HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 16, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

May The Farce Be With You

We were going to be nice about it all, really we were. APEC, we mean. It was so important to Bali, after all. All those lovely delegates were sure to be so impressed by the event and the island that hosted it that they’d all return later, with their families, for private holidays, thereby boosting the economy by a zillion convertible currency units.

Yes, well, farce has a long and honourable history. Only the Seriously Up-Themselves could possibly be impressed by their mode of transport: preceded, tailed and flanked by siren-sounding, blue-light-flashing and thoroughly rude loudspeaker-equipped police causing chaos and endless delays and pushing lesser mortals off the road. It’s how the ruling classes conduct themselves here but any delegate with the most rudimentary measure of social awareness would have been mortified.

The top three from our Farce List:

THE ban on kites and lasers as aviation hazards during APEC. If they’re hazards to VIP landings and take-offs, they’re hazards to ordinary air travellers too, all the time, not just on special occasions.

THE mass cancellations of airline services (700 of them) because the airport was closed through peak operating hours to accommodate VIP flights.

THE armoured car with fully loaded machine-gunners at each end that we saw trundling down Jl Raya Uluwatu through Jimbaran village escorted by police and military police motorcycles. Thank goodness they didn’t hit a pothole and squeeze a trigger. Had they been sent to get the fish for lunch?

 

Sartorial Splendour

Hector’s helper got into a bit of trouble on his Facebook on the last day of APEC for posting a photo from the ABC website of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott arriving at the end-of-event Big Dinner wearing purple Endek. It wasn’t the rig that was being critiqued – Batik and Ikat are wonderful fashion statements and vital elements of Indonesian culture – but the fact that purple just isn’t his colour.

Judging from the photo, in which PM Abbott is looking (smilingly) vaguely uneasy and his wife is looking determinedly anywhere but at his shirt, we think he knows this.

 

Bon Soirée

Hector and Distaff attended one APEC event, which was an American business oriented cocktail function at the Grand Nikko Bali where Jean-Charles Le Coz presides over the cliff-top presence with just the right amount of Gallic flair. We were invited by Jack Daniels of Bali Discovery Tours and Bali Update, with whom we share an interest in the fortunes – misfortunes rather – of Bali’s street dogs. We drank some very pleasant Californian red and chatted with lots of interesting people.

We had to chat. The speeches were off because of the inability of American governmental arrangements to realize that as this is the 21st century they really should move on (and no, we’re not talking about guns or health care). Everyone officially American present, including the US Secretary of Commerce, seemed to be on furlough. In the non-American part of the Anglosphere this is more simply known as leave without pay.

It was interesting getting into the venue. We didn’t have a magic APEC pass, you see. So after a bit of a circus we parked on the road outside and walked in. A chatty infantry corporal, fully armed, escorted us to the sign-in tent. He saw me checking his boots (old military habits die hard) and thereafter called me Sir.

 

Three Hearty Woofs!

An annual event of note took place in Melbourne on Oct. 11 – the Bali Street Dogs appeal night, this year presided over by one of the Diary’s favourite Aussie TV personages, Kerri-Anne Kennerley. The event was at the InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto, as always, and was co-sponsored by Garuda.

Volunteer cheerleader and longstanding Bali hand Sally Rodd reminded us the 2012 appeal raised more than $40,000 to help alleviate the appalling conditions in which most of Bali’s abandoned and urban-feral dogs live.

It’s great to know that some people understand that being Lead Species on Planet Earth confers obligations such as a duty of care towards lesser creatures. Perhaps some further educational literature on that rather broad topic could be usefully read by bureaucrats here.

Anyone interested in the Melbourne end of caring for Bali’s dogs should bookmark www.balistreetdogs.org.au.

 

Sanglah Connection

Kon Vatskalis, who as health minister in the former Northern Territory government was the leading political driver of the 2011 sister relationship between Sanglah and Royal Darwin Hospital, was back here recently to check on progress. He’s now the opposition spokesman on health in the legislature of that Australian territory.

We had dinner with him and his family at La Favela in Seminyak, an occasion hosted by Australia’s consul-general in Bali, Brett Farmer. Vatskalis pronounced himself well satisfied with the way the Darwin-Sanglah link had progressed and tells us he’s also keen to help with the establishment of a new international hospital here and to extend the Darwin link to the public hospital facility in Kupang, West Timor.

He issued a statement on his visit. Among other things it noted this:

“The Sanglah Hospital has completely revamped their emergency department and introduced a triage system that has significantly improved patient care. In addition, the hospital has introduced a Clinical Nurse Educator [and is] the only hospital with such a position in Indonesia.  It has also introduced a hospital school for sick children, modelled on the one in Royal Darwin Hospital.”

It’s these sorts of things that take place largely out of the public gaze that are so valuable, so effective at cementing relationships, and so useful in bringing otherwise unreachable benefits to the Indonesian people.

 

In the Swim

Celia Gregory of the Marine Foundation – she’s the Brit “underwater sculptress” whose polyp-friendly structures augment existing and nascent coral reefs in Bali and the Lombok Gilis – was at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival this year, presenting at a day of free events sponsored by The Body Shop.

The day-long affair (on Oct. 13) was a special addition to this year’s festival program and themed “Our Planet: Through Darkness to Light”. Gregory was joined at Fivelements (it’s on the Ayung River at Banjar Baturning, Mambal) by Rili Djohani of the Coral Triangle Centre, environmental activist and The Body Shop Indonesia CEO Suzy Hutomo, environmental writer Harry Surjadi and orang-utan rehab expert Simon Husson.

It presented “a journey across Bali’s coral reefs and Indonesia’s extraordinary forest and wildlife worlds”.

On Oct. 14, in another festival spin-off, Villa Kitty at Lodtundah staged a special literary and art-oriented day for children. Villa Kitty, which is now a fully fledged Yayasan, is run by that energetic Ubud fixture, Elizabeth Henzell.

 

Swish Dish

We see that snappy photographer Deborah Cayetano, who also runs the innovative Bali’s Best Chefs operation, has added vacation and time management to her skill-set outlined on LinkedIn, where the Diary does its real work. That’s probably a good thing. Her plush dining experiences require a lot of organization. They’re invitation only, the names of other guests are not revealed until all are gathered for the feast, and the location is kept secret until 48 hours before the event.

It’s a great marketing pitch. Award winning chefs from around the world who now live and work in Bali present special menu creations and premium wines are paired by the chef to blend nicely with each course.

The succulent celebrations take place in a luxury holiday villa, on a big yacht, or at an historical location. It’s a nice niche market to aim for and helps promote Bali as more than just a resort of the gulp-guzzle-and-go brigade.

 

In a Great Cause

W Resort and Spa at Seminyak is the venue on Oct. 19 for a Gala Fundraiser in aid of Bali’s new Breast Cancer Support Centre in Jl Dewi Sri, Kuta, which is an initiative of the Bali Pink Ribbon organization.

The evening will feature a four-course dinner by W Resort and Spa Bali’s executive chef Richard Millar (including free-flow wine).  Cocktails begin at 6:30pm. Tickets are Rp1.5 million (US$130). Call (+62) (0)361-8352299 or email balipinkribbon@gmail.com.

 

RIMBA Calling

Marian Carroll of AYANA – whose corporate boosting duties now include the new companion resort hotel RIMBA – is looking forward to the establishment’s grand opening on Nov.  1. It opened (in the soft way that such establishments do worldwide) in time to host APEC delegates and was performing very well when we had breakfast there with Carroll one recent weekend.

Some finishing touches were still being made and bits of it looked a tad To-Do, but the Lobby is spectacular, the breakfast was good, the staff attentive, and it was lovely to be in the midst of an infant forest and surrounded by masses of water.

The grand opening should be spectacular.

 

 Hector tweets @scratchings

 

 

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 23, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

In the Swim

We hear that Celia Gregory, the underwater sculptress, will soon be back among us. She’s coming up for air after a longish sojourn in Britain. Gregory’s interest lies in the crisis of coral – everywhere but chiefly in our own interest in Bali and Lombok – and she has a novel way of applying a remedy for this destruction.

     She gave an interesting talk to Canggu Rotary last year on her underwater sculpture project, which is designed to give the little polyps something artistic to grow on. She’s done this in cooperation with the BioRock project in Lombok’s Gilis and plans to do more of the same in Bali: at Pemuteran, where she’s already done sterling work and where “The Underwater Goddess” now has a home; and at Amed, with Reef Check Indonesia and an international organisation, Coral. At Amed, in a depressingly common story, precious coral was destroyed in the 1980s when it was used for building material in place of cement.

     Gregory tells us that while in the UK she won funding from the far-seeing Roddick Foundation for development work on her project. She gave them this pitch, which it is impossible to gainsay:

     “It is clear that marine habitat around the world is in mass decline and a radical new creative approach is needed to halt the destruction. I believe using the lucrative economy of art mixed with the vital economy of tourism we can help re-inject a sense of value and awe of our oceans back into society, helping the world to once again revere the wonderful hidden underwater world that is so desperately in need of protecting.”

      The money will enable The Marine Foundation – which Gregory founded – to develop its website and profile so it is more accessible to both a wider audience and to greater funding support.  She tells us: “It is vital we place this within the context of tourism and contemporary art as a powerful way to support marine eco-system restoration and sustainable management.”

      Indeed. Apart from anything else, Indonesia’s (and Bali’s and Lombok’s) marine tourism sector needs to protect and nurture the living environment that gives it a commercial edge in the world market.

My Hatten! A Nice Drop

The lovely little MinYak’s regular Question Time column is always a must-read at The Cage, so when the latest edition cantered into our in-box the week before last, we grabbed it with glee. And with good reason, it turned out, because the subject was James Kalleske, Hatten Wines’ new blender extraordinaire.

     We’re into wine here at The Cage. And mostly Hatten, since the art of surviving a period of genteel decline undefined by any pre-disclosed end date to assist budgeting precludes the practices of former years, when such recurrent costs were not really a factor. It’s still outrageously expensive to drink wine in Indonesia, but if you’re prepared to quaff Chateau Cardboard and know the lie of the land well enough to find an emporium with the nous to understand that people will buy more if it’s cheaper, then Hatten’s products fit the bill. Forget Pepito.

     We drink Aga Red. So well do we do this that the people at the local store we buy ours from now get a box out of their locked display cabinet whenever they see us pulling up outside. For some months, Aga Red has even tasted like wine. Lolly water it no longer is. An Aussie gripe – yes that’s a pun, love ’em, not a mistype – seems to have got into the mix in significant quantity.

     Kalleske is a Barossa boy from a South Australian winemaking family. So we’re really glad he’s here and is putting his mark on a new range of locally produced wine blends. But he got here from Western Australia, proving yet again that WA is Bali’s leading source of expatriate settlers.

     He tells a lovely story about his most memorable wine occasion. This from the MinYak:

    “What’s the funniest situation you’ve had to navigate so far as a wine-blender?

    “Not so much funny as embarrassing. During an interview for a position with a very exclusive winery in Margaret River, one of the questions the GM asked me was ‘What is your most memorable bottle of wine?’ 

   “I told him it was a bottle of ‘X’. I said: ‘The wine was absolute rubbish, really hideous! But it was the first bottle of wine I drank with the girl who turned out being the love of my life, and that is why the wine was so memorable.’ The GM replied: ‘I made that wine! Under a label I created…’ Needless to say I didn’t get the job.”

    In vino veritas, as they say. But Kalleske has a good mind for difficulties – that should help him through his developing Bali experience – and also told the MinYak he believes “it’s always better to have a wine than a whinge.”

     Vintage, James. And puns help too.

A Special Day

Anand Krishna, the spiritual spruiker, scarcely needs introduction. He’s so well known that several people are still trying to put him in jail under the Trumped-Up Charges Act. You don’t have to try very hard here to get up someone’s nose.

     So it was nice to see that on Jan. 14, to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Anand Ashram Foundation in Ubud, the inauguration took place of Aadi Paraashakti Devi Mandir (The Mother Goddess Chapel). The proceedings were conducted in Bahasa Indonesia.

A Fine Legacy

This year’s winners of the Elizabeth O’Neill Journalism Award – it’s in honour of the public affairs counsellor at Australia’s embassy in Jakarta who was among 21 people tragically killed in the 2007 Garuda crash at Yogyakarta – are ABC journalist Amy Bainbridge and Indonesian online news editor Renne Kawilarang. 

     Australian foreign minister Bob Carr, who made the announcement on Jan. 15, said both winners were worthy recipients of the award with a strong commitment and interest in the relationship between Australia and Indonesia. The annual award goes to one journalist from Australia and one from Indonesia to visit each other’s country for up to three weeks on a fully-funded programme.

     Carr said in announcing this year’s winners: “The relationship between our two nations is fundamental and the Elizabeth O’Neill Award fosters greater understanding, leading to better informed media coverage of issues affecting both countries.”

     Bainbridge has worked on many of Australia’s flagship current affairs programmes including Lateline, PM and The World Today. While in Indonesia, she will focus on the representation of women in local politics and business, the Australian expatriate community and the role of Islam in modern Indonesian society.

     Kawilarang, a news editor with VIVAnews.com, has extensive international relations experience and has previously won the British Council’s Chevening Scholarship. He will use his time to research Indonesian links with Australia by interviewing Indonesians now living there and speaking to young Australians who have lived in Indonesia.

He’s got the Sheets

Steve Palmer, man about Bali, recently issued a plaintive plea on one of the Facebook groups he can be found on: “Does anyone know where to find the finest quality hand, bath, and face towels in Indonesia? Finest cotton… Super soft, super absorbent, nice colours [he spelt that without the “u” of course, but we forgive him – Hec]; even dye lots across all articles, not looking for a bargain, looking for the best… Two months ago I tried to get good sheets here and ended up getting Frette from New York as everything local available was too much of a compromise. Hope I don’t have to suffer the same for towels.”

    There’s a lesson there for Bali suppliers of all sorts of products. It is that quality does count and that it has to be real rather than imaginary.

Poison Alley

Methanol, the poison of choice of criminally-minded liquor-adulterers in Indonesia whose consciences are apparently even more defective than their mental capacities, this month claimed the life of an Australian teenager who became ill after unwittingly consuming an adulterated drink on Gili Trawangan, Lombok.

    The young man, whose name was Liam Davies and who was 19, became sick after a New Year celebration with friends. He was flown home to Perth, on the advice of doctors, but died in hospital there.

     Methanol is a deadly killer. There have been numerous incidents in which people have drunk adulterated liquor – methanol is used to create larger quantities of alcohol (often arak) that they then sell to the unwitting – here in Bali, as well as Lombok, and of course elsewhere in Indonesia.

     Last year a well-known Perth rugby player, Michael Denton, died in Bali of methanol poisoning. In 2009 a total of 25 people died here – four of them foreign tourists –after drinking methanol-laced arak. An arak factory operator in Denpasar subsequently faced court and was convicted of breaching regulations regarding alcohol production.

    Kim Patra, who writes the Paradise in Sickness & in Health column in the Bali Advertiser, devoted an entire column before Christmas to the dangers of being unaware of risks to your health here.

Buzzing Off

Jennifer Bee, who markets Komodo and its diving and dragon attractions for Grand Komodo Tours at Sanur, is changing tack in February: she plans to set up her own home-based business that will offer an eclectic mix: business services, relocation assistance, a travel agency, house and villa maintenance and a window into the world of art.

     Bee (not her real name but she gets a buzz out of it) says she’s had enough of working for other people and wants to go it alone using the internet as her office. It’s the coming thing and we wish her good luck and good fortune.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky)