HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 6, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Prime Appointment

Helena Studdert, the new Australian consul-general in Bali, comes to the job by an unusual route. She has already held an ambassadorial post – she was Australia’s envoy to Serbia from 2010-2013 – and has some background in the sometimes fractious field of civil-military affairs, having served most recently as international adviser to the Australian Civil-Military Centre.

These are not often the qualifications one finds in consular appointments, where the job is to look after people rather than foster the often separate interests of diplomatic relations. They aren’t quite mutually exclusive, though, especially in a post such as Bali. Studdert’s appointment, announced by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Dec. 22, gives additional oomph to Australia’s interests here, where the consulate-general is the country’s third busiest consular mission. This can only be a good thing. It might get a little busier yet, too, with the third and we hope lasting announcement in December that Australia is now on Indonesia’s free visa on arrival list.

Studdert, who has a PhD, takes up her new post this month. She replaces outgoing consul-general Majell Hind, who leaves with the good wishes of everyone who came to know her during her time here.

Australia will open a new consulate-general in Makassar this year.

He’s No Bule!

Tim Hannigan, who gets a regular outing in this column because he’s a good fellow who has lots of interesting things to say, tells us he found a lovely little scribble in his own First Exposure diary of Indonesian travels, from a decade ago. He’d been prompted to delve into the origins of his Indonesian writings by the death in December, in Malang, of the American chronicler Benedict Anderson, whose passing we noted in the Diary of Dec. 23.

Hannigan was in remote eastern Indonesia on his first traveller’s journey here and on one island came across the story of a white man who had lived thereon for 20 years, married a local woman, spoke the local language, and followed the basically animist religious rites of the community. His journalistic interest piqued, he inquired of the locals what was the man’s name. These worthies then looked at each other and said um and ah in their own lingo and after a while reached a collegiate conclusion that his name had been Turis.

Bule, the not altogether offensive word for Europeans more commonly used in Bahasa Indonesia, is less favoured in the archipelagic east. There, such people are tourists and apparently remain so even when fully salted, over two decades, into the local community.

Amen to That

Pope Francis, chief counsellor to the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and the first Jesuit Pope, had a great message about Jesus’ birth for his global flock on Christmas Day. He said this: “In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this child calls us to act soberly … in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential.”

Common sense and fine judicial and spiritual judgment is the hallmark of the Jesuits. Even those not of the faith – or indeed not of any faith – can relate to the Pope’s words on this occasion and on this topic. It’s a message the consumerist West should listen to especially carefully. There is really no reason for empathy overload, one of the new psychiatric ailments that is said to be afflicting those who can afford to spend their time and money on elective counseling and through this find justification in not caring quite as much as they might that others are less fortunate than themselves.

Red Litter Day

How lovely it was to see – on Facebook on Dec. 26 – that Coco supermarkets had rushed in to clean up the mess when photos emerged of one of their trucks stopped in Ubud near a watercourse, dumping trash. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that for all the defaulters who, for reasons of ennui or avarice, can’t be bothered disposing of rubbish in the required manner. That includes managements as well as workers, just to make that point.

If this practice spreads, Bali’s little rivers might one day be relatively free of the disgusting debris that defiles them and which then, when it rains properly, is expelled into the sea. In the fiction of the island, it used to be said (though no one ever believed that particular fable) that all the awful beach rubbish came from Java. They do such a lovely line in terminological inexactitude here.

Coco’s deserves credit for acting swiftly when the littering habits of that particular delivery truck’s crew were publicized on social media. These days, nowhere is immune from observation and recording by people whose cell phones take photos and videos. That’s a lesson that should be swiftly absorbed, as apparently it has been by Coco’s management.

It would be nice if the provincial government made more of an effort to return Bali to something approximating its natural beauty than just making up pretty slogans and hoping someone else will pick up the slack. Bali Clean and Green should be a planned objective, not just a PR pitch on a wish list.

Tim Tam Time

The Diary, courtesy of its Australian sojourn, has been enjoying original Tim Tams. And not just the occasional one: just the day before Christmas, for example, we enjoyed three of them, one after the other, no breaks, except of the delicious choc-covered biscuit between our teeth. Out of their packet, cool and crisp from the fridge and well before their use-by date is even a twinkle in Old Father Time’s eye.

An original Tim Tam in mint condition has been a rare treat for more than a decade now. They’re unobtainable in Indonesia, unless you’re prepared to list as mint condition a fused mess caused by faulty refrigeration and the Lucifer-like temperatures you tend to find in local stores, even the ones with the premium prices. In Indonesia, too, Arnott’s seem to experiment almost weekly with some new sticky confection they call Tim Tams, but which are as related to the original as, say, the urban gangs of modern Metro America are to the robber barons who forced King John’s hand with that Magna Carta deal back in 1215.

The Tim Tams we’ve been eating remind us of the Stress Diet a very lovely friend alerted us to in Brisbane years ago, when we were permanently on each other’s tryst list. Perhaps memory has played cruelly with a few details, but it went something like this:

Breakfast: Cup of coffee, one Tim Tam. Elevenses: Cup of coffee, two Tim Tams. Lunch: Cup of coffee, three Tim Tams. Afternoon tea: Forget the coffee and eat the rest of the Tim Tams.

It’s always worked for us. Of course, you have to find the Tim Tams first.

Early Monkey

As Georgie is reported to have advised, in the Rod Stewart song that records his untimely passing on a New York boulevard at the hands of a New Jersey gang with just one aim, you’ve got to get in fast or it’s too late. Georgie was of course speaking of that elusive faculty, youth; most of the sentient among us remember it as that golden time we enjoyed in the brief interlude between childhood and growing up. But getting in fast, or at least first, is sound advice nonetheless.

It was fun therefore to see a little promo doing the rounds recently from the Aman chain, which has three plush establishments in Bali at which the well heeled can kick up a little decorous dust. In this case the dust – suitably mediated, we’re sure – relates to 2016 being the Year of the Monkey. As we noted in the diary of Dec. 23, this is good year for us, since we are of the simian persuasion in the Chinese Zodiac.

Aman advises its potential guests that the island of Bali presents the opportunity to experience cultural adventure, a vibrant natural landscape and three unique Aman destinations. The principal monkey business is set for the lush terraces of its Ubud property, where Amandari will be welcoming guests to usher in the Year of the Monkey with a celebratory dining experience, traditional music and dance performances.

This Monkey year – it commences on Feb. 4 – is the Year of the Red Monkey, which might pique the interest of any genuine communists still extant in China.

Splashing Out

San Diego zoo in California gave its polar bears a great present on Christmas Days – 26 tons of real snow provided for them to play in. And what fun they had. It made us wonder if the execrable dolphin jailers at WAKE at Keramas had thought to give their poor wild captives some real seawater as a treat. They might have liked that.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser May 28, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Bad Burghers

A new Facebook group has appeared in cyberspace, dedicated to curbing crime in Ubud. This is an unpleasant sign of the times. Ubud may be where everyone goes to commune with the fairies, go Vegan, try to find anything that remotely resembles the purported revelations in Elizabeth Gilbert’s bodice-ripper book Eat, Pray, Love, and get in touch with their inner Pilates, but it’s also catching up with the modern world.

Some of the good burghers of Ubud, local and foreign, are upset by the intrusion of street crime and motorbike bandits bent on petty theft. The sexual predator is also present. It excuses nothing, of course, but those who suggest foreign visitors in particular should comply with local custom and dress respectfully are on the mark.

We recently saw a female tourist – she seemed to be Russian from the Slavic, not to say irritably strident, language in which she was chivvying along her oppressed male companion who in the global custom was carrying the bags – out shopping in a brief yellow bikini that was struggling to contain her bosom. Further, it was failing to hide much of her bottom. Clearly she hadn’t read the brief.  Or perhaps she thought she was in Malibu on her way to a porn shoot.

There are two fundamental rules to apply when travelling. The first is don’t be gross. The second is do not display wealth or otherwise draw spectacular attention upon you or your person.

Tourist areas in Bali are as much at risk of experiencing crime, petty or otherwise, as any other pleasure resort around the world. Community based policing and common sense help reduce the incidence.

There are bad burghers everywhere these days. And they don’t only target tourists. Locals are also at risk.

(Post-script: The death by strangulation, apparently during a break-in, of British woman Anne-Marie Drozdz at her villa near Ubud on May 22, adds a horrific dimension to Ubud’s problems.)

Get Weaving

We got a lovely invitation from the ROLE Foundation to attend Bali Living Colour (they spell it color in the American fashion, but these days even ancient Oxford English scribblers can live with that) on Thursday, Jun 5. It’s an open house for the Southern Bali Women Weavers Association and Bali WISE women’s business development.

It’s one of a number of grass-roots organizations in Bali that benefits from small grants from the Australian Consulate-General and operates from premises at Sawangan, an area of the southern Bukit where despite otherwise rampant development (that among other things has shut many locals out of seaweed farming) deprivation is a common factor.

The function will also formally inaugurate the Southern Bali Women Weavers Association and officially open the new weavers’ building, the natural dyes plant nursery and the colour sample display.

Since they’ll be serving organic juices, teas and snacks and providing music, we plan to be there. Especially since the Australian Consul-General, Majell Hind, is also scheduled to be present. It’s always nice to catch up with a Townsville girl.

 

Be Gentile, Now

Sydney-resident historian, wry wit and novelist Ross Fitzgerald, who will be coming to see us in June on his annual Bali pilgrimage with his wife Lyndal Moor – Fitzgerald and the Diary are due at Sambo’s Sports Bar at Bukit Jimbaran on Sunday, Jun. 15, to watch the Collingwood-Bulldogs game since he barracks for Collingwood and the Diary is still neutral since we’re still waiting for the Saints to come marching in – has an interesting engagement in Melbourne prior to that date.

He tells us he’s one of only two Gentiles speaking at the Melbourne Jewish Writers Festival. He’s on the dais for a chat on Jun. 1 with Dave Bloustein, John Safran and Howard Nathan (chairing the session). The topic: It’s Funny ’cos It’s Us.

Another friend of the Diary won’t be at the festival at all, even though he qualifies, since he’s Jewish and he writes. Journalist-blogger and sometime Ubud Writers and Readers Festival luminary Antony Loewenstein has views on Israel’s Palestinian policies that are regarded as unorthodox within the Australian Diaspora.

 

Favourite Mermaid

Everyone should have a favourite mermaid. Well, it’s a thought, anyway. And Celia Gregory of the World Marine Foundation is ours. We met her ages ago at a Rotary evening at Tugu Hotel at Batu Bolong and we were instantly captivated. She sculpts things and places them under water as an aid to coral regeneration, which is surely a lot more useful than many things a girl could do.

Gregory was speaking today (May 28) at yoga-focused Desa Seni at Canggu, on Living Sculptures in the Sea. Her work is already encrusted with polyps at Pemeruteran in North Bali and now she’s planning to do the same at Amed, with a work named Apsara, after the beautiful supernatural females in yoga mythology.

The structure is designed to create new homes for fish and coral at Jemaluk Bay.

The Desa Seni program Gregory is leading as creative director and founder of the marine foundation includes a special workshop on Jun. 4 with Angela Perez exploring and honouring the Apsara deities.

It ties in with World Oceans Day on Jun. 8.

On Jun. 7 there’s a kids’ workshop for children under 12 at which Gregory and Bali fixture Kayti Denham will explore the myth of the mermaid and her dolphin protectors.

Gregory’s foundation offers a visionary approach to one of the most pressing problems confronting the tropical and sub-tropical oceans. Coral regeneration is essential to the health of reefs around the world.

 

On the Rocks

It’s a shame the Australian government has pulled the plug on Australia Network, the satellite TV service that has been taking Australian culture (no that’s not an oxymoron) to the region for years under a special funding program from the foreign affairs budget.

The announcement came in the federal budget handed down on May 13 but had been long forecast.

Under the previous government it had been proposed to give the Australia Network contract to a commercial operator. This plan was then reversed in the face of argument from many that showing endless reality TV programs and titbits of tabloid “news” wouldn’t really work if the aim was to advance Australia’s interests. You need a public broadcaster with a commitment to cerebral thought to do that.

The budget had to sharply reduce spending, particularly in the forward years. Many people understand that fully. But the Australia Network contract was only worth $20 million (Australian) a year which is a drop in the bucket in comparison with much that appears in budget line items. The ABC has been progressing very well with its symbiosis of Radio Australia, Australia Network, partnerships with foreign networks (including one in Indonesia) and on line platforms and social media.

While it isn’t true that under the Abbott government advancing Australia’s interests overseas will in future be confined to dishing out free budgie-smugglers on a limited annual giveaway plan, there are some curiosities in the broader foreign policy area that worry a few people.

Australia Network runs – ran – on the budgetary equivalent of the smell of an oily rag and with proper direction was beginning to get some good runs on the board. It had just done a deal to get its service broadcast in China, for example.

The view in Australia seems to be that it’s primarily for expatriate Australians. They may constitute a sizeable portion of the existing audience demographic. It is a way to stay in touch with home after all. But that’s not the point. Unless some rabbit is pulled from a hat, “engaging with the region” may suffer a potentially serious and unnecessary blow.

It’s not clear (at time of writing) when the network will cease operating. A call to the Australian foreign minister’s office in Canberra elicited (after a little while on hold trying not to listen to some fairly offensive “rock” music) advice that discussions were under way with the ABC about the closure date and a suggestion that we should check the ABC website.

We’d already done that. Um, that’s why we called.

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Marathon Event

This year’s Bali Marathon has deserted Jimbaran and its sheltered waters for Gianyar regency. It will be interesting to see where the organizers propose to stage the swimming part of the deal, given that the Gianyar coast is rather well known for having very dangerous beaches and offshore currents.

Registration for the Sep. 14 event opened on May 17. The marathon is sponsored by BII Maybank. Professional and amateur participants are expected from throughout Indonesia and overseas.

If you’re planning to stretch yourself, you can register on line at balimarathon.com.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 19, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Let’s Hear No More of Her

Schapelle Corby, celebrity jailbird by Australian media acclaim and blessed (though that’s hardly the word) with a scrofulous family, has finally been freed on parole. That’s a good outcome, far too long delayed but welcome nonetheless. The excessive jail term to which she was sentenced in 2005 will forever be an indictment of a judicial system that risks being seen as one that punishes defendants for the gutter prattle of their mothers and others and sentences them on the basis that their crimes have brought Indonesia into disrepute.

Anyone who watches Indonesia with an objective mind knows that the shenanigans that go on here 24/7 are the real embarrassment. There’s no need to co-opt photogenic teary-eyed little foreign “victims” to the cohort that damages Indonesia’s reputation. There’s a whole home-grown industry that already does that very well.

No need, that is, unless you genuinely haven’t noticed the rampant corruption and criminality, bomb-mad cloth-heads, law-exempt Islamic rabble-rousers, and the endemic social deprivation that blights the country.

That noted, we also note the improbabilities in Corby’s story when she was caught at Ngurah Rai in 2004 (“I didn’t know my boogie board was loaded” is a lame excuse even for someone with a “vacant” stamp on their forehead). We note that the marijuana is said to have come from South Australia, a prime growing spot because the state’s dry climate gives its weed a special zing. And while we’re noting, we should remember that Bali was (and still is) a transit point for drug smuggling. “Why send weed to Bali?” is not a legitimate question. Jakarta, Surabaya and other large Indonesian cities are the real drug markets here.

The post-parole fracas that Corby, her family and hangers-on, and sections of the Australian media engaged in covers them with something far less fragrant than glory. Corby in particular appears to have learned nothing. It is possible that she is so disoriented that she’s barely functional, and if so that’s a tragic shame. Those who care for her should help with her rehabilitation if that’s the case.

Her parole rules, of which she was advised last August, exclude unauthorized media interviews. An objective observer might conclude that the mob surrounding her still thinks it can play the Indonesians for suckers. That’s not just rude. It’s plain stupid.

 

No Fanfares, Just Results

It was nice to escape the distasteful scrimmage of the Corby parole freedom media event by focusing instead on something that’s really positive at Kerobokan Jail. It’s not a nice place, the prison, though none actually is, anywhere, since a prison is not meant to be a holiday resort.

But by Indonesian standards Kerobokan is better than many. That’s something else those fixated on the “Phwaar” rating of incarcerated foreign chicks with happy-snap blue eyes should think about now and then.

Lizzie Love – one of the feistier ladies who lunch around these parts (some of them are truly terrifying, but we seem to have worked out with Lizzie a comfortable way to get a lot of giggles) – tells us of another great scheme at the jail that should be up and running soon. It’s in addition to the wide range of benefits available to inmates who choose to take part.

These include education, skills building, welfare support and an innovative organic garden project supervised by the ROLE Foundation and Canggu Rotary designed to provide fresh vegetables for the prison.

The latest scheme augments existing animal husbandry facilities at the jail and is called the KK9 Inmate Assistance Dog Training Project. Kennels are being built. Organizers are looking for some dog-friendly assistance, which should be widely available given the strong presence here of animal welfare outfits.

We’ll be keeping an eye on that project in particular. From our perspective it’s one that packs plenty of woof power.

 

Smile, Please

There’s a fun evening with benefits at that fine dine and recline venue Cocoon, Seminyak, on Saturday (Feb. 22). Rotary Club of Bali Seminyak and the Smile Foundation (Yayasan Senyum Bali whose leading light is the redoubtable Mary Northmore) have organized a fundraiser billed Have a Heart to support the foundation’s great work with children who suffer disfigurement from cleft palates and other cranio-facial conditions. Harris Hotels is a sponsor.

The show, with music and both live and silent auctions, starts at 6.30pm with dinner at 8pm. Tickets cost Rp800K. It’s a great cause so get along there if you can.

Dress is “semi-formal”. According to the Diary’s new style adviser Lizzie Love, that means the guys where nice shirts and slacks. The ladies will all dress to kill as usual. It’s a girl thing. We’re grateful to Lizzie for this sartorial guidance. Where we come from, semi-formal means you wear matching thongs (flip-flops).

 

Say Hello

We were doing our day job the other day, out in the cyber world, when we chanced upon Linda Coles, content and relationship marketer, speaker and author of a useful social entrepreneurial self-help book named Start With Hello. Well, we said hello and it worked.

Coles is a very positive person. She bills herself as living and working in Sunny New Zealand. Perhaps Auckland gets out from under that long white cloud now and then. No, seriously, NZ is a great place and it’s brimming with entrepreneurial people.

Well, that’s probably brumming, come to think of it. But no matter: Kiwis might all say yis instead of yes and spend a lot of time wishing they were down at the bitch ketching fush, but they’re OK. That’s if you can forgive them for always beating the rest of the world at rugby. It’s a shocking crime that the best part of the match, if you’re barracking for the others, is the Haka before kick-off. Still, we’d like to see more Kiwis here. Nowadays as we’ve noted before it’s possible – Yis! – for more of them to get to Bali without an unnecessary (and often unnecessarily lengthy) stop on that other big island that lies between us and them.

It’s worth dropping by bluebanana.co.nz. Coles’ primers on social networking (she has also written a book titled Learn Marketing with Social Media in 7 Days) are very useful.

 

Have a Nice Stay

A little statement finally fluttered from the office of the Australian minister for foreign affairs on Feb. 11, one on which the Diary, the soul of discretion, had been waiting for some time. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced the appointment of Majell Hind as Australia’s new consul-general in Bali and noted she had already taken up the post. So welcome, Ms Hind. Have a nice stay.

Hind is a career foreign service officer, most lately of the Australian Embassy in Kabul. Bali is, on balance, a softer posting. It has its own special conditions though, including a consistent stream of Aussie travellers who have come to grief somehow or other (they never seem to know why, themselves, which is a big part of the problem).

Her predecessor, Brett Farmer, left the fortified building on Feb. 5.

 

It’s the Money

As is traditionally the case in arguments over land being alienated for development, Bali’s predicament has yet again been laid at the feet of outside investors. The rector of the National Education University, Professor Gede Sri Darma, has lately felt compelled to join the rising chorus warning that this poses a threat to the people of Bali. He says they risk becoming a landless underclass on their own island.

The professor has a point. But sadly it’s a moot one. It would be relatively easy to control land sales in Bali if anyone took any notice of the laws. Zoning restrictions can be very useful. Foreign investment controls are sensible (though an increasing component of property investment here is Indonesian and is driven by the rapacious Wegotalldamoney tribe).

Clear division of regulatory powers would be a great idea. The poor Governor is still trying to get the regents to acquire some common sense. The regents are heads of local governments and should be subordinate in all respects. Their tastes quite naturally run in the other direction. Unfortunately national legislation on devolution gives them every reason to argue that way.

Then again, if Balinese landowners really don’t want to lose their land, they only have to tell acquisitive buyers to go take a running jump. But it’s the money, you see. Bali’s real problem is that it is now a monetized entity. Traditional values always take a back seat in those conditions.

 

Enduring Sole

Browsing through LinkedIn, as he does, Hector’s helper chanced the other day upon an employment advertisement placed by Nike, the fast-shoe-shuffle people. It was for a Senior Sustainability Consultant – Energy in Jakarta.

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings