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HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 1, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

In a Word: Tosh

Proposals lately aired that would further limit the number of foreign workers in Indonesia are sensible. As a medium- to long-term strategy they are surely free of any downside. Though that would be in the context of the further development of the nascent ASEAN free market where, as in the European Community, state borders and indeed national citizenship would become progressively less important.

But most foreign workers in Indonesia are not “white”, as economic ministers looking for nationalistic headlines like to suggest. That old pejorative is code for “former colonial oppressors and their running dogs”. Indonesians are not disadvantaged because 70 years of independence has failed to free them from the fiscal drag of the colonial era. Instead, they are not as advantaged as they could be, because their governments have failed for seven decades to build an open, educated society and legislate for the competitive economy that would then have developed.

Nationalistic claptrap offers nothing of value. It produces only deflective, self-serving political rhetoric.  The economy does not run on rhetoric. It runs on money. If Indonesians desire progress, which they sensibly do, the ex-colonial cringe is a tiresome mindset they should have sent to the junkyard long ago.

A real economic imperative facing Indonesia is foreign investment. The national investment board, announcing recently that a “one-stop-shop” would soon open (good luck with all the sub-national impediments, chaps) said it estimated US$23 billion in planned investment was forgone in the five years 2007-2012 because regulatory and administrative holdups, and endemic corruption, chased it away.

So far as employment goes, if there are Indonesian workers who can do the job, no one in their right mind would recruit anyone else (in Indonesia). But what’s needed is an effective middle economy in the huge space between local global-list enterprises and the small-to-micro business sector (both of which work well).

That requires not only coordinated policies that actually work and are implemented, including foreign investment, but also a cultural change: No more “passing” people as qualified because not to do so would be culturally embarrassing (or invidious to the interests of and continued presence in Indonesia of the examiner); a real work ethic inspired from the top (that’s where the bosses work harder than those they employ); an education system that produces young people with well rounded global skills; and a health system that keeps people healthy and therefore productive.

It also requires effective public infrastructure, both physical and human. And last, though certainly not least, it needs government and business environments that are notable for minimal corruption and sound judicial decisions rather than the reverse of this.

“Expats” (a ridiculous word) have a limited role in Indonesia’s efforts to build a truly balanced economy. Foreign workers should be regulated by legislation, but in the context of an environment in which private profit (universally and fairly taxed as a revenue growth stream) is recognized and supported as a generator of wider wealth. Now there’s another vacant space that could and should be filled with objective, forward-thinking debate.

Take a Break

When the diary in Ubud, which is often because it’s a fun place to be – it’s got everything, after all, from spirit festivals to sex therapy (either amateur or professional) – we’re often to be found at Warung Semesta in Jl Monkey Forest. It has very nice coffee, a decent café-style menu, and reliable WiFi. The latter is essential these days since you carry your office with you in your laptop.

It’s attached to the Tegal Sari resort, which specializes in the Japanese tourist market but not exclusively so. As a drop-in spot for shopped-out shoppers, Semesta’s hard to beat, too, as it’s located just round the corner from where Jl Hanoman meets Jl Raya Pengosetan and segues into Jl Monkey Forest. (Hanoman is named after Hanuman, monkey hero of the Ramayana.)

The establishment is very near the monkey forest itself. A little troupe of macaques can sometimes be seen foraging in the mango trees outside or performing trapeze-style on the PLN wires.

Doris, Mate!

Dining über-casual the other night at Warung In-Salt on Jl Pantai Balangan at Ungasan turned into a better experience than ever. Tony Eltherington, aka Doris Day for reasons that are still not fully explained but who is the diary’s favourite mariner for all sorts of reasons his modest approach to achievement forbids him to boast or boost, was also there and in fine style.

He was shore-based at the time but told us he was shortly back off to his floating home, a nicely fitted out former West Australian crayfish boat, for its next tour of duty to the Mentawai Islands and beyond with surfing-diving-fishing fans in tow.

He gave us one of his new corporate T-shirts as a memento. It’s a fetching black and has a logo which – from a distance – resembles that of a particularly sought-after brand of motorbike that goes vroom in an expensively classy way.

Bombast Away!

The risk Bali faces of slipping behind in the race to win market share in the highly competitive international tourism market has lately come to the fore as a topic of official conversation. That this has been primarily in a constructive sense is a significant benefit. Applied analysis beats boring bombast any time, as an indicator of which of the paths thus far less travelled should in fact be chosen.

State reform minister Yuddy Christiano recently said that despite Bali’s popularity there were still areas that required improvement, among them measures to avoid the slightest risk of not providing the best service. That’s a fair point. It depends on the view of the tourists concerned what service can be defined as best. But most people want things that work efficiently and on schedule.

Over to Bali tourism head Anak Agung Gede Putra Yuniarta, who points out that the key to maintaining visitor levels and providing a better experience in spite of rising costs lies in creativity and services.

His list of must-do’s includes creating tour packages that show visitors more of Bali and encourage repeat business, enough electricity, road infrastructure that gets tourists to and from their ooh and aah places without giving them a headache or a conniption, and improving the environment of tourism sites.

He also notes that domestic tourists these days can visit Singapore and Malaysia and spend less doing so than if they came to Bali.

In this context, efforts to build up the nascent Indian tourism trade would be boosted by direct flights to Bali and free visas. Figures for January and February this year show 17,400 Indian tourists visited, up 47.5% on the same months last year.

It seems Indian tourists are impressed with the artistry and customs of Balinese Hinduism and yoga is a modern cultural connection. There was a conference in Nusa Dua on Mar. 26-28 from which further Indian media promotion was expected.

Free visas are certainly an issue. The government last year expanded the list of countries for which VOA charges would be removed and this year announced a further expansion, to 40 countries. Australia was on the first list but then wasn’t, the reason given being that it did not offer a reciprocal privilege to Indonesian travellers. Yes, well, perhaps someone was finding a plausible excuse after removing his foot from his mouth.

Now a court has ruled that free visas must be reciprocal or that they are otherwise illegal (apparently this is the intent of existing legislation). This is a further embarrassment for tourism minister tourism minister Arief Yahya. A significant number of countries on Jakarta’s fanfare of free visa felicities do not offer reciprocity. The dogs have been eating his homework yet again.

That’s the Spirit

The Bali Spirit Festival got under way in Ubud yesterday (Mar. 31) and runs until Sunday (Apr. 5). It’s in its eighth year. Like other song-and-dance shows on the calendar it may face problems in the future as the demographic of Bali tourism changes and Bali – inevitably – with this. But that shouldn’t worry inspirer-guru of the Global Celebration of Yoga, Dance & Music Meghan Pappenheim this year, or the happy-clapping collective which organizers said was expected to number 6000 and come from more than 50 countries.

There’s all the usual material at the festival’s two venues, one for the day-long workshops and the Agung Rai Museum of Art Open Stage for nightly world music concerts. Both venues also feature markets focusing on health and wellness through organic and healthy foods, crafts, clothing and merchandise.

But there was one item listed in an electronic promo that came our way about which we would be less than ecstatic if it was anything to do with us. It was something called Estatic Dance. Perhaps you stand rooted to the spot and fiddle with your cursor?

Hector tweets @scratchings. His diary appears in the print and online editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

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Uncategorized

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 2, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

On the Wrong Bus

An outbreak of gratuitous and unnecessary angst caught our eye the just before the 2014 Bali Spirit Festival got under way. It was said – by dog lady and artist Linda Buller of all people, on Facebook, the favoured resort of the whickering classes these days – that Spirit was not what Ubud was all about. Apparently this was because it brought in hordes of yoga practitioners who clogged the streets and seemed to wander around in a little world of their own.

Well, hello? If indeed they do, in that regard Spirit patrons are no different (in any essential that matters) from patrons of the other festivals that feature in the Ubud calendar. There’s little difference, for non-participants, between being obstructed by someone off with the yoga fairies and someone else (say) who is wandering the streets musing about literary things such as from where their next or possibly their first royalty payment is going to come.

Ubud is no longer what once it was. The same can be said about anywhere on the face of the planet. We’d recommend a trip to Leh in Ladakh for any doubters of this fundamental truth.

Nor is Ubud a community in which foreigners (or even Balinese or other Indonesians from elsewhere) can expect to have much of a say in political and social affairs. The early tambourine-bangers who colonized the village may have thought they had found a personal little Nirvana, or Shangri-la, but like any foreign colony anywhere, they were fooling themselves.

Ubud’s future, and Bali’s, depends ultimately on its Balinese. Wisely or not, they seem happy enough to profit from the desire of foreigners and others to buy up rice fields and build little palaces or more humble abodes. It’s that which is changing Ubud, not the Spirit Festival or any other esoteric navel-gazing interests.

It’s possible that Buller was just joshing us, in her Australian way. But in case she was serious, we repeat what we noted in the Diary of Mar.19: Meghan Pappenheim’s spirited baby is perfect for Bali and especially for Ubud, where if you ignore the big buses full of Chinese tourists seeking bric-a-brac you can in fact still almost smell the ether.

 

Watch Out for Spam

An announcement that the national government will invest in water infrastructure for South Bali in partnership with the provincial authorities, Denpasar city and Badung regency, is good news of a sort. The existing infrastructure is creaking, frankly in a terminal fashion.

The South Bali region has been included in Indonesia’s Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Economic Development (MP3EI) to improve existing infrastructure related to the provision of water. The region including Denpasar, Badung, Gianyar, Tabanan and Klungkung (and known in the Indonesian compound fashion as Sabargitaku) is recognised as an asset for the Bali/Nusa Tenggara corridor because it earns substantial revenue through tourism.

It has now apparently come to the attention of those who control the national budgetary strings that there has been pressure on the existing infrastructure of the area. Full marks are due then to Djoko Kirmanto, the Minister for Public Infrastructure, who has now noted that demand has reached unsustainable levels.

Under the Djoko Plan a new water supply system, draining system and sanitation program (delightfully, apparently it is to be known as SPAM) will be put in place to accommodate growing demand. It notes that one of the problems in the Sabargitaku region is the uneven distribution of water throughout the four areas. Well, there you go!

A total of Rp 344.3 billion will be invested from the national budget, Rp 97.5 billion from Bali’s provincial government budget and a further Rp 120.8 billion from the Denpasar and Badung regency budgets.

It would be good if that sort of money got into the pipeline and if quantities of it did not thereafter leach out en route to its functionally productive public destination.

 

K9 KO

Lizzie Love tells us the KK9 project she initiated at Kerobokan Jail has had to be canned, for reasons that have nothing to do with the value of the project, which was to give inmates an opportunity to bond with friendly dogs. Likewise, it had nothing to do with the prison authorities, who supported the program.

That’s sad for all concerned and especially for inmates who had already made friends with a particular dog. But as Lizzy tells us, the welfare of the dogs is paramount. Any uncertainty on that front is an automatic shut-down signal, quite properly.

The demise of this project turned out does not detract from the great work being done – by volunteers and inmates – in other areas at Kerobokan. KK9 may have been a misstep, but that’s all it was.

 

Greying Anatomy

Well, we know it. We’re, well, sort of part of it, really. But it’s good in a way to hear that Bali is set to boom in the coming years, with Australians looking for cheaper retirement options. That’s if they can get the pension too, of course. If they’re filthy rich and can afford to duck the restrictions attached to Australian age pensions, they’d be better giving Bali a miss in favour of someplace else where the gap between official and informal outlays and value for money on the services rendered is narrower.

According to something we saw in The Beat Daily recently Australians – who are now approaching retirement in record numbers courtesy of the post-World War II baby boom – are increasingly looking to Bali as a more affordable alternative. This intelligence reaches us via Matthew Upchurch, chief executive of luxury travel network Virtuoso.

It’s not surprising that Australians are looking at Bali as an affordable alternative to retiring in the Odd Zone. It’s close to home, but free of several irritants. If retirees stay home the nanny state and its overweening bureaucracy interest themselves in everything from their bank accounts to their daily motions.

Bali is gearing up to meet this emerging demographic in a range of areas, from medical tourism – where BIMC Hospital at Nusa Dua is pioneering new facilities – to retirement living on the pattern long ago established in Europe, such as a new facility being built by Sentosa Worldwide Resorts at Umalas.

It’s the coming thing, it seems.

 

Essential Research

You have to plan carefully and be sure not to overdo things, but the West Australians produce such good wine that no visit of a longer than fleeting nature would be complete without a visit to a winery.

Our own “local” vineyards are in the south-west, in the Margaret River and Pemberton wine regions. The fact that we’re there fairly frequently does not mean we can afford to miss updating current research at every available opportunity.

On our most recent trip we visited Aravina (it used to be Amberley) and Wise. We had lunch at Aravina, which is on Wildwood Road at Yallingup, and afternoon tea at Wise, which is in the Cape Naturaliste uplands and offers a delightfully Provencal outlook, complete with plane trees, north and east towards the waters of Geographe Bay.

The rose at Aravina and the moscato at Wise were alone worth the trips. At Aravina we doubled our benefit with a fabulous polenta dish and significant dessert. At Wise, we confined our culinary attention to a rather yummy flourless pear cake.

While we were in the area Noela Newton of Artisan Wines got in touch. She was heading to Margaret River and wondered if our schedules might match. Unfortunately they didn’t. But Artisan and Margaret River have a very close connection. That cannot be a bad thing.

Cheers!

 

Piecing it Together

Nina Karnikowski of The Sydney Morning Herald had some useful guidance for Australian readers recently, on what’s hot and what’s not in Bali. She did a Q&A with chef Chris Salans of Mozaic Restaurant Gastronomique in Ubud and Mozaic Beach Club at Batu Belig.

We’re of the same mind as Cordon Bleu trained Salans on at least one seminal Bali factor: Jajan pasar is a sweet treat not to be missed in any circumstances. It’s a regular feature of the household provisioning budget at The Cage.

Ours comes from the cake shop attached to Bali Jaya, a locally owned supermarket on Jl. Raya Uluwatu at Bukit Jimbaran where the Diary is happily on smiling and chatting terms with the lovely lady proprietor. It’s where we buy our Indonesian wine and whisky and those things in packets of 20 that in most places nowadays you’re not even allowed to think about, let alone mention in polite company.

Salans has been living in Bali since 1995 and will be a double-decader next year. Perhaps that’s why he likes Lawar Nyawan, a traditional Balinese salad that features bee larvae as its chief ingredient. He concedes that it may be an acquired taste.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

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Bali Indonesia

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.