Bali Daze

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

in the Bali Advertiser

Wednesday, Apr. 26, 2017

THEY do things differently there. That used to be something people said of the past, as in its being a foreign country. In the tried and true practice of Bali, however, doing things differently is something those who rule the island prefer to do in the present. The past is historic and mythical. The future hasn’t yet arrived and is therefore notional and can take care of itself.

Those among with long memories (that is, more than the preceding 12 months) will recall earlier schemes where attachment to reality somehow failed to find its way into the master plan. The round-island railway comes to mind. There are others, but we won’t go on. It is proposed to construct an offshore airport near Singaraja on the north coast, where the submerged landform goes gazompa in a steeply downward direction as soon as the narrow coral fringe of coastal water ends. The scheme got another airing recently. We’d love to see the engineering plans (not the pretty public relations guff; that’s useless).

As usual, the timeframe for development is hysterical. And we’ll ignore the economics, since everyone else is. But these are of no moment. This is Bali. What might be of interest are two elements of the engineering required for the offshore airport and its onshore supporting infrastructure – including the lengthy Jasa Marga toll road proposed to link the south and the north through geologically unstable landforms and forests of unalienable adat ownership.

The runways, taxiways and standing areas for big aircraft require thousands of tonnes of concrete of a thickness that would mystify most Indonesian civil engineers. Keeping that afloat would be a challenge. And then there’s the question of how to engineer the thing to avoid its destruction by a standard-risk 10-metre tsunami.

Way to Go

THE innovative Program Dharma animal health project being run by Udayana University  with support from the international organisation IFAW and locally the Bali Animal Welfare Association is showing great results, which deserve notice. A pilot program in 28 banjars in Sanur (Denpasar) has reduced the rabies threat there to an observed zero incidence, supported community engagement that’s a great model for the government to follow and implement island wide, and improved health in the local dog population.

All of this has been done without unnecessary killing of street and beach dogs, whose right to exist – and to coexist with the human population – is unquestionable, or should be. By keeping itinerant dogs healthy, including by vaccinating them against rabies so that the protective screen against the disease remains effective, and getting banjars (local precincts) involved in caring for them, an integral part of Bali’s heritage can be preserved. There are signs that the authorities at provincial and regency level are at last recognising this.

There’s no shortage of assistance available from foreign sources, including financially. An equally innovative Japanese program, from Kumamoto in Kyushu, is in place. Kumamoto eliminated rabies in cats – the disease vector there – by focused effort and effective administration.

Go Divas!

170426 SYDNEY DIVAS

From left: Sydney Divas committee members Sharon Kelly, Christina Iskandar, Maria Antico, Jackie Brown and Amanda Molyneux at the Apr. 1 event.

CHRISTINA Iskandar, Sydney wife-mother-grandmother and former Bali fixture, isn’t someone to let the grass grow under her feet. The first-ever Sydney Divas charity lunch, on Apr. 1 at the Royal Motor Yacht Club, Point Piper, which we can safely say wouldn’t have happened without her, raised a very substantial sum for the Bali Children Foundation. The money is sufficient to help the children of an entire village, an outcome that is truly wonderful news. We wish we could have been there for the inaugural event, but Sydney is already in our travel plans for a little later this year – 2017 is a big year for really important birthdays – and dollar-deprived diarists are compelled to budget.

Iskandar’s now internationalised Divas, who started the money-raising round here in Bali a while ago – and whose local lunchtime affrays are always worth attending for their ambience and to check for fashion foibles – have given new meaning to charitable enterprise in Bali. The Australian connection was always there, but now Iskandar’s back in her old hometown, it’s stronger than ever.

There are many worthwhile charity causes here, but the Bali Children Foundation, run by Margaret Barry, is right at the centre of the discretionary dollar target.

A Gold Coast Divas charity lunch is to be held on May 26. It’s at Edgewater Dining, a tapas bar and restaurant on the Isle of Capri in the Nerang River, one of The Diary’s long-established stamping grounds.

Soft Cells

THERE is, as the old saying puts it, one born every minute. Apparently quite a few of them then visit Bali for holidays. We instance, in this case, a gentleman from Australia who complained to police that he had been unkindly robbed in a Kuta alley by a lady boy who had offered him a one-minute massage in that informal salon.

We have no view on the sexuality of others, or of their morals, provided they involve only consensual activity and harm no one. It has long been our belief that people are people, and that their peccadilloes are best left to their own decision. For example, the fact that American Vice-President Mike Pence might perhaps feel sexually uncomfortable if he was alone in a dining room with one of Betty Crocker’s fine confections, gives us nary a frisson of fear – as long as he’s never let anywhere near anything that actually matters.

Similarly, if idiotic tourists want to get drunk and imagine that they’re going to find nirvana in an alley way with a lady who owns an Adam’s apple, that’s their own affair. The “lady” in question shouldn’t steal the poor sap’s wallet, of course; and, despite the best efforts of the nightclub circuit here, exposing yourself in public is still frowned upon. But, well, whatever.

Changing Times

LIPPO Group’s takeover of BIMC is now complete, following the 2013 sale of the Nusa Dua and Kuta facilities by BIMC’s Australian principal Craig Beveridge (for Rp208 billion, around US$23 million at current exchange rates). In a rebranding this week (Apr. 26), the flagship facility at Nusa Dua becomes BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua. It’s formally a brand merger, but it also redirects the hospital’s operations towards local people – a positive direction to be warmly welcomed – while keeping a focus on tourist and foreign resident health care.

The hospital, which opened in 2012, has Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International (ACHSI) recognition. In March this year it added crucial Indonesian accreditation from KARS (the national hospital accreditation committee).

BIMC Director I A Made Ratih Komala Dewi, a medical doctor, says of the changes: “Now is the time for BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua to begin providing affordable, quality healthcare to the local market – essentially all of Bali’s communities now have greater access to all hospitals in the group including this fine facility.”

She adds that the merger will generate a positive market reaction once awareness and trust are built. “We are expecting a 40 per cent conversion rate of total patients from local communities. To support the awareness of the brand merger, BIMC Siloam will open a local polyclinic in Badung regency with more affordable prices without compromising healthcare quality.”

BIMC marketing manager Windarini Fransiska says: “We believe the rebrand isn’t just a logo, it’s an experience and one that’s shaped by every doctor, nurse, and associate who delivers it and with this all our stakeholders are on board.”

The BIMC Siloam polyclinic will accept patients (KTP, KITAS holders and those with local insurance) from Monday to Saturday. Specialists practising in the BIMC polyclinic include internal medicine specialists, ENT specialists, paediatricians, dentists, anaesthesiologists, obstetricians and gynaecologists, cardiologists, neurologists, general and orthopaedic surgeons, and surgical oncologists.

BIMC Siloam Nusa Dua is holding an open house on Apr. 28-29 and May 5-6 so the public can see its facilities and inquire about its services.

For Your Diaries

RAMADHAN, the Islamic month of fasting, starts on May 26 this year (at sunset) and runs to Jun. 24.

HectorR

Hector’s Bali Advertiser diary is published monthly. The next will appear on May 24. He writes a blog diary as well, between times.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 4, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Tale of Two Statues

The new style of Bali’s fixation with monumental ornamentation, as seen in the grossly huge and garishly illuminated nightly by circus-style flashing lights “monkey mountain” that has been erected at the junction of Prof Ida Bagus Mantra Bypass and I Gusti Ngurah Rai Bypass just south of Tohpati, is certainly a distraction to drivers. That’s about the kindest thing you could say about it.

It’s true that after a while it fails to totally shock – the brain is adept at repressing all manners of vast unpleasantness – but we can personally attest that for the first several times this visionary excrescence comes suddenly into view one is auto-prompted to utter loudly a crudely pejorative four-letter word before asking (audibly or otherwise, and rhetorically of course) “What on earth is that?”

Fortunately the future of world-class Balinese stone craftsmanship is in safe hands in other areas. Gianyar regency sculptor Ongky Wijana, for instance, has recently completed a work that will honour the mining heritage of the little town of Laxey in the Isle of Man, one among the Queen’s possessions that has never been incorporated into the United Kingdom.

Wijana’s wife Hannah Black, an art editor and designer, is from the Isle of Man, which is in the Irish Sea roughly equidistant from the Irish and Scottish coasts and a little further from the nearest bits of England and Wales. That’s the connection. He has spent quite a lot of time there (he tells us he loves the weather; but he is a very polite gentleman) and got the commission after he was spotted practising his art amid the chill gales of winter as a good way of keeping warm.

It was a nearly year-long task – thankfully this was performed warmly in Bali – to create the statue from a 5000kg block of stone from Ireland and four pieces of Welsh slate. The finished work left Bali in early January and is due to be unveiled at Laxey on May 23.

A Hundred Shades of Grey

We’re not sure of the actual numbers (we were having far too much fun to count heads) but it’s in the nature of seventieth birthday parties to produce fields of grey wherever the eye might fall. And this was the case at The Santosa in Senggigi, Lombok, on Jan. 17, when former leading South Australian and federal Labor politician Peter Duncan had his big bash.

We flew over for the occasion and caught up with some old friends, including Barbara Cahyadi of the Lombok Guide who, because she’s a she, can legitimately crawl away and dye. She didn’t look grey at all. But then she’s nowhere near seventy either. Septuagenarian status in this context is a privilege shared only by itinerant scribblers and former politicians.

Duncan says it was not his idea, and we believe him, but The Santosa had erected a very visible backdrop behind the music stage that loudly (in the visual sense) congratulated “Mr Peter Owner of Taman Restaurant” on his birthday, which was on Jan. 1. It displayed a photographic representation of the present Mr Peter and another of the former political artist as a young man. Well, a very much younger man. This is why we keep our family album under virtual lock and key.

Duncan wore white for the night. His lovely wife Wiwik Pusparini had given him the outfit for his birthday. It was the evening’s one disappointment. Duncan had hinted earlier that he might, in his opening remarks, say that this was a great moment to appear in his birthday suit. Sadly, he flaked on that.

He did make an excellent point in his little address, however. He noted that if he’d held his big bash in Queensland, Australia, all his guests would have risked arrest. Among them were two members of bikie gangs. The Queensland government has outlawed any gathering at which more than one bikie is present. They like their paranoia by the shovelful in Bananaland.

Hang on a Tic!

The endemic political Tourette’s syndrome and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) that afflict Indonesia can be entertaining. Or they would be if they weren’t simply revealing ubiquitous dysfunction and the fact that those creating it would rather play silly games than do any serious work.

The real Tourette’s, a debilitating and limiting neurological condition, and OCB, an anxiety disorder, are involuntary medical conditions. The non-medical and characteristically self-inflicted political variants of these sad conditions are not. They are elective and risible.

It needs to be noted that while Indonesia has pervasive exposure to these syndromes – most lately demonstrated in the Keystone Kops tit-for-tat farce involving the national police and the anti-corruption commission which would be hilarious if it weren’t so dangerous – they are not unique to the archipelago. They are prevalent in many places, globally, including within the Australian political class.

Last year the government announced that five countries would get visa-free entry for short-term visitors. These countries were Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

In 2014 Australian arrivals to Bali, totalled 991,024, which was 26.3 percent of all visitors. Among the countries awarded free visa status from 2015, China last year sent us 586,197 tourists, a more than 50 percent increase; South Korea 106,774 (to Sep.), making it our sixth largest market; Japan, once our biggest market, fell to fourth place with not much hope of any marked improvement in the short term; and Russian arrivals fell 10 percent (to Sep.) due to unfortunate circumstances at home and the collapse of the rouble. Malaysia, which is on the ASEAN free visa list, was our third-largest market in 2014 with 224,962 arrivals.

Now Australia has been dumped from the list of those countries whose travelling citizenry is to be excused the tedious business of being tickled for US$35 on arrival. Officially this is because the free visa arrangements require reciprocity (and that would certainly be sensible on the basis of a short-stay holiday and a return ticket, should anyone in Canberra feel interested enough to notice). But since Australia was on the original list and now isn’t, it seems safe to assume that the move is political.

In the words of Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Indroyono Soesilo: “For Australians, the visa on arrival is enough.” Perhaps he means that US$34,685,840 is nice pocket-money.

But what Indonesia has just said to its potential one-million-plus-a-year Australian tourists, its largest market, is, “Welcome to Bali. Sod off.”  What needs to be understood in Jakarta and Denpasar is that there are now many other places in the region which offer Australian tourists holiday experiences with free visas, less expense, less inconvenience, and better facilities. As blogger of note Vyt Karazija observed, it’s that shoot first, shout later thing: Ready! Fire! Aim!

Move Along Now…

No doubt Bali will give its famous blank stare response to the recent decision of the Supreme Court of India to uphold a ban on cock-fighting in the Hindu state of Andhra Pradesh. An action to overturn the ban on cultural grounds was opposed by Humane Society International, which told the court: “These cruel practices are against the law and should not be conducted under the garb of tradition. These events are nothing but gambling events.”

In Bali, cock-fighting is ubiquitous. Only the blind or the beneficially suborned would suggest gambling is not. Blood sacrifice is integral to both Balinese and Indian Hindu rites but the question is whether a religious validation of cruelty extends to death sports for gain. Animal activists are working (in the case of the Bali Animal Welfare Association, with IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare) to educate communities in animal welfare and animal rights.

Interesting Thought

Waiting for a delayed flight can have benefits, not the least of them the chance to drink even more coffee. So it was when we flew back from Lombok to Bali on Jan. 18 after a weekend visit for a party (see above) and two lovely nights at Sudamala Suites and Villas on the beach at Mangsit north of Senggigi.

The benefit in this case came at our second coffee stop, after we discovered by the sort of osmosis required to obtain accurate information from anyone in Indonesia, that our Wings Air flight would be leaving 90 minutes late.

We were at the Dante’s outlet in the departure area and had switched off the smart phone to conserve its pathetic battery capacity. In an effort to delay terminal boredom, the eye wandered around the establishment’s many promotional billboards and found a reward.

One of these colourful eye-catchers was offering Brazilian Lemon. We wondered, briefly and indelicately, if that was a lemon with the zest shaved off.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.com

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