HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 29, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

An Orwellian Travesty

Putu Sumantra, who is head of Bali’s animal husbandry and livestock service but who keeps providing evidence that he would be better not allowed out with a broom and instructions to sweep the steps, would like the public not to oppose the killing of “feral” dog populations by provincial animal control officers.

He says that the final solution decided on by the Bali authorities in their latest guaranteed to fail response to the seven-year-long rabies outbreak is necessary to eliminate the risk of unvaccinated dogs mingling with the vaccinated crowd and diminishing the level of disease protection. Maybe he’s from Planet Pluto. Perhaps they really do things differently there. Perhaps Governor Made Mangku Pastika is from Pluto too. He’s backing this latest piece of madness.

Sumantra, reported in the Indonesian language Bali Post newspaper, also hinted that he didn’t want people to be influenced by the views of the anti-killing lobby. In the invidious nature of the times, that’s code for “foreign” animal welfare organizations and namby-pamby westerners. He not only wants to shoot the dogs, he’d like to shoot the messengers too.

No matter that global experience shows that rabies control and eventual eradication can be achieved through carefully coordinated and rigorously financially audited vaccination campaigns. Humane reduction of numbers through sterilization and education to improve treatment of dogs that live alongside people in their villages then nurtures a healthy dog population.

This is not some radical activist program. It is the accepted world benchmark mandated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization. What’s more, it works. There is no reason why it should not work in Bali, except of course that it requires careful coordination, exemplary leadership, and rigorous, responsible management.

There are very few “feral” dogs in Bali, something else the authorities know very well. The Bali dog is an independent spirit but generally has a place, if not a home. Most are not formally “owned”, but the latest research indicates that up to 95 percent informally belong within their community.

There is the beginning of a groundswell of resistance among the Balinese to the promiscuous killing of street dogs. There is sensitivity on that point. This must be why when he announced the commencement of a vaccination campaign in Denpasar (as part of the latest underfunded and under-resourced effort) Sumantra said that dogs without collars would be captured and tested for the virus.

Several of the unpleasant characters in the political novels of George Orwell would be very pleased with Sumantra’s mastery of propaganda and disinformation. Rabies can only be positively identified from brain tissue. To obtain a test sample, you have to kill the dog.

Seven years after an isolated imported case of canine rabies occurred on southern Bukit and no one noticed for an astonishing length of time and the disease broke out from there, it is now endemic to the entire island and people are still dying. It is most prevalent in Buleleng, Bangli and Karangasem.

Flexible Format 

Bali is to host the world’s first International Yoga Day (it’s on Jun. 21) at the invitation of the Indian government. The day was proposed by the Indian prime minister to the United Nations with the goal of promoting universal aspiration of physical and mental wellbeing by way of practising yoga.

The day is planned to feature tutorials presented by influential yoga practitioners, competitions for best practitioner, and an attempt to set a world record for the largest practice of yoga.

We’re a bit rusty, but we might brush up on our five basic positions and drop in at the Bajra Sandhi Monument in Renon on the day. The timing is a tad awkward, though. On Sundays at The Cage, we always celebrate First Coffee at 7am.

Substance, Not Froth

If Muhammad Arwani Thomafi, that chap from the National Development Party who wants to ban beer – and not just from mini-markets, he wants to ban it totally – would like to get his head around a real problem as opposed to an imaginary one, he might care to look at the latest UNESCO report on education.

It shows that in 2012 there were 1,336,000 Indonesian youngsters who weren’t attending primary school, double the figure from 2000. While enrolments doubled in early childhood or pre-primary education, from 24 percent in 2000 to 48 percent in 2012, it’s still far short of the indicative target of 80 percent set in the Education for All goals, launched in 2000.

It contrasts poorly with Malaysia (70 percent), Vietnam (79) and Brunei (92).

Change of Seasons

Four Seasons veteran Uday Rao, who was manager at the Sayan resort, has moved to Jimbaran as general manager of both the seaside property and Sayan. He plans to create new synergies between the two properties to give Four Seasons guests a truly Bali experience.

A resort manager will be appointed at Sayan.  The two-resort GM is not a novel concept. The jovial John O’Sullivan, now in Mexico and still with FS, held a similar position in the past.

There’s another move of interest to record. Marian Carroll, formerly chief spruiker at the Ayana-Rimba resort complex up the hill, has moved to Four Seasons as director of public relations. We look forward to catching up with her in her new hat, at a Ganesha gallery exhibition opening perhaps, or (if we’re really good) the fabulous beachside Sundara. Just for a tonic-water with a lemon twist, of course.

My Hat!

It was good to see the Ubud Food Festival website go live on Apr. 22. There’s nothing to beat fine food or, except in a few circumstances, Ubud as a venue in which to eat it. It’s also a good place to chat about books, but we have to wait until later in the year for the latest incarnation of Janet DeNeefe’s firstborn festival, the writers’ and readers’.

There’s one event at the food festival (which runs from Jun. 5-7) that as well as serving delicious edibles also serves as an allegory for the little town that’s growing like Topsy in which it will take place. It’s on Jun. 7 and it’s a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

In Lewis Carroll’s wonderful tale, Alice in Wonderland, such an event takes place. (It’s in chapter seven if you want to refresh your memory). In it, Alice approaches a large table set under the tree outside the March Hare’s house and finds the Mad Hatter and the March Hare taking tea. They rest their elbows on a sleeping Dormouse who sits between them. They tell Alice that there is no room for her at the table, but Alice sits anyway.

(Well, as you would…)

The March Hare then offers Alice wine, but there is none. She tells the March Hare that his conduct is uncivil, to which he rejoins that it was uncivil of her to sit down without being invited. The Mad Hatter enters the conversation, saying that Alice’s hair “wants cutting.” Alice says he is rude and he responds with a riddle: “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Alice attempts to answer the riddle, which begins a big argument about semantics.

There is silence after this until the Mad Hatter asks the March Hare the time. But the March Hare’s watch, which measures the day of the month, is broken, and the Mad Hatter becomes angry. He blames the March Hare for getting crumbs on the watch when the March Hare was spreading butter on it. The March Hare dips the watch in his tea, dejectedly remarking that “It was the best butter.”

The food festival grew out the culinary elements of earlier writers’ shows, prompted by feedback from people who said they’d like to sample much more of the spicy bits (pedas as opposed to panas) and in bigger portions.

The festival’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party sounds fun, though hopefully it will be better organized than its original namesake. Well, we’re sure it will be. It will feature fare from Janice Wong, Asia’s leading pastry chef, and Angelita Wijaya in a long table setting. Apparently you should wear your favourite hat.

The festival website has all the details of the three-day event.

Flash Outfit

Sharp-eyed Aussie sheila Marian Carroll, mentioned above in quite another context, reports a traffic event on the Ngurah Rai Bypass recently that is even more astonishing than most. She was bowling down the highway in broad daylight when she passed a man on a motorbike who had chosen to stand out from the rest of buzzing, ducking and weaving crowd by riding stark naked.

Something boggles. We hope it’s the mind. Carroll didn’t say whether she’d seen that the naked man was being pursued by an angry fully-clothed one. Possibly then it was just a matter of choice to bolt in the buff, and not an emergency escape from the consequences of being caught embarrassingly in flagrante.

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

 

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 8, 2014

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Beat That!

The Beat Magazine edition of Dec. 20 carried a little feature quoting what it said were a few notable people around town on what 2013 was like for them and what they were looking forward to in 2014.

Hector, in the person of his ghost-writer, was among this number. We’re sure we’re not really all that notable, especially to the young and playful who read The Beat. But never mind, it was nice to be asked and great to supply responses within the requirements specified. Not more than 140 characters per year. Sort of like a Tweet in print.

Being a senior scribe, at least in years, we can also count. Others either didn’t read Stuart Wilford’s brief or – in the time-honoured practice – chose to ignore it as something that couldn’t possibly apply to them. Editors, such as the Diary in earlier times, have been known to tear their hair out about such things.

Never mind. We did rather empathize with one of the other notables, Morgana, Marketing and Communications Manager at Cocoon in Seminyak. She told us she couldn’t believe 2013 was nearly over. Well, Morgana, each year has 365 days unless a leap year, which has 366. Each year has 12 months. If it’s the twelfth month, the year’s nearly over. Do keep up!

But this little thought from her appealed: “Haven’t been home in a year so seriously looking forward to flying out to Byron on the 1st of Jan and plonking myself down on a white sandy beach.”

Byron Bay is a magic spot at the easternmost point of the Australian mainland and a Diary resort of premium choice over many years. Enjoy, Morgana.

It’s the Year of the Monkey in 2014, the Diary’s own. Perhaps, if Lotto wills it, it may even be a Byronic year.

Load of Rubbish

Linda Buller, artist, BARC lady and interesting lunch companion, spent Christmas at Candi Dasa. It’s a beautiful spot. We always stay at Pondok Bambu when we’re there, because it’s such a great place for relaxed listening to the waves. The views are magnificent: Nusa Penida, the long, low, outline of Nusa Lembongan and sometimes Lombok away to the east; and – at night, if PLN hasn’t pulled the two-pin – the distantly twinkling lights on the Bukit.

So it was rather sad to hear from Linda that rubbish is piling up on the beaches, courtesy of the fine appreciation of Bali’s clean and green environment that one finds widely distributed among the people. Rubbish is invisible, you see, once you’ve tossed it over your wall, or dropped it at the roadside as you meander along on your motorbike, or dumped it in the local waterway.

Marine detritus has much the same provenance, although some of it is the sort of stuff you find washed up on beaches anywhere. Most communities that depend on tourists to call in and part with their money try to keep their beaches clean. Dirty beaches deter dollar-bearers, you see. Here? Well, that’s problematical.

Fresh from her Christmas sojourn, Linda thought out loud about organizing a clean-up. We’d happily grab our floppy hat and lend a hand as well as a pen.

It’s an all-over problem. John Halpin of Oberoi Bali was having a bit of a rant on Facebook the other day. He and a crew from his multi-starred lodgings had just cleaned up Seminyak Beach (again). He said this: “[T]he answer is not just ‘clean it up’ … the answer is ‘stop throwing’.”

Sound the Retreat

Ubud’s a fine place for retreats. They come in all shapes and sizes and something can be found to suit nearly all tastes. The little hill town suits seekers after truth and other substances. Walking the streets it looks as if it’s thoroughly urban but in fact it’s not. It’s more like a Hollywood movie set. Look behind the shop fronts and you’ll see rice fields. Look into the rice fields and you’ll see timeless, natural space.

It’s this environment that has now attracted a very different kind of retreat. Australian natural fertility specialist Dr Alex Perry is running a series of week-long retreats in Ubud this year for committed couples – of any provenance and sexual preference – who wish to conceive using his signature patient-to-parent program. Perry is a doctor of Chinese medicine whose Canberra clinic, The Perry Centre, records an 86 per cent pregnancy success rate with infertile couples.

Perry is moving to Ubud run the retreats, the first of which commences on Jan. 19. He keeps numbers small to ensure personalized treatment for couples. The aim is to de-stress – stress is a huge inhibitor of fertility – through a tailored program including massage, meditation, proper diet and reconnection between partners.

He says of his program, to be held at Ananda Resort & Spa, that that while the world has other fertility retreats, the Bali program will be different. “I want couples who join me in Bali to enjoy the environment, relax, have fun and take away with them new and lasting skills for conception. I’m very excited about the retreats and their potential to give couples the children they long for,” he says.

There’s more about Perry’s innovative treatments and the retreats program at http://ganeshafertilityretreats.com/

Heart and Soul

The seasons change – it’s a natural cycle, rather like hotel management changeovers – and we note that the long summer of public exhibition openings at Ganesha Gallery at Four Seasons Jimbaran has come to an end. These affairs are now for house guests only.

That’s a pity and not just because they used to give you half-decent wine. They afforded an opportunity to chat with the artist and network with interesting people, or even with Four Seasons executives. More importantly, Ganesha Gallery presents an eclectic range of art.

Next up at the gallery is an exhibition of works by Hengki Pudjianto on the theme of Colour is Life. It opens (for the in-house crowd) on Jan. 20 and runs through to Mar. 20.

Hengki, who grew up in Surabaya and now lives and works in Bali, started his career as an abstract painting artist. He is self-taught, always an interesting concept though not one readily accepted by tenured academia. His latest works are more figurative and
modern, deeply emotional and present art that seems sensual and alive and catches the beauty of colour and form. This exhibition is one to see.

Reality Bites

We do bang on about this, we know. And we know that some people would prefer we didn’t. But we’re not stopping. The issue is rabies, which as everyone knows broke out in the Bukit area of South Bali in 2008 – and then broke out of the Bukit into other parts of the island before the island’s disengaged and somnolent bureaucracy bothered to notice.

Rabies is a zoonotic disease – that means it can be transmitted from its animal vectors to humans – but fortunately not one that creates vast pandemics. It is transmitted by direct insertion into muscle tissue, host to victim. These are parameters you would expect any medical or veterinary body in Indonesia to be right across at all times. That wasn’t the case in 2008 (though that is absolutely no surprise) and we’re still paying a high price for that culpable inattention nearly six years ago.

A rabies control campaign, largely funded from overseas, was instituted after strenuous efforts to get the authorities to realize they had a real problem on their hands. It worked, so far as it went. But it couldn’t go far enough. The bureaucracy and public ignorance saw to that.

In the time-honoured fashion, various targets were set to achieve eradication of rabies from Bali. It was to be 2012. Then 2013 passed, astonishingly without any further grandiose pronouncements. Now it is 2014. The new possible eradication date is 2015. This is because under the rules two full years must pass from the date of the last recorded animal or human case before an affected area may be declared rabies-free.

There was a human case of the disease – fatal as always – in Buleleng last September. It wasn’t publicly disclosed until much later. Again, that’s no surprise. Genuine public information is an ephemeral practice here. Perhaps someone’s keeping count of human fatalities from rabies. But all we can say is that the Buleleng death adds to the “more than 150” since 2008.

Today there are far fewer street dogs around and in some areas villages are seeing the benefits of looking after their dogs and having them neutered and vaccinated. An understanding that if you feed a dog once it believes it is part of your family and that you are responsible for it, is now taking root in some places. That’s great.

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings