Head for the Hills, Gabblers

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Bali

Oct. 12, 2016

 

WELL, the Diary is ready for the feast. This will not be in Hotel California style. We’re not much into steely knives and we certainly don’t want to kill the beast. Not that what we’re talking about is a beast at all, anyway. It’s Ubud’s annual rite-fest, the Writers and Readers Festival, which has been a treat every year since 2004 and which this year is on from Oct. 26-30.

Our focus of interest in this instance, America-wise (nothing else trumps it), lies on the east coast, where as The Eagles also take time to remind us, the old world shadows hang heavy in the air. Specifically, it’s the New York novelist Lionel Shriver, who a few weeks back caused a frisson of flounces in an address to a literary occasion in Brisbane. Perhaps she’ll ruffle a kebaya or two while she’s here. That would be fun.

Shriver’s fiction is elegant, but gritty in the social-realistic sense. Some people seem to think that fiction writers should not speak in voices that are not their ethnic or national own. It was this apparent prohibition that caused the flurry in Brisbane, when Shriver made an assertion that fiction is fiction and characters within those narratives are fictional too. That seems like common sense. Still, it’s a free world. Read an author if you want to. Don’t, if you don’t.

Shriver, whose background is journalism, is the author of 11 novels, including the New York Times bestsellers So Much for That (finalist for the 2010 National Book Award and the Wellcome Trust Book Prize) and The Post-Birthday World (Entertainment Weekly’s 2007 Book of the Year).  Her book We Need to Talk About Kevin won the 2005 Orange Prize and was adapted for film by Lynne Ramsay in 2011. Shriver won the BBC National Short Story award in 2014. Her latest novel, her twelfth, is the disturbingly dystopian The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047, published this year.

She features in two events at the festival: Talking Fiction and a session on her latest book.

This year, the festival will host five days of “after dark” events with a full program of arts, live music, performance and poetry taking place at various venues in Ubud.

Pecha Kucha kicks off the program at Betelnut (Oct. 26), where presenters will take to the stage to deliver a 20:20 presentation of thoughts, words and ideas: 20 slides at 20 seconds a piece.

The festival’s popular Poetry Slam (Oct. 29) will also be returning for 2016, with a festival-first, in which Betelnut will also play host to a women-of-words Poetry Slam (Oct. 27), a special celebration of sisterhood in the form of spoken word.

Returning for its second year, the festival’s Late Night Laughs at Casa Luna (29 October) will feature Pakistani stand-up comedian and social commentator Sami Shah.

There’s much more – see the program on the festival website for details – but there’s something on Closing Night (Oct. 30) that particularly piques The Diary’s interest: The Scottish Avant-garde noisemakers Neu! Reekie!

This year too there’s a new type of “Residents” pass that gives holders of other visas as well as KITAS one-day passes for Rp 700K.

The full festival program is here.

Helping Hands

Those of us who live here – and a goodly proportion of those who don’t but still find the wit to learn about Bali, Lombok and Indonesia – know that the tourist scene is just a veneer. The real places exist beyond the fly-in-fly-out package tour, the entertainment, and the chance to fire off a quick criticism that takes no account of reality (see next item).

It is always pleasing to see the distressing reality of life here get both an airing and a partial comeuppance, as we did with a story from Sanur resident Elizabeth Travers. She told the saga of little Kadek who has a very rare skin disease and is being helped by Solemen Indonesia.

Kadek needed a bath installed to help with soaking his painful skin several times a day and Travers asked friends here and in Australia and Singapore to consider making a donation. Well, did they ever! They contributed enough to Solemen to provide an undercover bathtub and a hot water system so he can have warm baths. Solemen will also help to pay the electricity for this.

Travers knows of three other children in Bali with the same problem skin and the money will assist them all. From her post she also got referrals to the Melbourne manufacturers of QV cream head office in Melbourne from Caroline Anderson and the Queensland makers of Poly Visc eye ointment. A scientist who researches genetic skin disorders has volunteered his time and travel to visit Kadek to see if there is anything he can do to help.

Poor Show

Australian visitor Tim Hodge felt obliged recently to publicly note that he’d been disappointed while on a white-water rafting trip to Bali to see that rubbish is still being dumped straight into rivers. He wrote: “
I just don’t understand their way of thinking. T
hey think the river is like a magic trick and just makes it disappear?”

That’s a fair point, except that it fails to acknowledge – perhaps understandably since Hodge is a visitor who doesn’t know the whole picture (and couldn’t be bothered to take one himself, apparently) – that many people here, locals and foreigners alike, are doing all they can to properly manage rubbish.

He compounded this felony by posting a picture on his Facebook of a truck in Peru that was engaged in grossly polluting one of that South American country’s rivers, and seemed aggrieved when this was pointed to him. Not good enough, Tim.

Off Your Bikes

There’s a campaign under way in Java to punish parents of under-age motorbike riders. The police take no notice of this law-breaking, of course, because there’s no money in it and no doubt because irresponsible adults would be miffed if they were to be held accountable for their negligence. We’ll see how that goes.

In Bali, meanwhile, the death toll among under-age illegal motorbike riders shows no sign of slackening. Children who seem barely old enough to be let out on their own, let alone zoom off on Dad’s motorbike, regularly ride to and from school and spend weekends riding dangerously around narrow, non-engineered roads. It’s almost as if they’re looking for an accident.

Too often they find one, in a variety of fatal ways. Jack Daniels of Bali Discovery said the other day that if it looked as if he was starting a crusade against this dreadful plague, that was because he was. He makes a very powerful point.

On Sep. 30 a 15-year-old boy and his 35-year-old mother were killed in a head-on collision with a truck in Tabanan regency. The boy was driving the bike. He rode out into the opposite lane to overtake traffic and straight into an oncoming truck. Both he and his mother died at the scene. The truck driver was not negligent. He is undoubtedly traumatised, and will probably be mentally scarred forever, but harm to others is something else little idiots never think about.

It’s time the traffic police started doing their real job.

Gold Standard

Australian businessman Geoffrey Gold, with whom we once had a pleasant dinner at Un’s restaurant in Kuta and who is long-term fixture in Indonesia and Singapore, referred the other day to the dwindling numbers in the Australian business community in Jakarta. That’s a sign of the times of course, on both sides of the tectonic fault-line that bedevils relations. His comment was in the context of the Australian football grand final function in Jakarta, at which this year neither the ambassador (Paul Grigson, with whom, many moons ago and in plentiful company, we also broke bread) nor the Qantas manager were present. So be it. A footy final is just that: a footy final.

Gold has a far more interesting tale to tell about another function in which he was recently involved. He has just been to Yogyakarta where lie the remains of the Australian-British crew of a C-47 (Dakota) aircraft shot down by the Dutch air force in 1947 while on a mission to deliver medical supplies to the Indonesian authorities during the war of independence.

The graves of Australian pilot Alexander Constantine, his British wife Beryl, and British co-pilot Roy Hazlehurst, were unmarked for nearly two decades. Gold rediscovered them three years ago and negotiated to get a new toilet block at the site turned away from facing them. Others, including Constantine’s family, have since contributed a simple new memorial.

Indonesia’s independence narrative has plenty of heroism in it. There’s room too, to mark the heroism of foreigners, particularly Australian and British, who contributed their lives to the struggle.

HectorR

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

 

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.