That Other Kuta

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Lombok / Bali

Oct. 26, 2016

 

IT’S quieter and rather less crowded than Kuta Bali, though it has grown a little. There’s something that resembles a main street with an Indomaret supermarket and a few other junior emporiums. The warungs along the beach, those symbols of entry-level Indonesian tourism entrepreneurship, where once you could sit and watch the waves over a cold beer, have been cleared away in the future interests of the rather grand Mandalika development. But Kuta Lombok is great at the moment if you’re not looking for crowded bars packed with people out for a good time.

We weren’t when we spent a lovely week there earlier this month. It’s been a favourite place for a decade and a half, since we first stayed at the then nearly new Novotel Lombok in 2001 on a side trip from Bali. We’ve made a point of returning now and then, when we need some down time.

So, we did basically nothing except sit on the Novotel’s pristine beach in a berugak – think balé (gazebo) – watching the tide coming in or going out and occasionally dipping in for a float. Except we ate, rather more than is our custom, but that was nice too because as part of the Accor chain the Novotel does alimentary things in a delightfully semi-French fashion. It was so good that the Diary didn’t even really mind that the Wi-Fi struggled to reach the beach. The fruit sate sticks for elevenses and the mid-afternoon cakes got there.

In the rooms and the rest of the resort the Wi-Fi’s fine. That modern hazard – being obstructed by off-in-fairyland wanderers holding their smart phones and staring at them – must be dealt with. Just learn the words for “excuse me” in, say, 10 of the most widely spoken languages among Novotel guests, and you’ll generally get by; even if it’s sometimes tempting to use the full suite all at once.

Our morning walk program was a talking point. As in Bali, no one walks anywhere. They hop on their scooters to idle 50 metres up the road. Walking for recreation or in the interests of the arteries appears to be something only mad bules do. Several times lovely people even suggested that perhaps we were jogging.

We dropped in on Senggigi – after Cakranegara for fabric shopping – before the R&R in the south, and had dinner with local identity Peter Duncan and his wife Wiwik Pusparini at Taman restaurant, and stayed overnight in a nice room at Howard Singleton’s beachside establishment The Office, at the Art Market.

Hurry Up and Wait

Our return from Lombok was not without misadventure. We’d flown to Lombok with Wings and that went swimmingly, even if it did include the usual diddling about doing circles over the Wallace Line to make the flight worth making, or perhaps longer. We flew back with Lion, a little tardily, for very late-advised “operational reasons”, that class of excuse that brooks no inquiry. Just to add pedas (spicy) to panas (hot), first we were to fly only three hours late, and then it turned out to be nearly five.

Flight delays were not confined to Lion Air. They resulted from regular closure of Ngurah Rai to all except emergency landings for evenings from Oct. 2 to Dec. 26, as notified by international aviation regulators. The runway needs a bit of work and this is being done, if the contractors bother to turn up. The point is, surely, that since this is a lengthy term of mandatory closure, airlines should have adjusted their schedules accordingly. Well, never mind. This is Indonesia. Once, long ago when Lombok’s airport was still at Selaparang in Mataram, we were also delayed, though not for quite so long, by an apparently unforeseen event at Ngurah Rai. They told us then that the president was on the runway.

Lion had been on our personal No Fly paper since 2013, when the flight crew on one of its Boeing 737-800s selected a dubious preference for the briny over the somewhat firmer properties of tar-macadam and landed in Jimbaran Bay instead.

We think the airline has since then secured the services of flight crews equipped to recognise runways and understand their benefits and who will remember to adjust autopilot parameters in time. But on this occasion it would have been tempting to swim home.

So Sad

The deaths of nine people – three of them children – in the collapse of the suspension bridge linking Nusa Lembongan with its smaller sister island, Ceningan, on Oct. 16 are tragic. What’s also tragic is the sequence of events leading up to the deadly occurrence.

Duty of care is not a term – or a principle for that matter – that resonates in Indonesia. The islands are in Klungkung regency (as is the larger island of Nusa Penida) but the district government’s divan is in Semarapura (also called Klungkung) on Bali’s mainland, where it apparently relies on karma to run things.

It was Full Moon, a sacred time for Balinese Hindus. A large devotional procession was crossing the bridge when its cables snapped and the walkway collapsed into the narrow channel that separates the islands. A sign warning that the bridge was unsafe for large numbers of people at one time had been put up two days beforehand. Either this was not read, or it was read and ignored, as most such notices are.

But if the bridge was unsafe in overloaded conditions – and plainly it was: cables rarely snap without provocation – then the authorities should have ensured it wasn’t overloaded. Bali’s traditional system of village guards (Pecalang) is ideally equipped to manage crowds and ensure compliance. They don’t miss a trick at Nyepi: show a light for an instant after dark on Silent Day and you’re cactus.

Some lateral thinking – actually, any thinking – by the regency government appears to be rather desperately needed. The bridge collapsed once before, in Feb. 2013, in a bit of a fresh breeze.

An appeal was launched in Australia to raise funds to help the victims of the collapse.

One Word, Seven Letters, Starts with ‘B’

Elizabeth Henzell of Villa Kitty wrote a dispiriting note on her Facebook on Oct. 16. It speaks for itself so here it is:

“I am so disgusted with humans that feel their need is more than someone else’s! How do they know! Villa Kitty’s tireless admin assistant, Metha, has had her Samsung phone stolen – from Villa Kitty! Who would do that? Who would steal from (a) a yayasan/animal welfare centre or (b) someone who works for a yayasan/animal welfare centre! We have had food stolen, my phone has been stolen, money stolen, medical supplies, by people with NO morals! I am truly sick of it!”

We’re all sick of it, Elizabeth. It’s that other real Bali, the one that doesn’t rate a mention in the feel good fluff stuff.

Happy Snapper

Bali-based British photographer Michael Johnsey, whose faces, sunsets and skyscapes particularly engage The Diary, won deserved acclaim – and 20 per cent of sale prices for the charity Solemen Indonesia – at the opening night of his exhibition Life in Bali, at Bridges in Ubud on Oct. 15.

It was a packed house for the event, he tells us. It’s such a shame we weren’t there. The marathon seven-hour return wait-and-flight to Bali from Lombok the previous evening did terrible things to the schedule at The Cage. Johnsey notes:

“What a great opening event. A packed house. Thank you all at Bridges for making it such a great success. Life In Bali is off to a pretty good start.”

His photographic works are on display at Bridges, so if you’re in Ubud get along there and have a look. It’ll be worth it, we guarantee. We’ll drop in ourselves this week, while we’re in Ubud on literary matters.

Lash Out

Those who apparently desire that Indonesia should become Untustan (untu is camel in Bahasa Indonesia) have been having a field day lately. Aside from public canings for promiscuity and other elective activity defined as sinful in Aceh – caning is a legitimate penalty under Aceh’s Sharia law – Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has been the target of mobs over his alleged blasphemy against Islam. Blasphemy is an offence under Indonesian law.

The governor, usually known by his Indonesian familiar name Ahok, isn’t a Muslim. He’s a Christian, a Chinese Indonesian, and appears to be doing quite a good job as civic leader of Indonesia’s capital city. There’s more socio-political polemic than inter-religious dispute in his current problems.

A quatrain by the mediaeval Islamic scholar Omar Khayyám comes to mind: “As far as you can avoid it, do not give grief to anyone. Never inflict your rage on another. If you hope for eternal rest, feel the pain yourself; but don’t hurt others.” It’s a shame that this useful aide-memoire is never handed out to the mobs along with the nasi bunkus (wrapped rice).

Last Word

The 2016 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival starts today (Oct. 26) and runs to Oct. 30. Hindu obsequies for the late Made Wijaya (Michael Richard White) will be held at Sanur on Nov. 9.

HectorR

Hector’s Dairy is published in the on line and print editions of the fortnightly newspaper the Bali Advertiser

Head for the Hills, Gabblers

HECTOR’S DIARY

HectorR

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Bali

Oct. 12, 2016

 

WELL, the Diary is ready for the feast. This will not be in Hotel California style. We’re not much into steely knives and we certainly don’t want to kill the beast. Not that what we’re talking about is a beast at all, anyway. It’s Ubud’s annual rite-fest, the Writers and Readers Festival, which has been a treat every year since 2004 and which this year is on from Oct. 26-30.

Our focus of interest in this instance, America-wise (nothing else trumps it), lies on the east coast, where as The Eagles also take time to remind us, the old world shadows hang heavy in the air. Specifically, it’s the New York novelist Lionel Shriver, who a few weeks back caused a frisson of flounces in an address to a literary occasion in Brisbane. Perhaps she’ll ruffle a kebaya or two while she’s here. That would be fun.

Shriver’s fiction is elegant, but gritty in the social-realistic sense. Some people seem to think that fiction writers should not speak in voices that are not their ethnic or national own. It was this apparent prohibition that caused the flurry in Brisbane, when Shriver made an assertion that fiction is fiction and characters within those narratives are fictional too. That seems like common sense. Still, it’s a free world. Read an author if you want to. Don’t, if you don’t.

Shriver, whose background is journalism, is the author of 11 novels, including the New York Times bestsellers So Much for That (finalist for the 2010 National Book Award and the Wellcome Trust Book Prize) and The Post-Birthday World (Entertainment Weekly’s 2007 Book of the Year).  Her book We Need to Talk About Kevin won the 2005 Orange Prize and was adapted for film by Lynne Ramsay in 2011. Shriver won the BBC National Short Story award in 2014. Her latest novel, her twelfth, is the disturbingly dystopian The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047, published this year.

She features in two events at the festival: Talking Fiction and a session on her latest book.

This year, the festival will host five days of “after dark” events with a full program of arts, live music, performance and poetry taking place at various venues in Ubud.

Pecha Kucha kicks off the program at Betelnut (Oct. 26), where presenters will take to the stage to deliver a 20:20 presentation of thoughts, words and ideas: 20 slides at 20 seconds a piece.

The festival’s popular Poetry Slam (Oct. 29) will also be returning for 2016, with a festival-first, in which Betelnut will also play host to a women-of-words Poetry Slam (Oct. 27), a special celebration of sisterhood in the form of spoken word.

Returning for its second year, the festival’s Late Night Laughs at Casa Luna (29 October) will feature Pakistani stand-up comedian and social commentator Sami Shah.

There’s much more – see the program on the festival website for details – but there’s something on Closing Night (Oct. 30) that particularly piques The Diary’s interest: The Scottish Avant-garde noisemakers Neu! Reekie!

This year too there’s a new type of “Residents” pass that gives holders of other visas as well as KITAS one-day passes for Rp 700K.

The full festival program is here.

Helping Hands

Those of us who live here – and a goodly proportion of those who don’t but still find the wit to learn about Bali, Lombok and Indonesia – know that the tourist scene is just a veneer. The real places exist beyond the fly-in-fly-out package tour, the entertainment, and the chance to fire off a quick criticism that takes no account of reality (see next item).

It is always pleasing to see the distressing reality of life here get both an airing and a partial comeuppance, as we did with a story from Sanur resident Elizabeth Travers. She told the saga of little Kadek who has a very rare skin disease and is being helped by Solemen Indonesia.

Kadek needed a bath installed to help with soaking his painful skin several times a day and Travers asked friends here and in Australia and Singapore to consider making a donation. Well, did they ever! They contributed enough to Solemen to provide an undercover bathtub and a hot water system so he can have warm baths. Solemen will also help to pay the electricity for this.

Travers knows of three other children in Bali with the same problem skin and the money will assist them all. From her post she also got referrals to the Melbourne manufacturers of QV cream head office in Melbourne from Caroline Anderson and the Queensland makers of Poly Visc eye ointment. A scientist who researches genetic skin disorders has volunteered his time and travel to visit Kadek to see if there is anything he can do to help.

Poor Show

Australian visitor Tim Hodge felt obliged recently to publicly note that he’d been disappointed while on a white-water rafting trip to Bali to see that rubbish is still being dumped straight into rivers. He wrote: “
I just don’t understand their way of thinking. T
hey think the river is like a magic trick and just makes it disappear?”

That’s a fair point, except that it fails to acknowledge – perhaps understandably since Hodge is a visitor who doesn’t know the whole picture (and couldn’t be bothered to take one himself, apparently) – that many people here, locals and foreigners alike, are doing all they can to properly manage rubbish.

He compounded this felony by posting a picture on his Facebook of a truck in Peru that was engaged in grossly polluting one of that South American country’s rivers, and seemed aggrieved when this was pointed to him. Not good enough, Tim.

Off Your Bikes

There’s a campaign under way in Java to punish parents of under-age motorbike riders. The police take no notice of this law-breaking, of course, because there’s no money in it and no doubt because irresponsible adults would be miffed if they were to be held accountable for their negligence. We’ll see how that goes.

In Bali, meanwhile, the death toll among under-age illegal motorbike riders shows no sign of slackening. Children who seem barely old enough to be let out on their own, let alone zoom off on Dad’s motorbike, regularly ride to and from school and spend weekends riding dangerously around narrow, non-engineered roads. It’s almost as if they’re looking for an accident.

Too often they find one, in a variety of fatal ways. Jack Daniels of Bali Discovery said the other day that if it looked as if he was starting a crusade against this dreadful plague, that was because he was. He makes a very powerful point.

On Sep. 30 a 15-year-old boy and his 35-year-old mother were killed in a head-on collision with a truck in Tabanan regency. The boy was driving the bike. He rode out into the opposite lane to overtake traffic and straight into an oncoming truck. Both he and his mother died at the scene. The truck driver was not negligent. He is undoubtedly traumatised, and will probably be mentally scarred forever, but harm to others is something else little idiots never think about.

It’s time the traffic police started doing their real job.

Gold Standard

Australian businessman Geoffrey Gold, with whom we once had a pleasant dinner at Un’s restaurant in Kuta and who is long-term fixture in Indonesia and Singapore, referred the other day to the dwindling numbers in the Australian business community in Jakarta. That’s a sign of the times of course, on both sides of the tectonic fault-line that bedevils relations. His comment was in the context of the Australian football grand final function in Jakarta, at which this year neither the ambassador (Paul Grigson, with whom, many moons ago and in plentiful company, we also broke bread) nor the Qantas manager were present. So be it. A footy final is just that: a footy final.

Gold has a far more interesting tale to tell about another function in which he was recently involved. He has just been to Yogyakarta where lie the remains of the Australian-British crew of a C-47 (Dakota) aircraft shot down by the Dutch air force in 1947 while on a mission to deliver medical supplies to the Indonesian authorities during the war of independence.

The graves of Australian pilot Alexander Constantine, his British wife Beryl, and British co-pilot Roy Hazlehurst, were unmarked for nearly two decades. Gold rediscovered them three years ago and negotiated to get a new toilet block at the site turned away from facing them. Others, including Constantine’s family, have since contributed a simple new memorial.

Indonesia’s independence narrative has plenty of heroism in it. There’s room too, to mark the heroism of foreigners, particularly Australian and British, who contributed their lives to the struggle.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly on line and print editions of the Bali Advertiser.

 

Shibboleths Revealed

HECTOR’S DIARY

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

Bali, Aug. 31. 2016

Expatria, the spreading collection of dots that peppers the map of Bali like kibbutzim, as if it were the beginnings of an overbearing expropriation, had an unpleasant frisson of ferment recently over the tragic death of a policeman in an affray at Kuta Beach. Though it was less over the death, it seemed, than it was about a thoughtful and kindly plan to raise money so that the policeman’s bereaved family would not end up in ruinous poverty.

The issue, for those whose plan this was, was not one of guilt or innocence, or even of the circumstances. These are properly matters for the police investigation, the prosecutors, the defence lawyers, the defendants, and the judiciary. Everyone else is supernumerary to these arrangements, or should be. Some among the cohort of thicker, self-centred, expatriates here would benefit from understanding that.

The thing is, you see, it’s very difficult to argue with people whose set views define their untutored assumptions about imperfect justice and shambolic public officialdom in Indonesia. Nowhere is perfect. Mistakes are made everywhere. That, inter alia, is one of the most pressing arguments against the death penalty. No decision should ever be made that cannot be changed or reversed.

When a blather-load of shibboleths is trotted out by the disaffected, as it so sadly was in the instance of the death of sub-inspector Wayan Sudarsa, they throw up smokescreens that hide the blindingly obvious. They also obscure from view – until it’s too late – the rocks that always litter the path of public discussion.

We did check, of course, but as expected we found that none among those offering policing, investigatory or legal opinions had any standing in these matters. So basically, they should have shut up. They didn’t like being told this, naturally. In Expatria, the loud-mouthed man is king. Or thinks he is. It was an unedifying though salutary episode.

The funding appeal is going well, by the way. If you’d like to contribute, visit this link.

It’s a Giggle

The Distaff, dear thing, is a serious lass, particularly when she feels herself under siege by the asinine crowd, that informal collective of the cerebrally challenged or seriously up themselves who ignore common sense and as result blunder blindly and inevitably into the mire. Sometimes one joins her in wishing it were quicksand. Her intolerance of idiocy is among her most attractive features.

The Diary as a consequence seeks from time to time to make her laugh, or at least giggle (she does a good giggle now and then, when encouraged to lighten up). At last resort, we’re content with a smile, and if the environment is particularly dire at the time, we’ll even settle for a wan one. Beggars, they say, cannot be choosers.

So one evening recently, when we were dining at Vincent’s, the Candi Dasa eatery that offers nice music, and delicious fare including haloumi in various preparations, we decided to give her a laugh. She’s had a hard day, poor thing. Our method is to say something of quite extraordinary stupidity. On this occasion it worked a treat. Inquiry had been made as to what had chiefly constituted the compote that underlay the salad that accompanied the Diary’s pastry-baked haloumi.

We ventured the thought, accompanied by a perfectly straight face, that it might be crushed quinoa beans. The effect of this intelligence was electric. The Distaff dissolved into hysterics for some considerable time, with successive recurrent bouts.

It was plainly a triumph. Hysteria is the very apogee of cause and effect in discourse with the Distaff; it is the Holy Grail, so to speak. There was further reward. As we left the restaurant a little later a lovely young woman who was dining a deux at a neighbouring table gave the Diary a perfectly wonderful smile. She clearly appreciated, and wanted to applaud, the fact that an old codger could still administer a powerful dose of levity to his dinner companion. Laughter, after all, is the best medicine.

Coo! Ta!

Perth, the world’s most isolated capital city, is a step closer to getting its own Ku De Ta to further cement its position as Bali’s southern suburb. The KDT brand has been granted a conditional liquor licence for its proposed premises on the redeveloped waterfront in Perth’s central business district.

Jo Hocking, a name familiar to many in Bali and Cambodia (the latter briefly, we understand) asked a question on a post on The Beat Daily’s Facebook the other day, in relation to this intelligence. She asked: “No dancing in bikinis though?” We can suppose not, the fun police being extremely active in Hibernation Central.

This is no bad thing. If we want dancing bikinis in our face while we’re sipping the latest designer mojito (we don’t, the point is polemical) there are plenty of pole-dancing and other establishments where gratuitous exposure of flesh is available to view at the market price.

In this instance not only the boringly prescriptive and omnipresent fun police are in the way, but also Perth’s chilly winters and fresh summer breezes. There are many ways, after all, in which lissom young ladies can choose to stand out in the crowd.

Check, Lit.

The Diary is limbering up for the delights of Bali’s annual literary feast, Janet DeNeefe’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, which this year is on Oct. 26-30. The line-up includes Erica Jong, Lionel Shriver, Dewi Lestari, Hanya YanigaharaHelon Habila, Kamila Shamsie, Amit Chaudhuri, Eka Kurniawan, Jill Dawson, and Ariel Leve.

Ahead of that not to be missed beneficence, there’s another lit glit occasion that has caught our eye. It’s the latest in Jade Richardson‘s Write of Passage courses, this one in Ubud on Sep. 14-18 (in the newspaper version of the Diary, the dates are earlier – a late change beat our deadline there).

Richardson has been in Denmark for a while – the one in Western Australia, where the complexities and machinations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet are, we understand, rather outdone by those of the local Yoga collective – but is now back where she should be, in Bali. We’ll have to see about lunch.

She bills the workshop as a rare chance to join one of the world’s best journeys for writers in its heartland of beautiful, magical Bali: “an empowering journey for those longing to find their voice, on the brink of a new work, or seeking a creative push into the beautiful ride of loving the writing.”

Well, that certainly sounds more fun than a double-decaf soy lite latte no sugar, so we’ve made a note to follow the action. Hector’s amanuensis has a book of his own in the works between diaries and dealings with Expatria (see above) though it may not be of the genre that Richardson’s aspiring writers would view as empowering.

Richardson is an investigative journalist, photographer, editor, writing coach and speaker whose work appears in major newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She draws on her own career and studies with authors, teachers and wisdom keepers to provide a creative writing process that she claims, with reason, is like no other.

You can see more here and book for the Sep. 14-18 course by emailing here.

Noah! Not My Place!

We had to giggle when the unusually extreme summer floods that have been ravaging Louisiana in the USA decided to destroy the home of Tony Perkins, president of an anti-gay religious lobbying group, the Family Research Council. Among the many idiocies Perkins has publicly uttered in his career as a Christian fundamentalist of fundamental dysfunction is a claim that god sends natural disasters to punish an increasingly gay-friendly world.

He called in to his own radio show to describe the flood as one of “biblical proportions”, though apparently without irony. We suspect that irony, as with a grip on the powerful proclivities of karma or the avoirdupois of schadenfreude, is something else in which he is dysfunctional.

This particular deluge was not because of the gays, he said. It was an “incredible, encouraging spiritual exercise to take you to the next level in your walk with an almighty and gracious God who does all things well.”

Should have built an Ark, Bro.

Made Wijaya, RIP

The man of many parts, all of them colourful, gave us all a shock when he caught the last train to the coast on Aug. 28. We’ll miss him. Yes, even those who number in the legion of Those of Whom He Disapproved. Among the many tributes that appeared when news came of his death in Sydney is this little scribble, from the pen of yours truly.

MADE WIJAYA PHOTO: www.naplesgarden.org

Photo courtesy http://www.naplesgarden.org

160829 MADE WIJAYA .png

HectorR

Hector’s Diary also appears in the on line and print editions of the 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

 

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.