HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 3, 2016

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious matters

 

Load of Pit Bull

Bali’s attractions as a resort for western tourists (that distinction is becoming more and more important) have taken a hammering lately. It was interesting to see that this received notice in the Jakarta Post on Jan. 27. Or perhaps not a hammering: It might have been a whipping with a flip-flop, if we are to believe the preferred version of an instance of animal cruelty involving pit bulls being transported in inhumane conditions that was seen and videoed and photographed in the middle of Seminyak in Bali’s premier tourist precinct. The truck stopped and the driver got out and caused further distress to a caged dog that had panicked and had blood around its mouth.

There are things that go on here that lie on the debit side of the excellence ledger, though this is apparently a continuing surprise to many people who prefer fiction or fairyland, or simply accept what they deem to be culturally inevitable. These debits are of no consequence either to those caught breaking the law or failing to enforce it, to people not doing their jobs or picking your pocket, the latter either literally or figuratively, or to louts of any class shouting gratuitously offensive go-home advice at outsiders. It’s their country, so the loudspeaker patois of popular nationalism says.

Bali is unique, and it’s a great place to live. But sometimes, you know, you see things that warrant comment that won’t rate on the preferred Bali APP Scale (APP = Automatic Paeans of Praise). On Mon. Jan. 18, the Bali Animal Welfare Association posted a report from one of many witnesses to the scenes of Friday night. There were photos with it. These went up on BAWA’s English language and Bahasa Indonesia Facebook pages.

There was an immediate outcry. The report went even more viral on BAWA’s Indonesian page than it did on the English one. Someone in the Bali bureaucracy who is capable of lateral thought (yes, we know) should have a think about that. They already know – although of course they won’t concede this publicly – that a lot of Balinese people are angry about the cruel, indiscriminate and counter-productive killing of dogs including vaccinated animals as a pathetic non-response to the rabies outbreak, now in its ninth year because the authorities royally messed up.

Pit Bulls are used for dog fighting, a popular and lucrative illegal betting industry which as well as breaking national laws that prohibit all gambling also contravene the (disgracefully inadequate) national animal cruelty laws. Not every pit bull is kept for this purpose. And we’re told that the ones in the Seminyak incident hadn’t been at a fight. They’d been somewhere preparing for a non-dog-fighting event to take place at a later date. Etc. Blah.

On Wed. Jan. 20 BAWA received visits from delegations that repeated previous advice that the event had nothing to do with dog fighting. It’s just unfortunate, apparently, that the event they hadn’t been to and the inhumane transport conditions so upset the dogs that the truck driver felt it necessary to stop and remonstrate with one of them in a rather physical fashion

Later that day BAWA posted something on its Facebook that it called “Update on Monday’s Pit Bull Post”. The original post disappeared, swept under the carpet by someone or other. The Bully a Bule SOP had kicked in. It is applied every time a foreigner sees something offensive and dares to say so. Buckets of whitewash are essential if you’re planning a snow job.

Wrap it Up

Plastic is not fantastic, as everyone should know by now, especially in Bali where it litters the landscape – and will do so for ages, since it is practically non-degradable – and continues to be used for wrapping throwaway rubbish. In the practice of this island, plastic then handily stores whatever it contains for foraging dogs and vermin, and as blockage material in the rivers and streams into which they are dumped from which in due course a deluge will release them into the ocean where their remains kill precious marine life or wash up on beaches, bothering tourists.

There was a TED Talk in Bali on Jan. 30, about plastic waste that broke new ground because it featured Indonesian teenagers talking about getting rid of non-biodegradable products. Proper environmental care is a matter of education, like many things. Activist teens such as Bye Bye Plastic Bags co-founder, Isabel, who features in the TED Talk show, are a real bonus in that situation. They have peer appeal, for one thing, and for another will carry their message forward into their adult lives and really make a difference. Online Rotary Club member Clare McAlaney kept us up to speed with the event.

Not a Good Idea

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was deposed in a party room vote last September and who said then that he would consider his future, has now done this. He has decided to re-contest his Sydney parliamentary seat of Warringah at the national elections due later this year.

He’s entitled to do so, of course. Almost anyone can stand for office in Australia, even certain classes of lunatics. It’s a fully functioning democracy, a fact that is of unquestionable benefit to Australia and its neighbours. But in considering his future, Abbott appears to have overlooked a number of things. He is not unintelligent, so unless hubris has informed more of his judgment on his future than is wise, he will be aware that staying around will destabilise his party.

His successor, Malcolm Turnbull, is a social liberal and rather more inclined to take the view that this is the Twenty-first Century. Abbott should be aware that the fossil energy resource policies he likes to boost might (that’s debatable) be profitable in the short term but are not economically, scientifically, environmentally or socially sustainable in the long term. He should have noticed, too, that many people who customarily vote for his Liberal party do not support his regressively conservative social positions. Australian secular, democratic politics occupies the middle ground and it is from there that governments are formed.

Abbott is 58, still a youngish man in an Australian context. He has many years left in which to perform public service if that is his desire, or to do something else if that suits him better. It would be more productive of him to reassess his demerits rather than rely on the supposed upsides he and his factional friends promote. He was gauche in office as prime minister. He is personable as an individual, as is his similarly demagogue-dogmatist Labor predecessor Kevin Rudd. He might be better writing dissertations.

All Inclusive

Eastern philosophies have had more influence on those of the west than many suppose. This enlightenment is not merely a product of easy travel in the last half century and the invasion of other peoples’ thinking spaces that was its natural corollary. It is a function of the symbiosis of humanity, of the free flow of ideas and inspiration that has always taken place. This process is quicker nowadays and no longer something reserved for the educated elite or politically well placed.

This Diary was written in Ubud, local seat of the modern fad for worshipping self-selected gurus. Ubud is more than that, of course, and it seems appropriate to mention the 2016 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival as a forthcoming attraction toute force. The dates have just been announced: Oct. 28-Nov. 1. Put those in your diaries.

The theme this year is Tat Tvam Asi, the Sixth Century Hindu philosophy that says in basic shorthand, “I am you, you are me.” As Janet DeNeefe noted in her latest UWRF update, the Roman playwright Terrance once wrote, “If I am human, then nothing human is alien to me.” He was on the money.

The power of words is inestimable. That’s why dictators burn books and knuckleheads ban publications. Words make it possible for each of us to construct our own – possibly parallel – existence. They are the ultimate freedom.   

Here’s Cheers

Happy New Year, Chinese style! As noted previously, the Diary is looking forward to the Year of the Monkey, which starts on Feb. 8 and ushers in 12 months of special time for those of us fortunate enough to be Monkeys ourselves. It only happens every 12 years, so forgive any out of left field ambient frivolity between now and early in 2017.

It’s also Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, though this of course happens every year. It’s a great time for red roses and chocolates, and for profit, for those who can spin some business off St. Val’s feast day. Valentine was a martyred Third Century Roman priest who from the Fourteenth Century became associated with the European tradition of courtly love. That’s the no-nooky, perfumed token variety.

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

HECTOR’S DAIRY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 30, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Rabid Response

An eight-year-old boy from Batur Tengah in Bangli died of rabies in mid-September, and a woman has died in Buleleng from the disease, the latest victims of the seven-year outbreak of the disease in Bali. Their deaths are yet another tragic reminder that the authorities here long ago dropped the ball over rabies, an entirely preventable disease, after making a good start on combating it in 2009-2010.

Sadder still is that the methodology of their anti-rabies campaign is now focused on killing dogs, including vaccinated ones and family pets, instead of on vaccination, humane reduction of numbers through sterilisation, and firm, well resourced community education. Most sadly of all, rabies has become a bureaucratic battleground, a venue for fractious argument, and the latest environment in which the local bureaucratic view that foreigners should just shut up about problems since these problems (which are sometimes presented as not being problems at all) are nothing to do with them.

The sensitive nature of advocacy is well understood among the foreign cohort here that does that sort of thing. They’re not doing it for money, except in the sense of spending it, since there’s very little money to be made in lending a hand. That applies in animal welfare just as much as it does in education, rural and remote health and village infrastructure, and a lot else.

The particular problems of animal welfare groups are well known. They have national licences that govern their establishment and permit them to work in the field. But the provincial and district administrations are responsible for a range of subsidiary permits and permissions, and these of course can be held up at will or withdrawn at a moment’s notice. As was the case with a sterilization and vaccination day held recently in Gianyar regency and funded by the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA). Public order police shut down the event even though the village concerned had sought that assistance and advised the authorities of this. The nose of the relevant regency factotum was out of joint, apparently.

There’s a rare outbreak of rabies in Penang, an island off the western coast of Malaysia. It is an isolated event involving only a few dogs, and is exactly analogous with Bali’s situation in 2008 since the disease was imported. The authorities there are mass-killing dogs as a result, in the face of protest and advice that this is not the way to go, and yet again in clear breach of effective disease control measures that everyone else knows work very well. Sadly, unless they see sense and work with organisations – including NGOs with runs on the board in terms of animal welfare and health – the result in Penang will be same as in Bali. The disease will spread and people will die.

The bottom line in public health (we’ll keep saying this until someone wakes up) is that rabies is a controllable disease with proper countermeasures and is not a threat in Bali to people who are fully vaccinated against it and who if they are bitten by a suspect animal have the money to obtain the necessary post-exposure booster shots. That excludes the bulk of the Balinese population, for whom such protection is a sick joke. Government clinics often do not have rabies vaccine in stock. Immunoglobulin, the expensive additional necessity in preventing rabies in people who do not have pre-exposure protection, is unobtainable.

It would be wrong to keep silent while the national government looks the other way and the local authorities kill people’s pets and destroy whatever vestiges still exist of the vaccinated dog screen so painstakingly and expensively put in place in 2009-2010. We must again conclude and publicly note that the inmates have escaped and are running the asylum.

A Fond Farewell

Family business has taken The Diary yet again to Western Australia, Bali’s southern suburb. This time it was to farewell the feisty lady whom we long ago dubbed World’s Best Mother-in-Law. It was a sad occasion, of course, as such things always are, but there were lots of laughs as well. The MiL was more dear friend than in-law; moreover, one with a wicked wit which she sometimes allowed herself to let loose on the unsuspecting crowd.

We managed to have a little conversation, she and The Diary, before nature took its inevitable final step. And it was instructive of times past and lovely memories. The MiL, aside from being a gentle jokester when the feeling was upon her, was an inveterate traveller and shopper including in Bali, where she has Balinese friends. She was also responsible for the marriage that has sustained The Diary through three decades. She arrived in Port Moresby in 1982 – The Diary and the would-be Distaff were living there at the time – with a wedding cake and a bridesmaid and it would have been such a shame to waste the cake.

There was one outstanding question to which The Diary had always sought an answer. Not about the wedding (the cake was fabulous) but about an incident in Vanuatu a decade later. We were holidaying there, The Diary, the Distaff and the MiL, and one day hired a little sailboat, a catamaran, for a breezy self-sail tour of the Erakor lagoon. The breeze faded to nothing shortly afterwards, leaving us becalmed mid-lagoon. The Diary knew that sooner or later a boat would motor out and retrieve us, but as time passed the feeling grew strongly that the MiL would really like The Diary to get out of the boat into the chest-deep water and push the boat back to base. The Diary did not do this, for Erakor lagoon is where barracuda breed and toes seemed more important than timeliness.

In our last little chat, the day she died, The Diary made a final attempt to secure an answer as to the MiL’s wishes on that long-gone day, helped along by a warmly firm squeeze of the hand. The hint of a wicked smile appeared. So now we know. Farewell, feisty lady. You’re a trouper.

No Sax Please, We’re Closed

We’ve been going to The Jazz Café Ubud since, well, forever, so it was very sad to hear that it closed its doors for the last time on Sep. 19. The last night was quite a party, it seems, and that’s fitting indeed for an Ubud institution and a place where fine musical fare was available in a great jazz atmosphere.

It won’t have been making money, since it was a place where regulars were apt to drop in and sit on a single drink all evening – they were there for the music of course, but such is the focused self interest of many that the commercial viability of the establishments they frequent is at most secondary matter to them. There are other places in Ubud to listen to jazz, but none we know of that comes even close to The Jazz Café.

Musical Chairs

It used to be said, not least by Australians themselves, that Australian politics were both parochial and boring. It has lost the boring part of things – for those who enjoy such shenanigans anyway – in recent years with the development of mid-term party room coups that unseat prime ministers and install in their place a rival contender.

The Labor Party started this curious art form, when it saw off Kevin Rudd and installed Julia Gillard before then uninstalling Gillard and screwing Rudd back into the socket as its preferred light on the hill. It has now spread to the Liberal Party, the larger part of the conservative coalition that has run Australia since the national elections in 2013. Tony Abbott, who was a good opposition leader but for most observers a poor and uncommunicative prime minister, had his Julius Caesar moment on Sep. 14. He was replaced by Malcolm Turnbull, a lawyer and merchant banker, whose social views are less restrictive and far less prescriptive and whose economic advocacy may turn out to be both more palatable and of better effect than that of his predecessor. Time will tell.

It was good to see that Julie Bishop remained foreign minister and Andrew Robb trade minister in the cabinet changes. Political diplomacy requires a mannered and quiet approach.

Feeling Bookish

The 2015 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival kicks off today (Sep. 30). It is a firm fixture in Bali’s festival calendar, puts our island firmly in the international spotlight, and promotes Indonesian writing to a very wide audience indeed. It is an annual event that is not to be missed.

Hector tweets @ scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and on line editions of the Bali Advertiser http://www.baliiadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 16, 2013

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

May The Farce Be With You

We were going to be nice about it all, really we were. APEC, we mean. It was so important to Bali, after all. All those lovely delegates were sure to be so impressed by the event and the island that hosted it that they’d all return later, with their families, for private holidays, thereby boosting the economy by a zillion convertible currency units.

Yes, well, farce has a long and honourable history. Only the Seriously Up-Themselves could possibly be impressed by their mode of transport: preceded, tailed and flanked by siren-sounding, blue-light-flashing and thoroughly rude loudspeaker-equipped police causing chaos and endless delays and pushing lesser mortals off the road. It’s how the ruling classes conduct themselves here but any delegate with the most rudimentary measure of social awareness would have been mortified.

The top three from our Farce List:

THE ban on kites and lasers as aviation hazards during APEC. If they’re hazards to VIP landings and take-offs, they’re hazards to ordinary air travellers too, all the time, not just on special occasions.

THE mass cancellations of airline services (700 of them) because the airport was closed through peak operating hours to accommodate VIP flights.

THE armoured car with fully loaded machine-gunners at each end that we saw trundling down Jl Raya Uluwatu through Jimbaran village escorted by police and military police motorcycles. Thank goodness they didn’t hit a pothole and squeeze a trigger. Had they been sent to get the fish for lunch?

 

Sartorial Splendour

Hector’s helper got into a bit of trouble on his Facebook on the last day of APEC for posting a photo from the ABC website of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott arriving at the end-of-event Big Dinner wearing purple Endek. It wasn’t the rig that was being critiqued – Batik and Ikat are wonderful fashion statements and vital elements of Indonesian culture – but the fact that purple just isn’t his colour.

Judging from the photo, in which PM Abbott is looking (smilingly) vaguely uneasy and his wife is looking determinedly anywhere but at his shirt, we think he knows this.

 

Bon Soirée

Hector and Distaff attended one APEC event, which was an American business oriented cocktail function at the Grand Nikko Bali where Jean-Charles Le Coz presides over the cliff-top presence with just the right amount of Gallic flair. We were invited by Jack Daniels of Bali Discovery Tours and Bali Update, with whom we share an interest in the fortunes – misfortunes rather – of Bali’s street dogs. We drank some very pleasant Californian red and chatted with lots of interesting people.

We had to chat. The speeches were off because of the inability of American governmental arrangements to realize that as this is the 21st century they really should move on (and no, we’re not talking about guns or health care). Everyone officially American present, including the US Secretary of Commerce, seemed to be on furlough. In the non-American part of the Anglosphere this is more simply known as leave without pay.

It was interesting getting into the venue. We didn’t have a magic APEC pass, you see. So after a bit of a circus we parked on the road outside and walked in. A chatty infantry corporal, fully armed, escorted us to the sign-in tent. He saw me checking his boots (old military habits die hard) and thereafter called me Sir.

 

Three Hearty Woofs!

An annual event of note took place in Melbourne on Oct. 11 – the Bali Street Dogs appeal night, this year presided over by one of the Diary’s favourite Aussie TV personages, Kerri-Anne Kennerley. The event was at the InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto, as always, and was co-sponsored by Garuda.

Volunteer cheerleader and longstanding Bali hand Sally Rodd reminded us the 2012 appeal raised more than $40,000 to help alleviate the appalling conditions in which most of Bali’s abandoned and urban-feral dogs live.

It’s great to know that some people understand that being Lead Species on Planet Earth confers obligations such as a duty of care towards lesser creatures. Perhaps some further educational literature on that rather broad topic could be usefully read by bureaucrats here.

Anyone interested in the Melbourne end of caring for Bali’s dogs should bookmark www.balistreetdogs.org.au.

 

Sanglah Connection

Kon Vatskalis, who as health minister in the former Northern Territory government was the leading political driver of the 2011 sister relationship between Sanglah and Royal Darwin Hospital, was back here recently to check on progress. He’s now the opposition spokesman on health in the legislature of that Australian territory.

We had dinner with him and his family at La Favela in Seminyak, an occasion hosted by Australia’s consul-general in Bali, Brett Farmer. Vatskalis pronounced himself well satisfied with the way the Darwin-Sanglah link had progressed and tells us he’s also keen to help with the establishment of a new international hospital here and to extend the Darwin link to the public hospital facility in Kupang, West Timor.

He issued a statement on his visit. Among other things it noted this:

“The Sanglah Hospital has completely revamped their emergency department and introduced a triage system that has significantly improved patient care. In addition, the hospital has introduced a Clinical Nurse Educator [and is] the only hospital with such a position in Indonesia.  It has also introduced a hospital school for sick children, modelled on the one in Royal Darwin Hospital.”

It’s these sorts of things that take place largely out of the public gaze that are so valuable, so effective at cementing relationships, and so useful in bringing otherwise unreachable benefits to the Indonesian people.

 

In the Swim

Celia Gregory of the Marine Foundation – she’s the Brit “underwater sculptress” whose polyp-friendly structures augment existing and nascent coral reefs in Bali and the Lombok Gilis – was at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival this year, presenting at a day of free events sponsored by The Body Shop.

The day-long affair (on Oct. 13) was a special addition to this year’s festival program and themed “Our Planet: Through Darkness to Light”. Gregory was joined at Fivelements (it’s on the Ayung River at Banjar Baturning, Mambal) by Rili Djohani of the Coral Triangle Centre, environmental activist and The Body Shop Indonesia CEO Suzy Hutomo, environmental writer Harry Surjadi and orang-utan rehab expert Simon Husson.

It presented “a journey across Bali’s coral reefs and Indonesia’s extraordinary forest and wildlife worlds”.

On Oct. 14, in another festival spin-off, Villa Kitty at Lodtundah staged a special literary and art-oriented day for children. Villa Kitty, which is now a fully fledged Yayasan, is run by that energetic Ubud fixture, Elizabeth Henzell.

 

Swish Dish

We see that snappy photographer Deborah Cayetano, who also runs the innovative Bali’s Best Chefs operation, has added vacation and time management to her skill-set outlined on LinkedIn, where the Diary does its real work. That’s probably a good thing. Her plush dining experiences require a lot of organization. They’re invitation only, the names of other guests are not revealed until all are gathered for the feast, and the location is kept secret until 48 hours before the event.

It’s a great marketing pitch. Award winning chefs from around the world who now live and work in Bali present special menu creations and premium wines are paired by the chef to blend nicely with each course.

The succulent celebrations take place in a luxury holiday villa, on a big yacht, or at an historical location. It’s a nice niche market to aim for and helps promote Bali as more than just a resort of the gulp-guzzle-and-go brigade.

 

In a Great Cause

W Resort and Spa at Seminyak is the venue on Oct. 19 for a Gala Fundraiser in aid of Bali’s new Breast Cancer Support Centre in Jl Dewi Sri, Kuta, which is an initiative of the Bali Pink Ribbon organization.

The evening will feature a four-course dinner by W Resort and Spa Bali’s executive chef Richard Millar (including free-flow wine).  Cocktails begin at 6:30pm. Tickets are Rp1.5 million (US$130). Call (+62) (0)361-8352299 or email balipinkribbon@gmail.com.

 

RIMBA Calling

Marian Carroll of AYANA – whose corporate boosting duties now include the new companion resort hotel RIMBA – is looking forward to the establishment’s grand opening on Nov.  1. It opened (in the soft way that such establishments do worldwide) in time to host APEC delegates and was performing very well when we had breakfast there with Carroll one recent weekend.

Some finishing touches were still being made and bits of it looked a tad To-Do, but the Lobby is spectacular, the breakfast was good, the staff attentive, and it was lovely to be in the midst of an infant forest and surrounded by masses of water.

The grand opening should be spectacular.

 

 Hector tweets @scratchings