++ charges on the bill and then do everything in reverse just to get home.

“Then having to round up the security cobras and put them back in their boxes and pacify them because I forgot to pick up their mice for dinner.

“Or alternatively, cook dinner and eat it.”

It’s a piece of cake, really.

Dance Class

A chance remark the other day, offered by an acquaintance who may have been concerned that some might have missed the module on delicious irony when they were majoring in epithet, prompts us to say that we know the iconic Bali dance that tourists have been going ga-ga about since it was invented in the antiquity of the 1930s is called Kecak.

Readers may have noticed a reference or two to Kecap dances in the diary in recent times.

It is often called Kecap by tourists and in many less than scholarly references on that global kindergarten primer, the world-wide web. Kecap is sauce. Though it must not be confused with ketchup, which is to piquant what semolina is to Bubur Injin.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, July 9, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

So Nearly the Big Chill

This edition of the diary comes to you from the chilly depths of wintertime southern Western Australia, for reasons that really don’t matter. What does matter is that The Diary inadvertently left its wallet in seat 9C on AirAsia flight QZ536 from Bali to Perth on June 23.

It is pleasing to be able to report that The Diary and the wallet were then miraculously reunited through the intercession of a couple of AirAsia ground staff angels at Perth International Airport.

It was one of those horrible “Oh No” moments. We had breezed through passport control – an e-entry without even sighting an official with a stamp, oh joy! – as well as baggage collection and customs. We were in the car park loading the suitcase into a friend’s car when the alarming lightness of the back pocket came to notice.

Aside from cash, credit card and all sorts of other essential plastic impedimenta without which modern life is impossible, there was the question: What Does One Tell The Distaff? This is a very important issue, since it has been apparent for several millennia that The Distaff doesn’t think The Diary should ever be let out alone. An unsupervised drive to the shops is about the length of the leash, and then only with the right money.

So there was nothing for it but to break just about every security rule in the book and bowl right back into the customs area – through the exit door by which one had recently legitimately exited – and find a friendly soul to help. Going to the airport arrivals hall desk wasn’t an option. It would be far too complicated and would take too long.

It was interesting to see that the old rule still applies. If you look as if you know what you’re doing, official people will rarely challenge you. We found a nice customs officer (a woman: they’re nearly always a better bet because of their female capacity for lateral thinking).

She got on her phone to someone while The Diary rang the number displayed at the service desk for use if the desk was unattended and spoke to one of the angels, who said she had already got the wallet.

Very soon the two angels appeared. They had been on the aircraft when they received The Diary’s call. Thank you again, ladies.

 

Fit to be Tied

Merritt Clifton, the American animal activist who takes an interest in Bali matters from faraway Washington State, USA, posed a very interesting rhetorical question in an article on the Animals24-7 website on June 28.

It followed the Governor’s incomprehensible announcement that any dogs found running loose in Bali villages would be killed as part of the provincial government’s dysfunctional anti-rabies campaign.

Clifton wrote: “If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, each time expecting a different result, Bali governor Made Mangku Pastika on June 26, 2014 fitted himself for a strait jacket.”

He went on to write: “Disregarding four years of steady progress toward quelling a canine rabies outbreak that began in mid-2008, Pastika repeated the same general invitation to cull dogs that sent the rabies outbreak into overdrive in the first place – this time ordering the massacre of about 300,000 healthy vaccinated and mostly docile neighbourhood dogs, allowing unvaccinated and largely nocturnal feral dogs to reoccupy the habitat and breed up to the carrying capacity.”

Disregarding in turn Clifton’s assumption that unvaccinated and largely nocturnal dogs in Bali are feral (that is, wild) which overwhelmingly they are not, in the formal sense, he’s right on the mark. It’s true that the island’s rabies control program has gone haywire. Or perhaps that should be “missing”.

Why else, apart from madness, would you revive a killing spree that failed to work when you tried it before and which in any case all the literature on rabies control and eradication shows won’t work? Negligently shredding the basis of herd immunity that has been built up by the vaccination program by killing anything that moves outside someone’s notional property boundary is complete madness.

The Bali authorities apparently choose to define madness in terms that wouldn’t be readily recognized anywhere else. But that’s no surprise. After six years of toil and trouble, all we’re left with is a muddle. There are no surprises there either. Since reasonable excuses cannot be found, a scapegoat or two are essential political tools.

In the rabies imbroglio, there are two scapegoats. One is the dogs, which despite being savagely culled by government diktat and significantly reduced by rabies, are claimed nevertheless to have repopulated the island to a level equal to or in excess of the pre-rabies 2008 estimate. The gallant lads at animal husbandry plainly deserve fulsome praise for that egregious triumph.

The other scapegoat is the animal welfare lobby in general, which strangely persists with its view that in order to achieve something you have to do the work required, and particularly the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA), which led the anti-rabies battle. The Gianyar district authorities closed the BAWA clinic last year on grounds that would not survive administrative appeal in any jurisdiction with fixed rules. BAWA remains in operation, but with some of its previously valuable services curtailed by out-of-sorts, or out of pocket, officials.

There are only two fixed rules in Indonesia, of course. Neither is visible on the statute book. One is, don’t even look as if you’re telling us what to do. The other is, don’t step on toes, especially the precious little toes of the local panjandrum. Unfortunately the immediate human and animal health requirements in 2008-2010, to step on rabies quickly, required both these rules to be broken.

 

A Short Fuse

Plans to turn part of Benoa Harbour into Port Excrescence by shooing away the ocean and building artificial land on which to erect explicitly non-Bali infrastructure (including a motor-racing circuit) have angered a lot of people, mainly Balinese. The widely held view is that if Governor Pastika proceeds as planned and creates the proposed monstrosity for the profit of its promoters and developers, all of Bali is lost.

That may be gilding the lily (not to mention mixing a metaphor) but it can certainly be argued that there’s already enough around in the tourist-attraction field to fulfil the legal desires of most visitors, and most of the illegal ones too. Bali is a special place. That’s its marketing edge. We shouldn’t blunt it further.

There have been a number of demonstrations that have made these points with some force. Let’s hope someone was listening.

 

Who Gives a Toss?

It’s not really a question, and we’re not being rude. Pizza-tossing is the topic, and Ayana Resort and Spa at Jimbaran was the venue, because the Pizza Acrobatics world champion 2001 and 2002, Pasqualino Barbasso, was there from July 2-6 to demonstrate his skills, which are no doubt essential in Sicily.

Well no, to answer Ayana spruiker Marian Carroll’s query, we didn’t know there was a World Champion of Pizza Acrobatics. So many aspects of our education were neglected while we were being schooled in algebra, calculus, physics, logic, Latin, Greek, Eng Lit, history and comparative religion all those years ago.

Barbasso was at Ayana to flip the dough and perform thrice daily, free, for diners at the resort’s Sami Sami restaurant during his five-day extravaganza. Since the restaurant is on the cliff-top overlooking the precipitous drop to the Rock Bar and beyond, the pizza champ was doubtless on the alert for sudden orographic up-draughts and the attendant risk of unauthorized flying pizza.

Sadly, geographic displacement meant we could not be present to attempt to order that modern challenge to both cuisine and poor spellers, Pizza Hawaiian, and thereby cause a Greco-Roman incident.

 

Marginal Note

Indonesians vote today (July 9) in the presidential election, which as expected has come down to a race between Jakarta mayor Joko Widodo and former army general Prabowo Subianto, the latter formally endorsed on July 1 by outgoing president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as his pick for Supreme Leader. It’s moot whether the opinion of a lame duck with a 10-year record of under-achievement counts for anything beyond a querulous quack.

But that’s not what concerns us here. What does is further entrenchment of the Indonesia-Australia relationship through a new agreement between the National Archives of Australia and the Indonesian national archives on archives cooperation.

Under a new five-year Memorandum of Understanding, Indonesia and Australia will continue to collaborate on developing staff skills, sharing professional resources and participating in scholarly and cultural exchanges.

Indonesia’s and Australia’s relationship and shared interests extend back into the end of the Dutch colonial era. Indonesians with a sense of history understand the role Australia played in persuading the world to accept the beneficial fact of Indonesian independence, unilaterally declared on August 17, 1945, and its practical and material help towards that goal too.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jun. 25, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Browned Off

PLN is up to its old tricks again. No, we’re not talking about the sharp round of rises in its tariffs. It’s the lingering brown-out after its triumph in the 2010 globally unplugged championships that’s focusing our mind. PLN said then that there would be no more power cuts in Bali. No one believed them of course, but that’s entirely to be expected and anyway it’s hardly the point. PLN delivers on its promises with the same level of commitment it shows to providing service.

It’s so obviously a problem – lack of capacity about which the monopoly state-owned power provider effectively does nothing except buy cheap high-polluting Chinese diesel generators instead of more expensive but cleaner German ones – that we think its actual business plan, which of course no one has ever seen, has “Dysfunction” where normally you’d see “Function” above that happy little paragraph promising the world.

So here at The Cage we’re giving serious consideration to proposing to PLN that we pay them 80 percent of their tariff, based on the average voltage actually delivered, and further reduce that, pro rata, for time over the billed month during which nothing was delivered at all.

We’ll let you know how we go with those negotiations.

 

Think of a Number, Run With It

It can work for effect, if you’re in PR. But sometimes you despair of the bureaucracy and its political bosses here. Actuarial process always seems to take second place to inventive accounting, whether that’s of money, some promotional boosting, or a handy story to sell to the punters.

We heard recently that some official had stated there were now 500,000 dogs in Bali, which is the same, more or less, as the pre-rabies 2008 figure. More likely someone’s barking mad (a clue: it’s not the dogs). The figure can only be an estimate. Such is the way of things. It sits oddly with the 294,000 (est.) said to have been here in 2010, after two years of widespread canine rabies deaths and panicked culling following the tardy realization in late 2008 that the disease was on Bali. Unless, that is, the authorities really have being doing two-fifths of five-eighths of you know what about it, which they deny.

The 2008 outbreak naturally came as a complete surprise to the authorities. Well it would. If you were in charge of Bali’s animal or human health you’d obviously fail to see any reason for anxiety in the fact that we’re in regular commerce with Flores, the third rock along in archipelagic terms, where the disease has been present for 17 years.

Given the ravages of the disease among dogs (not to forget the 150 human deaths) plus the ill-planned, uncoordinated, often informal, thoroughly counter-productive and completely shameful killing sprees that have occurred in the six shambolic years since, half a million seems rather on the high side. But we’ll go with it, just for fun. The government is now going to vaccinate 80 percent of these dogs. Well, that’s the plan.

It tends to support the conclusion that no one officially has much of a clue about anything at all. What’s worse (since ignorance and short-funding will always be with us) is that the real official position appears to be similar to that expressed by Rhett Butler as he left Scarlett O’Hara in the movie Gone With The Wind.

The latest figures from the government on rabies distribution in Bali are, however, both interesting and of some statistical value.

According to the Bali livestock and animal health service 36 confirmed cases of rabies in dogs were recorded in the January-May period. Buleleng (11 cases) and Jembrana (10) were the worst districts. No confirmed rabies cases were recorded in Badung – where most tourists are – or in Denpasar.

Gianyar (which includes Ubud) had five confirmed cases of rabies in dogs, neighbouring Klungkung four – as well as a small mainland area, Klungkung includes the islands of Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida – and Bangli one. Tabanan district recorded three cases and Karangasem two.

April was the worst month for confirmed cases of rabies in dogs, with 14. There were six cases in May. January-March therefore produced 16 cases. The cautious optimist therefore would assume an annualized average of four to five reported and confirmed cases in dogs per month. That’s between 48 and 60 a year.

Under World Organization for Animal Health rules, two clear years (24 months) must elapse between the last reported animal and human case of rabies for an infected area to be declared free of the disease. So if a miracle occurs and May’s six cases were the last, May 2016 could be looking good.

Short of that miracle, the emergency is not over. There have been two confirmed human deaths from rabies this year on which details were released (they were in Buleleng in the north) and others in which all the indicators point that way.

 

Happier Tales

Still with the doggies, here are two happy tales. Iconic British animal rights and environmental warrior Jane Goodall and Bali Animal Welfare Association’s leading light Janice Girardi got together at the Green School’s weekend dedicated to conservation and sustainability on June 14-15.

Girardi was there to talk about BAWA’s vision for the future. Goodall, whose research work begun five decades ago led to her becoming the chimpanzee champion in Tanzania, was the weekend’s special guest. Both women know that it’s never easy being an advocate, let alone an activist.  Perseverance pays off. It’s a fundamental rule of human and individual progress.

On June 20 in Vancouver, Canada, BAWA benefited from a Wishbone charity night organized by supporters of its educational and animal welfare work here. All donations went to BAWA to help heal, feed and protect neglected and abused street animals.

Among things wags at the show could do was be pampered and learn insider tips from make-up artists, hairdressers, manicurists and eyelash technicians. Or they could try a henna tattoo.

We think their efforts rate a very big woof.

 

All Aboard

The man in the white mess kit, expatriate Glaswegian Neil Carl Hempsey, of Indo Yacht Support at Benoa, is gearing up for the seventh annual Ray White/YSG Super Yacht charity do on Aug. 1. We’ll keep you up to cruising speed on that.

Glasgow is in the spotlight at present as the venue for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, from July 23 to August 3, at which Indonesia could be competing if the British had been our filthy colonialists of the age instead of the Dutch. It’s a fine city, Glasgow, as well as Scotland’s biggest. It has a character all of its own and a bracingly damp climate to go with it.

Some Glaswegian humour, which is generally best kept at home if only because the accent with which it is delivered is impenetrable, has been given an outing in honour of the occasion. We saw a lovely photo of a bus whose lighted destination sign advised “Ah’m Nae in Service”.

There’s also a map which bears a certain very rudely short word that nowadays, unfortunately, is in common currency among the lexicographically challenged. It suggests that Glasgow is the epicentre of Scotland, a city of “Guid [that word]”. Guid is good, by the way. It also suggests that Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital awa’ a wee bit on the east coast, is a city of “English [that word again]”.

The Diary demurs. We’re sure that Edinburgh native and occasional correspondent Alistair Speirs, who publishes Now Bali and ensures we still get to read The Stranger, would agree with us that Auld Reekie is nae such thing. Sassenach, yes; but English? Never!

 

A Useful Muse

Susi Johnston, the Muse of Mengwi, has crafted a masterly compendium of things you can do to reduce crime and the risk that you’ll be a victim, either of street crime or of a break-in. It’s on her blog (ubudnowandthen.com) and should be a must-read for everyone.

We should not of course get into tizzy over crime. The incidence is rising here, but objectively it’s highly noticeable chiefly in comparison with received wisdom as to the carefree, crime-free days of yore that nearly everyone says they can remember.

That said, clearly the risk of becoming a victim of theft or worse is increasing. Avoid risk (as Susi says and we’ve noted ourselves in the past) by not being a visible target. Don’t walk or ride alone at night in places you don’t know and in which people are scarce. Lock up. Keep your valuables secure and out of sight. Common sense really.

She mentions the reporting facility at POLDA in Denpasar which many may not know of, and the presence in Bali of a special police unit, OBVIT, that is tasked with protecting vital assets – of which Bali is one – and of which almost no one has heard.

Don’t forget, either, that the Tourist Police now have a special reporting system and a Facebook page.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 25, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Christmas Sale Bargain

BIMC has been a fixture at the high end of the medical and hospital sector in Bali for 15 years, the benchmark place for services available to everyone but predominantly accessed by foreign tourists, long-term foreign residents and well-heeled Indonesians.

So the slightly skewed pre-Christmas reports that it had been bought by Siloam, the Indonesian hospital chain that is a more recent arrival in Bali, might have rippled a few affogatos. Bali is Gossip Central, after all, where those who spend their time counting white elephants assume that everyone else is in the same game-park. This is an island where unfounded rumour immediately becomes long-established fact. Indeed this often happens before the rumour has even been voiced.

In fact (don’t you love that expression?) the news is rather more positive. We had another affogato on the strength of it and far from being shaken, it was not even stirred. Lippo Group, which owns Siloam, bought BIMC in a plan to create synergies in the hospital and health care sector. BIMC and Siloam will retain their own branding and continue to pursue their present market focus. BIMC Nusa Dua is focused on medical tourism, a growing element in global travel.

BIMC chief Craig Beveridge will be executive chairman in Bali. He tells us Lippo chairman James Riady is excited by the deal and passionate in his vision to broaden the reach of international standard hospital and medical services here and in the rest of Indonesia, with new medical facilities already in the pipeline in Bali.

There will be more to report in the New Year, when Beveridge gets back from Christmas down under. That LinkedIn post we saw earlier in December urgently seeking new executives for BIMC cannot have been what it might have seemed to those in the rumour mill.

 

Gone to the Dogs

The dexterity demonstrated in the consummate skill with which people here can shoot themselves in the foot while poking themselves in the eye with sharp sticks and cutting off their noses to spite their faces is legendary. It’s so good that the authorities should probably promote bribe-watching as a tourist attraction. You could even do it on rainy days.

We refer chiefly to the bureaucracy – at any level from the lowest village gouger to those in the plush comforts of life at the tip of the pile – since it does this with alarming frequency when it or some luminary within it is after money, preferably untraceable.

It is also practised in the wider community, Indonesia-wide, especially when a mobile ATM (aka foreigner) is in play. Occasionally, since contagion is, well, contagious, cases of this affliction present in the foreign community too.

For instance the fractious business of animal welfare in Bali, which is overwhelmingly a matter of foreign interest since local attitudes are determinedly of the Rhett Butler variety (“I don’t give a damn”) where they are not agnostic. There are some wonderful exceptions to this rule. Let that be well noted.

This is to the point also because as is well known the Bali Animal Welfare Association’s veterinary clinic was shut down in September on a range of trumped-up and self-serving charges that anywhere else would have a hard time making it into the script of a popular stage farce.

It never does to immediately ascribe malicious intent to reactions. Experience shows it’s far more likely to be idiocy or failure to establish the facts before mouthing off. That said, it is astonishing that the Bali Dog Adoption and Rehabilitation Centre, commonly known as BARC, immediately leapt out of its cage to proclaim that since BAWA had been closed everyone should give their money to them instead. And that on Dec. 18 (Diary deadline) it was still doing so.

Moreover, it appears that it has been promoting this disinformation with the assistance of photographs that bear a remarkable resemblance to images owned by BAWA. There may be some personal history behind some of this angst, but that doesn’t matter to the dogs. There are enough sick, abandoned, malnourished canines in Bali to warrant the fulltime attentions of any number of refuges.

A further point: It is BAWA that has runs on the board over Bali’s response to the rabies outbreak that commenced in 2008; on educational programs in the villages aimed at improved living conditions for dogs and the lives of villagers too; on combating the vile dog meat trade and illegal gambling centred around organized dog fights; and much else. So it’s time for a reality check, everyone. Perhaps that might spark a little cooperation for the greater good. Now there’s a thought.

 

Quite a Meowful

Good news is to hand from Elizabeth Henzell at Villa Kitty in Ubud, who reported on Dec. 17 that donations@villakittybali.com, Villa Kitty’s suspended PayPal account, had been restored, verified, and had its funds-in-hand limit lifted. Apparently the powers that be at PayPal had originally said they would close the account. Perhaps the good folk in Omahahahaha, USA, don’t know what a Yayasan is. Here’s a clue: It’s neither a spam/scam computer program nor a Mafia-style crime syndicate.

Elizabeth says: “Thank you again to everyone who offered donations that got us through that week of worry.”

Villa Kitty is a great operation. It’s so good that it is now up to its limit with cats and kittens. That’s consistent with another of Bali’s grand traditions. Anything that actually works is instantly overrun by people fleeing from things that don’t and anyone who offers to help is bowled over in the rush.

The cat refuge needs people to adopt little vaccinated and neutered friends and to give them a good home so there’s room for others who are awaiting their chance for a better life. They do help keep the rats away, too.

There was a benefit evening on Dec. 19 at Mingle in Ubud. It was called Le Chat Noel, which made it irresistible.

 

Aussie Dodgers

Fewer Australians are coming here. That may be good news to the few among us who are incapable of declaring a personal exclusion zone around Jl Padma in Legian on lurch-around-half-naked-night. But it’s not good news overall. Australia is our closest large market. The West Australian capital, Perth, is virtually Bali’s dormitory suburb. For all sorts of reasons we should want to keep it that way. Some of these were outlined in the Diary on Dec. 11.

Foreign tourist arrivals for October 2013 were 266,502 (up 4.3 percent over October 2012’s total of 255,709) and arrivals for the 10 months of the year totalled 2,675,836, up 12.34 percent on the same period in 2012. But the number of Australian visitors in that period (668,902) was 2.11 percent down on Jan-Oct 2012.

They’re still in first place, outnumbering the second-placed Chinese two to one. There are several reasons for the decline. Among them is the fact that Australians – who like to think the English are the whingers – widely believe from in front of their 90cm flat-screen TVs with 50 cables channels pumping out pap at them and fast-fat food at the front door, that their country is up Ordure Creek. It isn’t. Another reason, much more valid, is that places other than Bali are now presenting holiday “experiences” that match or better Bali’s on price.

On the bright side, the long comatose Japanese market is reviving.

 

Ivan Ivanobitch

We hear, anecdotally, of an incident at a popular Bukit area Thai restaurant recently that involved a party of Russians who claimed they had been poisoned by the plate of the day and told the staff to call the police, pending which they wrecked the joint.

If you are a very Volga boatman indeed, one with permafrost for brains and a suddenly blotchy fair-skinned squeeze possessed of DNA that might not be an exact fit with spicy Asian cuisine, it may be easy to become enraged. Cossacks probably swept angrily across the steppes for eons on far lesser excuse. On the other hand, if you think you have been poisoned, it’s possibly better to go to the clinic down the road than to demand that the plods be summoned.

It must have been a potent poison. They returned some days later seeking further compensatory funds – their meal bill had already been waived – and threatened to wreck the place again.

Such people really are more Rouble than they’re worth (boom-tish).

 

The First Noel

This year, for the first time, the annual rite of Carols on Christmas Eve in Nusa Dua was held in Church and combined with Holy Communion. Previously the function has been held in a hotel but this year it was at Bukit Doa International Church, the Protestant Church in the unique complex of five religions at Puja Mandala, popularly known as Temple Hill.

It was a great chance to experience true Christian Christmas fellowship in the Protestant tradition, including Midnight Mass.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and see you all in 2014.

 

Hector is on Twitter. He tweets @scratchings

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Nov. 13, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Skulduggery and Other Local Habits

The benefits that accompany living in Bali – or anywhere in Indonesia – far outweigh the demerits of doing so. The culture is inclusive, at least on a superficial level that satisfies most tastes; the people readily return a smile to anyone who doesn’t look as if they’re about to get up them for the rent; and unless you’re a real bonehead it’s generally difficult to spark outright anger.

That’s in the sub-stratospheric zone where most foreigners live. Anyone will be your friend if you put money in their pocket; a little money, and your own. That’s how the system works and it can work for anyone.

But – and as usual it’s a big but – there are one-way rules that apply to foreigner-local interaction. Bule is the colloquial word for foreigners. It is analogous with foreigners calling the natives “natives”, which is not done these days and of course should never have been done. No matter. Only a foolishly thick-headed Bule would cavil. It’s what the natives do and because it’s their country they can do as they choose. Foreigners who object to being objectified in this way can always go home.

It is in this general ambience that one considers several matters of current interest. The irritation over media reports that Australia (and the USA) “spy” on Indonesia is one instance. It’s a pejorative term, spy, and conjures up all sorts of cloak-and-dagger scenarios. The reality in this instance is rather more prosaic. It is alleged that electronic eavesdropping has yielded secure telephone numbers and other information that might be useful in an emergency. In retaliation for this, it is further reported, Indonesia may reconsider its cooperation with Australia regarding efforts to stamp out criminal people-smuggling that Jakarta has winked at for years and in which it is now showing an interest only because of significant inducements, political and otherwise, to do so.

Everyone “spies” in the overblown context in which that term is being bandied about. Indonesia certainly does, though to what effect one wouldn’t know. The ersatz confrontation that has been fuelled by headlines and sound bites is an embarrassment. It is a chance for the media and others to disinter several shibboleths that have long since passed their use-by date. It’s a pity that it emerged just ahead of the annual democracy forum, this year held in Nusa Dua on Nov. 7 and 8 and attended by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop among others.

Here in Bali, at the provincial and district level, other departures from common sense are observed. Rampant overdevelopment and threats to precious natural environments continue, in the process lining lots of official pockets. The new southern Bukit road linking the Uluwatu area with Nusa Dua – a prime tourism asset if it is used with appropriate regulation – is complete except for a short section of “jalan liar” (liar means wild but some may prefer to read the word in English) that unaccountably curbs transiting traffic. A pocket or two, quite possibly official, remain to be lined, it seems.

At Ubud, BAWA, the expat-funded animal welfare organization that fired up and then ran the island’s vital initial response to the rabies outbreak in 2008 that is ongoing and has killed at least 150 people, has had its veterinary clinic closed and its other operations severely curtailed by government diktat. That it is carrying on business – and that its professional services are well regarded and sought elsewhere in the neighbourhood – testifies to its public spirited determination.

It’s not yet clear what brought about this particularly egregious example of why Bali really shouldn’t bite off its nose to spite its face. Except that we can say without fear of contradiction that bull-headed self-interest and latent avarice undoubtedly played a part.

A Handy Volume

It was nice to see Tim Hannigan’s book Raffles and the British Invasion of Java win critical notice in the Bali Advertiser’s Toko Buku column (Oct. 30). The Hannigan tome is nicely revisionist – as all history should be when reassessed with the benefit of analysis, research and other cerebral effort rather than just a nostalgic after-glow – and places Raffles in what seems to be the proper context now that the British Empire has joined the dodo, and Monty Python’s parrot, in the shades of past existence and is no more.

The book is especially valuable for its colonic effect on the rump residual of imperial hagiographers, who seem to believe the sun should never have been allowed to set upon the global realms of the Queen Empress and her brief successors. Well, history is a narrative and so is much fiction, so perhaps we should not be overly churlish. The problem always is that, like Hyacinth Bucket’s riparian delights, imperial adventures are nearly always Not Quite as Planned.

Lottie Nevin, who recently relocated from Indonesia to Spain – to Andalucía no less, where even after half a millennium a movingly Moorish ambience hangs heavily over the landscape – tells us of an incident in which a copy of a rival Raffles volume nearly ended up in her Jakarta living room. It remained in the carrier’s bag, it seems, when upon the question of whether she had yet obtained a copy of The Fine Tome she said that she had read Hannigan’s book and it was good.

Diarists love to hear such titbits of gossip, particularly when they present the bonus of an opportunity to chuckle. Nevin, who is no stranger to Bali, has a delightfully readable blog at http://lottienevin.com/.

Quick Fix

One of those car park exchanges that might excite a police stakeout team on Willie Ra’re alert recently took place at Dijon, the Simpang Siur emporium-complex that is the resort of many who seek the finer victuals of life, or a decent iced tea or chummy latte, or who perhaps are simply transiting the area on their way to the offices behind.

These days, if you wander down the lane past the café and the shop, you’ll find The Yak and its stable-mates in close proximity to the premises from which publicity diva Sarah-Jane Scrase and the mega-laundry man, Kian Liung, are now producing another glossy, The Source Quarterly. We see from Facebook that it is among the latest products to grace the shelves at Gramedia. It’s always good to see publications in print, especially new ones, even if most of us these days read things on line.

The car park exchange of which we speak was perfectly legit. If bringing in coffee capsules otherwise unobtainable here in Fun Central is legit, that is. We think it is. Well arguably. But then we use a similar product that owing to inexplicable local absence requires regular courier resupply, the better to ingest our overdoses of caffeine.

On this occasion Hector was meeting someone, a lovely lady, to hand over a supply of capsules newly arrived from Australia that would temporarily at least make it possible for her friends to avoid saying disturbing things such as, “you’ve only got five left”.

Don’t you hate that! Here at The Cage we attempt a regime of at least triple redundancy. Running out of essentials like wine, whisky, cigarettes or coffee in the dead of night is truly brow-furrowing. It can quite take the shine off life.

Our exchange this time went unnoticed. We had a yak and a giggle, a tea and a coffee, and then did the car-boot to car-boot bag switch without difficulties intervening.

Free Flow

Janet DeNeefe’s Indus restaurant at Jl Raya Sanggingan in Ubud was 15 years old on Nov. 3. While this is not a cosmic event on the scale of, say, Earth colliding with Mars next July, nonetheless it is worth noting in the local firmament.

Indus is a popular restaurant name. There is any number of eponymous dining opportunities around the globe. It is also a major and still predominantly free-flowing river that is checked only by over-use of its resources and the Mandala dam, an impoundment with whose design and construction your diarist had a passing technical connection far too many years ago.

In the old days of the Raj (see above) it marked the boundary between the incomprehensible cultures of the Indian sub-continent and the frankly murderous ones of Central Asia. In his evocative 1953 novel The Lotus and the Wind – it has been on the Diary’s five-year re-read list for half a century – John Masters illuminates that divide in a way that, once read, is never forgotten. It is a geopolitical and cultural rift the western world still fails to comprehend.

All of which is by the by. Happy Birthday, Indus.

Hector tweets @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