HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 16, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Keep them at Bay

Made Wijaya, the go-to Bule for behind-the-friezes analysis of Bali society and what really makes it tick, has some very sensible things to say, in his latest Stranger in Paradise column, about the excrescence Governor Made Mangku Pastika and Jakarta business tycoon Tomy Winata wish to visit upon the precious marine environment of Benoa Bay.

Among them was this, a quote he gave The Sydney Morning Herald, whose Indonesian correspondent Jewel Topsfield has been following the story of the proposed vandalism of the bay:

“The Balinese are fed up and they are finally unifying to express protest against rampant development. Imagine filling in Sydney Harbour — it’s pretty radical. It’s going to become like, heaven forbid, South Florida, with fake waterways and cheesy houses. And the last thing we need is more traffic in South Bali. It’s mindless, environmental vandalism.”

He also noted this, of the massive local demonstrations on Feb. 28, including those authorized by the Benoa village authorities and its constituent banjars, with one of which we have a close personal connection:

“As a guest in this country, I can’t go out marching, as I would like to. As an environmentalist — and as a lover of real, not real estate Balinese culture — I feel obliged to write about these threats to the environment. Some Balinese have suggested that taking on Jakarta developers is like taking on the mafia. The Balinese used to believe that it is better to roll with the punches and just get on with the show, their ceremonial show, rather than wetting their pants over things that can’t be changed. But not any more.”

Like Wijaya, Hector is a guest and can’t go out protest marching. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to.

Hats Off to Them

We enjoyed a nice night out on Mar. 4, at the Fairmont Sanur where the ROLE Foundation and Bali WISE had a hat party to celebrate International Women’s Day. The traffic was horrendous – six changes at the traffic lights at the end of the tollway to get onto Bypass Ngurah Rai to Sanur, for all the usual incomprehensible reasons – but eventually we got there, parked (in the wrong place) and walked along the beach path to the Fairmont.

It was easy to spot ROLE founder Mike O’Leary in the crowd. His hat had big bananas on it. He looked nonplused when we greeted him thus: “Mr. Cavendish, I presume”. But when you’re the big banana on the night, you’ve naturally enough got a lot of things on your mind, so we forgave him.

We did not wear a hat. We look shocking in headgear of any sort. Neither did we win the raffle, but that too is the standard script. The Distaff took a hat with her but decided to leave it in the car. Fellow guests at our table were Amanda Csebik, of Indonesian Island Sail, who was hatless, and Muriel Ydo, formerly of ROLE, who had brought along a severe but really rather fetching 20-year veteran of her hatbox and put it on now and then. Deborah Cassrels, a fellow scribe we’ve known for more than two decades, joined us from her table after dessert and we all had a lovely chat.

O’Leary says the night, which featured a silent auction with some lovely options, was a great success. The dance displays were interesting, especially the samba, though it really wasn’t clear exactly what that had to do with empowering women. The feathers looked ticklish, which prompted a hastily erased thought. Many in the 100-strong crowd got out there and boogied. We stayed at our table and tried to make ourselves heard above the racket.

The Fairmont is a lovely property. We’ll have to go back in a quieter time.

Oh Buoy!

When that shallow magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the seabed south of Sumatra on Mar. 2, both the Indonesian and Australian authorities issued tsunami warnings. A wave did not eventuate and the warnings were later cancelled.

But none of the tsunami detection buoys expensively arrayed in the Indian Ocean off Sumatra after the 2004 Aceh disaster were working. Apparently their solar panels and other useful bits had been stolen by enterprising thieves who if apprehended – fat chance – would probably only concede, and that grudgingly, that they might just possibly be public nuisances.

Foreigners are frequently advised, sometimes forcefully, to remember that cultural differences exist between Indonesia and places where law enforcement agencies are properly resourced, their performance is regularly monitored, their reporting is timely and accurate within agreed tolerances, and their actual enforcement of laws is generally speaking OK. That’s always been a very thin argument, worthy of a hollow laugh, in a country whose ringmasters insist on its, and their, dignity being beyond dispute, but never mind.

In situations where petty thievery and supine enforcement endangers lives, however, no laughter is appropriate, hollow or otherwise. There is a point at which rampant venality becomes more dangerous joke than cultural proclivity.

The latest ferry sinking is another case in point. This one capsized on Mar. 4 in the narrow strait separating Java from Bali, fortunately with only low loss of life (there were five fatalities). Inquiries were made as a result of the accident. Doubtless some primary cause will eventually surface and may even be disclosed.

But no one would be surprised if the boat was overloaded when it left Gilimanuk for Banyuwangi, a 30-minute trip excusing the hours then spent floating around waiting to dock.

Please Explain 1

One of Klungkung Regency’s minor panjandrums got an unwelcome hurry-up the other day. Governor Pastika dropped in to ask awkward questions about, shall we say, some unauthorised fundraising for phantom projects. Perhaps it came as a surprise to the fellow that private enterprise wallet-stuffing on government time is frowned upon at the Governor’s office in Renon.

If so, that’s a very welcome little shaft of light from the heavens. Klungkung isn’t the only place on the island where nefarious is understood to spell opportunity, as an unrelated corruption probe in Badung sourly demonstrates, but it’s a start. The Balinese who exist lower down the food chain than wallet-stuffing panjandrums (that’s most of them) will possibly be pleased that the Governor has actually required something to be done about it.

Klungkung is Bali’s smallest mainland regency, though its regent’s realms include Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan across the Badung Strait. Its bureaucracy likes to do nothing much about a lot. A case in point is rabies, which is of course not really a problem at all as long as anyone who could actually help eradicate it, or at least reduce it by world recognized vaccination and humane sterilization based dog population controls, is kept out of Klungkung.

Please Explain 2

Badung Regency has declared South Kuta – the area that encompasses Tuban, Jimbaran and the Bukit peninsula – a red zone for rabies. They’ve done this, they say, on the basis of the many dogs in the area, not necessarily because of cases of canine rabies.

Why this should still be necessary eight years after the rabies outbreak began (on the Bukit where the authorities failed dismally to contain it) is problematic, or would perhaps seem so to people unversed in how things are done here. The thing being, of course, that things are only rarely done here. The subtext to the announcement, early in this month, is an excuse to kill more dogs in the arcane belief that this will reduce the rabies threat.

The issue is education, so that people learn and are helped to take care of their animals – including village dogs which have always been informally, collectively owned – and effective vaccination and sterilisation programs. Killing dogs is cruel and unnecessary. It is also profoundly counterproductive when they have been immunised against rabies and are thus an essential part of the defence against the invariably fatal disease. All this takes money and effort, and a clear sense of purpose.

It’s something you might think the local veterinarian association would be active in advocating, even if only because vets are supposed to be bound by a version of the Hippocratic oath that applies to human medicine. Do no harm.

We noted this, in relation to the ongoing rabies emergency, in the Diary of Dec. 9, 2015:

“Where is the provincial government in all of this? What is it doing to educate people about their responsibility for animals in their care? Nothing. It’s off finding further excuses for indolence. Where is the Association of Veterinarians Indonesia (PDHI) of Bali? Perhaps its chairman, veterinary doctor Made Restiani, would like to tell us when the PDHI will be back from being out to lunch.”

Apparently, it’s an astonishingly long lunch.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 20, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Snow Job

Kathryn Bonella, who knows a lot more about Bali’s drug scene than most people, including the police, dropped us a little line from Sydney after the last Diary, two weeks back, which took a view about the fate of convicted British drug-runner Lindsay Sandiford. Well, it’s nice to know we’re read so far afield. And in fact, Bonella’s thoughts were really no distance from our own, except that as the author of Snowing in Bali, the new book she’s written about the problem that just won’t go away, she knows far more about Sandiford than we do.

Bonella tells us she’s sure Sandiford is no innocent (abroad or otherwise) and that she’d done it all before. She makes the entirely reasonable point that drug bosses don’t have to coerce 56-year-old grannies or anyone else into doing a mule trip, since there are foolish people everywhere willing to take the risk in return for $10,000 and a tropical holiday. Sandiford’s story was, she says, just that: a compendium of terminological inexactitudes such as you would customarily find presented in court by some clod that finally got caught. Fair enough. We hold no brief for Sandiford other than to say she shouldn’t be executed since the death penalty is an abomination.

Bonella, who also gave us the Chronicles of Nah-Nah-Nahnihyah (better known as Schapelle Corby: Her Story) and Hotel Kerobokan – both eminently readable, excellently researched and important books – shares a view with the Diary that Sandiford was the patsy, the one player in the sick game who couldn’t pay and thus took the big rap. That’s interesting because, after the last item, we got some carefully anonymous correspondence from people suggesting that those who got six years, four years and one year in jail, respectively, had absolutely nothing to do with Sandiford. She just knew Julian Ponder, Paul Beales and Rachel Douglas (though in the circumstances now revealed, we might ask why) and named them as part of her deal with the cops.

That’s good then. We can cease to speculate about why two cars had to go all the way to Candi Dasa to pick up a kid’s birthday present.

Snowing in Bali should be translated into Bahasa Indonesia and published here, so those in a position to actually do something about the drug scene can fully inform themselves.

Hot Dish

The former I Hill, a bar-restaurant near the back entrance to Temple Hill at the top of the really bendy bit of Jl Raya Uluwatu at Bukit Jimbaran, closed its doors a little while ago. It probably did so since it couldn’t close its windows. There weren’t any.  And this meant that it was impossible to have a quiet drink because of the cacophonous struggles of defective and overloaded trucks to get up the hill, the amazingly noisy efforts of others, similarly challenged, desperately trying not to tumble down it, and the continuous scream and whine of motorbikes ridden by madmen.

It has been replaced by Made in China (perhaps the Jakarta owners got the name from the bottom of a plate) and has been remodelled. It now has windows at the front, as well as an air-conditioned dining room, and is a very pleasant spot. The cuisine is – somewhat naturally – predominantly Chinese. The food is good. The view – now you can gaze upon it without getting your eardrums burst – is magnificent. And even better still, its prices are on the reasonable side of quite low.

At the rear there’s a bar area. The evening we were there recently, with a friend scouting for somewhere suitably oriental to take his co-workers for lunch for Chinese New Year, the blackboard menu behind the bar suggested in big capital letters that patrons might want to “Pork It!” We were quietly pondering the engaging possibilities of this indelicate recommendation when we spotted an item that piqued immediate interest.

Chick in black soy sauce sounded just the trick for a hot night out.

Cold Comfort

An Aussie long-stay visitor who’s probably best staying nameless in the Diary asked an astonishing question on the Bali Community Facebook page recently: “Does anyone know of any nudie beaches or sunning spots? Either a drive from Ubud or Seminyak?”

She certainly did her cultural and social research well before alighting here determined to strip off in public.  There are plenty of places around the world where complete dishabille is fine on beaches; and there’s nothing wrong with that. But Bali isn’t one of them.

Monsoon Weeding

Rakesh Kapoor, general manager of a plush establishment at Tampak Siring and formerly of the much munched-at Mozaic at nearby Ubud, has given himself an unlikely 45th birthday present (a belated happy birthday for the 15th, mate) – he’s decided to swap the fresh air and flooded-to-schedule  rice fields of Bali for Kota Banjir, aka Jakarta.

It’s sad to see him go. We’ll miss him. And the small but perfectly formed Indian expatriate community here will be the poorer for his departure. But he’s been a Bali resident for 10 years – goodness, the Diary’s only up to nearly eight so far – and apparently the opportunity for change came knocking at his door. His new digs will be at Kemang in South Jakarta, well away from the flood-prone bit of the Big Durian. It’s certainly better to keep your shoes dry.

Kapoor has a nice little Daihatsu – a 4X4 diesel Taft, not a standard petrol-fuelled conveyance like Franny Feroza, the Diary’s venerable workhorse – and he’d like to sell it before he leaves Pandawas Villas Resort, which will be before Feb. 25. But he says he’ll only sell at his price.  It’s fully reconditioned inside and out and is a snip at Rp 70 million. We’d snap it up, but Franny would have a hissy fit if we did.

Dumb and…

A plaintive little post from a Bali-resident Facebook friend caught our eye the other day. It reported: “Can’t believe that my house cleaner stole a t-shirt out of my house and then wore it to work… it doesn’t get dumber, just when I thought I’d seen it all…”  Ah yes! The joys of living in a “What’s Yours is Mine” culture. We sympathise, really we do. And we’d dearly like to think, like the plaintive poster, that it couldn’t get dumber. But it doesn’t pay to be overly optimistic about that, here.

Great Group, Great Projects

It is cheering indeed to see that Muriel Ydo is 2013 President of BIWA, the Bali International Women’s Association. BIWA, which links foreign and Indonesian women in a service club environment and does sterling work in many areas, has been a fixture in the Bali landscape since 1974. As it says in its mission statement, it is a non-profit charity organisation devoted to the welfare of women and children in Bali. It is a forum for exchanging ideas and making friends while fundraising and carrying out social welfare projects.

BIWA focuses on HIV/AIDS awareness and combating its spread, on a mobile dental clinic, and on breast cancer programs, an important interest it shares with Bali Pink Ribbon. It is also involved in other projects, all of them aimed at improving the lives of Balinese people.

Ydo has a strong record in such work, having for a long time been deeply engaged in projects to help lift the poor villagers of Sawangan near Nusa Dua, and the unfortunate seaweed farmers of neighbouring Geger Beach, out of their hopeless poverty and educational and social disadvantage.

She told members at her first meeting as president: “Since its inception by seven fearless women in 1974, BIWA has brought light and joy into the lives of many families and succeeded in making a difference by doing simple things effectively.” Quite so – keep it up, ladies.

Blooming Lovely

We’re a gardening family, apparently, that strand of consanguineous DNA from which springs the McSquawky clan (name changed to protect the innocent). Some of the more important bits – like knowing what’s a weed and what isn’t – seem to have washed out of our own genes, but we have a cousin in Sydney (she’s a dinkum Aussie; the Diary is a mere migrant) who runs a great website called GardenDrum that highlights the beauty of nature in a home garden setting. It’s a delight, frequently venturing out of the garden and into the wild, and even to other continents.

Another cousin, in Scotland and also with a lovely garden, recently posted a photo of the first snowdrops to appear in her North Sea cliff-top sward ahead of spring. This reminded us – and it was apposite since it is three years since he left us to go and smell the flowers elsewhere – that Dad was an inveterate reporter of such things.

We children are widely dispersed, having formed our own little Diaspora. One is in Australia (there used to be two but guess where the other one is nowadays), one’s in the U.S., and one remained in the U.K. But every year, around this time, we could count on Dad letting us know the first snowdrop had appeared. Only in the later years did this advice arrive by email; it used to be fax or a phone call. And invariably, every year, the report was soon followed by another that stated “winter has returned”.

We lit an incense stick for him on Feb. 10. It offered its ash to the little pebble we brought home to Bali from his favourite Scottish beach and which resides in our Buddha bowl along with one (in fetching pink tones) that is Mum’s.

Boom-Boom

Someone told us a lovely little Indian joke the other day (no, it wasn’t Rakesh Kapoor). It goes like this: Two junkies accidentally snorted curry powder instead of cocaine. Both were taken to hospital. One was in a korma and the other had a dodgy tikka.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets @scratchings and is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky).