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 May 29, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Family Time

The ties that bind otherwise widely disparate families and characters into a familial network are very apparent in Bali, as in many other cultures. They are decreasingly visible in western societies where the state has long since taken over the role of matriarch (or patriarch if you like) and individuals are far more mobile and have much wider choices of employment and location.

So it is good still to be numbered in the declining percentile and be firmly for the family. This was reinforced during a week in Scotland in mid-May, a sojourn deemed necessary for remedial, toe-in-the-gene-pool therapy. It was a time spent among the family in the Border country where the churches are Episcopalian, a goodly portion of the ecclesiastical architecture has identifiable Norman leanings, and the food is, well, fantastic.

It is true Sassenach country (Saxon country), very far from the Scotland of the picture books and tourist brochures. This made it altogether strange that the railway station near where we were staying with a lovely cousin was named An Druim, in Scottish Gaelic, as well as Drem, the name by which it is universally known.

There was a lovely party on the weekend before our departure for notionally warmer clines, involving several cousins and including a representative of the family’s Australian connection – a genuine one, not the ring-in Diary version. There are few people with whom it is possible just to take up a conversation where one left it two years earlier; and even fewer who on first acquaintance seem instantly to be family.

Auld Reekie Revisited

We were twice in Edinburgh, a city that soothes the soul – big enough and sufficiently cerebral to be a genuine national capital, yet small enough to be both manageable and scenic – and which is a great place for lunch.

The weather was bleak in the unforgiving way that bleakness acquires only nine degrees south of the Arctic Circle, but the food makes up for any chill the city can throw at you, especially in the Grass Market and on Lothian Road. Soup warms the bones as well as the heart; and at certain venues Italian cuisine, in good company, absolves all sins.

What the weather serves up in the way of inclement conditions is in any case offset by the long days at this time of the year. It’s a treat to be able to sit outside (rugged up if necessary) and drink in the 10pm twilight.

Marchon! Marchon!

From Scotland we went on to Marseille (it’s better, and authentically, spelt that way) which was to be our base for a month. Our apartment, a particularly fine home exchange option, overlooks the Mediterranean (actually the Ligurian) Sea and the sweep of Provencal coastline the north and west of the city: a magic spot.

Equally magic is the variety of eating and shopping experiences close by. We’ve even been to Carrefour, a one-kilometre stroll up the road from our beachside digs, though just as at home in Bali we prefer smaller, local shopping opportunities. We’ve found those too, and in consequence are eating really rather well.

The walking routine is as close as we’ll be getting to the Marseillaise and its command to the citoyens to marchon, even though we are temporary residents of the city that brought the world the French revolutionary anthem. They’ll have to excuse us. Our sang is still a bit froid to make us happily sing about someone else’s nationalistic fervour. And anyway, it’s not July 14 yet.

Schengen Shenanigans

KLM’s Denpasar-Amsterdam service is very good. Even with an hour-plus on the ground in Singapore, the time in air from wheels up at Ngurah Rai to touchdown at Schiphol is well under 17 hours. Flying westward, the effects of jet lag are minimal, especially on the KLM schedule which effectively makes the trip just one very long night. Just set your watch on Amsterdam time on departure, and relax.

We had a very short connection time in Amsterdam before flying on to Edinburgh, but (in contrast to Air France via Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris two years ago) our luggage nonetheless managed to accompany us to our final destination.

But Schiphol does have a problem with Schengen area passport control and central security screening. On our trip back from Edinburgh via Amsterdam to Marseille that part of the programme was a shemozzle. The queues were huge, unruly and cross, and the airport staff and security personnel similarly distempered.

No one sensible objects to strict passport controls or to invasive security checks. But someone at Schiphol needs to work out that people with short connection times need to be accommodated on a more productive basis than complete lack of official interest in whether they make their flight or not.

We’re in Touch

Not too many years ago departing from anywhere to anywhere out of immediate earshot meant cutting yourself off from current events in your place of origin. Sometimes this was to personal advantage: Raffles, for example, could invade Java free of any worries that someone at head office might see a tweet from him or look at his Facebook and detect a scurrilous plan in the making. Similarly, England’s wayward remittance men could safely be sent to the colonies and never be heard of again.

No more, of course, with the internet ubiquitously available. So even though we’re half a world away (only temporarily; no one should get too excited) we’re fully briefed on Bali business.

Among those things to have piqued our interest is an impending event in the AYANAsphere due to take place in June – happily, on a date after our return to Bali. They’re launching their grand ballroom and meeting rooms, set for MICE (spenders rather than rodents) and introducing new sister resort RIMBA at a function on June 21. We’ll be there.

Family Tree

It might strike some as strange that the new Mangrove Motorway through the fragile marine environment of Benoa Bay – an enterprise we are assured will solve South Bali’s horrendous traffic problems, won’t do a bit of harm to the mangroves, and will be launched (we do hope not literally) by the President in June – has not yet been given a name. They do things differently in Bali.

Never mind. Things are moving on that front now. Suggestions for names are beginning to emerge. Among them is a great proposal from Udayana University academic Darma Putra Nyoman, who says the toll road – Bali’s first – should be named after dance artist I Wayan Lotring (1898-1983), a grandmaster of Balinese dance and percussion from Kuta who contributed mightily to the development of Balinese art and culture both locally and as an international icon.

We really like that idea.  It seems appropriate. There’s already been a bit of a song and dance about the road. And it would be so much better than recycling a name from the political or insurrectionist past or choosing something utterly soul (and culture) destroying as in the case of Jl. Sunset Road. Come to think of it, we’re not much into tautology, either.

Undercurrent

Speaking of Sunset Road, which anyone who has to drive to or through Kuta does frequently, often in less than complimentary terms, we got a giggle out of some of the feedback in The Beat Daily recently about the new underpass at Dewa Ruci.

This followed a report that the Bali legislature is inquiring into the adequacy of emergency escape staircases at the underpass, which is now partially open to traffic. Our lawmakers apparently want to know where this essential bit of infrastructure is and indeed, whether it exists. They could pop down there in their taxpayer-provided limousines and have a look of course, but that’s asking a bit much.

One comment on this issue related to the misbehaviour of motorbikes, a constant issue on Bali’s roads. It also suggested that given the fact that it rains now and then, and that motorcyclists invariably seek shelter, the underpass would inevitably be blocked in anything heavier than a passing sprinkle.

We’re all in favour of upgrading Bali’s arterial road system. But this would be of far greater utility if driver skills were similar improved, by several thousand percent.

(Hector is away from The Cage, on a slightly longer than normal Short Essential Break)

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser. He tweets @scratchings.