HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 29, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Three Hearty Woofs

It was interesting to read that when the Bali Street Dog Fund and other friends and supporters of BAWA gathered for the 10th annual Bali Nights fundraiser in Melbourne on Oct. 10, they raised record funds to save and protect Bali’s animals.

It seems an electrifying bidding war broke out when Garuda Indonesia upgraded its donated return air tickets to Bali from Economy to Business class. There was excitement of a different kind – we might call it a Marie-Antoinette Moment – when an amazing Bali dog cake created by Christopher at Let Them Eat Cake in South Melbourne was woofed up for $400.

Hosts Pete Smith and Nicky Buckley, who are Nine Network television identities, did their usual wowing of the crowd (300 this year) and auctioneer Mark Fletcher kept bids rolling in. Nicky added to the glitter by wearing Janice Girardi silver jewellery creations.

The venue, as always, was the Intercontinental Rialto Melbourne. The team promises 2015’s Bali Nights will be even better. It’s long past time that the Diary dropped in again on Latitude 38S for a remedial soak in Melbourne’s eclectic magic. So perhaps Bali Nights 2015 might be the go.

Paula Hodgson of Bali Street Dogs tells us this year’s Bali Nights raised $54,350 (Australian), funds that are vital to the effort the Bali Animal Welfare Association puts into helping the island’s deprived animals. BAWA has been doing sterling work with schools and local banjars with an education program designed to empower Balinese to care for their family pets and other animals.

Perhaps that’s something fellow pundit Made Wijaya should ponder. On the evidence of his recent, strange Facebook outburst about BAWA, banjars and banners, Ubud Writers and Readers Festival founder Janet DeNeefe would have been better advised to dub him Truman Capote with a miss-aimed machete.

A Triumph of Idiocy

It was a joy to return home to Bali after a planned six-week Australian visit turned into four months owing to the intervention of Cruel Fate in the shape of a medical problem. (The joy was unalloyed despite the fact that in the interests of economy we flew up from Perth with a plane-load of people who apparently belonged to the Riffraff Club. Once the seat-belt signs were turned off they spent their time milling around in the aisle exchanging monosyllabic epithets with their mates and demonstrating that indeed they could not walk and chew gum at the same time.)

The Diary’s little difficulty, which also gave us full and uncalled for exposure to the rather inclement qualities of south-western Australia’s chilly winter, was of course a useful reminder that one’s misspent youth cannot go on forever, unless it is boringly mediated. This was not welcome news but, well, you have to go with the flow, however sluggish it eventually becomes.

Anyway, enough of that, except to say that a modified misspent youth will certainly continue, albeit with more con than brio. What was less of a joy on our return was to drive on the “upgraded” Jl Raya Uluwatu, the Yellow Truck Highway. It’s that little defile that struggles up from Jimbaran to the lofty heights of the Bukit’s limestone plateau.

Eventually, if the police bribe-collectors further along allow, or are on a day off, trekkers on this insubstantial bit of bitumen arrive at the temple at Uluwatu. This is where an informal cooperative of miscreant monkeys which steal tourists’ handbags and sunglasses and entrepreneurial locals who offer for a fee to arrange a miraculous return of the contraband, have a nice little scam going.

For starters, the road “upgrade” is still a work in progress. It had been going on for months before our departure. This is no surprise. Road works anywhere always take longer than advertised. In other places, it’s true, “upgrades” generally manage to produce some visible sign of improvement and evidence of better traffic flow.

There is no sign of this happening on Jl. Raya Uluwatu. The thoroughfare may have been widened. The question is moot. A visual inspection indicates you would need a micrometer to measure this. It has also been equipped with the high kerbs they like here, so that you can easily sprain an ankle stepping off or onto one. These also close off any escape route for vehicles trying to avoid a careering truck, yellow or otherwise. And to cap it all some clown has decided the “new” road would look lovely with trees actually planted in it, outbound of the kerbside.

Assuming these arboreal decorations survive drought, lethal vehicular fumes and encounters with badly-steered or runaway trucks, enormous buses loaded with tourists by then possibly despondent over their chances of actually seeing a bit of Bali culture, and insane motorcyclists, they will eventually grow into big, spreading foliage-carriers. Their branches will reduce the headroom available for big vehicles and their trunks could quite possibly be fatal to incautious or unlucky road users.

There is a disconnect somewhere. Trees planted in the road might be passable iconography in a quiet residential street or a buffed up and gentrified heritage area. But on a narrow arterial road they are completely stupid, as are the people who sign off on such ridiculous ideas.

A Shot in the Arm

BIMC Hospital Nusa Dua has just opened a new wing, with 10 rooms overlooking the golf course – this might be therapeutic, as they suggest, though possibly only for patients who do not play golf – in yet another demonstration of its determination to lead the field in medical matters. It’s offering promotional rates for the first cohorts of patients.

Earlier this month the hospital had a ceremony in recognition of its accreditation in July by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International (ACHSI). The achievement, which we mentioned in the Diary of Sep. 17, really is a job well done by all concerned and it’s good to see the management making sure everyone who works for BIMC Nusa Dua knows they have been recognized.

The Nusa Dua health campus, which opened in May 2012 as BIMC’s second hospital-level operation – the other is at Simpang Siur in Kuta – is the first in Indonesia to gain ACHSI status. It is only the second in South-East Asia. Sunway Medical Centre in Malaysia was accredited in May this year.

BIMC (the initials now stand for Bali Indonesia Medika Citra rather than Bali International Medical Centre) joined forces with the Lippo Group’s Siloam hospitals early this year, with BIMC chief Craig Beveridge becoming Bali executive chairman of the new, bigger operation. The Nusa Dua campus is seen as a natural centre for medical tourism.

BIMC Siloam Hospitals Group Bali CEO Dr Donna Moniaga says the accreditation is a necessary step towards fully developing this market sector. “The ACHS’s stamp of approval strengthens BIMC’s position as a leading health service provider in Bali, for residents and medical tourists,” she says.

Perfect Balance

Ganesha Gallery at the Four Seasons Jimbaran has an especially interesting exhibition coming up – works by I Made Wiradana, whose style is eye-catching and his intricate technique mind-blowing. The solo exhibition is on from Nov. 20 until Dec. 18.

He was chairman of the Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI) in 2000-2002 and has exhibited solo in Bali, Yogyakarta and Jakarta as well as overseas in Belgium and India. His first solo exhibition was in 1999 and was titled “Imajinasi Purba” (Ancient Imagination)

Wiradana has a unique style that features primitive forms. For him, the past cannot possibly be removed from the human subconscious and will always influence culture. This is a point of view historians as well as artists embrace with verve.

La Niña Returns

The delightfully talkative and deliciously enigmatic Jade Richardson, who once was or possibly still is the Passionfruit Cowgirl and who owes us an hour or so with a bottle or three, or so she once said, is home in Bali again. Richardson, who when she was a niña (girl child) enlivened the community of Bundeena in New South Wales, decamped from our iconic island ages ago to South America, where everyone except a Spaniard believes they speak Spanish.

Ecuador was her stamping ground (it sounded chiefly delightful by the way, except for waves of American retirees with more money than taste and one or two less than meritorious events that could happen anywhere and so often do) and, frankly, we were beginning to think we’d lost her to the spiritual charms of the Andes forever, along with the tipple. She popped up at several removes earlier this year, as these days one can, with the internet, promoting the benefits of the Bali Spirit Festival. (These are many.)

Now, she tells us, she’s seeking a Balinese ambience to clear her mind and put some more virtual ink on virtual paper to chronicle her adventures, cerebral and otherwise, in the bosque nublado and at lower altitudes. That will be between drinks, if we have our way.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, December 11, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Our Changing Face

New figures that show the rapid growth of domestic investment in Bali’s tourism sector and the skyrocketing numbers of domestic tourists here are very interesting for future-watchers. They show without a shadow of doubt that the characters of Bali’s leading industries – tourism and the related commercial and residential property sector – are changing in ways that ultimately might not suit Australian and European residents or holidaymakers.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Nothing in human history has ever been set in stone forever: Just ask Ozymandias, the real-life Barney Rubble of antiquity. Communities that readily adjust to change thrive. Those that fail to do so find at first that they are losing influence, then impetus; they become curiosities; and then they become extinct.

Bali’s exposure to tourism in meaningful mass-market formats is of relatively recent date.  The island has managed this impact remarkably well, at the human interface level, by parlaying a natural friendliness into an international reputation for being a nice place. It has done this in fact with consummate skill since the Balinese have no real interest in anyone else’s culture (see next item). It’s the money that matters – and that’s fair enough.

Statistics reported in the Jakarta Post’s Bali Daily wraparound on Nov. 29 show that 80 percent of commercial or high-value residential and resort property transactions in Bali are now by Indonesians and that foreign tourists make up only 30 percent of the total visitor footprint. Cheap airfares and low-cost accommodation heftily boost growth in the tourism sector but have also brought substantial change to it.

There will always be a navel-gazing niche market in Bali – centred on Ubud, where people organize ecstatic dances and other shamanistic things for the find-yourself set – but the bulk of tourism in Bali is the sort of stuff you can find anywhere. Booze and pick-up parties (for either gender) and pay-by-the-hour sex for those (ditto) who can’t score even at a party cater for a broad market. The family holiday is still the major sector but increasingly mum arrives wearing a jilbab and stays in it for the duration. And that too is fair enough.

Off the Wall

Made Wijaya, whose public invective has been of only a whispered or rumoured nature lately for those not numbered among his favoured courtiers, offered a rare public utterance the other day that had a bit more value than usual. He popped up on the Sanur Group page on Facebook to tell us this: “If you don’t know [scatological expletive deleted] because your Bali runs from the Arena to the Golden Snail, better to shut up and talk about the price of beer. I mean that in a caring way.”

Many expats know a lot about Bali well beyond those limits. True, none of them are world famous for jumping ship and swimming ashore through the phosphorescent surf decades ago to find that their shining presence has been eagerly awaited for eons by locals keen to see them set up shop as a landscape gardener.

The more modest among them do not regard themselves as legends even in their own lunchtimes. But be that as it may, many do actually agree with Wijaya on a lot of things. This shouldn’t surprise him, though apparently it does.

His advice in this particular instance is chiefly sound: He proffered it in this form:

“Last night at a popular beachside pizzaria (sic) I listened to a nice affable expat telling his Balinese girlfriend how ‘Australia has become like America and Bali has become like Australia’.  Now, while agreeing that certain corners of South Bali/Nusa Lembongan have become Boganville, there is a lesson to be learned here by those wishing to ‘integrate into Balinese society’. Advice: Do be warned that the radical Kuta Rightwing Nationalist movement has today launched a new logo ‘Love Indonesia or Leave it’ and soon will be hunting down sexpat bores on horseback. And note: Balinese only fake interest in our worldviews.”

Now that is a considered worldview. Bogans, bar owners, predatory business types and terminologically inexact real estate promoters should take special care to note it. But there are two other points that should also be noted, which Wijaya as usual ignores as irrelevant to the gospel according to Made.

One is that strong-arm “rightwing nationalist” movements anywhere, including in Kuta, are in fact the Bogans of their own communities. The second is that while the Balinese may not give a deleted scatological expletive about Australians or any other foreigners, they’re in the process of finding out that the Wegotalldamoney tribe from Java cares even less about them or their island home.

So Sad

It was very sad to hear that Kerry Prendergast, the Australian-born artist and singer who was a fixture in the Bali firmament, had died suddenly at a Sanur hotel on Nov. 25. She had been giving a singing performance. This was shortly after she returned with her husband Pranoto from two months in Western Australia, her home.

They had been showing their art in Perth – including in King’s Park, a favourite spot of the Diary’s – and were due to go back to WA in January for another show.

It is often said that only the good die young. No, that’s not Billy Joel (though his 1977 anthem to lust is very good). It’s the Greek historian Herodotus, writing in 445 BCE. Kerry Prendergast was only in her middle 50s. That’s far too young.

On Dec. 1 there was a gathering at Pranato’s Gallery at Teges Goa Gajah, Ubud, in her memory. Her art stays with us all as a mark of a life lived fully and well. It’s often said that you are not truly gone until everyone who knew you, or of you, has also departed. So she’ll be with her family and the rest of us in a very tangible sense for a long time yet.

Go, Socrates!

This is not about Socrate Georgiades of the delightful monthly Francophone journal La Gazette de Bali that is required reading at The Cage. It’s about the other one, the very ancient Greek. Specifically it is about his reported views, unquestionably soundly based, on the children of his day in Athens. This was that “children nowadays are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannise their teachers”.

A tweet about this fundamental truth on Twitter recently – it came from the U.S., where children are even more badly behaved – brought a riposte from Susi Johnston, who muses from Mengwi on many matters. Susi, who was once an American child herself though we’re sure a very well behaved one, said that was exactly what many Balinese parents were saying these days.

Those who read the adduced views of Socrates learn much. Plato’s Republic has many benefits. There was no fast food in ancient Greece, for starters.

Takes the Cake

We dropped by Biku tea lounge in Seminyak the other day – well virtually, via its Facebook page; it’s quicker than driving there from the windswept southern extremities where we live – and found a nice little message posted by fan Heidi Parkie.

Clearly Heidi is not one for controversy even though she’s from Lancashire in England, where they love an argument. She made this simple point: Marble cake makes everything better. Absolutely no one could disagree.

Biku, which recently celebrated its fifth birthday, is a Diary destination of choice. Asri Kerthyasa’s eclectic establishment began life virtually marooned in the rice fields. Today it is slap-bang in the middle of the ever-expanding urban sprawl.

But like its marble cake, it cannot be missed. Next time we trek up that way we’ll leave the packed lunch behind and starve ourselves for Biku instead.

Sting in the Tail

Every year ABC TV’s Insiders program, the essential weekly political centrefold show hosted by veteran scribe Barrie Cassidy and seen here on Australia Network, names its Matt Price Moment. The final Insiders show of 2013 – the silly season is now in full swing Down Under – went to air on Dec. 1.

And this year’s Moment is a classic. Tony Abbott (now prime minister but at the time opposition leader in the 2013 election campaign) at a press conference: “No one, no matter how smart, no matter how well educated, no matter however experienced, is the suppository of all wisdom.”

At least that’s one Abbott statement with which no one could possibly argue.

The Moment is in memory of journalist Matt Price, a lovely character from Western Australia who had a fine grasp of the completely ridiculous and hideously risible. This served him well because he worked in the press gallery at Parliament House in Canberra. Legislatures everywhere are places where you need to overdose on humour just to get by. He would have loved that one. Price died of a brain tumour in 2007, aged 46.

Hector tweets @scratchings