They’re a Scream

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Bali

Aug. 17, 2016

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saurian Point

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

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

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

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

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

Direct Aid

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

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

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

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

Truck Off

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

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

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

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

Sad Departure

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

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

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

Flag This

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

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

HectorR

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 21, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Guys, Get Serious!

A photo taken on Dec. 21 and displayed on Facebook this month of a 500-metre wide by unknown kilometres long stretch of garbage floating offshore from around Tanah Lot (it’s an important temple: might that resonate with any of the stumblebums officially responsible for the island’s environment?) lays bare the filthy joke that is Bali’s official non-position on waste management.

We all know, here, that garbage immediately becomes something that is not your problem if you throw it over the wall or dump it in the bush or a dry watercourse. The well-meaning assert that this is because the population needs to be educated and companies that produce masses of plastic pre-waste – packaged food producers largely – need to be forced to comply with the law.

The realists among us, well-meaning or otherwise, would suggest that since ever- increasing amounts of non-degradable rubbish have been a feature of Bali for a period that now approaches three decades, the actual causes are sloth, crass stupidity, blind selfishness, and a desire not to spend money on waste management because there are far more exciting things to waste money on.

It’s true that except in a few (commendable) cases, public waste disposal services are a sick joke. Organizing them requires a sound plan, good administration, ample funding, and that most elusive of public assets, real leadership. So something’s missing, and it not just all eight cylinders in Pak Plutocrat’s big limo.

It’s also true that Bali has only an embryonic tax base, even though except for Jakarta it is the richest province in Indonesia. Most people, those the tourists won’t tip because Rp 50,000 is a good screw for the work they do, yeah, and I’m here for a holiday and I don’t give a toss, are outside the collectible tax base.

There are environmental laws that require packagers to produce packaging that won’t litter the landscape for a millennium or kill marine life in the ocean for a hundred years. Like most laws here, especially the ones that emanate from the national level which are universally ignored, they are not policed unless someone’s suddenly got a bee in their bonnet or wants money, or both.

The packagers have lobbied heavily – on the tired old argument of anyone bothered by regulations: that they can’t afford it – against having to comply with these laws. The proper answer to that self-serving pitch is that if your business model can’t function within the rules then you should shut up shop.

The government proclaims that Bali is clean and green. It should try to make some progress towards that thoroughly laudable goal before someone invents a counter-slogan: Bali Unclean and Queasy Green.

 

You Don’t Say!

Governor Made Pastika frequently reminds us, via the little homilies about this and that which he likes to deliver as directional-correctional thinking, of the perils of being trite. His latest such utterance is to assert that Bali can no longer be referred to as the Island of Paradise or as Paradise Island, because there are a lot of poor people in Bali who need better welfare.

As with much that is trite, this is also right. The churlish might mutter “Oh, he’s noticed” and have a chuckle and find in that some temporary relief from his promotion of the scheme to murder the mangroves in Benoa Bay to build Port Excrescence and attract lots more tourists who aren’t in the least interested in the local culture. But that would be a little unfair. Pastika has shown commendable interest in the fortunes of the poor – or their lack of fortunes rather – and his critics should remember that there wouldn’t be free health care for Bali’s poor without him.

He went on to say this: “If we’re honest, we see a lot of poor people in Bali, but still dare to say this is an island paradise? In heaven there aren’t any poor people. In heaven it is all fun, and a nice house.”

Well, that’s a lovely thought. And it was apt for his audience. The Governor was speaking at a dialogue session that discussed the issue of whether the vast array of religious ceremonies affects poverty in Bali. It would be foolish to put money on the answer being “No”.

 

Bon Voyage

It was sad to hear that Christian Vanneque, a veritable institution in the expat community, lost his courageous battle with cancer early this month. He was in his sixties, which is far too young to shuffle off.

He will be missed by many and not least by our favourite Yakker, Sophie Digby, who told us this when we spoke about him:

“He used to call me Hello Bali so I used to call him Living Room, or Daniel. It was always a pleasure to see him. Always a pleasure to share a quick word ‘en passant’ as they say.

“He was part of the fabric that makes up Bali; more Aubusson than tie-dye; a gentleman; and I was his friend, not his closest by far, but a friendship that goes way-back-when and a few hundred bottles of wine in between, of that I am sure.

“Following the way of my mind, he is not gone but will still pop up on any given sunny afternoon, just as I walk in to commandeer our favourite table at Sip – Table 10. He will call me Hello Bali.

“So ‘bon voyage’ Christian, we enjoyed your company just like we enjoyed some pretty good wines … ones you gracefully taught us about and encouraged us to drink.

“Santé and Sip!” 

 

Eastward Shift

Kim McCreanor, who used to do save the doggies things for the Bali Animal Welfare Association and then moved on to make local noises elsewhere in the same field, has moved on yet again. She has become chief barker at an NGO based in Australia’s “northern capital”, Darwin, as chief executive officer of AMRRIC (Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities).

AMRRIC is an Australian not-for-profit led by veterinarians and academics; and health and animal management professionals. It works to improve the overall health and wellbeing of remote Indigenous settlements, including their dog populations, which are integral to those communities. The organization’s 10th annual conference in Darwin last September, which McCreanor attended, was supported by IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Here in Bali, IFAW funds a very valuable village-level education project run by BAWA.

 

Freedom of Joyce

Hector’s helper has an interesting life, sometimes. He received a connect request the other day on LinkedIn (it’s where he does his serious work) from someone called Joyce Smith, of whom up to that very moment he had never heard.

Since Ms Smith’s profile was not visible when he tried to look it up – it’s what you do: that’s what LinkedIn profiles are for – he sent her an in-mail thanking her for her request and suggesting she provide some details about herself (e.g., a profile) and they’d take it from there.

He got a note back from LinkedIn immediately which advised that the said Joyce Smith had declined his in-mail. There was a message with it, however, which further advised: “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not interested.”

Normally Hec’s helper would leave things there, on the basis that there’s never a lot of point in talking to the plainly certifiable. But the devil was in him that day. He sent an in-mail back asking: “So why did you send me the initial connect request, Joyce?”

He forbore to inquire what it was that she wasn’t interested in.

 

No Regrettas

In these days of instant interconnection and virtual space filled with homely though sadly too often vacuous aphorisms designed to boost the reader’s self-esteem (the latter are mostly from WWW.con) you find all manner of litter in the corners of your social media sites when you fire up in the morning.

So it was the other day when an item posted by The Mind Unleashed was brought to our attention. It retailed Maxwell Maltz’s quote that “If you make friends with yourself you will never be alone.” The Mind Unleashed ran it in support of a little primer of its own invention for those who have difficulty thinking for themselves even after their first cup of coffee in the morning: Sometimes you need to disconnect and enjoy your own company.

Greta Garbo probably put it better, but it is useful advice nonetheless. We often take it ourselves. At least when you’re alone, no one argues with you.

 

Stuff It

We were dining at a Jimbaran restaurant one evening recently when the activities of the attendant loud-crowd, which seemed largely to hail from Jakarta and Surabaya, prompted a disconsolate thought: We have seen the future and it is stuffing its face.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the fortnightly Bali Advertiser

HECTOR’S DIARY, Bali Advertiser, Jan. 9, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

In the Pink Again

There was a pleasant little soiree just before Christmas, at the plush new Marriott property The Stones at Legian, in favour of the worthwhile Bali Pink Ribbon cause. General manager Peter Brampton and his crew put on a great show for the crowd. Everything was pink: the complimentary mocktails and even many of the canapés, and certainly the staff.

We managed to catch up with Gaye Warren, originator of the Bali Pink Ribbon Walks – this year’s is on April 28; put it in your diaries – for a quick briefing on how things are going with their plans for a breast cancer advisory service for Balinese women.

She tells us: “After nearly four years of fundraising, thanks to the dedication of my Pink Team, I am delighted that we have raised enough funds to open our breast cancer support centre in Jl. Dewi Sri, off Sunset Road in Kuta, to be called Pink Ribbon House. It will be open to all those affected by breast cancer and their families, both Balinese and expatriate. Our medical advisers will endeavour to give free monthly seminars on women’s health at the centre.  We shall also be offering therapeutic courses and counselling by volunteers including breast cancer survivors.

“All being well, we hope to open when the centre is more or less equipped by the end of January. However, we are still in urgent need of office equipment, up to date computers, etc. We shall also be planning a future fund raiser sometime in 2013 for a second-hand minibus to provide transportation to the centre for women from outside Denpasar.”

They’re looking for an experienced office manager to run the new centre and take on some of their workload. And all this is in addition to the new breast cancer screening facility at Prima Medika Hospital in Denpasar, in which Pink Ribbon has been a major player.

Gaye, who is herself a breast cancer survivor, has had a gruelling time lately. During her lengthy absence in the UK in 2012 the redoubtable Kathryn Bruce held the fort in her place. Gaye says of Kathryn: “I couldn’t possibly manage without her.”

The Stones (one of Marriott’s upmarket Autograph Collection) opened late last year. It’s a great property.

Missing Link

It is to be hoped that Garuda will make it back to Darwin, as forecast, now it is apparently no longer just the notional airline. Proposals to resume the service from Bali to Australia’s “northern capital” this year have surfaced following a visit to Jakarta by Northern Territory Chief Minister Terry Mills, who took office last year following an election that saw the long-ruling Labor Party tossed into opposition.

The north Australia connection is important to Bali and the eastern archipelago, and of course to Indonesia as a whole. Darwin implicitly understands the realities of living in the tropics, which most Australians do not. The city – it’s very small: 128,100 people on 2011 figures – is well serviced and makes a useful study centre for many Indonesian purposes; not least for storm drain technology that can deal properly with tropical intensity rain.

The new government in Darwin has said it wants to continue and to expand the scope of the lifesaving connection between Royal Darwin Hospital and Sanglah in Denpasar (so see next item). This was an important and far-seeing initiative of the Territory’s former Labor government.  We will look with interest at performance versus promise on that front.

Renewed air links are a boon. When Garuda dropped the ball – and Brisbane and Darwin – some years ago after it discovered to its horror that the corporations that owned its aircraft actually would like lease payments to be made, it did itself and the Australian connection immense damage. It had been flying to Darwin from Bali for 18 years. AirAsia took up the route but discontinued it because it couldn’t make it pay. That’s the commercial reality and AirAsia is (properly) ruthless in that regard. If it doesn’t make commercial sense, it won’t do it. Bali-Phuket was junked for the same reason, as were the Kuala Lumpur-Europe routes.

The Qantas low-cost carrier Jetstar flies Bali-Darwin with services that originate from or fly on to other Australian cities, picking up payload as a result. Garuda has announced plans to fly Jakarta-Bali-Brisbane from later this year.

Nice Try, Fail

Sanglah General Hospital, Bali’s leading public hospital, will have to try again to win formally recognisable international accreditation. A year-long effort to obtain certification from the Joint Commission International (JCI) did not meet with success, since Sanglah failed on several significant tests: quality of the building, the hospital’s ability to control infection and the fit-out of bathroom facilities.

JCI, which has been operating as a global standard-testing organisation since 1994 and is represented in more than 90 countries, sets rigorous standards of clinical care and managerial functions in acute care hospitals. It provides international accreditation, education and advisory services.

Sanglah’s chief director, Dr Wayan Sutarga, says only 36 of 1218 separate JCI standards of service rate a fail at the hospital and 24 are non-medical in nature. He says therefore that it can be said that Sanglah General Hospital is “almost excellent.” Unfortunately that’s somewhat similar to hanging out a plaque above your office, as some Indians used to do in the old days, proclaiming oneself as B.A. (Oxon) (Failed).

JCI will be back in three months. Dr Sutarga and his team need to be ready for excellence then.

Not that Rich

Governor Pastika has taken pains recently to reveal his salary and benefits. They are not excessive. He gets Rp 8,598,200 in take-home pay a month. He disclosed his emoluments, and those of his deputy, following a report published recently by the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (FITRA), which set out salary levels among various provincial and regional heads in Indonesia.

On the face of it, it seems they got something a little wrong. It may be that the monthly office expenses got confused with salaries, since FITRA said Pastika was taking home Rp 176,660,994 a month.

Local newspaper NusaBali also reported the FITRA survey as indicating that the regent and vice regent of Badung were among Indonesia’s best-paid regional officials, receiving monthly salaries of Rp 129,596,905 and Rp 122,876,905 respectively. Those figures are probably wrong too. But Badung is certainly Bali’s wealthiest district. Many refer to it, not without reason, by another name: Rip-Off Central.

In the Way

While the regent of Badung is busy collecting money from developers, he might like to spare a thought for the seaweed farmers of Nusa Dua whose 30-year-old industry is just about dead. The farmers want the government to change the regulations to make it easier for farmers to remain viable producers in areas such as Geger Beach, where the massive Mulia development has delivered the coup de grace to the little people.

Seaweed farmers can no longer dry their seaweed on the beach but must take it inland, reducing production (and incomes). They were promised jobs with hotels in the area but many, unqualified for such work, have not been employed.

Today, only 30 families still farm seaweed at Nusa Dua. There used to be 100. Their situation would make an interesting study for delegates at the 2013 International Seaweed Symposium, the 21st and the first hosted by Indonesia. (We love irony here at the Diary.) Sixty countries are down to attend and delegates are set to discuss the latest research and industry conditions in the seaweed world.

Um, Yes

We dined on the evening of New Year’s Day at Trattoria near Padang Padang on the Bukit’s Labuan Sait coast. The menu’s great – there’s a lovely Japanese selection too – and the ambience captures the locality and its culture while managing to blend in the origins of the Italian style of informal dining.

It was raining heavily on the Bukit that evening and because the front restaurant was full – outside dining being off – we were directed to the other dining area, just a few steps away across a rainy terrace. A delightfully lissom and well appointed young woman with a lovely smile and an umbrella took us there.

We ordered, though with difficulty. This was because all the staff appeared to hold master’s degrees in eye-contact avoidance. They also seemed not to understand their own language. We had to ask for roti to go with the pre-pizza salad, but we only got it after the happy fellow we were trying to order with had a brainwave and said, “You want bread!”

When we left, it was still raining kucings and anjings. But that was OK; we made use of an umbrella provided for diners who might otherwise get drenched. At the parking area, however, the attendant was determinedly sheltering from the ambient inclemency. He showed no interest in waving us out of the car park with the usual combination of magic wand, whistle and shouts of “terus”. Further, it was abundantly clear that he had no intention of getting himself wet in an effort to retrieve his employer’s umbrella.

So to make the point, your Diarist trudged through the rain after the Distaff was safely sheltered in the car, to return it to the idle little gent. (“Gent” was not the actual word that was upon your Diarist’s lips, sotto voce, but the Bali Advertiser has rules that proscribe profanity.)

Hector’s Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser print edition, out every second Wednesday, and on the newpaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector is on Twitter @scratchings and Facebook (Hector McSquawky)