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HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

Bali Advertiser, Jun. 21, 2017

 

IT’S always good fun to read the local Bahasa language press, as well as informative. Some people like to criticise the media – well, no, everyone likes to do that – and that’s no less common in Indonesia than anywhere. One of the things about critics is that they always know how it could have been done better, or that you’ve missed the real story, possibly on purpose. In an earlier life, one of the Diary’s jobs was to write back to critical readers and gently massage their egos while telling them politely to go get a life. It was often a challenge and helped to fuel an addiction to caffeine from which we know we shall never recover.

For those accustomed to western newspaper reading – a dwindling band indeed – there is also the issue here of upside-down stories. Telling the story in the first eight paragraphs is essential for western readers. Most won’t even get that far these days, of course. But Indonesian journalism is far more circuitous. You often find the story in the last eight paragraphs.

So it was interesting early this month to read Radar Bali and other media on the great Akasaka Club drug raid. The police found 19,000 Ecstasy pills when they swept into the premises on the afternoon of Jun. 5. They had previously swept into the premises, on Jl. Teuku Umar in Denpasar, on several occasions to far less effect. But this time it was the real deal. The police chief, Inspector-General Petrus Reinhard Golose, said no one was above the law. This will have come as shocking news to the people who operate the Akasaka Club and those who, on all the evidence, have hitherto been protecting them.

It’s good news for everyone else, though, unless they’re also running drug dens. It’s a sign that Bali is no longer the un-policed bad lands of the drug-wild west, or at least that this is the intention.

One of the fictions that some people here are fond of circulating is that the drug abuse epidemic is a tourist thing, or at least that, like the rubbish used to, it comes from Java. It’s nothing of the sort, of course. It’s an element of modern Indonesian consumer life that, like the poor, will always be with us. But it can be curtailed by effective police intelligence and action, and certainly should be. Pill-poppers are not all low-life adults. Some of them – foreigners and locals alike – are basically still children. That’s where to stop it. This requires parental supervision of offspring as well as official deterrence.

It’s true that the misbehaviour envelope in shaped rather differently in Bali, given the island’s transient overburden of tourists and its unpleasant overlay of a cohort of expatriate residents who are here gouging money because they couldn’t make a buck (or anything else) in their own countries. So cutting out the supply chain, or at least radically reducing it, makes sense.

Bali’s circumstances also make the island a convenient staging post and supply centre for drugs destined for other places in Indonesia. It’s probably always going to be that way. But at least the Akasaka action will signal that open slather – the situation up to now, which everyone who could be bothered to know about knew about – is no longer something that will be just winked at or tolerated.

Four people, including the club manager, have been arrested and police investigations are continuing. Take a bow, General Petrus.

Giddy Aunts and Others

THE Bali DIVAS’ lunch at Cocoon, Seminyak, on Jul. 9, seemed to go off with the verve and pizazz we’ve come to expect of that décolleté collective. We weren’t there but some of our favourite ladies who lunch tell us MC Kerry Ball was on his best and most restrained behaviour. He is reported to have said “oh my giddy aunt” a couple of times, we gather. But that’s an expression that flies well below the social sound barrier. It won’t have shattered any windows.

Entertainment was by Sydney drag queen Polly Petrie and a friend, Marzi Panne. We’re told that Polly mislaid his eyelashes at one point, but you expect a bit of ungluing on lively occasions such as these and we’re sure he recovered his customary discomposure quickly. It’s the sort of thing for which giddy aunts, and drag queens, are renowned.

Debbie Amelsvoort tells us it was a fabulous day full of fun, laughs and – most importantly, as she puts it – incredible generosity from divas at the do. That’s what it’s all about, after all. The event was to raise funds for the village of Songan, at Kintamani, where a landslide in February killed 12 people, including two children.

The money will go towards long term improved education opportunities in Songan.

Well done, ladies. Christina Iskandar can feel justifiably proud of the DIVA enterprise she started and which now has an international dimension. A Gold Coast DIVAS do was held on May 26, cementing the Queensland holiday resort city into the DIVAS’ Australian charity catchment, which also includes Sydney and Melbourne.

No Show

WHAT a shame President Joko Widodo was unable to open the 39th Annual Bali Arts Festival on Saturday, Jun. 10, due to other commitments, that always- utilitarian spanner in the works. It must have been chucked in at the eleventh hour. News that the presidential abort button had been pushed became public knowledge on Jun. 10. Maybe he couldn’t find his udeng. He sent minister Puan Maharani instead.

It must have been by coincidence that around the same time the presidential office released a lovely little map of the archipelago showing all the places where he’d dropped in – and apparently left a pin, Google Maps style – on his unscheduled blusukan visits.

It brought to mind a song written by Australian Geoff Mack in 1959 and later made famous by Johnny Cash, among others. I’ve been everywhere, man.

Top Aussie

A NAME that most Indonesians probably wouldn’t naturally associate with Australia, if they heard it at all, since it’s not Brett or Bruce and doesn’t come with a Bintang singlet, a stubby-holder, and a sharp (or slow) drawl, got an honourable mention in the 2017 Australian Queen’s Birthday Honours List released on the official make-believe birthday of Her Maj (her real one’s on Apr. 21) on Jun. 12: Professor Mohamed Hassan Kadra. He got an AO (Officer of the Order of Australia) for distinguished service to medicine in the field of urology as a surgeon, clinician and mentor, to rural and remote medical education, and to literature as an author and playwright.

Professor Kadra is a leading Sydney urologist, but his interests are far wider, including in an enterprise that trains people in IT in other countries where their circumstances might not otherwise give them that opportunity.

Most media interest centred on the AC (Companion of the Order) given to the actor Cate Blanchett, but veteran economist Ross Garnaut also got a very well deserved AC, the highest award now that the Aussies have again dropped that daft Knight of Australia thing. The AK – it’s a gong, not a gun, and there aren’t quite 47 of them – was resurrected as a “captain’s call” by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and quietly pushed off the track and back into the ditch by his successor, Malcolm Turnbull.

Leading lawyer and death penalty abolitionist Julian McMahon, who is locally of Bali Nine fame, also got an AC, and former Labor Party minister Robert Tickner got an AO for distinguished service to the community through leadership roles with the Australian Red Cross, and to the Parliament of Australia.

The full list is here for anyone who’s interested.

Candi Dasher

REGULAR Diary readers will know that the Diary has a soft spot for Candi Dasa, and this scribble comes to you from that fine little seaside town in Karangasem. We’re having a break there again, this time at Sea Breeze at Mendiri Beach in Sengkidu. Wearing another of our hats, we have some serious writing to do. And lovely views of Nusa Penida and the Lombok Strait (rippling Wallace Line included), delicious ice creams just up the road, and a selection of fine little eating places handily close by, are helping tremendously with that project.

We’ll drop in at Vincent’s in Candi Dasa itself at some point, quite possibly on one of their live jazz nights, for another go at the Haloumi.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in the Bali Advertiser appears every fourth Wednesday. The next is due on   Jul. 19. He writes an occasional intermezzo diary here at 8degreesoflatitude.com between times.

Go For It

Hector’s Bali Diary

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

June 8, 2016

 

It’s always fun to read Alistair Speirs’ little homilies in NOW! Bali. They seem to carry a reminder of Episcopalian morality, which isn’t strange, really, given that Speirs is from Edinburgh, the Sassenach capital of Scotland. My Auntie Lizzie had something of the same air. She kept polished seashells and the Book of Common Prayer on display and lived in a flat in Leith, the port of Edinburgh. She was thought by my English mother to be slightly exotic, though my Scottish father sensibly seemed not to share this assessment. It was not because she lived in Leith. It was because she had spent 10 years in Australia.

Anyway, we digress. Some of our critics say we do this, as well as commit other sins against their ideas about what you should say in someone else’s country, and don’t like it. But the benefit of writing a diary is that you can write what you please and if people don’t like it they can read something else.

Yes, right, OK then. Back to the point, which is that Speirs’ journal, one among the Melbourne Cup field of glossy publications that circulate here, discusses fine, playful things and offers good thoughts. Much like many others, really. His comes, phoenix-like, from Jakarta, though unlike most airline flights from Soekarno-Hatta, it does so on a regular schedule and on time.

His latest bonne pensée, which hit our in-box on May 25, relates to sustainability in business. That’s sustainability of environmentally impactful things, not necessarily the corporate entities themselves, some of which here seem to have remarkably short lives before expiring for lack of a business plan. These measures, as Speirs notes, with a prompt to those who might still be mulling the point, include recycling water, recycling waste, using solar power, and using the lowest practical wattage in lights that flicker on (or off) at the whim of the monopoly power utility, PLN.

Sustainability encompasses CSR projects too: as he also notes, such things as Ikea’s scheme to put septic tanks into poor housing in Jakarta, and in Bali Coca-Cola Amatil’s and Quicksilver’s beach-cleaning program and Hotel Dynasty’s support for the East Bali Poverty Project.

These all make a difference, certainly; and they partly fill the gaping chasm left by a political and bureaucratic apparatus that prefers to waste money on symbols and trinkets rather than craft and implement a budget for the effective use of limited funds.

They are additional to the great work of many non-governmental organizations here that spend philanthropic and charitable money on all sorts of things: even on the animals, whose integral place in Balinese Hinduism appears to be lost on all but the priesthood and the common people.

The dog meat traders, cheapskate breeders of exotic dogs, keepers of wild creatures in dreadful conditions of deprivation, the provincial and regency dog killers, and even the local veterinarian association, seem to care not a whit.

DIVA Time

Carlotta and Polly Petrie, doyennes of the dress-up scene in Sin City for what we might say are donkeys years, except les girls are certainly not asses, wowed the crowd at Cocoon Beach Club, Double Six, on May 27. They had flown in from Sydney for Christina Iskandar’s latest Bali DIVAS lunch.

The Diary was among those wowed, along with the Distaff, who usually evades such events but relented on this occasion. She has a thing for Sydney, the Distaff. Well, we all do really. What’s not to love about a big, brassy, bawdy broad? A sprinkling of royalty was present. We spotted a few queens in the crowd. The folks down the back chattered loudly through the business bit of the function, as always. It’s always better to hear the sound of your own voice instead of listening to something informative, after all.

Cocoon’s menu for the lunch was lovely. We had the roasted beetroot salad, the green tea stir-fried soba noodles, and the fried banana. We kept the latter as out of sight as we could, and ate it quickly, though without gobbling, lest a sighting should prompt improper thoughts among any passing queens.

We had to concentrate very hard on the beetroot salad since, just after this had been served, a significant failure of couture would otherwise have been right in our face. A passing diva had stopped mid-stride nearby, fished out her mobile phone, and engaged in an animated conversation with it.

She was wearing a see-through mesh dress beneath which was a white lining. The lining was deficient. It ended a tad short either by design – these days nothing surprises – or by error. It offered rather more than just a hint of the two partially occluded and profoundly naked half moons of her trimly taut derriere.

Christina tells us the May 27 event raised Rp100 million for local charities, including the Bali Children Foundation.

Chinese Checkers

It will come as no surprise to anyone that Chinese tourists in Bali spend very little time here – four to six days is about it – and almost no money. What money they do spend is largely kept within the closed circle of organized Chinese tourism. Very little trickles out to the Balinese cash economy. That’s the nature of the emerging mass Chinese tourism market at the moment. Most western package holidaymakers spend around four times as much. It’s partly a function of the good-time societies they come from, but mostly one of the high levels of discretionary cash they have in hand.

A recent survey by Bank Indonesia’s Denpasar office sets out the whys and wherefores of this phenomenon, and it is no surprise that these whys and wherefores have led to questions about why Bali is targeting the Chinese market. The return to Bali at present is, frankly, minimal. The objective is to add value to the transaction in the future. You know, that’s the bit that comes after the present, and which here is rarely considered a viable or worthwhile thing to even bother thinking about.

But we all need to sit and think about it. In relation to the emerging Chinese market, it isn’t that the Chinese are customarily mean. Chinese with money spend a lot of it, though that generally stays within the five-star-plus hotel sector. But in a tourist-oriented, relatively high cost tourist destination, a lot of Chinese have very little to spend. They’re cautious with their money and it’s sensible to be so. They are learning consumerism. Some among us harbour the hope that by the time they’ve learnt it, that ruinously pernicious element of human “progress” will have been superseded by something more sensibly sustainable.

Flying High

The Australians are back at the top of the Bali arrivals list. That is, those (the overwhelming majority) who make it here without making idiots of themselves on the plane on the way or while they’re here and getting locked up as a result of their own stupidity.

Latest figures detailed in Bali Update show that in April 380,614 foreign visitors arrived, up more than 21 percent on the April 2015 figure. The four-month Jan.-Apr. cumulative arrivals figure of 1,471,064 was nearly 17 percent higher than a year before. On that trend, we’ll see 4.6 million happy – or unhappy – visitors this year, a record.

In April, 91,250 Australians came here, taking the total tank top and Bintang contingent to 334,529 for the first four months of the year, up nearly 7 percent on 2015 and making up 22.74 percent of the market. Mainland Chinese arrivals were up 34.18 percent in April versus April 2015, at 66,848, and 21.45 percent so far this year, at 315,512, a nearly 30 percent increase. Ni hao. Xièxiè.

Please Be Ridiculous

Since some months ago we sadly had to let go our international cultural attaché, Philly Frisson, we’ve been looking for someone to fill a modified role in that sort of area.

We’ve found her, a lovely lawyer from Brisbane with a sense of humour and a cauterizing tongue. We’ve appointed her Chief Spotter of Risibilities and Verities.

She frequently causes us virtual mirth, which is really good if you live in Bali where so often the only laughs you get are hollow ones. The other day she reminded us of a fundamental rule of life: There is a certain happiness in being silly and ridiculous.

A few of the deep-thinker-sulky-boots sorts around here could usefully take that on board.

Hector’s Diary, edited for newspaper presentation, appears in the fortnightly print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser