Barely Aware

 

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

THE CAGE

Bali, Monday, Jun. 4, 2018

 

THE practice among some western tourists here of going around in their beachwear well away from the beach has caused comment before, among the Balinese themselves though they are polite people and chiefly keep silent, and among some of the more sensitively inclined resident foreigners.

Contrary to the exhibitionist argument, it is not prudish to suggest that riding around clad only in a little string bikini is rude. It is not an elective option that anyone would choose who is not either dotty or self-obsessed or both. The Diary is not a prude, or exempted from the proclivity of that half of the human population in possession of an extra chromosome, to look at the sights. We do understand that this can alarm persons who are not thus genetically equipped, especially these days when you’re not really supposed to notice something lissom and very nearly naked.

But, thank goodness, boys are still boys even these days, or are for the most part, and those with good manners don’t make a nuisance of themselves.

There’s a general acceptance that in tourist areas, practically anything passes muster. Bars and nightclubs are where people misbehave, after all. That’s their purpose. A beachside bar is fine if you want to be cheeky and to let it all hang out. But the “tourist areas” are fairly closely defined, or should be. Sitting on a scooter on a traffic-jammed road wearing less than most Balinese would consider decent for underwear is simply rude. It’s also very stupid, because if you’re in an accident your two tiny little scraps of fabric won’t protect you from anything.

The same principle applies to men. Riding around bare-chested or in budgie-smugglers isn’t a good look anywhere, unless you’re a narcissist or are being paid to do a photo shoot. Despite the claims of some westerners that Bali’s unique culture is licentious and sexually explicit, an argument that is banally bolstered by references to bare-breasted village grannies, it’s not like that all. The culture does embrace a measure of eroticism and is the richer for this. But it is stylised in public performances and otherwise kept for the village or the home.

It has nothing to do with westerners who like to think Bali is just the place to come and get your gear off.

PHOTO: Snapped in a By-Pass traffic jam last week.

Er, Yer

IT was amusing to read recently that Bali’s legislators have turned their querulous collective minds to the matter of culturally appropriate architecture. Well, it would have been amusing, if, as usual and in the way of politicians everywhere, they hadn’t mistaken their target and fired a fusillade in the wrong direction.

They called on the state-owned operator of Ngurah Rai airport to ensure that infrastructure to be built largely on reclaimed land at the seaward end of the airport was culturally appropriate. Stuff with Balinese touches, they mean. It’s a utility area and moreover an airport, so architectural flourishes are probably unnecessary anyway. And they haven’t said a word about local opposition to further interfering with the tide line, which those with any acquired memories will remember was fairly disastrous in the area in the 1960s.

More to the point, if the legislators wish to ensure the future of Balinese glimpses in local architecture, they should turn their attention to the built environment outside the airport. It may be too late, which would be a pity, but for our money it would be really good if visitors exiting the airport on arrival were not encouraged to assume, by the vistas that confront them in the vast unplanned metropolis that is South Bali, that they’ve just landed in Jakarta; or back in it.

Read, Weep, Smile

AT the other end of Bali’s demographic, where real people live, or try to, and which sadly is a slide-rule and not a spirit level, the peripheral details that bother politicians and those who advise them are of little importance. This is something of which the writer and private spiritualist Jade Richardson reminds us in the latest post on her blog.

It’s about Made, who lives at Amed and whose commercial life is collapsing around him because his little beach hut hire point is ignored by the sort of tourists who chiefly come to Bali today. You should read it and weep. Then you should smile. Made would like that.

A thought reoccurs: It’s such a shame that theoretical Marxism and original Christianity long before it never really got off their starting blocks.

Island Life

THE former muse of Mengwi, the remarkable Susi Johnston, has resurfaced.  Remarkable is one adjective, ours; another is marvellous, a third indomitable and a fourth fabulous, for all of which references we are indebted to our spotter of ephemera, Philly Frisson, currently in Sydney. Johnston is living on another island. It’s smaller than Bali (and cooler) but it’s one where the right to occupy or dispose of property for which you have paid is a legal certainty. It also has properly engineered roads, effective policing, a functioning local government, and a few other benefits. It’s called Vashon Island and it’s in Puget Sound just off Seattle, on the northwest coast of the continental USA. It’s virtually within hailing distance of Canada, that pleasant country that is home to unarmed North Americans with health insurance.

Johnston is opening a gallery, Aspidistra, on Vashon Island, where her skills in interior design development and details, custom masterpiece furniture, furniture design, as an art advisor, and in art acquisition and specialist sourcing will surely be much sought. What a great outlet for quality Indonesian art and other cultural elements.

The grand opening is tentatively set for Jun. 16. We wish we could be there.

A Little Seasoning

THE Mulia, the concrete hotel and resort complex at the southern end of Geger Beach at Nusa Dua with occupancy rates that would make a confirmed recluse feel lonely, seems not to know in which hemisphere it is situated. It’s planning a huge adults-only party on Sep. 1, apparently to be called Rapture (will partygoers get beamed up?) and says it is destined to be an annual “end of summer” signature event.

The seasons don’t really matter in the tropical zone, especially to tourists, except insofar as to whether they’re wet or dry, but Bali is south of the equator. If anything, Sep. 1 would be the calendar start of spring and hence the end of winter.

Maybe we should pass the hat around and buy the Mulia a big globe as a decorative presence and educational tool. Perhaps they don’t care, but that big line round the middle of it is a dead giveaway.

So There!

A LITTLE game was going around Facebook recently, in which it was claimed the No. 1 song on the charts on your fourteenth birthday describes your life to come. We think it works.

The Diary’s song was It’s Only Make Believe. We’ve always believed that.

 

Chin-chin!

Fair Sets You Off

HECTOR’S DIARY

Titbits from his regular diet of worms

 

The Cage, Bali

Saturday, Mar. 31, 2018

 

 

LAND of the fair go, mate! That’s what they say. Hector’s amanuensis got into trouble during the week, because he’d dared to write about a friendly little warning he got not to diss the Aussies, over this and that (and in Barnaby Joyce’s case, possibly the other, though this wasn’t directly canvassed). He’s an immigrant to Australia, you see, Hector’s helper.

We’re a precious little mob, sometimes, we Aussies. The Bushwhacked Brigade has its moments. Anyway, never mind. It’s all water under the bridge, or would be if they hadn’t sold already off all the water in the Darling River to people to profit from and then avoid paying tax.

There are far more important things to talk about where Australia’s reputation is concerned. Two Australian friends of ours who were on holiday in India when the news of the Cape Town Test match ball tampering came out told a little story that puts some redeeming points on the scoreboard. When a party of Brits in the hotel restaurant wished them a cheery good morning at breakfast, they replied: “We’re Australian. We cheat at cricket.”

We don’t know how it went from there – they didn’t say – but we expect the omelette was scrambled. No one would have tampered with it, of course, even though India is a cricketing country. Most people have better manners and the ethics and morality to go with them. But it’s not nice being a laughing stock.

The fair-go Aussies have done it before. That infamous underarm bowling incident in the 1981 one-day international against New Zealand was puke-worthy. This week, after the ball-tampering affair in the Cape Town Test match against South Africa – they were either mad or stupid, take your pick – three Australian players including the captain were sent home in disgrace. They have since been seeing weeping in public. Sheesh! Breaker Morant (the Australian officer executed by a British firing squad for killing Boer prisoners during the South African war) did it better, at least in the Australian movie about him. “Shoot straight you bastards. Don’t make a mess of it.”

Part of the problem with modern international level sport, as others have pointed out, is that it has become big business, a competition for audience and advertising, a process that prefers the pecuniary benefits of colour and movement ahead of sporting spirit that risks being boring. It was always going to end in tears. The people like bread and circuses. The Roman emperors understood that very well. They always got sell-out crowds to the annual Coliseum Challenge Cup even though everyone knew the result would be rigged: invariably it was Lions 10, Christians 0.

But here’s the bottom line: If you can’t play the game to win fairly, then don’t play at all: cede that honour to those who will.

Easter Message

THE Diary was out getting the messages on Friday – a note for our Aussie friends who think everyone from Britain is English: that’s Scottish for shopping – and felt in need of refreshment, so we dropped in at Tempoe Doeloe on Sunset Road in Kuta for a nice es campur.

There was an eclectic crowd within, seriously eating lunch. It was after Friday prayers for Muslims, who would have been reminded during these that the day was Wafat Isa al-Mahdi. That’s Good Friday for Christians, for whom the day marks the same death: that of Jesus Christ, the foundational figure of Christianity, Isa ibn Maryam, in Islam the precursor to Mohammad, the Mahdi (Messiah) and the most mentioned person in the Quran.

The tables were mixed, in some cases not just by placement but also by diners. The white caps of Hajis – those who have made the Haj to Mecca – and Hijabs of the women mingled with the interpretative Western attire of Christian Indonesians, along with loud chatter and lots of smiles and laughter. This is a picture of Indonesia that many in the West don’t get, either literally or figuratively.

The es campur was delicious, by the way.

Chat Time

JEWEL Topsfield, who is settling back into four-seasons-a-day Melbourne after her three-year stint as the Fairfax media group correspondent in nicely tropical Indonesia, was in Perth this week to give a talk at an event organised by the Australia Indonesia Business Council. We couldn’t be there, though we should have liked to go along. It’s always fun to catch up with Topsfield.

Direct interpretation of events – it’s a crucial function of journalism, and the most likely to cause argument – provides essential intelligence for those who are engaged in any enterprise. The relationship between Australia and Indonesia is far more important south of the Timor Gap than it is north or east or west of it. This is something too few people understand.

Sure as Eggs

A LOVELY Dutch friend who was recently our houseguest left some welcome Easter gifts for us. We’ve done the right thing and kept them for tomorrow, Easter Sunday. They comprise stroepwafel and wickedly rich Belgian chocolate eggs.

Since we are Notas (None Of The Above in terms of religion) it might seem strange that we mark Easter in any way. Of course it’s a Christian festival, and we honour that at one remove. But like many such rites, its timing was borrowed – long ago so it’s no longer a live issue – and in the case of Easter, it was borrowed from the ancient pagan Spring rites of what is now known as Europe.

It’s a fertility thing, really, so it’s fun. It has to do with budding plants and blossoms, the promise of summer fruit, and the return to practicality, with warmer weather, of the chance of rumpy-pumpy.

There’s a Thought

JADE Richardson, who is by way of being The Diary’s favourite facilitator of writing talent – she is also a fine lunch companion – and who has just run the latest in her series of classes in Ubud, posted a little note today which was a much needed antidote to the inchoate quibbles that have otherwise intruded into our week. Here it is:

“Ah… the way it works… so exquisite! Creation, maintenance and transformation laid out before me in the art of fallen flowers. A parting gift from the nest from which I taught this week… and there, rebirth, tucked away at the heart of things. Life is eloquent.”

It certainly is.

And here’s what she was talking about:

PHOTO: Jade Richardson | Facebook

 

Chin-chin!

 

No Nooky Nonsense, Please

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Bali

Sep. 14, 2016

 

THE view that the state should legislate morality and sexual conduct is hardly novel. Those who think they know better are ubiquitous. They appear in all societies, proselytising a prescriptive view of how their fellow citizens should behave. This is foolish or worse. You cannot mandate faith, or for that matter morality. Anyone is free to believe that their views carry the mandate of their deity. Anyone is free to declare that they do not believe this to be the case.

It is never sensible to place a religious or political preference in juxtaposition to moral issues. The point is that there is a wide expanse of blue water – it’s dangerously rough water too – between criminal law and elective conduct. The business of social legislation should be to free people to make their own decisions.

So the judicial review of the criminal code as it relates to sexual conduct now under way in the Constitutional Court, while it has some benefits in the broad sense, is treading on dangerous ground when it canvasses laws to prevent sexual relations outside marriage. These things are better left to individual decisions. If not, they simply turn more people into criminals (under flawed and fundamentally unworkable sanctions).

It is perfectly possible to argue that Indonesia’s legal system is too liberal and that it represents responses to moral and ethical behavioural questions that do not accord with the country’s cultural traditions and practices. It’s also easy to do that, since it invites the gullible to bang the nationalist drum on account of the often-misstated view that Indonesia’s social problems and others date back to and are caused by the Dutch era.

That is a cop-out mechanism, a variant of the my-friend-did-it response. It is a facile and popular political pursuit, a banal one that should be in most instances ignored (and chiefly is, by the people those mandated by visionary affliction or self-importance seek to control).

We’ve just celebrated the 71st anniversary of independence. Indonesia’s problems, which are also often misstated or exaggerated, date not from colonial oppression but from two (arguably three) generations of domestic inattention to national codification, reform and progress. Morality and ethics should not be co-opted into law by religious cohorts in a country where the constitution affords recognition to five religions.

The overwhelming majority of Indonesians are Muslim, but there are substantial minorities of Christians and others, and in Bali – uniquely – of Hindus, who may well be socially conservative but whose views on sexuality are often different to those required of adherents to the Quran.

There is a general concept of morality and ethical behaviour in Indonesia that ignores religious boundaries and yet is – understandably and, again arguably, beneficially – out of whack with the views that prevail in what is increasingly understood to be the decadent West. But inculcating appropriate values is the job of parental leadership and education, not the state or (outside the faithful flock of adherents) the religious community.

Justice Patrialis Akbar said this during the Constitutional Court hearings: “Our freedom is limited by moralistic values as well as religious values. This is what the declaration of human rights doesn’t have. It’s totally different (from Indonesia’s concept of human rights) because we’re not a secular country; this country acknowledges religion.” He said the Constitutional Court was an institution “guided by the light of God.”

His judicial colleague Justice Aswanto said this: “I was a bit annoyed with what the government said, [that we should] let people commit zinah (adultery or casual sex) and not regard them as criminals. It’s a little bit annoying. I believe casual sex is a crime.”

Stand by for invidiously expanded operations by the No Nooky Patrol.

(For more on prescriptive proscription, see the Sep. 12 post below, headlined Drink Up.) 

On the Other Hand

There’s been a welcome resurgence of Australian student interest in Indonesia, courtesy of the New Colombo Plan that has been assiduously cultivated by Canberra. Indonesian language studies have basically disappeared from Australian schools, displaced by a newly defined need to learn Mandarin because China is viewed as critical to Australia’s trade future.

Misconceptions about Indonesia are rife, something to which many Australians living here can personally attest from their own interactions at home. It’s about much more than trade, which in 2015 (in $A terms) ran out at $5,537 million in Australian exports to Indonesia and $5,619 million in imports, primarily in commodities. Australian exports to Indonesia represented 2.2 per cent of total Australian exports (Indonesia is the country’s 10th ranked export destination). Imports from Indonesia were 2 per cent of the national total and the country is Australia’s 12th ranked source of imports.

Cultural understanding and people to people links are critical to any relationship. It’s heartening to see that these facets of the two-way link have received a boost from the New Colombo Plan. This is not headline stuff: it’s basic building. The results may always be intangible. But it is unarguable that Australians need to know more about Indonesia. It’s telling, perhaps, that Indonesians seem to be more informed about Australia than vice versa.

There’s an interesting article by journalist Latika Bourke in The Sydney Morning Herald that’s really worth reading. It’s not on her usual beat, but she was last year’s Elizabeth O’Neill Journalism Award winner and she’s interviewed Australian students who have chosen to study at Indonesian institutions rather than the traditional Anglosphere icons. That these young people will eventually return home with a deep understanding of the cultural and social mores of Indonesia is immensely valuable.

Much more needs to be done, and many more Australians need to equip themselves with knowledge of their big neighbour, but this is a start.

If nothing else, it underpins the point that Australian defence writer Ross Eastgate (a former army officer) made recently: that Australia is the last European colony in Asia. Intellectual decolonisation of Anglo / European Australia might be a difficult social concept, but it is an outcome that must be achieved.

A Sad Farewell

Made Wijaya’s sad unscheduled departure on Aug. 28 missed the print edition of the Diary last edition, a function of that publishing imperative the deadline, a sadly apt term in these circumstances.

His friends – and they are rightly legion – have said many nice things about him. Rio Helmi, photographer and many other things and a fixture in the Bali firmament, wrote a lovely tribute, and then later another well deserved paean.

Wijaya made the Australian press. He also got notice in the engaging Garden Drum, an eclectic Sydney based on line magazine devoted to horticultural culture that (disclosure) is run by Catherine Stewart, cousin of Hector’s amanuensis.

It is probably at best an open secret that Wijaya, Michael White, was not a fan of Hector or his Diary. That may well be understandable, but we shall miss him and his indelible contributions to Bali.

We’re sure he will have swiftly settled into his new paradise and that he has already rearranged the pot plants.

Glittering Afternoon

We had lunch in Ubud the other day with writer and yoga exponent Jade Richardson, at Le Moulin crêperie, the local provider of Parisian ambience with éclat. For once we were there before the talent and this, by clumsy coincidence, provided its own reverse éclat. When we stood up to welcome our guest, in the cool greenery of the back deck, our chair departed noisily over the edge.

Déjeuner à deux is always fun, especially in decorative and discursive company. Though we might wish we hadn’t made quite such an impression. Never mind. The jambon beurre was very good. Our companion had a crêpe. It would have seemed improper not to order at least one for the party.

Richardson this week is in the midst of the latest of her Write of Passage series for aspiring writers in Ubud, and shortly will be overseeing another, multi-faceted, immersion course for writers here.

Widow’s Mite

When we last checked, on newspaper deadline for this edition, the appeal for funds to support the widow and family of slain police officer Wayan Sudarsa had reached US$7,900 (Rp100 million).

The objective is to reach US$20,000. This is not an issue of the criminal law. That case will reach the courts in the fullness of time and be adjudicated there. It is one of assisting a widow and mother who otherwise will face financial hardship because of a tragic event in which she was not involved and over which she had no influence.

So let’s do it, people. Dig deep.

HectorR

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

Shibboleths Revealed

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Bali, Aug. 31. 2016

Expatria, the spreading collection of dots that peppers the map of Bali like kibbutzim, as if it were the beginnings of an overbearing expropriation, had an unpleasant frisson of ferment recently over the tragic death of a policeman in an affray at Kuta Beach. Though it was less over the death, it seemed, than it was about a thoughtful and kindly plan to raise money so that the policeman’s bereaved family would not end up in ruinous poverty.

The issue, for those whose plan this was, was not one of guilt or innocence, or even of the circumstances. These are properly matters for the police investigation, the prosecutors, the defence lawyers, the defendants, and the judiciary. Everyone else is supernumerary to these arrangements, or should be. Some among the cohort of thicker, self-centred, expatriates here would benefit from understanding that.

The thing is, you see, it’s very difficult to argue with people whose set views define their untutored assumptions about imperfect justice and shambolic public officialdom in Indonesia. Nowhere is perfect. Mistakes are made everywhere. That, inter alia, is one of the most pressing arguments against the death penalty. No decision should ever be made that cannot be changed or reversed.

When a blather-load of shibboleths is trotted out by the disaffected, as it so sadly was in the instance of the death of sub-inspector Wayan Sudarsa, they throw up smokescreens that hide the blindingly obvious. They also obscure from view – until it’s too late – the rocks that always litter the path of public discussion.

We did check, of course, but as expected we found that none among those offering policing, investigatory or legal opinions had any standing in these matters. So basically, they should have shut up. They didn’t like being told this, naturally. In Expatria, the loud-mouthed man is king. Or thinks he is. It was an unedifying though salutary episode.

The funding appeal is going well, by the way. If you’d like to contribute, visit this link.

It’s a Giggle

The Distaff, dear thing, is a serious lass, particularly when she feels herself under siege by the asinine crowd, that informal collective of the cerebrally challenged or seriously up themselves who ignore common sense and as result blunder blindly and inevitably into the mire. Sometimes one joins her in wishing it were quicksand. Her intolerance of idiocy is among her most attractive features.

The Diary as a consequence seeks from time to time to make her laugh, or at least giggle (she does a good giggle now and then, when encouraged to lighten up). At last resort, we’re content with a smile, and if the environment is particularly dire at the time, we’ll even settle for a wan one. Beggars, they say, cannot be choosers.

So one evening recently, when we were dining at Vincent’s, the Candi Dasa eatery that offers nice music, and delicious fare including haloumi in various preparations, we decided to give her a laugh. She’s had a hard day, poor thing. Our method is to say something of quite extraordinary stupidity. On this occasion it worked a treat. Inquiry had been made as to what had chiefly constituted the compote that underlay the salad that accompanied the Diary’s pastry-baked haloumi.

We ventured the thought, accompanied by a perfectly straight face, that it might be crushed quinoa beans. The effect of this intelligence was electric. The Distaff dissolved into hysterics for some considerable time, with successive recurrent bouts.

It was plainly a triumph. Hysteria is the very apogee of cause and effect in discourse with the Distaff; it is the Holy Grail, so to speak. There was further reward. As we left the restaurant a little later a lovely young woman who was dining a deux at a neighbouring table gave the Diary a perfectly wonderful smile. She clearly appreciated, and wanted to applaud, the fact that an old codger could still administer a powerful dose of levity to his dinner companion. Laughter, after all, is the best medicine.

Coo! Ta!

Perth, the world’s most isolated capital city, is a step closer to getting its own Ku De Ta to further cement its position as Bali’s southern suburb. The KDT brand has been granted a conditional liquor licence for its proposed premises on the redeveloped waterfront in Perth’s central business district.

Jo Hocking, a name familiar to many in Bali and Cambodia (the latter briefly, we understand) asked a question on a post on The Beat Daily’s Facebook the other day, in relation to this intelligence. She asked: “No dancing in bikinis though?” We can suppose not, the fun police being extremely active in Hibernation Central.

This is no bad thing. If we want dancing bikinis in our face while we’re sipping the latest designer mojito (we don’t, the point is polemical) there are plenty of pole-dancing and other establishments where gratuitous exposure of flesh is available to view at the market price.

In this instance not only the boringly prescriptive and omnipresent fun police are in the way, but also Perth’s chilly winters and fresh summer breezes. There are many ways, after all, in which lissom young ladies can choose to stand out in the crowd.

Check, Lit.

The Diary is limbering up for the delights of Bali’s annual literary feast, Janet DeNeefe’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, which this year is on Oct. 26-30. The line-up includes Erica Jong, Lionel Shriver, Dewi Lestari, Hanya YanigaharaHelon Habila, Kamila Shamsie, Amit Chaudhuri, Eka Kurniawan, Jill Dawson, and Ariel Leve.

Ahead of that not to be missed beneficence, there’s another lit glit occasion that has caught our eye. It’s the latest in Jade Richardson‘s Write of Passage courses, this one in Ubud on Sep. 14-18 (in the newspaper version of the Diary, the dates are earlier – a late change beat our deadline there).

Richardson has been in Denmark for a while – the one in Western Australia, where the complexities and machinations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet are, we understand, rather outdone by those of the local Yoga collective – but is now back where she should be, in Bali. We’ll have to see about lunch.

She bills the workshop as a rare chance to join one of the world’s best journeys for writers in its heartland of beautiful, magical Bali: “an empowering journey for those longing to find their voice, on the brink of a new work, or seeking a creative push into the beautiful ride of loving the writing.”

Well, that certainly sounds more fun than a double-decaf soy lite latte no sugar, so we’ve made a note to follow the action. Hector’s amanuensis has a book of his own in the works between diaries and dealings with Expatria (see above) though it may not be of the genre that Richardson’s aspiring writers would view as empowering.

Richardson is an investigative journalist, photographer, editor, writing coach and speaker whose work appears in major newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She draws on her own career and studies with authors, teachers and wisdom keepers to provide a creative writing process that she claims, with reason, is like no other.

You can see more here and book for the Sep. 14-18 course by emailing here.

Noah! Not My Place!

We had to giggle when the unusually extreme summer floods that have been ravaging Louisiana in the USA decided to destroy the home of Tony Perkins, president of an anti-gay religious lobbying group, the Family Research Council. Among the many idiocies Perkins has publicly uttered in his career as a Christian fundamentalist of fundamental dysfunction is a claim that god sends natural disasters to punish an increasingly gay-friendly world.

He called in to his own radio show to describe the flood as one of “biblical proportions”, though apparently without irony. We suspect that irony, as with a grip on the powerful proclivities of karma or the avoirdupois of schadenfreude, is something else in which he is dysfunctional.

This particular deluge was not because of the gays, he said. It was an “incredible, encouraging spiritual exercise to take you to the next level in your walk with an almighty and gracious God who does all things well.”

Should have built an Ark, Bro.

Made Wijaya, RIP

The man of many parts, all of them colourful, gave us all a shock when he caught the last train to the coast on Aug. 28. We’ll miss him. Yes, even those who number in the legion of Those of Whom He Disapproved. Among the many tributes that appeared when news came of his death in Sydney is this little scribble, from the pen of yours truly.

MADE WIJAYA PHOTO: www.naplesgarden.org

Photo courtesy http://www.naplesgarden.org

160829 MADE WIJAYA .png

HectorR

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Dec. 23, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

A Christmas Story

This week we observe the official birthday – though of course its date is wholly notional – of one of Islam’s leading saints, the nabi Isa al-Mahdi, whom Muslims also honour as the Messiah. In the Christian rite, it is Christmas, the nativity of Jesus, born of a virgin mother. To Christians, Jesus is the Son of God. To Muslims that very notion is anathema. To those of the Jewish faith, Jesus was a rebellious and schismatic rabbi with whom their religious leaders dealt expediently by getting someone else to do away with him. That is a practice that is still with us. Defenestration, actual or metaphorical, has an unrivaled place in political tradition.

Thanks to Mammon and his right-hand man Capital over the last century and a half, fuelled by the rise of rampant consumerism, Christmas has become an occasion for Bacchanalian excess. This secular Christmas has nothing to do with religion, or with faith except for the widespread belief that it’s the one time of the year when you might get something for nothing. Santa and his elves, like the timing of the feast itself, are borrowed at one remove from Old Europe’s pagan rites of midwinter. In the same way, Easter, which marks the death and resurrection of Christ, coopted the pagan spring festival of its original Greek and Roman times.

Neither of these occasions was religious in the terms most people of faith would accept today. Not to put too fine a point on it, they were occasions for a good deal of romping and a whole lot of rumpy-pumpy. And jolly good fun all that must have been. You could say then that the wheel has just about turned full circle, especially, as an instance, in tourist areas of Thailand where to suggest that the elves are merely outré would be to unduly favour understatement as a conversational artifice.

The same invitation to overlay a patina of sexuality on everything – perhaps this is the single most significant success, if such it be, of capital-fuelled consumerism – is seen well beyond the pagoda-strewn landscapes of Old Siam. Elves whose moral influence probably wouldn’t stand scrutiny are a commonplace in Bali’s overeat, overdrink and badly misbehave tourist precincts. They have even been known to appear in certain parts of Lombok, the island of a thousand mosques.

The birthday of the Prophet is a much more important Islamic date. This year, on the lunar Sunni calendar, it’s on Christmas Eve.

All-abuzzZZZZ

We’re spending Christmas in Australia this year, not because we want to but because there are some family matters with which we and other people must deal. It is the first time in ages that we’ve been in the Odd Zone when the customary somnolence of the place, which is hard enough to bear anyway, gives way to six weeks or more of summer holidays and to something that closely approximates catalepsy. To be fair, many continental Europeans do the same sort of thing in August – try getting pain au chocolat of any decent quality in Paris then (it’s difficult: everyone is août, and not just to lunch) – but the Aussies take leisure even more seriously over their own big sleep. Unless it’s cricket or tennis, or they’re murdering prawns on a BBQ or getting zapped by stingers at the beach, forget it. The confluence of Christmas and New Year with the southern summer makes this possible, and it’s no bad thing, unless you want something done.

There are some things we need to get done. But we’ll do these ourselves. Our aim is to get home as quickly as possible. We have to see where the roof has decided to leak this year. Since it has now been raining properly, El Niño notwithstanding, our return might be quite revealing.

Merry Christmas!

Hannigan’s Wake

Well, no, not raconteur and history writer Tim Hannigan’s. He surely has time for a goodly number of books yet, though we did hear from him of the sad event: the death in Malang on Dec. 13 of Benedict Anderson, the Cornell University scholar who became one of the most influential voices in the fields of nationalism and Southeast Asian studies. He was 79.

Anderson is best known for his 1983 book Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Its much-debated thesis is that nationalism is largely a modern concept rooted in language and literacy. Its publisher, Verso, says the book has been translated into more than two-dozen languages.

His early specialization in Indonesia gave us a near-forensic analysis of the 1965 coup – he wrote it with fellow scholar Ruth McVey – and led to him being banned from the country until 1999. The Cornell Paper, as it came to be known, suggested that the coup was not the consequence of an abortive communist uprising but of premeditated action by the army. Such assessments were not encouraged in post-coup Indonesia, and still aren’t. Perhaps Karma played a part in Anderson’s outlasting both General Suharto and his New Order regime.

Hannigan also writes on Indonesia, with a light style and a strong sense of narrative as the essential ingredient in popular reading. His latest is A Brief History of Indonesia (Tuttle, 2015) and it’s very good. His 2012 book on British bureaucrat-imperialist Stamford Raffles – Raffles and the British Invasion of Java (Monsoon Books) – should have earned him that year’s Really Stinky Rafflesia Prize from the British Society of Wholesome Hagiographers. That’s if such an outfit existed, which it probably should. Tiffin ladies?

The Great Game

While we’re in the mood for long shadows and long drinks, we should mention a little Facebook post we saw recently. It had been posted by Patricia Morley Brown on the Ubud Community page and told us this: “
Croquet time again on Monday at Dewangga Bungalows from 9.30. Snack n Chat about 11.00 and there’s talk that there will be birthday cake this week for someone who turns 71. This week’s pics of magazine covers from 1918 and 1920s.”

We played croquet once. In about 1954 from memory, when we were just short of 10 and lodging temporarily, en famille, with an uncle in the Misty Isles who was the vicar of a lovely, leafy rural parish.

One Step Back … and One Forward

It’s sad to hear that the excellent organic garden at Sawangan near Nusa Dua and operated by Mike O’Leary’s ROLE Foundation has fallen victim to a land dispute, one of the more pernicious of the many social distempers endemic to Bali. ROLE is also seeking funding for new premises in Siligita. We’ll keep an eye on that. See them at http://www.rolefoundation.org.

On a much happier note, we hear that the non-profit charity Yayasan Solemen and a local company, Indosole LLC, along with the Bali Dynasty Resort, were busy in November giving a helping hand to the villagers of Waribang in Sanur. Indosole handed out rice and 50 pairs of adult footwear made from recycled tyres. Solemen distributed 111 towels and 50 bed sheets donated by the Bali Dynasty and transported to the village by Mark Tuck, founder and principal of Paradise Property Group.

The villagers of Waribang make their living by collecting plastic bottles to trade in for cash, which earns them Rp 3000 (about 21 US cents) per kilo. That’s something to think about while you’re enjoying your Christmas feast.

Solemen, whose leading hot-foot is the entrepreneurial Robert Epstone, regularly distributes food and clothing to needy villages around Bali and organize medical aid, physiotherapy and nutrition assistance.

If you’d like to help, visit www.solemen.org.

Write Stuff

Another Bali connection, the enigmatically alluring Jade Richardson who blogs with zest as the Passionfruit Cowgirl, has a gig going in the New Year that might interest any formative scribblers who are in Western Australia during the Long Sleep. It’s the latest in her Write of Passage workshops and the first one in Perth (though it’s actually in the port city of Fremantle, a good place to be in January when the searing heat of the Australian summer might otherwise be upon one).

Gentle Jade asks this question: Could this be the journey that changes everything? She tells us that this is her favourite workshop for aspiring writers and is designed for those seeking profound insight to their work in stories, a powerful shift in writing, and an understanding of creative energy.

The workshop is on Jan. 5, 6 and 8. Details are at www.heartbookwriting.com or you can email her at jade.gently@gmail.com.

Cheers to the Monkey

When the clock ticks over to 2016 the Diary will be in a very good mood. For shortly after that it will be the Year of the Monkey. We have plans for plenty of simian pursuits, a treat we award ourselves every 12 years.

See you next year!

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. 7, 2015

 

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

BAWA with a Bang

BAWA, the pre-eminent animal welfare organization on the island because of focused effort and the seminal role played by founder Janice Girardi in dealing with rabies when it broke out in Bali in 2008 – the disease is now endemic, but that’s Indonesian bureaucracy for you – ended 2014 with a bang, though not one that would frighten the doggies.

It held a Bridge to New Year fundraising dinner on Dec. 29 at Ubud’s Taksu Restaurant, an event at which the organization was able to brief guests on its plans for 2015 and beyond. It came complete with musical entertainment provided by BAWA staff members who, when they’re not doing their day jobs, sing and strum a guitar with enthusiastic aplomb.

Earlier in December BAWA announced a real coup. Ubud prince Cok De Piko (Tjokorda Gde Dharma Putra Sukawati) has become a BAWA ambassador and, because of his enduring love for dogs and particularly the very special Bali Dog, will be seen out and about with BAWA teams as they perform their daily work.

His favourite quote is from Mark Twain: “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” Cok De studied in Australia, where he did not adopt a dog because he wouldn’t have been able to leave it behind when he returned to Bali. That’s the sort of thinking casual pet owners the world over should get their heads around.

Ubud’s traditional royalty remains very influential in the local community and is extremely well connected where it matters.

On Jan. 3, BAWA hosted the third of its series of events at Kuta Beachwalk, themed around its Adopt-Learn-Chat with a Vet program. That came along with really good music that ran late into the evening; a selection of beautiful puppies; ready-to-chat veterinarians; and some lovely art from Urban Sketchers. The event was sponsored by Beachwalk, Legian Beach Hotel, and others including Scooby-Doo, the dog food-delivery people.

BAWA’s Christmas card was interesting, by the way. You might say it was highly traditional. There was snow everywhere. This did not bring to mind Snowing in Bali, Kathryn Bonella’s book about the drug scene. Instead, it reminded us that snow looks great on Christmas cards and is murder anywhere else. We did wonder what the lovely Bali dogs and the little monkey on the BAWA card were thinking.

Please, Do Amuse

Jade Richardson, the peripatetic scribbler, recommenced her writers’ workshops in Ubud this month. This is good to see. Her approach to the written word is unique and she has a mind that is fun to engage. It’s no surprise that in Bali, where Ozymandias still lives in self-nominated splendour and where so many have built glittering local reputations upon the geographically distant rubble of pasts imperfect, she’s not on everyone’s most-favoured list.

Her mission with The Write Path is to get intending authors of books, biographies, short stories, poetry and those with ideas for articles or scripts fictional or factual, to take that first bold step and release their inner muse. Richardson, who is not one with whom to trifle, says that her process with writers “releases a genie from the bottle – meaning that I can assist those who have the call to write to discover a genius for storytelling that they never knew they had.”

She started her workshops in Bali and they’ve since been to Ecuador, the Galapagos and Thailand and online. It’s good to see her home again. It’s worth looking at www.heartbookwriting.com too.

Play-tonic

Plato always gets a good rap at The Cage. He’s well up Hector’s Top Ten Thinkers list. So it’s a bit sad, as he is so anciently a posthumous source, that his engaging aphorisms, real or otherwise, get co-opted by the ignorant for all sorts of nefarious purposes.

A case in point: On Dec. 28 there was an event at Dragonfly Village in Denpasar billed as Sensual/Sexual PlayDay – Conscious pleasure with consent, organized by someone called Matthias Schwenteck. This gentleman purloined for his own purposes the Platonic observation (one of the many Plato didn’t actually utter) that “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”.

The event seemed more suited to Ubud, where lots of people like to spend their time examining their navels while harbouring the intent to get a close-up glimpse of someone else’s.

Perhaps the fixation with things better organized privately, or which are undertaken singularly in darkened rooms with the doors locked, really is spreading beyond the confines of Loopville.

Alpha Mail

An item a fortnight ago noted that the new British envoy to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, was still ambassador-designate because he had not yet presented his letters of credence to President Joko Widodo.

Well, he hadn’t engaged in this ancient formality when we sent the previous diary in by its deadline. He did shortly thereafter, it seems, though this was not without a little last-minute hitch. He tweeted on Dec. 18, the big day: “Almost forgot my letter from the Queen – had to run back to get it.”

Banzai!

We had a pleasant drive (we jest) one Saturday evening recently when the Distaff decided she’d like sukiyaki for dinner and suggested we journey to Seminyak to enjoy the table-top cooking at Kaizan. We hadn’t been there for a while, so a plausible excuse to avoid the trip did not spring to mind.

But Kaizan wasn’t there – perhaps the extortionate rents now demanded in the area had driven it away – so we dined instead at another favourite nearby, Kuni’s, on seaweed salad, Gyu asupara maki, Gohan, Sukiyaki Nabe, and a delightful green tea mousse. This was accompanied in order by “one large Bintang two glass”, some rather pleasant sake and a nice plum wine.

The Distaff has a thing for Japan. This dates from many years ago. And for sukiyaki, ditto, though it is more a home-cooking dish than a fine-dining experience. Her view on sukiyaki, as on many things, is “Doko ga warui no desuka?” It’s a colloquial Japanese transliteration of an interrogative “What’s wrong with that?” And we agree.

The drive from Ungasan was another matter. Large numbers of idiots were dangerously riding their motorbikes and the drivers of all the tourist buses were clearly on speed. Half the street lights were out on the by-pass. There were Hindu ceremonies everywhere that required fierce-looking village guards armed with Star Wars-style magic wands to stop the traffic so that scattered little groups of celebrants could wander at will across the thoroughfare.

The airport traffic circle was mayhem as a result. Northbound traffic had formed eight (we counted) “lanes” to force a way into the circus. The Distaff closed her eyes and thought of sukiyaki while her driver, whom we know as Perpendicular Pronoun, edged and all but nudged his way through. It helps, we think, to have been a lemming in a former life.

He’s Cooking

Vyt Karazija, the inveterate blogger, was thinking virtually out loud on Facebook on Boxing Day evening as to whether he should go out to eat or stay home and cook. Neither prospect amused him. We (and others) tendered advice. Ours was simple and direct: “Easy. Starve.” In the end he decided to cook and explained why:

“The prospect was get dressed, release security cobras, then quickly lock up premises, don wet weather gear, get bike outside, lock gates, ride to restaurant while trying not to skid, fall off, get hit by some moron, park bike somewhere where it won’t fall over/get stolen/get flattened by some blind idiot with a Hummer, order food, get accosted by friendly drunk, argue about the ++ charges on the bill and then do everything in reverse just to get home.

“Then having to round up the security cobras and put them back in their boxes and pacify them because I forgot to pick up their mice for dinner.

“Or alternatively, cook dinner and eat it.”

It’s a piece of cake, really.

Dance Class

A chance remark the other day, offered by an acquaintance who may have been concerned that some might have missed the module on delicious irony when they were majoring in epithet, prompts us to say that we know the iconic Bali dance that tourists have been going ga-ga about since it was invented in the antiquity of the 1930s is called Kecak.

Readers may have noticed a reference or two to Kecap dances in the diary in recent times.

It is often called Kecap by tourists and in many less than scholarly references on that global kindergarten primer, the world-wide web. Kecap is sauce. Though it must not be confused with ketchup, which is to piquant what semolina is to Bubur Injin.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser and at http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY, Bali Advertiser, Dec. 10, 2014

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Salad Days? Hold the Mayoh

We were surprised recently to read that Royal Pita Maha, one among many resort hotels at Ubud, was “quite literally out of this world”. News of this galactic shift had hitherto eluded us. Fortunately it turned out not to be true. We made urgent inquiries and were able to satisfy ourselves that the establishment remained on terra firma. Moreover, it was still located up the hill from the lovely Pita Maha Resort and Spa where we stayed a couple of times, years ago in the days before there was a Royal Pita Maha, when we were holidaying in Bali as pay-your-own-way tourists.

The source of the easily disproved theory that Royal Pita Maha had moved to Pluto or some other planet was someone called Lisa Mayoh, who wrote a puerile puff piece that appeared in Rupert Murdoch’s little asteroid belt of cyber-papers which litter Virtual Australia.

The version we saw, courtesy of the dyspeptic blogger Vyt Karazija who (quite rightly) fiercely fulminated on Facebook about it, was in Perth Now. But reading the text – and this was not a labour of love, of that you can be sure – told us that Mayoh, who appears to have majored in breathless hyperbole, perhaps while studying at public expense, hails from Sydney. Or that’s where she told us she and her husband had come from on their adventure in Bali.

While here (unless she really was on Pluto) she engaged the services of a taxi driver named Wyan. Yes, that’s without the first a, which makes him unique among the 25 per cent or so of Bali’s population called Wayan. It’s such a shame that Wyan apparently failed to take her to see a performance of the iconic Ketchup Dance. She might have found that saucy.

Someone really should start a petition to have Ignoramus Australis declared a global pest.

In the Soup de Jour

Ubud returnee Jade Richardson, with whom we have at last lunched (yippee-yi-yay!) wrote a fine piece on her Passionfruitcowgirl blog recently in which she had a bit of a go at the selfishly acquisitive and culturally catatonic sector of the American Diaspora in Ecuador, the Andean republic where she was living until recently, mostly in a little city called Vilcabamba. She’s now back in Bali, where she should remain if we are to have any chance of repeating the delights of lunchtime conversation.

Her piece is well worth reading. This is especially so because – national origins excused: it’s not only a certain class of American that blots the globe after all – what she writes has significant, important, and resonant, echoes for Bali.

Needless to say her piece was not received with adulation by her former non-confreres in Ecuador. Some American realtor chap even went litigiously over the top about her on his come-in-and-give-me-your-money-I’m-honest-well-I-would-say-that-wouldn’t-I blog. To which we say, stick it to them again, Cowgirl.

Divas and Dudes Get Giving

Christina Iskandar, who is by way of being the chief diva hereabouts, has been busy promoting the annual Divas & Dudes Charity Xmas Event set for Mozaic Beach Club on Dec. 19. It’s a good show in a good cause and is of course open also to those among us who would have a hard time qualifying as either a diva or a dude.

The program, starting from 6pm, includes Carols by Candlelight, a fashion show by Indonesian Designer Arturro, Canapés & Cocktails, and dinner. There will be a Christmas tree covered with Child Sponsorship images from Bali Children Foundation, a silent auction for YPAC Bali -Institute for Physically & Mentally Handicapped Children, and Christmas gift-giving under our tree for balikids.org. If you’d like to donate a gift, wrap it and place it under the tree clearly labelled girl or boy and age.

You can call Rosa at Mozaic Beach Club for details on (0361) 47 35796.

Reality Bites

Lombok looked a bit low when we were there three weeks ago. We exclude the Three Gilis, which we didn’t get to on this trip. It’s basically always high season there, especially now there are fleets “fast boats” whizzing backwards and forwards across the Lombok Strait from Bali.

The suspension of the Jetstar service direct from Perth (it ended on Oct. 15) has plainly hit the rest of tourist-focused Lombok hard. That’s a shame, because it’s a great place that with effective support from the West Nusa Tenggara provincial government would be ripe for at least modest, and one would hope managed, expansion.

Unfortunately, in the way things go in Indonesia, effective government support is unlikely to emerge. The message the provincial government took back from a crisis meeting with Jetstar in Melbourne seems to have been that the airline was very pleased that they’d come all that way to see them. Um, yes. Sort of thing you say, really. The message they should have taken back was that in the growth phase Jetstar needed much more support from the government.

We hear, incidentally, that one of the reasons the government hadn’t actually spent any of the substantial funds it had outlaid for promotion of its lovely new direct Australian tourist link was that the committee that was supposed to dish out the dinars had never been appointed. Cue: Scream!

According to some figures whispered in our ear, Jetstar load factors on the Lombok-Perth sector were running around 5 per cent below the Perth-Lombok one. That rather negates another theory put to us: that the problem was large numbers of Perth-Lombok passengers using the service as an alternative way to get to Bali – and going home from there. But Jetstar must carry some of the blame for its failure to sustain the new route. You might need to run disastrously negative-revenue “get-in” seats on a start-up basis, but getting the marketing right so that you attract profitable passengers is a better bet.

What’s really needed is assiduously planned, well executed and energetically proactive involvement by all parties.

A Little Wilted

We stayed at Kebun Resort and Villas in Senggigi. Sadly, it was a bit of a disappointment. The original general manager was someone we’d known well when we lived in Lombok several years ago. The property had been developed on a sort of Four Seasons Lite scale (they didn’t say this, but that was the subtext). We’d seen it completed, some time ago.

It has now been operating for seven years, which in terms of Indonesian infrastructure amounts to several life-cycles. You know how it is: some edifice is erected and it instantly looks as if it’s seen better days.

Incidentally, if you’re thinking upmarket Lombok and a glowingly promoted enterprise named Svarga catches your eye, be advised (they do not so advise on their website) that despite sounding vaguely Slavic by name, it’s Muslim-owned and run and teetotal. There’s nothing wrong with that. But many western tourists (not to mention any number of partying Arabians we’ve come across over the years) like a drink.

It’s All White, Really

Nikki Beach, started by entrepreneur Jack Penrod in 1998 as “the ultimate beach club concept” by combining elements of entertainment, dining, music, fashion, film and art, is said to be sexiest party place on the planet.

It has now opened in Bali and did so on Dec. 6 at Nusa Dua with a signature Grand Opening White Party. We look shocking in white, or perhaps invisible, so we weren’t there. But we do think it’s worth noting that now it has its own sexiest place on earth, where naked legs and mischievous breeze-blown hemlines raise both the interest of the attendant dude pack and the bar takings, Bali has clearly made it to the top in the sun, sand and sex league.

Nikki Beach Bali joins a stable that includes beach clubs at Miami Beach, USA; St Tropez, France; St Barth in the French West Indies; Marbella, Mallorca and Ibiza in Spain; Porto Heli in Greece; Cabo San Lucas in Mexico; Marrakech in Morocco; and closer to home Koh Samui and Phuket in Thailand. There are also Nikki resort hotels at Koh Samui and Porto Heli and two pop-ups (no, best leave that alone) at Cannes in France and Toronto in Canada.

Partygoers at Nusa Dua on Dec. 6 were promised “Nikki Beach-style extravagance, world-class entertainment, resident DJs, fireworks and a host of unforgettable surprises!” As long as they wore white and believe that pointless exclamation marks are de rigueur.

Huānyíng

Members of Bali’s consular corps have a new colleague, inaugural Chinese consul-general Hu Quan Yin. The new Bali consulate-general opened (in Denpasar) on Dec. 8 to provide services for the growing number of Chinese tourists.

Governor Made Mangku Pastika attended the official opening to say huānyíng (welcome).  China also has consulates in Surabaya and Medan.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears online at http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 29, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Three Hearty Woofs

It was interesting to read that when the Bali Street Dog Fund and other friends and supporters of BAWA gathered for the 10th annual Bali Nights fundraiser in Melbourne on Oct. 10, they raised record funds to save and protect Bali’s animals.

It seems an electrifying bidding war broke out when Garuda Indonesia upgraded its donated return air tickets to Bali from Economy to Business class. There was excitement of a different kind – we might call it a Marie-Antoinette Moment – when an amazing Bali dog cake created by Christopher at Let Them Eat Cake in South Melbourne was woofed up for $400.

Hosts Pete Smith and Nicky Buckley, who are Nine Network television identities, did their usual wowing of the crowd (300 this year) and auctioneer Mark Fletcher kept bids rolling in. Nicky added to the glitter by wearing Janice Girardi silver jewellery creations.

The venue, as always, was the Intercontinental Rialto Melbourne. The team promises 2015’s Bali Nights will be even better. It’s long past time that the Diary dropped in again on Latitude 38S for a remedial soak in Melbourne’s eclectic magic. So perhaps Bali Nights 2015 might be the go.

Paula Hodgson of Bali Street Dogs tells us this year’s Bali Nights raised $54,350 (Australian), funds that are vital to the effort the Bali Animal Welfare Association puts into helping the island’s deprived animals. BAWA has been doing sterling work with schools and local banjars with an education program designed to empower Balinese to care for their family pets and other animals.

Perhaps that’s something fellow pundit Made Wijaya should ponder. On the evidence of his recent, strange Facebook outburst about BAWA, banjars and banners, Ubud Writers and Readers Festival founder Janet DeNeefe would have been better advised to dub him Truman Capote with a miss-aimed machete.

A Triumph of Idiocy

It was a joy to return home to Bali after a planned six-week Australian visit turned into four months owing to the intervention of Cruel Fate in the shape of a medical problem. (The joy was unalloyed despite the fact that in the interests of economy we flew up from Perth with a plane-load of people who apparently belonged to the Riffraff Club. Once the seat-belt signs were turned off they spent their time milling around in the aisle exchanging monosyllabic epithets with their mates and demonstrating that indeed they could not walk and chew gum at the same time.)

The Diary’s little difficulty, which also gave us full and uncalled for exposure to the rather inclement qualities of south-western Australia’s chilly winter, was of course a useful reminder that one’s misspent youth cannot go on forever, unless it is boringly mediated. This was not welcome news but, well, you have to go with the flow, however sluggish it eventually becomes.

Anyway, enough of that, except to say that a modified misspent youth will certainly continue, albeit with more con than brio. What was less of a joy on our return was to drive on the “upgraded” Jl Raya Uluwatu, the Yellow Truck Highway. It’s that little defile that struggles up from Jimbaran to the lofty heights of the Bukit’s limestone plateau.

Eventually, if the police bribe-collectors further along allow, or are on a day off, trekkers on this insubstantial bit of bitumen arrive at the temple at Uluwatu. This is where an informal cooperative of miscreant monkeys which steal tourists’ handbags and sunglasses and entrepreneurial locals who offer for a fee to arrange a miraculous return of the contraband, have a nice little scam going.

For starters, the road “upgrade” is still a work in progress. It had been going on for months before our departure. This is no surprise. Road works anywhere always take longer than advertised. In other places, it’s true, “upgrades” generally manage to produce some visible sign of improvement and evidence of better traffic flow.

There is no sign of this happening on Jl. Raya Uluwatu. The thoroughfare may have been widened. The question is moot. A visual inspection indicates you would need a micrometer to measure this. It has also been equipped with the high kerbs they like here, so that you can easily sprain an ankle stepping off or onto one. These also close off any escape route for vehicles trying to avoid a careering truck, yellow or otherwise. And to cap it all some clown has decided the “new” road would look lovely with trees actually planted in it, outbound of the kerbside.

Assuming these arboreal decorations survive drought, lethal vehicular fumes and encounters with badly-steered or runaway trucks, enormous buses loaded with tourists by then possibly despondent over their chances of actually seeing a bit of Bali culture, and insane motorcyclists, they will eventually grow into big, spreading foliage-carriers. Their branches will reduce the headroom available for big vehicles and their trunks could quite possibly be fatal to incautious or unlucky road users.

There is a disconnect somewhere. Trees planted in the road might be passable iconography in a quiet residential street or a buffed up and gentrified heritage area. But on a narrow arterial road they are completely stupid, as are the people who sign off on such ridiculous ideas.

A Shot in the Arm

BIMC Hospital Nusa Dua has just opened a new wing, with 10 rooms overlooking the golf course – this might be therapeutic, as they suggest, though possibly only for patients who do not play golf – in yet another demonstration of its determination to lead the field in medical matters. It’s offering promotional rates for the first cohorts of patients.

Earlier this month the hospital had a ceremony in recognition of its accreditation in July by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International (ACHSI). The achievement, which we mentioned in the Diary of Sep. 17, really is a job well done by all concerned and it’s good to see the management making sure everyone who works for BIMC Nusa Dua knows they have been recognized.

The Nusa Dua health campus, which opened in May 2012 as BIMC’s second hospital-level operation – the other is at Simpang Siur in Kuta – is the first in Indonesia to gain ACHSI status. It is only the second in South-East Asia. Sunway Medical Centre in Malaysia was accredited in May this year.

BIMC (the initials now stand for Bali Indonesia Medika Citra rather than Bali International Medical Centre) joined forces with the Lippo Group’s Siloam hospitals early this year, with BIMC chief Craig Beveridge becoming Bali executive chairman of the new, bigger operation. The Nusa Dua campus is seen as a natural centre for medical tourism.

BIMC Siloam Hospitals Group Bali CEO Dr Donna Moniaga says the accreditation is a necessary step towards fully developing this market sector. “The ACHS’s stamp of approval strengthens BIMC’s position as a leading health service provider in Bali, for residents and medical tourists,” she says.

Perfect Balance

Ganesha Gallery at the Four Seasons Jimbaran has an especially interesting exhibition coming up – works by I Made Wiradana, whose style is eye-catching and his intricate technique mind-blowing. The solo exhibition is on from Nov. 20 until Dec. 18.

He was chairman of the Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI) in 2000-2002 and has exhibited solo in Bali, Yogyakarta and Jakarta as well as overseas in Belgium and India. His first solo exhibition was in 1999 and was titled “Imajinasi Purba” (Ancient Imagination)

Wiradana has a unique style that features primitive forms. For him, the past cannot possibly be removed from the human subconscious and will always influence culture. This is a point of view historians as well as artists embrace with verve.

La Niña Returns

The delightfully talkative and deliciously enigmatic Jade Richardson, who once was or possibly still is the Passionfruit Cowgirl and who owes us an hour or so with a bottle or three, or so she once said, is home in Bali again. Richardson, who when she was a niña (girl child) enlivened the community of Bundeena in New South Wales, decamped from our iconic island ages ago to South America, where everyone except a Spaniard believes they speak Spanish.

Ecuador was her stamping ground (it sounded chiefly delightful by the way, except for waves of American retirees with more money than taste and one or two less than meritorious events that could happen anywhere and so often do) and, frankly, we were beginning to think we’d lost her to the spiritual charms of the Andes forever, along with the tipple. She popped up at several removes earlier this year, as these days one can, with the internet, promoting the benefits of the Bali Spirit Festival. (These are many.)

Now, she tells us, she’s seeking a Balinese ambience to clear her mind and put some more virtual ink on virtual paper to chronicle her adventures, cerebral and otherwise, in the bosque nublado and at lower altitudes. That will be between drinks, if we have our way.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, July 11, 2012

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

My Hat, it’s Good to See You

A spell in Lombok can do wonders for the jaded soul, and thus it was recently when Diary and Distaff took some lovely Balinese friends from Nusa Dua, a family of five, to the island and to Gili Trawangan for a five-day break. We flew both ways, some among the party not being nautical types, and visited that other Kuta – the one on Lombok’s spectacular Indian Ocean coast – and Cemara near Lembar harbour.

At Kuta we had a light brunch at Ashtari, the Australian owed place that offers a world-beating view along the ocean coast. Parties of little boys from the local villages were extorting traffic fees on the “road” – quotation marks essential – and Ashtari itself is for sale. Perhaps that says something about Lombok; we forbear to comment further. But the coffee was good and the view superb.

At Cemara, later, there was an interesting incident. We’d returned across the narrow no-car bridge from a walk to the beach, where our friends had recently bought some land, to find our driver decamped. He was away getting a flat tyre fixed. We established ourselves at a little fizzy drink and high-cholesterol snack stall to await his return and fell into desultory conversation with a fellow customer, a local gent in a white skullcap who looked less than pleased that his afternoon had been disturbed by foreigners, even if most of the foreigners were from just across the Wallace Line in Bali.

But he softened up eventually. And he broke into a huge and thoroughly bemused smile when, as we left, your previously chiefly silent diarist shook him lightly by the hand and said “Salam, Hajji.”

Ah yes, not all Bules are ignorant infidels devoid of even a minuscule grasp of local culture, Islamic practice, and essential nomenclature.

Comfort Zone

We stayed two nights in Senggigi – one on the way in, one on the way out – and of course chose Puri Bunga, on the viewing hill opposite the art market, as our domicile. GM Marcel Navest is always good to chat to – even if he is no longer chairman of the Lombok Hotels Association, having quit late last year in pursuit of a less fractious life – and Novi in the restaurant was as lovely and attentive as ever at the breakfast table.

On Gili Trawangan – to whence we were conveyed by Dream Divers (the diary had a quiet moment at Gerd’s Rock at Teluk Nara to say hello to friend Gerd Bunte, who sadly is no longer with us) – we stayed at Martas, back off the party beach and the home of former diver Martas himself, his wife Jo and their delightful preschool daughter Ayesha. It’s a lovely little spot.

By the way, Gili Deli near the jetty and food market has fabulous Guatemala coffee. It’s more addictive than any of the other substances offered locally, and far more pleasant.

There is one Trawangan demerit to report. One afternoon, having been let out alone, your diarist was strolling down the lane from Martas towards the shore and was accosted by a gentleman of very dubious provenance who intoned “Want drugs?” and, on getting the standard dismissive no-thanks hand movement, came back with “Want a woman?

It’s not a good look for the island (on which, by the way, you will now find police).

Do Drop In

Bungee king AJ Hackett’s plushly private Pondok Santi bungalows on Gili Trawangan, which are managed by the redoubtable Baz and Georgie from New Zealand, are now taking paying guests. Hitherto the happy little cabins have been camping unmolested in Trawangan’s best-kept green-grassed parkland, where AJ set up a holiday place for his family.

We stumbled on this intelligence by spotting a “bungalows for rent, inquire within” sign on the gate on our first morning walk around the island. We made an inquiry without and discovered they are being marketed as a chill-out spot for jaded jumpers and others and officially opened for business this month. There are six bungalows (there’s a 12-guest maximum at the resort) equipped with Wi-Fi, iPod docks and other accoutrements among modern life’s must-haves. Also available is a very nice boat – we’ve been on it – that when fully equipped for those with fat enough wallets could surely carry you around the islands in the style one imagines an Ottoman vizier might have enjoyed so greatly that he decided to be generous that day and not have his most mealy-mouthed eunuch strangled.

Hackett invented bungee jumping three decades ago, inspired by the intrepid tree-leapers of Santo Island in Vanuatu, and has since made a mint out of getting people to plunge off tall things attached to ropes they doubtless devoutly hope are just a bit shorter than the vertical space into which they launch themselves. There’s one in Bali, where tourists jump from a tower in Kuta.

His Trawangan retreat is for more sybaritic pursuits. Hackett says of his newly available facility:  “It’s not your average resort. Pondok Santi is a sanctuary for people to come and play in one of the world’s most awesome spots.”

G’day and Ni Hao

They’re still pouring in – foreign tourists that is. In the five months to May, 1,150,000 of them landed on our shores. That’s 9.31 percent up on the same period last year. The Aussies totalled 299,360 – my oath, that’s a whole lot of Bintang – which was up nearly 8.5 percent, but the standout performers were Chinese, whose 143,382 represented a 64.73 percent increase. (No, they’re not all in Pepito Express at Bukit Jimbaran at the same time; it’s just that it sometimes seems that way.)

Bali chief of BPS, the national statistics agency, I Gede Suarsa, said when releasing the figures that 31,432 tourists had come here on cruise ships. The overwhelming majority of arrivals chose instead to experiment with chaos theory at Ngurah Rai International Airport.

Interestingly four countries turned in a decrease in Bali arrivals: Japan, down nearly 11 percent; Taiwan (14 percent); France (2.15 percent); and the biggest non-performer, the USA, was down by nearly 60 percent.

Last year a total of 2.82 million foreign tourists visited Bali, up 9.72 percent on 2010.

Tugu Times

The decoratively desirable Hellen Sjuhada, who is now promoting the Tugu Hotel at Batu Bolong, tells us of an event there on Sunday, July 29, that would be a delight to attend and indeed we might try to force our way through the traffic – the Bukit to Batu Bolong is not an easy ride – on that occasion. It is not one to lightly miss, since as well as gazing upon the ocean while lit by torches and candles and sipping languidly from a glass of wine (and being within sight of the delicious Hellen would add further lustre) you get the chance to lie back on pillows and watch and listen as Legong dancers and Gamelan musicians serenade you with tales of love and passion from old-time Bali.

The event, which will set you back Rp250K if you just want cocktails and Balinese canapés or Rp450K for the full dinner – with an early-bird Facebook special offering 15 percent off – showcases an artistic spectacle that once upon a time was seen only in the courtyards of Balinese royal palaces.

Pelegongan was very popular in the early 1900s and was revealed to the world by artists such as the Belgian painter Adrien-Jean Le Mayeur, Canadian composer Colin McPhee and German painter-choreographer-writer Walter Spies. Over time it was subsumed by more modern streams of gamelan, but today the tradition is kept alive by the Mekar Bhuana Conservatory, which has re-popularised court gamelan and dance traditions.

Tugu Hotel has full details of the July 29 event if you’d like to experience the old Bali.

Colour Me Jade

Ubud is an eclectic spot, as it pays never to forget. But it is perhaps slightly less so at the moment with the absence from its many wondrous scenes of writer, blogger and passionfruit cowgirl Jade Richardson, who is in Ecuador. Never mind, she’ll be back in these parts within a month or so and, we hear, with a treat in store for scribblers.

This will take place not at Ubud, however, but on Lombok’s magic Gili Air, where she’s organising a writers’ workshop in September. The Way of the Writer (Sept. 11-15) invites book writers, stuck novelists, blocked poets, memoirists, bloggers and those who wish to fall in love with the source of their written magic to retreat to a quiet island paradise to connect to the spirit of their story and learn the writer’s arts.

Gili Air, along with Meno and Trawangan are renowned for diving and snorkelling, or if you prefer to relax without exertion, for dining, reclining and imbibing.

Richardson – who told us by cyber-chat recently that she is enjoying the Andean cloud forest, though she admits it’s a tad frio – suggests you might want to dive deep into the soul of your writing. Great idea! We’ll have a Hemmingway on the rocks, thanks. You can contact Richardson for details and prices at http://passionfruitcowgirl.wordpress.com.

To the Moon and Back

Casa Luna, the Ubud eatery in which proprietor-doyenne Janet DeNeefe can often be spotted having a quiet cuppa, was 20 years old on July 10. My, how time flies. It must be 13 years, then, since your diarist first passed the doors of the establishment and stole a glance inside. That’s been a regular treat ever since.

Hector’s Diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser, published every second Wednesday, and on his Blog at http://wotthehec.blogspot.com. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 8, 2012

Give Me Some Lava

Big Apple expat, Nagacia jewellery designer and FOH (Friend of Hector) Tricia Kim has added an enterprising string to her bow. She has designed some specially branded logo charms for a new snip, clip and stick salon in Johannesburg, South Africa.  We’ve seen photographs of them and they’re beautiful.

The new establishment is SoHo Salon – SoHo as in “South of Houston [street]” in Manhattan, New York, not central London’s Soho, which generations of British mothers warned their sons was dangerous (they never said it was also fun) – and according to its American operators it brings the first New York-style full-service salon to South Africa. It opened in January. We hear there are plans for a dozen more such places, which one assumes would translate into many more charms for the delightful Kim.

She tells us the charm she designed for SoHo is of white wood beads dyed red and lava stones. Lava has shamanistic power. It was used by First American nations, known as Indians or Red Indians in the days before the Sioux discovered they were homonyms for profitable litigation, to give warriors strength and clarity when entering battle. It has similarly shamanistic qualities in many other cultures.

Kim has also designed lava stone totems for upmarket Bali spa retreat Desa Seni. Lava’s fiery origin is said to be good for people who might suffer from indecision. That could be useful in yoga class.

The Good Oil

When the latest lovely little MinYak trotted into our inbox in mid-January, our inner spelling policeman woke up – he should have done so earlier, but we won’t develop that line of criticism – to the fact that its content is rendered in the American fashion. You know, with the twenty-first letter of the alphabet prominent by its absence.

We asked the friendly chaps at The Yak and The Bud, which are run with thoroughly British aplomb, whether this apparent addiction to Eng (US) was by design or by default. In other words, had the mellifluous benefits of Eng (UK) ceded the field to the shorter-form forces of the Non-U push? One of them got back to us – like the MinYak and the print magazines it supports they are timely and generally pertinent, which in Bali is truly a blessing – and said this: “The man who does the MinYak is American. And so is my spellchecker.”

So that would be a “yes,” then.

There is a serious side to this. At last report, Indonesia officially uses Eng (UK) and it is this form that is supposed to be taught in schools, yet increasingly the English-language media – particularly and spectacularly the electronic media, which can’t spell anyway and wouldn’t know a past participle if it bit them on the bum – opts for American English.

It’s not something for which one would choose to die in a ditch and indeed the American preference might be the better way for Indonesia. But it does pose questions. There’s an interesting – and very valuable – English language teaching programme getting under way here that’s being jointly run by the Australians and the Americans. The Aussies (those who can spell; a dwindling number) use British-derived English. Like the Singaporeans, Malaysians, Indians, Canadians, South Africans, New Zealanders and sundry others, they are “U” people. The Americans, of course, as we know, are defiantly Non-U. The programme’s internal correspondence might make interesting comparative reading.

Moreover, American English is terse and truncated – some may define it as crisper, and that’s by no means an unwinnable argument – and does away with much of the colourful flourish that makes British English such a delight.

But Not From Canggu

We found a little internet gem the other day, an online newspaper that calls itself The Hibernia Times – it does so in a delightfully unreadable ancient script, by the way, which oddly seems both apt and ironic – and claims it is Ireland’s web-connected newspaper. This singularity will surprise long-established journals such as The Irish Times (and others) that cover local, national and global news and events on the web as well as in print.

Its web-blurb says the HT (do not confuse this with the Hindustan Times, which is an eminently readable journal) has an editorial policy that is to always be fair, impartial and balanced in news coverage. It says it would “love to hear your thoughts and views on this newspaper” and to email these, should such inspiration occur, to editor@thehiberniatimes.com.

Its editor, like that of the near-comatose C151 Bali Times hereabouts, is unnamed; but we believe we know him well.  We dropped him a line. It wasn’t just for old time’s sake. We’d still like to know (even if this is the age of instant communication, blah, blah, blah, etc, etc: see the HT website for the full dissertation) how William Furney – who Houdini-like departed Canggu for unknown locations in the Emerald Isle 15 months ago – finds it possible to seriously edit a Bali newspaper from half a world and eight time zones away; especially if you’re apparently also rattling out an allegedly round-the-clock e-sheet there. Still, a man’s got to earn a quiet crust, we suppose.

Meghan’s Moment

It’s nearly Bali Spirit Festival time again – it’s from March 28-April 1, safely after Nyepi on March 23, if you’d like to diarise the opportunity for yet another spirited Ubud opportunity – so it was no surprise to see the ubiquitous Meghan Pappenheim popping up in the previously mentioned MinYak. She’s a good sort, so it’s always a pleasure to see her.

Pappenheim appeared as January’s colourful character, gave her standard responses to who-what-why-when and a nice little promo for the event she founded as a cathartic comeback – like that other Ubud love-in, Janet DeNeefe’s annual writers’ and readers’ festival – after the first Bali bombings in 2002, and then told us what we all wanted to know: What’s she’s listening to on her iPod.

It turned out to be Lady Gaga. That would be a point of difference between us. The Diary long ago formed the view that only the Gaga bit accurately describes that particular unchained melody. But one should not be churlish. Perhaps Pappenheim doesn’t like to listen to Warren Zevon being prescient about his future at high volume, as he often is on the iPod at The Cage. I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is rollicking rock, but it’s not for everyone.

The Bali Spirit Festival does great work in the environmental and health fields, and particularly in countering the threat of HIV/AIDS. It also entertains mightily well, so good luck with this year’s, Meghan.

There’s a free Spirit Festival-backed outdoor concert in Ubud on February 18, by the way. Details are at http://balispiritfestival.com/ayobicarahivaids.html. For more information about the Bali Spirit Festival itself, visit www.balispiritfestival.com.

Up For It

We’ll be looking in on Jade Richardson’s writing course on erotica being held in Ubud in March. It should be fun as well as instructional. Too many people in these dumb days of post-literacy mistakenly conflate eroticism and pornography and assume you need continuous – goodness, we almost wrote “rolling” – pictorial assistance, when in fact all you need is a brain.

It’s the fourth element of a quartet of courses the Ubud-resident Richardson has on the go. The first is Unlocking Creativity (Feb. 22, 23 and 25); next up is Travel Writing (Feb. 28, 29); then comes Advanced Creative Writing (Mar. 1, 2, 4; we’ll look in on that one as well); and then Erotica (Mar. 8, 9, 11). Email her at passionfruitcowgirl@rocketmail.com or call 0958 5727 0858 if you’d like to Write Like an Angel too.

Still Trying

Here at The Cage we’ve been customers of Telkomsel’s Kartu Halo mobile phone system since 2006. Until last October, it worked well enough. There were one or two of the little stumbles that one becomes accustomed to in Indonesian public bureaucracy, but it more or less functioned.

Since October, however, it has been impossible to pay. Telkomsel’s successive monthly bills have not been accessible, because they are not ready. The wonderful term here is “in process,” which of course means nothing of the sort.

In November we were in Australia, where using an Indonesian mobile phone can be quite expensive. So we’d dearly like to pay the outstanding accounts, especially as another Australia trip is looming. But the “all calls” function on our phones continues to be unhelpful. On January 26, for example, unhelpfulness came with a new message:  “Mohon maaf, system sedang sibuk. Silahkan ulangi berberapa saat lagi.” ( “We’re sorry, the system is busy. Please try a couple of times again.”)

Gosh! It must be all those irritated customers trying to find out how much they have to pay before they get cut off that’s gummed up the works.  There’s a simple solution. Telkomsel could employ some people who can keep accounts.

Carp a Diem

Among the thickets of inspirational sites that now litter the internet is one that calls itself Brainy Quotes. It recently featured this thought from Christopher Fry – he died in 2005 – whose thoughts are considered worthy since he was one of the most celebrated playwrights of the 20th century: “I want to look at life – at the commonplaces of existence – as if we had just turned a corner and run into it for the first time.”

Goldfish have it made then. They habitually do that.

Hector’s Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser print edition, out every second Wednesday, and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz.