HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Apr. 17

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

The Joke: 1

One looks for good news, in a diary such as this, so as to record – poorly no doubt in the eyes of many – the little illuminations that lighten one’s days on the Island of the Gods. Occasionally one is rewarded. And so it is in this edition, with the delicious “sting” on the stingers at the Lio Square Police Post at Kerobokan. For it was there, as thousands of YouTube viewers have now seen while rolling on the floor laughing their arses off, that a Dutch journalist with a video camera recorded the police extorting him for the serious crime of riding his motorbike while failing to wear a helmet.

The law states that motorbike riders and passengers must wear helmets. This is eminently sensible. It is only because the majority of motorbike riders in Bali are eminently insensible – foreigners as well as locals – that so many do not bother. Mostly, unless of course it’s national fine day or they’re suddenly short of lunch money, the police don’t bother either, especially with locals who couldn’t possibly pay the extortionate bribes demanded of defaulters.

Tourists (ubiquitously defined as any foreigner, whether or not they live here) are of course a prime target. It is assumed they can be dragooned into paying up instead of saying piss off, when nabbed by the traffic cops. They surmise, for the most part correctly, that a tourist won’t know that the best answer to a gouging cop is to say “write the ticket”, since these can be paid at any sub-district police station and is on the official record. (It may still end up as someone’s lunch money but by then it’s not your problem.)  Traffic police probably think it’s a safe bet most tourists won’t have the police anti-corruption office number in their mobile phone. And maybe they think none of them will have the presence of mind to take a snap of them (with name and number) on that phone.

We watched the video (and rolled on the floor laughing our arse off). We got another great laugh a little later, when we heard the proposal – it was short-lived for rather obvious reasons – that the police were considering charging the Dutch journalist with bribing a policeman. If the expression pack of clowns should occur to readers in relation to any of the foregoing, then that seems only fair.

But for our money the best bit of the video, aside from the little cameo where the bandit in the identity-obscuring yellow vest says cheerily of the Rp200K he’s collected, “100 for beer and 100 for my government”, was the continuous footage of helmetless locals riding past the Lio Square police post completely unmolested by traffic police bent on enforcing the law.

The Joke: 2

The Dutch journalist who did us all a service outing the robber cops at Lio Square (five months ago according to the Badung police chief, as if that makes any difference) also filmed at the airport, in somewhat similar circumstances. We haven’t seen that video, since we are under strict medical orders not to laugh too much all at once. But we did hear a lovely story the other day from a returning temporary resident. It concerns cheese.

The lady, who is of a certain age and had travelled alone from Queensland’s Gold Coast via a same-day transit stop in Kuala Lumpur, was armed with a quantity of this delightful staple in her baggage. Like so many of us, she sensibly tries to use her SEBs (Short Essential Breaks) to restock her fridge with the fermented product of lactating cows that hasn’t cost an arm and leg by being purchased through the Criminally Expensive Retail Cheese Supply Cartel.

She duly declared on her customs form that she was carrying food products. She was required to open her luggage. The cheese was discovered by the two customs officers on the scanner to which she had been directed. One told her she had far too much cheese and she could buy it locally. He demanded a truly extortionate amount of money to overlook the offence, or else would take her to the office at the back where, she was invited to assume, even greater extortionate demands awaited her and trouble with the law might ensue.

She did try to argue (pointedly, at which juncture the second customs officer present apparently deemed discretion to be the better part of valour and left the scene) but it had been a long and tiring day. In the end, rather than saying cheerily, “Oh look, that little camera thingy in the ceiling has just whirled around to look at you,” she paid the man Rp300K to shut him up. Well, we’ve all been there. Sometimes the hassle is just too much. But we would like to see a customs form on which it is clearly stated that bringing in cheese for personal consumption is a limited concession, and to what maximum quantity.  If we ever find one, we’ll let you know.

Incidentally, and this will interest author Kathryn Bonella, it must not have been snowing in Bali that evening. Three unkempt Ecuadorians clad in “Yeah, I’m a Surfer” gear and toting bulging backpacks sauntered unchecked through customs control just ahead of her. We’re sure they were perfectly legit and we’re not overly enamoured of profiling as a detection method. But given drug smuggling and its primary South American origin is a rather more serious problem than overindulgence in cheese one does wonder why they weren’t targeted for executive attention.

Perils of Groupthink

You’re never far from best friends these days, even on what is now fast becoming the dinosaur of communications, the SMS. This point was proved late on one recent weekend evening, when the Hec Phone bleeped and advised: “If it’s raining is Plan B brekky at the Rare Pear at 7am?”

Since the message came from faraway Brisbane, we didn’t know. But since it was from a svelte delight who lives in the old home town and who has held the title of Hector’s Fave Blonde unchallenged for 20 years, we thought we should inquire.

So on the Monday morning, we texted back: “Was it raining? So sorry I couldn’t put in an appearance.”

A series of further exchanges took place. They went like this:

Fave Blonde: “Sorry about that – you must have got caught up in one of my group emails. I go for walkies with my gym buddies every Sunday morning at 6am up Mt Gravatt – if it’s raining, we always go to the gym and then meet for brekky.  Fortunately, it was not raining, we did our walk, had brekky, then I did some shopping before catching up with [a mutual friend] for a movie, then to the Max Brenner Chocolate shop where we had strawberries dipped in chocolate with a Kangaroo Cup cappuccino (mine on skinny milk, of course) with a sliver of chocolate on the side and liquid chocolate drizzled on top… hence the 4km walk at the beginning of my day!”

Hec: “No worries! It all sounds fun (except the big walk at the beginning),”

Fave Blonde: “That stops me from feeling guilty about the chocolate.”

Mission accomplished. Favourite blondes should never be made to feel guilty.

Think Pink

Hector is going pink for the day on Sunday, April 28, along with a lot of other people. You should too, dear reader, because breast cancer prevention, early detection and timely and affordable treatment are vitally important. The occasion is the fifth Bali Pink Ribbon Walk, being held at Nusa Dua. Trot off is at 4pm from the grounds of the Bali Tourism Development Corporation offices in the Manicured Area, but the event itself commences at 2.30. Walk Tickets are priced at Rp 150K for adults, Rp 75K for students (these tickets include a free Walk T-shirt) and children under 12 are free and can buy walk T-shirts on the day.

This year’s event is extra special because the new Pink Ribbon House in Kuta is Indonesia’s first breast cancer support centre. On April 25 there will be a free breast health seminar at the Support Centre organised by Philips Healthcare Singapore. Radiotherapy specialists from the Allen Walker Cancer Care Centre at Royal Darwin Hospital led by centre director Professor Michael Tenniment will speak on the effect of radiation on breast cancer patients and on April 28 will take part in the walk.

Bali Pink Ribbon Walk founder Gaye Warren tells us that after Walk Day a team of breast health doctors from Singapore, led by Dr Feliciana Tan, is taking a mobile ultra sound screening unit around the island to offer free breast screening to women in remote areas, in a project coordinated by Bali Pink Ribbon and its medical advisers.

We hear an official opening of the new Support Centre is slated for October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2013 around the world. For walk details: web balipinkribbon.com,  email  balipinkribbon@gmail.com, telephone +62816295815 or +62816966251.

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly Bali Advertiser newspaper and on the newspaper’s website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets @scratchings.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, April 3, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

In the Pink as Always

Gaye Warren of Bali Pink Ribbon tells us this year’s fundraising walk – on April 28 at Nusa Dua – will be better than ever, and even more fun. We’re going along for our annual outing in fetching pink and to walk the 5km track out and back from the grounds of the Bali Tourism Development Corporation headquarters.

The BPR team is looking for at least 500 walkers for the 2013 walk, distinguished by being the first since the opening this year of Pink Ribbon House in Jl Dewi Sri at Kuta. The event, complete with eclectic food stalls serving fare provided by international hotels, opens at 2.30pm with an entertainment programme including music and a prize draw. The walk itself commences at 4pm, after the heat of the afternoon. It’s in its fourth year.

The Pink Ribbon Walk is the major event to raise funds to continue and expand the education programme and also to implement patient support programmes at Pink Ribbon House. These programmes are new and in great demand as breast cancer is a threat to many disadvantaged Balinese women who otherwise might not be diagnosed. Breast cancer checks will be available at the event.

Why not put together a team for the walk? Tickets cost Rp150K for adults and Rp.750K for students, Children under 12 walk free. Details are available on the web at balipinkribbon.com, by email at balipinkribbon@gmail.com, and telephone +62816295815 or +62816966251.

No Nookie!

Doubtless the happy trippers of the national assembly who are looking at criminal codes in the EU as part of their essential non-internet research into proposed revisions of the Indonesian code will be asking their liberal, democratic European hosts how they deal with the horrific practice of unlicensed nookie. For our fine legislators propose to punish this heinous offence, upon its detection by the prophylactic squad, by sending the participants to jail.

The suggestion – we heard it from Justice and Human Rights Ministry director Wahiddin – is that people found to have engaged in premarital sex could be jailed for five years while it will also be illegal for unmarried couples to live together. They would get up to one year in jail. Presumably the new code and its penalties will also apply to extramarital sex. That could lead to even more cells being occupied and lots of offices being vacated. The former would be a bad thing. The latter has its attractions.

Apparently the revisions to the criminal code, especially those related to the fact that large numbers of Indonesians choose to have sex with each other, are necessary because the present code does not reflect Indonesia’s societal norms. Wahiddin’s view was supported by a legislator from the People’s Conscience Party, Syarifuddin Sudding, who said: “I think it would be good if this is regulated.”

We think it’s a good thing we read this rubbish. If we’d missed it, we’d never have known it was National Nonsense Day.

Erection News

Bali is in the midst of an erection campaign. Some people have even noticed this and are beginning to suggest that the island might lose large parts of its unique character – not to mention tourists – if we persist in the maniacal project to turn lots of it into something resembling Jakarta.

Governor Pastika is to be counted among this happy band of better-futurists. It’s a shame that like provincial leaders everywhere in the country he is effectively sidelined on developmental questions because planning (ha!) and building permissions reside with the districts (regencies) and their leaders. These subordinate gentlemen – insubordinate is a better term – believe they owe only notional tutelage to governors.

None the less, erection campaigns are always worth watching. This is because they are invariably accompanied by pie in the sky. It’s the essential ingredient, something like the mystery herbs and spices in Colonel Sanders’ chicken dinners.

The latest soup de jour is a project for a monorail that will connect all regencies in Bali. This is being evaluated by a Chinese railway operator. It is a worthy successor to the round-island railway scheme that got an outing in 2009 and which was to follow the road system. This was to avoid expensive land acquisition, though the Simpang Siur shemozzle is a useful example of the swingeing cost of a clumsy non sequitur, and was being evaluated by Indian railway tycoons. They have long since gone away for a curry-puff break.

Picking up the Tempo

A little note from the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival – it was on their Facebook, a prime resource for distantly disfavoured delvers into the mysteries of life on Janet DeNeefe’s literary hillside – tells us Goenawan Mohamad will make an appearance at this year’s festival, from Oct. 11-15.

That’s really great news. Goenawan Mohamad is a poet and man of letters and founder of what is unarguably Indonesia’s best as well as its most politely pugnacious current affairs magazine, Tempo.

He was listed as 1999 International Editor of the Year by World Press Review magazine and in 2006 was one of four journalists to receive the Dan David Prize. Three US$1 million awards are made each year by the Israel-based Dan David Foundation established in 2000 with a US$100 million endowment by the Romanian-born international businessman and philanthropist Dan David. The first awards were handed out in May 2002.

Goenawan’s latest books of poetry are Don Quixote (2011) and 70 Puisi (70 Poems). His plays are published in Tan Malaka dan Tiga Lakon lain.

The festival dates are Oct. 11-15. The event was rescheduled to avoid clashing with a much less literary gabfest, the 2013 APEC Summit being held at Nusa Dua in October.

Making a Difference 

There’s an interesting exhibition coming up this month at the Ganesha Gallery at Four Seasons Resort Jimbaran. It will show works by five Bali-based female artist and raise money for the Senang Hati Foundation, a charity based at Tampak Siring near Ubud which has been looking after disabled Balinese since 2003.

The exhibition – The Power of Creative Women – is the fourth such collaboration over the past 10 years. The five artists are Ida Ayu Wiadnyani Manuaba, Putu Suriati, Kartika Sudibia, Nina Packer and Cheryl Lee. The exhibition opens on April 23, Kartini Day, which celebrates the birth date of Raden Ajeng Kartini, regarded as the founding figure of the still extant struggle for women’s rights in Indonesia.

Works by the artists will be auctioned on the night with all proceeds donated to the foundation.

Happy Birthday

Way back in 2004, when Made Wijaya was just into his fifties, Sydney writer Eric Ellis suggested him as number one of the eight best things to see in Bali. His MW brief of nine years ago, published in The Sydney Morning Herald, is worth reprising here:

The Naughty Made Wijaya: There’s a school of Australian visitors to Bali who like their footy, beer and burgers and don’t fully realise they’ve left Australia when they lob in their Kuta flophouse. At the other extreme, there are those who go the whole cultural hog and behave as if they were Balinese in a former life, and sometimes even this one. Made Wijaya likes to have a go at both of them – and all permutations in between – usually via his entertaining website http://www.strangerinparadise.com and his monthly magazine, The Poleng. Both are well worth viewing before you fly north. Born Michael White and a one-time Sydney tennis pro, Wijaya swam ashore to Bali from a yacht in 1973 and he has been there ever since. He is now a successful architect and resort designer but, most entertaining of all, an often acerbic social commentator. He can be too easily dismissed as a flake by his critics but that is to decry his skills as a linguist – he is one of the few long-term foreigners on the island to learn Balinese – and expertise on Hindu culture. Wijaya holds court at Villa Bebek (Duck House). Visit his site and drop him a line. If he decides he likes you, he might even respond.

These days The Stranger is published monthly in Now Bali magazine. It’s always worth reading and the stranger the better works for us. We read him regularly even though we’d end up in the soup if we went to the Duck House.

It was Wijaya’s birthday on March 22. He was 60 and was celebrating not only that milestone but also 40 years in Bali. He did so with a special showing of the movie The King and I. He likes the film, he says, because the Hollywood costume worn by star Yul Brynner shows sartorial descent from formerly royal attire of Java.

Hector’s Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser’s fortnightly print edition and on its website http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector tweets @scratchings.