That Other Kuta

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Lombok / Bali

Oct. 26, 2016

 

IT’S quieter and rather less crowded than Kuta Bali, though it has grown a little. There’s something that resembles a main street with an Indomaret supermarket and a few other junior emporiums. The warungs along the beach, those symbols of entry-level Indonesian tourism entrepreneurship, where once you could sit and watch the waves over a cold beer, have been cleared away in the future interests of the rather grand Mandalika development. But Kuta Lombok is great at the moment if you’re not looking for crowded bars packed with people out for a good time.

We weren’t when we spent a lovely week there earlier this month. It’s been a favourite place for a decade and a half, since we first stayed at the then nearly new Novotel Lombok in 2001 on a side trip from Bali. We’ve made a point of returning now and then, when we need some down time.

So, we did basically nothing except sit on the Novotel’s pristine beach in a berugak – think balé (gazebo) – watching the tide coming in or going out and occasionally dipping in for a float. Except we ate, rather more than is our custom, but that was nice too because as part of the Accor chain the Novotel does alimentary things in a delightfully semi-French fashion. It was so good that the Diary didn’t even really mind that the Wi-Fi struggled to reach the beach. The fruit sate sticks for elevenses and the mid-afternoon cakes got there.

In the rooms and the rest of the resort the Wi-Fi’s fine. That modern hazard – being obstructed by off-in-fairyland wanderers holding their smart phones and staring at them – must be dealt with. Just learn the words for “excuse me” in, say, 10 of the most widely spoken languages among Novotel guests, and you’ll generally get by; even if it’s sometimes tempting to use the full suite all at once.

Our morning walk program was a talking point. As in Bali, no one walks anywhere. They hop on their scooters to idle 50 metres up the road. Walking for recreation or in the interests of the arteries appears to be something only mad bules do. Several times lovely people even suggested that perhaps we were jogging.

We dropped in on Senggigi – after Cakranegara for fabric shopping – before the R&R in the south, and had dinner with local identity Peter Duncan and his wife Wiwik Pusparini at Taman restaurant, and stayed overnight in a nice room at Howard Singleton’s beachside establishment The Office, at the Art Market.

Hurry Up and Wait

Our return from Lombok was not without misadventure. We’d flown to Lombok with Wings and that went swimmingly, even if it did include the usual diddling about doing circles over the Wallace Line to make the flight worth making, or perhaps longer. We flew back with Lion, a little tardily, for very late-advised “operational reasons”, that class of excuse that brooks no inquiry. Just to add pedas (spicy) to panas (hot), first we were to fly only three hours late, and then it turned out to be nearly five.

Flight delays were not confined to Lion Air. They resulted from regular closure of Ngurah Rai to all except emergency landings for evenings from Oct. 2 to Dec. 26, as notified by international aviation regulators. The runway needs a bit of work and this is being done, if the contractors bother to turn up. The point is, surely, that since this is a lengthy term of mandatory closure, airlines should have adjusted their schedules accordingly. Well, never mind. This is Indonesia. Once, long ago when Lombok’s airport was still at Selaparang in Mataram, we were also delayed, though not for quite so long, by an apparently unforeseen event at Ngurah Rai. They told us then that the president was on the runway.

Lion had been on our personal No Fly paper since 2013, when the flight crew on one of its Boeing 737-800s selected a dubious preference for the briny over the somewhat firmer properties of tar-macadam and landed in Jimbaran Bay instead.

We think the airline has since then secured the services of flight crews equipped to recognise runways and understand their benefits and who will remember to adjust autopilot parameters in time. But on this occasion it would have been tempting to swim home.

So Sad

The deaths of nine people – three of them children – in the collapse of the suspension bridge linking Nusa Lembongan with its smaller sister island, Ceningan, on Oct. 16 are tragic. What’s also tragic is the sequence of events leading up to the deadly occurrence.

Duty of care is not a term – or a principle for that matter – that resonates in Indonesia. The islands are in Klungkung regency (as is the larger island of Nusa Penida) but the district government’s divan is in Semarapura (also called Klungkung) on Bali’s mainland, where it apparently relies on karma to run things.

It was Full Moon, a sacred time for Balinese Hindus. A large devotional procession was crossing the bridge when its cables snapped and the walkway collapsed into the narrow channel that separates the islands. A sign warning that the bridge was unsafe for large numbers of people at one time had been put up two days beforehand. Either this was not read, or it was read and ignored, as most such notices are.

But if the bridge was unsafe in overloaded conditions – and plainly it was: cables rarely snap without provocation – then the authorities should have ensured it wasn’t overloaded. Bali’s traditional system of village guards (Pecalang) is ideally equipped to manage crowds and ensure compliance. They don’t miss a trick at Nyepi: show a light for an instant after dark on Silent Day and you’re cactus.

Some lateral thinking – actually, any thinking – by the regency government appears to be rather desperately needed. The bridge collapsed once before, in Feb. 2013, in a bit of a fresh breeze.

An appeal was launched in Australia to raise funds to help the victims of the collapse.

One Word, Seven Letters, Starts with ‘B’

Elizabeth Henzell of Villa Kitty wrote a dispiriting note on her Facebook on Oct. 16. It speaks for itself so here it is:

“I am so disgusted with humans that feel their need is more than someone else’s! How do they know! Villa Kitty’s tireless admin assistant, Metha, has had her Samsung phone stolen – from Villa Kitty! Who would do that? Who would steal from (a) a yayasan/animal welfare centre or (b) someone who works for a yayasan/animal welfare centre! We have had food stolen, my phone has been stolen, money stolen, medical supplies, by people with NO morals! I am truly sick of it!”

We’re all sick of it, Elizabeth. It’s that other real Bali, the one that doesn’t rate a mention in the feel good fluff stuff.

Happy Snapper

Bali-based British photographer Michael Johnsey, whose faces, sunsets and skyscapes particularly engage The Diary, won deserved acclaim – and 20 per cent of sale prices for the charity Solemen Indonesia – at the opening night of his exhibition Life in Bali, at Bridges in Ubud on Oct. 15.

It was a packed house for the event, he tells us. It’s such a shame we weren’t there. The marathon seven-hour return wait-and-flight to Bali from Lombok the previous evening did terrible things to the schedule at The Cage. Johnsey notes:

“What a great opening event. A packed house. Thank you all at Bridges for making it such a great success. Life In Bali is off to a pretty good start.”

His photographic works are on display at Bridges, so if you’re in Ubud get along there and have a look. It’ll be worth it, we guarantee. We’ll drop in ourselves this week, while we’re in Ubud on literary matters.

Lash Out

Those who apparently desire that Indonesia should become Untustan (untu is camel in Bahasa Indonesia) have been having a field day lately. Aside from public canings for promiscuity and other elective activity defined as sinful in Aceh – caning is a legitimate penalty under Aceh’s Sharia law – Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has been the target of mobs over his alleged blasphemy against Islam. Blasphemy is an offence under Indonesian law.

The governor, usually known by his Indonesian familiar name Ahok, isn’t a Muslim. He’s a Christian, a Chinese Indonesian, and appears to be doing quite a good job as civic leader of Indonesia’s capital city. There’s more socio-political polemic than inter-religious dispute in his current problems.

A quatrain by the mediaeval Islamic scholar Omar Khayyám comes to mind: “As far as you can avoid it, do not give grief to anyone. Never inflict your rage on another. If you hope for eternal rest, feel the pain yourself; but don’t hurt others.” It’s a shame that this useful aide-memoire is never handed out to the mobs along with the nasi bunkus (wrapped rice).

Last Word

The 2016 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival starts today (Oct. 26) and runs to Oct. 30. Hindu obsequies for the late Made Wijaya (Michael Richard White) will be held at Sanur on Nov. 9.

HectorR

Hector’s Dairy is published in the on line and print editions of the fortnightly newspaper the Bali Advertiser

Something’s Missing

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Bali, Aug. 3, 2016

Young Australians and alcohol have a habit of not mixing very well. It’s a part of the national kaleidoscope that fractures the preferred public image of the land down under and reveals the reality of Australia today. It’s not only the blokes, though it seems to be mostly them, perhaps a tedious product of the testosterone to brain imbalance that marks certain kinds of young men everywhere. Young women on a blinder are an ugly sight as well.

It’s not just an Australian problem, though that’s the bit of it that’s most visible in Bali. It is a Western or Western-influenced phenomenon, fuelled by relative wealth – relatively, that is, against global means – and these societies’ inability or unwillingness to insist on individual common sense, or to instil a sense that obligation is the necessary obverse of entitlement. You don’t have to be a reactionary neo-con to press that point. Karl Marx puts it nicely.

Hedonism as such is valuable, since it reflects the fact that all life is not necessarily solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short in the Hobbesian sense. There’s nothing wrong with having fun. But you do need a functioning conscience and a degree of social awareness to enjoy yourself sensibly; and as we too frequently see, these attributes are often missing in those infantile idiots who come to notice.

We are all apt to be foolish at times, particularly when not fully formed. There’s a week in London in 1965, for example, that your diarist simply has never been able to remember, though it certainly didn’t involve brawling on a plane. But even unremembered, it is a continuing once-only lesson. It’s better not to be a bloody idiot.

There was an altercation on a Jetstar flight from Australia to Phuket in Thailand recently. It was one of such blind stupidity that the aircraft captain felt compelled to divert his flight to Bali, where the miscreants were offloaded and handed over to the authorities.

One of this dopey collective later told his friends on Facebook of the events, in a way that clearly showed he hadn’t learned a thing from the booze-fuelled affray, which even if not a participant he had failed to stop. He possibly doesn’t know what contrition is and probably couldn’t spell the word anyway. It was a lol, he said, that they’d been taken off the plane at Ngurah Rai at gunpoint. Yair, mate, lots of laughs! Did your conscience prick you over the expense and inconvenience you caused? Nah; didn’t think so.

Come back and see Bali properly when you and your friends have grown up. That’s if you ever do.

Meowvellous

Villa Kitty at Lodtundah near Ubud is Rp35 million better off – essential funds needed to refurbish the premises – after a very successful benefit night on Jul. 21. That’s good news. Elizabeth Henzell at VK does a great job in a much-needed area of animal welfare. Villa Kitty is now just Rp10 million short of the total it needs to complete its refurbishment.

By all accounts it was a great night at Indus, the Janet DeNeefe eatery with the great view of the green spaces around Ubud. The night was marked by the first appearance in Ubud of chief VK benefactor Robert Elliot, who has been funding the NGO from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast since 2009. He got a loud collective purr for his presence.

Villa Kitty’s Facebook page has the full honours list from the night, but we’d like to especially mention Marta Valbuena, who not only donates a percentage of sales of her designer clothes – the girls say they’re fabulous – to Villa Kitty but is also frequently seen around Ubud on her motorbike on street feeding missions for needy dogs and cats. These days she rescues kittens as well as puppies.

Henzell has had extra volunteer support recently, which also bears mention as an example of people’s kindness. She tells us a young woman named Nancy appeared out of the blue one day and asked if she could help. She then spent three days doing just that. Henzell notes: “It was so much fun to have someone to chat to in my ‘office’.”

Regular VK supporter Lyn Dargan has made a new range of Villa Kitty T-shirts, by the way. They’re available at Villa Kitty.

SMILES

Above: One of the images in Michael Johnsey’s photographic exhibition at Odd, Canggu

Time Traveller

It used to be said that photographs never lie. This was never the case, of course; it was merely another example of the multitude of ways humans can find to fool themselves or others. The point at the time was that while words may be crafted to obscure truth, and frequently are, a photograph is as close to the actuality of something as it is possible to get.

Then along came Photoshop and other means of altering digital data. Two digits instantly went up to veracity. Don’t believe everything you read (or by extension see) on the Internet, as several funny memes claim Abraham Lincoln once advised. From this we must presume he did so only some time after his fatal meeting with the actor John Wilkes Booth at the Ford Theater in Washington on the night of Apr. 15, 1865. We must assume further, one supposes, that there is an afterlife in which the dearly departed actually bother about us at all. That is something that requires additional suspension of belief. But no matter: all that’s for many more millennia of debate; or, perhaps, the return of the prodigal souls.

On a more immediate and essentially temporal level, it is said that Bali is a place of vastly different parallel realities. This is certainly true. There is the “real Bali”, which tourists and enthusiasts are invited to explore among the peasants of the rice fields and woodlands. If in the party crowd in another “real Bali” – the party Bali – there are individuals who care, the ancient rites of Balinese Hinduism can still be experienced in the traditional villages and banjars of the overrun south.

There’s a third “real Bali”. That’s the real Bali of developers and their publicly employed facilitators, that acquisitive cabal whose privileged and protected members will bend any rule they can’t just ignore so that like Ozymandias they can put up things that the elements and deficient engineering will then destroy. Though in Bali this tends to take rather less time than monumental self-statuary in the Egyptian desert would consider anywhere near acceptable.

Happily, there are opportunities to escape from immediate reality, even if only temporarily, and to immerse oneself in the art and skill of photographers whose craft permits them to magically capture moments in time. There are many such moments in Bali and some of these have been depicted in the work of Bali-based British photographer Michael Johnsey.

He has an exhibition at Odd, a gallery in Canggu. It’s titled Moments, opened on Jul. 29, and runs through to Aug. 11. Johnsey says that photographs are not only images but also soulful. They capture the moment and invite reflection on all manner of things. The works are stunning. Do get along to the show if you can.

Best Practice

BIMC Hospital Nusa Dua, which in October 2014 won international accreditation from the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards International, has just passed (with flying colours) its mandatory periodic review by the ACHSI. When it won initial endorsement two years ago it was one of only two hospitals in Southeast Asia to hold that status, and the only one in Indonesia.

In the latest review, done by the ACHS’s assessors, Dr Maria Strickland and Professor Marc Tennant, the hospital achieved “mastery” level from the initial survey. The review is an on-site analysis and survey aimed at maintaining the accreditation standards for continuous improvement in quality, safety and service. The ACHSI provides a range of accreditation services applying to the specific needs of each organization, using internationally recognized standards that are focused on key health care attributes.

The Australian Council on Healthcare Standards is recognized as the leading health care accreditation body in Australia and now provides an overseas quality healthcare accreditation program through ACHSI, which was established in 2005.

We Break a Rule

Back in the old, dim, distant days, when self-promotion was viewed as vulgar, journalists wrote about the news rather than insisting on being part of it, and editors’ names were hardly never known and, if they were, were almost never mentioned, an event such as this might never have occurred.

We make an additional appearance in the Aug. 3 edition of the Bali Advertiser, in the excellent Siapa column, where locally based persons judged to be of interest appear and answer questions about their life and times. It is Hector’s first such outing in half a century of scribbling. He generally prefers the quiet calm of The Cage and almost always insists on someone placing his nighty-night cloth over it when anything resembling limelight is judged an imminent risk.

HectorR Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly newspaper the Bali Advertiser