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, June 26, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

May the Farce be with You

A month in France is a useful reminder of one’s European heritage. That is, specifically European, not “Anglo” as this is understood to encompass English-speaking British-North American-Antipodean culture.

French farce, for example, holds great value beyond mere entertainment for Anglos who grew up within the geographical limits of Eurasia’s damp north-western peninsula. One’s parents might have believed – and indeed sometimes may even have said – that wogs began at Calais, but French and other European cultures have always resonated well among the British, or at least those Britons for whom “Yer” is neither a real word nor a substitute for an entire conversation.

So spending some time in Marseille has been illuminating. The thick city accent is a treat, unless you have to try to understand people. But that would spoil the fun.  And anyway the behaviour of the locals is an engaging demonstration of the fine French tradition of carrying on, farce-wise.

Two weekends running, on the splendid seafront thoroughfare that separated our temporary home from the beach and the big salt lake that the Romans, bless them for their chutzpah, called Mare Nostrum, the police closed off parts of the road to accommodate events. One was a massive cattle and horse drive, said to have something to do with culture and heritage in this, Marseille’s, year of being Europe’s capital of culture. The other was some sort of run.

We saw neither event, since we are not the descendants of cattle thieves or in the least interested in how you can develop crippling knee problems in later life, but we did see the side-show. This was provided by streams of drivers who, rather than muttering “Merde!” and finding another way to go when they chanced upon a barricaded traffic circle, stopped their cars in the middle of the road to argue with the flics.

In some cases they did this with actual violence. One feisty little blonde thing leapt out of her miniature conveyance with a fetching series of angry flounces and advanced on the waiting gendarmes, screeching abuse. Or perhaps it was a stream of questions, perhaps pejorative, rhetorical or otherwise, and possibly beginning with “WTF?” Finding the official answer unsatisfactory (we hope it was “Can you not zee zat ze road eet ees closed you stupid hen?”) she jumped up and down in frustration, rather in the manner of a lady caught short in a long toilet line-up, and rattled the barriers with quite inappropriate force. She either hadn’t noticed, or didn’t care about, the growing queue of honking cars blocked behind her.

The drivers of the blocked vehicles probably didn’t find this amusing. We did. All it lacked for cultural completeness was Inspector Clouseau.

Homage to Catalonia

Five days in Barcelona is a great way to spend – well, five days, to begin with. No time is ever long enough if you’re travelling, especially if you’re also enjoying yourself. The old town had changed since the Diary was last there, but since that was 1966 it’s no surprise. Back then Catalans lived without the authorised benefit of their own national culture, or of their language legitimised by national law, and were even forbidden to give their children Catalan names.

Since then, the fascist Franco regime has long gone (and Franco himself too) and the new Spain is a different place, with democratic institutions and its king back on the throne for which Franco (to his credit) always believed himself only to be regent. One difference is that there more beggars. In the old days they had ways of making them disappear. Today you cannot do this, and quite rightly so. Nonetheless, they are a nuisance when they patrol the outside eating areas that abound in Barcelona and rattle their cups. It prompts one to guzzle the gazpacho and quaff the Pedro Ximinez far too fast lest either of them seriously sours.

There is a silver lining, however. None of the beggars seem to play the accordion. Aptitude with the Devil’s instrument is reserved for that class of irritating itinerants whose members ride on the city’s excellent metro trains and serenade you (whether or not you wish it) in expectation of financial reward.

We several times ate and drank at little establishments in Plaça George Orwell, in the Cuitat Vella (old city). It is in an area that is quite suitably proletarian for that writer chap who briefly fought for the Republicans in the Spanish civil war and named himself after the English river which he especially loved. We came to know his plaza in Barcelona as Penname Place. It sounds so much better than Eric Blair Square.

Jet Lag

Well, only a little – and in this case it’s the name of a nice little bar in El Gotic, Barcelona, which we found by accident even though it was just around the corner from our hotel. We were glad we did, because the free hotel Wi-Fi that was part of our deal was non-operational (though only for us, according to the hotel, which said we must have had a problem with our protocols; strangely our notebooks had no trouble with anyone else’s internet connection) and the bar was a handy login point.

We suggested to proprietor Nicolá (first names only) who was formerly in the aviation industry and is from Sardinia, that he hire a sandwich-board man to patrol the street in front of our hotel advertising working Wi-Fi at his bar just a step or two away.

Like many such establishments in civilised parts of the world, Petit Jet-Lag is a convivial place for locals and tourists alike. It has a nice tapas menu, great coffee and a good range of drinks. Plus it is open until 2am.

We became legends while there. On one occasion we’d had a trying day attempting to arrange our scheduled return to Marseille since the French air traffic controllers were on strike and the gallant French train drivers, not wishing to be thought absent from the front line of the battle to ignore budgets and promote the view that financial restraint or productivity have nothing to do with them, decided to stage a stoppage of their own at the same time.

Because of this, we reached the bar – where we were already known and had been classified as “old” (a tad unfairly although it’s true the Diary could easily have been just about every customer’s, and the proprietor’s, father) – in somewhat pressing need of zesty refreshment. We chose long Campari tonics, since we like them, it was a warm day, we were frazzled, and it’s a great drink if the barman remembers to pour Campari into the glass rather than just wave the bottle at it.

We drank them swiftly (see above). Next day we learned that when we left the previous evening the bar’s denizens said – it would be nice to think this was in unison – “Wow! I want to be like them when I’m old! Twelve seconds to down a long Campari!”

That’s How You Do It

While we were astounding the locals in Barcelona (see above) we spotted an item in a national newspaper that seemed relevant to a recent event – an ongoing one, unless we believe in miracles – in the field of zoonotic diseases in Bali.

It concerned a dog that had bitten five people elsewhere in Spain and had been found to be rabid, the first such reported incident since 1975. The health authorities in the area had immediately provided all the bitten bods with the full post-exposure vaccine course and the regional government had ordered the immediate vaccination of all dogs, cats and ferrets (a pet in Spain) within a 20km radius of the incident.

Oh yes, and the idiot dog owner who had broken the law by falsifying his animal’s rabies vaccination record and failing to report as required when he several times took the animal to Morocco, a declared rabies zone, and more importantly brought it back to Spain, was facing criminal charges.

Might the foregoing give any official mind in Bali cause for thought?

Ups and Downs

Interesting tourist arrival figures for April: the Japanese are returning in strength (up a standout 17.91 percent month on month versus 2012) which is great news, but the Aussies are showing signs of weakening: down 1.5 percent.

There’s no doubt the Australian economy is not quite as robust as the country’s government would like people to think – too many eggs in one overfull resource basket is one cause – though neither is it in the dire straits the country’s opposition likes to suggest. There’s a national election on Sept. 14 that should clear the air politically. That would be the best fillip to confidence, the long-missing subjective ingredient in the present economic brew.

Hector’s Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser newspaper, published fortnightly. Hector tweets @ scratchings.