Blocked Roads, Anyone?

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His regular diet of worms and other delicacies

Bali, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017

 

BALI’S singular contributions to Chaos Theory are well known. They fuel debate, sometimes, but mostly they result only in huffing and puffing that gets no one anywhere, or else create fractious ennui, quite often of the terminal variety.

It’s when experiments such as those with traffic management that have been tried previously – and have been found to fail –are wheeled out again with all the pomp and circumstance that such diversions demand, that it gets, well … funny.

So it is with Kuta’s old-but-now-it’s-new-again one-way traffic mismanagement system, the brainchild of the new police chief. We haven’t yet dared venture into the melee ourselves, though one day we’ll have to, we suppose, but friends who have report that the chaos is far from theoretical.

Say Cheese!

IT’S been a breezy in Bali lately. It’s La Niña, who seems determined this time around to make her presence fully felt. As well as being breezy, it’s been very wet. It usually rains in the wet season, this being its climatic purpose, though in a range of variables that, in these days of Google-supplied expertise, seem to worry the punters something dreadful.

The Cage, of course, is leaking. Bowls of all sorts and sizes have been conscripted to the cause of at least trying to contain the drip-water until the regular hurried tip-outs down the sink regain the liquid volume capacity for the process to continue. Some people claim their houses do not leak. We’d like to believe them, just for the fun of it.

It’s the breezy bit of it that has caught our attention, though.

We had a lovely weekend guest at The Cage, who bitterly complained that as she sat on the edge of the swimming pool teasing the water with her toes and eating cheese on toast, a nasty gust of wind had blown away the fromage du jour from her breakfast, even though she had a tight grip on the multigrain thing it lay upon. She’s from Melbourne, so it’s surprising that fickle weather strikes her as odd.

The growing potholes on the Goat Track Highway to our place are a concern, however, even if it’s torrential rain and raging runoff rather that’s to blame, rather than the overly zealous zephyrs that have been whipping around. Even chucked-in pebbles covered imperfectly by a thin skin of concrete are not usually affected by wind shear at surface level.

Chump Day

IT’S not often that the Oddzone makes the news anywhere else, unless it’s because of bushfires or reports of man-eating wombats. But Donald Chump helped ping the radar recently. He’s sticking resolutely to his serially twittered promises to shake up everything from Mexican imports to the timetable for Armageddon. To the astonishment of many around the world, he is still supported in this grand strategy by a large number of Americans.

It was one of those avoidable train-wreck things. A one-hour comfy chat with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (later identified in the dysfunctional White House’s phone call schedule as the President of Australia and in another reference named Trunbull) ended abruptly after 25 minutes. The Donald, holding forth in the Oval Office and in the presence of his national security adviser (retired gung-ho Marine Corps general Mike Flynn) and his hapless media man, Sean Spicer, who were taking notes, went ape-shit.

That Australia is about the staunchest ally the US has anywhere, and certainly in the critically important Asian region, must have gone out of his mind. Or perhaps it had never managed to break into it.

Then again, perhaps he had been advised that with Australia, American leaders can administer beatings on the basis that these will continue until morale improves, in the certain knowledge that Australia’s own brand of foreigner funk means any protests will either be non-existent or of the pipsqueak variety.

In this rare incidence of immaterial cause and effect, Chump can fulminate about foreigners to domestic affect without any overly embarrassing whickering becoming evident at the other end of the megaphone.

The cause of this episode of egregious trumpeting (and twittering) was the deal Australia did with President Obama under which – as a further sorry example of its lack of moral fibre – Australia would ship people from its detention camps for unauthorised migrants in Nauru and PNG to the USA. Trump characterised this a dumb deal. We’re about as close to agreeing with him, on that, as we’re ever likely to be on anything much at all: though the deal was not so much dumb as disgraceful.

But the trumpet voluntary from the Oval Office gave everyone a much-needed giggle too. We particularly liked The Washington Post’s take on the affray. Dana Millbank, in a lovely opinion piece, gets to the nub of America’s historical difficulties with its fractious ally in the South-West Pacific. He writes: “Vegemite? Mel Gibson? Dual-flush toilets? They totally had it coming Down Under.”

And that’s not all. He went on to note this, complete with Trump-style all-caps for play school emphasis: “There are a lot of bad dudes Down Under, and for years, Australia has been sending them to America. They sent third-rate Air Supply, which has NO TALENT. ‘Lost in Love’? Pathetic. And Mel Gibson — a dope! Olivia Newton-John: highly overrated — and that ‘Grease’ reunion she’s planning will be a TOTAL EMBARRASSMENT. Crocodile Dundee is a true lowlife, and Nemo is a dumb clownfish. SAD!”

Ridicule is such a useful corrective.

Pushing It

THE desire of the established area-based taxi cartels to protect their turf might be understandable – especially in the case of Bali where economic trickle-down effects are very limited – but maintaining them does not make market sense.

Neither does it take into account advances in communications technology. A taxi that can be summoned by instant message, and go directly to a GPS-located address, has value for customers who wish to use such services.

There’s a lot of “tolak” that goes on here. Tolak Reklamasi, which relates to the unacceptability of the notion that rich people can get even richer by building over large parts of Benoa Bay, is sensible. In contrast, Tolak Uber and Grab (the non-cartel taxi options) is protectionism, plain and simple, and does the consumer no good at all.

It’s entirely possible to argue that taxi companies should be regulated – they should – and be properly audited and pay their share of tax. So should Uber and Grab, and any other operators that might emerge in the future. But regulation is not something at which the authorities here are spectacularly brilliant.

In that scenario, an area arrangement makes some kind of sense, as long as it allows for new technology out-of-area contractors also to work. The airport taxi cartel is a particularly difficult option for travellers. Since only airport taxis can operate out of the airport, they can (absent enforced regulation) charge whatever they like. They do.

The recent reported affray at the airport, targeting Uber and Grab and allegedly involving air force police, was disgraceful. Airport security is vital – and the presence of the military in the form of air force police personnel is sensible in that context – but that’s where military involvement should end.

Cartel protection, harassing drivers, and making them do punishment push-ups at the roadside is an appalling tactic. Indonesia has civilian authorities that make, apply and enforce the law.

HectorR

Hector writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser. The next appears on Mar. 1.

Gaia Waives the Rules

 Hector’s Bali Diary

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

June 22, 2016

 

This seemed to be the consensus among the worriers, at least, those who observe ephemeral climatic events as a message from someone or other (and of course, themselves) about the dangers of human environmental iniquity.

But climate is cyclical as well as seasonal, warming and cooling in response to all sorts of things, even sunspots. That’s why people were able to grow grapes and make wine in England in the early Middle Ages and then a couple of centuries later could ice-skate on the Thames every winter. It’s why millions of years ago there was a natural episode of global warming – we call it the Carboniferous Period – that produced worldwide rainforests that later turned into the coal with which we are now polluting the atmosphere

The problem today is that you can’t say these things without being buried under a chorus of criticism because you’re denying global warming, or worse, are possibly one of those ghastly dinosaurs who hold that man has no influence on the atmosphere and the climates that result.

For the record, we are not among that challenged cohort.

We do need to stop polluting both the atmosphere and the planet’s surface, stop breeding millions of mouths we cannot adequately feed, and stop chasing economic growth as the be all and end all of human progress.

So, to the point at issue: The recent high tides and big ocean swells that hit Bali were unusual, though far from unknown. The coincidence of lunar cycle high water, the continuing effects of a powerful El Niño event, storms in the Indian Ocean and big Antarctic lows generating huge swells was spectacular. Tragically, as always with such events, there were human casualties. Despoilers of the beaches for profit found that indeed they had built upon the sand. Silly, shortsighted chumps will always collide with karma. It was the same in faraway Sydney.

The moral is that the ocean is for fish and the beach is to visit. We are a terrestrial species. Perhaps, eventually, Governor Pastika and Benoa Bay non-environmentalist Tomy Winata will note this and grasp the good sense of Tolak Reklamasi. Both should be familiar with that term by now.

Make a Splash

Waterman’s Week 2016, which is coming up in July, has many events at many venues designed to honour the marine environment and raise awareness of its human-made problems.

There’s fun to be had that’s not too energetic, as well. One of the sponsors of the week, Island Mermaids, is staging a Miss Mermaid Bali 2016 Photo Shoot Contest. So if you’ve ever dreamed of being a mermaid (and are female and over 13) this is your chance to become one of the mythical creatures and help save the oceans too.

The idea is that mermaids need clean oceans. Well, no one would argue with that. Doing so would certainly set the Sirens off. All funds raised from the contest will go to the new Zero Waste to Oceans Education and Demonstration Centre being built by ROLE Foundation at Nusa Dua.

Details are available at www.island-mermaids.com.

Tea and Sympathy

Ross Fitzgerald, professor of history and erotic writer, has just enjoyed a short sojourn in Bali. He was here with his wife Lyndal Moor and stayed at Puri Saraswati near the royal palace in Ubud.

He and the Diary repaired to The Melting Pot on the Queen’s Birthday Australian holiday (Jun. 13) via a nice light lunch at a nearby warung, to watch the Melbourne-Collingwood AFL match that day. Fitzgerald was a very disappointed man; his team Collingwood got thumped by 46 points. The Diary didn’t care. We get our own doses of disappointment from St Kilda.

But in between groans, and speculation about the very large rat we’d seen running along the top of the wall behind the bar, we had another chat about his candidacy for the Senate from the state of NSW for the Australian Sex Party. We’ve mentioned that before. There’s an outside chance that we could soon be chums with Senator Fitzgerald. The Sex Party’s not all about, um, that. It has some very progressively sensible social policies too.

Fitzgerald told us he had recently debated the Rev. Fred Nile, a NSW state MP of, shall we say, rather rigid Christian views, at a little soiree organized by The Sydney Institute which is run by another old friend, Gerard Henderson. It would have been fun to be there.

He told us another tale. On his Garuda flight up from Sydney the happy arrival video they screen included advice that you’d have to pay $US 35 for a visa on arrival. Um. That was scrapped a while ago. Perhaps the world’s best airline for cabin service would like to update its AV primers? They should also have a chat with their cabin staff. Those on Fitzgerald’s flight didn’t know either.

Ramandhan Special

The official thuggery visited upon a poor food seller in Semarang, Central Java, who dared to keep her little stall open during Ramadhan fasting hours, is a prize example of many things. The woman has debts she needs to pay, and apparently customers who wish to eat, presumably not being required by their religion to fast.

The incident caused a furore. President Joko Widodo, familiarly called Jokowi, gave the woman Rp10 million to compensate her for the food that overbearing religious instructors and heavy handed public order police had stolen from her. Regional police chiefs have now received advice that they should not allow this sort of vigilante action.

There’s a verse in the Holy Quran that seems apposite.

“Their [acceptance] of guidance is not your responsibility. It is Allah who awards guidance whom He wills. And whatever wealth you give away (as charity donation) goes to your own benefit. It is not appropriate for you to spend but for Allah’s pleasure alone. And whatever you spend of your wealth, [its reward] will be paid back to you in full and you shall not be treated unjustly.” (Al-Baqarah 2:272).

Festival Time

Among the panoply of festivals and celebrations that these days grace Bali – or otherwise, depending on individual taste – is the annual Bali Arts Festival, the doyen of the stable, which has been around now for 38 years.

This year’s, now under way, was officially opened on Jun. 10. President Jokowi dropped in for the show and the street parade of thousands of Bali artists. The annual month-long festival showcases Bali’s traditional arts. It coincides with the school holidays, which gives the kids something to do in their down time. That’s always a good idea.

The President made a speech. He began with greetings in Balinese, to loud cheers from the crowd. And then he said this, which is worth absorbing:

“I feel very happy this afternoon that I can be here, on the Island of the Gods, Bali. For me, the Bali Arts Festival is not merely a people’s party or an arts festival. It is an event that has not only cultural and educational functions, but also a function as a driving force for the economy, especially the Bali community.”

Indeed. Indonesia has a rich and hugely diverse cultural heritage. This deserves protection from those who would turn its cities into lookalike Legolands. And properly appreciated, facilitated and managed, it is itself an economic driver.

Up the Poll

Some may have noticed that Australia is having a federal election on Jul. 2. It’s a rare double-dissolution election for the House of Representatives and the full Senate. If you’re a registered Australian voter here you can cast a pre-poll vote in person at the consulate-general in Renon up to Friday, Jul. 1. You won’t be able to vote there on polling day itself.

You’ll need to show your Australian passport or your current Australian driver’s licence to get into the consulate to vote. They won’t let you in without it. The consulate is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm.

Applications for postal votes, which are an alternative way of avoiding a fine for not being ticked off on the bean-counters’ defaulters’ list, close on Jun. 29 via the Australian Electoral Commission website.

Harley Man

Former Bali boy Ric Shreves, now firmly established in Portland, Oregon and working for a worldwide charity doing things that have recently seen him in Turkana, Kenya (that’s a little different from Bali) has acquired a new toy.

It’s a rather tough-looking Harley Davidson hog: Happy riding, Ric.

Surf to Save

The Bali Animal Welfare Association recently got a wonderful offer from visiting American surfer Tommy Michael – he would organize a fun surfing school, Surf2Save, and direct the proceeds to BAWA. The event, on June 4 at one of the Bukit’s famed surf beaches, went so well that BAWA is looking for someone to run another.

Michael’s inaugural event was strongly supported by the local surfing community, which has always been very community minded. He’s now returned to Costa Rica, where he lives and does similar things for local charities there.

Hector’s Diary, edited for newspaper publication, appears online and in print in the fortnightly Bali Advertiser.

Hector’s Bali Diary, Mar. 30, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

Voice of the People

That 29 banjars can get together to protest the proposed corporate vandalism of Benoa Bay and the destruction of its precious mangrove environment is a political problem for the provincial government and the lesser authorities whose fief is Badung regency. This protest, on Mar. 20, wasn’t authorized. It wouldn’t have been. But it was authoritative and it called in all the weight of adat (custom). It was also the second such protest: an earlier one on Feb. 28 involved the village of Benoa and its banjars.

The Mar. 20 protest shut off airport access to the toll way and the traffic circle at the airport road intersection on Bypass Ngurah Rai. The organizers announced the event well ahead of time and apologized for the inconvenience. But most likely few people – beyond the Governor and his Benoa Bay despoiler of choice, Jakarta tycoon Tomy Winata – thought the demonstration was a bad idea. Most people think the bad idea in this instance is wrecking a fragile and precious environment in the interests of rich people getting even richer.

The police were powerless. They are not a constabulary here; they are effectively a paramilitary enforcement squad. But you wouldn’t want to start a war with 29 banjars. They took away two important adat leaders for a compulsory little chat while the non-affray was in progress. A crowd that then gathered outside the police office where this enforced conversation was taking place ensured that the detention period swiftly ended.

What happened on Mar. 20 was an exercise in grass roots democracy. It should provide valuable instruction for those in office. The primary lesson is that the people at all times effectively limit your power to act contrary to their wishes. There’s another lesson too. It is that while economic advance is essential, and should be welcomed, this needs to be achieved by public consensus and sensible planning, not by diktat or fiat or droit de seigneur. (Look that last one up. It’s allegorical in this case, but it’s apt and you might get a giggle.)

Candi Break

We spent Easter at Candi Dasa in East Bali, far from the madding crowd. We felt the need to stare at the ocean for four days. It’s always restless, but it sticks to its game plan and is predictable, at least in the main. The tides always come in and go out twice a day, a Circadian rhythm that for us provides a truly meditative focus from the comfort of a long chair by the pool. The discomfort of a yoga mat is for others in a more malleable state of grace.

We stayed at a favourite place, Pondok Bambu, where no one knows us as anything other than those crazy old Bules who’ve been coming here for years. We hadn’t been there for a while, but neither Nusa Penida nor Lembongan had moved. They remained in full view across the shimmering Badung Strait. Away to the east, Lombok gave us a glimpse of its comely contours now and then. The offshore parking arrangements for the Bali-Lombok ferries were as interesting as ever. Waiting your turn to Ro-Ro at the wharf at Padang Bai a few kilometres down the coast can sometimes be longer than the crossing.

And Pondok Bambu’s breakfast pancakes, enjoyed under the umbrellas by the low wall just above the water, were as tasty as always too. If you have hang around all Easter, it’s a pretty good spot to do so.

Switch Off

It was Earth Hour on Mar. 19, that annual observance through which, by switching off the lights for 60 minutes, we are encouraged to believe that we are saving the planet, or at least that we are helping to do so. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of tokenism. No, really. It’s what the world seems to live on these days.

PLN, the national power utility, joined the chorus. It said Earth Hour was a great idea and consumers of its ephemerally available current should certainly participate. They didn’t quite go so far as to call on us to be upstanding and sing Indonesia Raya at mosque-loudspeaker pitch, but you got the idea.

A hollow laugh would be appropriate at this point. PLN has its own Earth Hours, somewhere, every minute, through its Well That’s a Surprise program of unannounced and inexplicable outages.

We once considered, in a nightmare we vaguely recall, what we might do if we woke up and found we were running PLN. Resignation and a plea to be considered instead for a position more closely aligned with the less fanciful claims in our CV came to mind. A paperclip-counting position in some dustily remote office of government might suit.

Just So We’re Cleare

It’s official. Australia is finally on the free tourist visa list, for visitors who are not intending to extend their stay beyond 30 days. That’s good news. But while the decision has officially been made and announced (accepting that here as indeed anywhere, things can be unannounced as required) it wasn’t immediately in place.

The super-active Clare McAlaney, who saw the announcement on line from the consular people at the Indonesian embassy in Canberra, got on to them for confirmation.

They told her this, on Mar. 21, in an email addressed to “Dear Cleare”:

“The new regulation on free visa to Indonesia for several countries, including Australia, was already signed by the President.

“However, its effective implementation shall wait for the issuance of the implementing regulation from the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.

“Once the new visa regulation is officially effective, it will be publicly announced by Indonesian Embassies/Consulates.”

Apparently some Australians got through immigration at Ngurah Rai International without paying US$35 as soon as the decision was announced. Even though the presidential pen had squiggled, the scrap of paper hadn’t been dug out from under the administrative overburden and no regulation yet existed. They’ll sort it out, eventually. The department of crossed wires must be Indonesia’s busiest bureaucracy.

Putting on Weight

The annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, a fixture since 2002, is breaking new ground with the collation of the UWRF’s bilingual Anthology series, which each year brings together the work of 15 emerging writers from across Indonesia. The writers themselves will launch the published anthology at the 16th festival, which runs from Oct. 26-30.

Festival director Janet DeNeefe tells us that this year UWRF has the largest number of submissions so far, with 894 aspiring writers from throughout Indonesia sending in stories for consideration. Submissions go to an independent curatorial board for selection.

In another move to widen its reach, the festival is collaborating with the Australasian Association of Writing Programs to select an aspiring writer to attend UWRF 2016. Submissions close at the end of May.

A Vital ROLE

The innovative travel outfit Destination Asia has been a supporter of the ROLE Foundation’s Bali WISE Women’s Skills Education program for more than a year now and have signed up to continue this support throughout 2016 as well.

That’s great news for all the women who have taken the opportunity to be part of the Bali WISE program. It highlights the benefits of corporate community support, delivered at a practical level, directly to the advantage of people who would otherwise remain truly disadvantaged.

ROLE founder Mike O’Leary tells us all Bali WISE students go through a six-month intensive school program. This is split into two parts: Three months are spent at ROLE’s Nusa Dua campus to learn English, women’s health, family planning, IT, and business skills. The next three months are spent at hotels for in-field hospitality training. Students’ education, accommodation and transport costs are covered throughout the six months of education.

Destination Asia started business in 1996 as the first destination management company to specialise in Indochina operations and the first Asia based travel business owned by its employees. Its network now spans 11 countries including Indonesia.

It runs on the old fashioned concept of a family business, without outside shareholders or directors, or equity relationships with international travel conglomerates.

So that’s a Woof, then

Bali’s most talkative recluse, Vyt Karazija, was some time ago adopted by an itinerant Bali dog, a feisty little fellow whose name is Lucky. Those of us lucky enough to be on Vyt’s mailing list have ever since enjoyed the Tales of Lucky. A recent post on canine affairs particularly caught our eye.

Karazija wrote: “Last night, Lucky was instructed by one of the people he owns to report to my place for his morning medication. ‘What time?’ he asked. ‘10am,’ he said. This morning, precisely at 10am, Lucky reported at my front door. Amazing dog.”

Hector’s Diary, edited for print publication, appears in the fortnightly publication the Bali Advertiser