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, Aug. 19, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Let’s Make a Mess of It

We do try very hard – really we do – to find little political or bureaucratic triumphs to lighten the load of otherwise observing serial dysfunction and give us something positive to write about that has emerged from government. But it’s hard. Since Australian beef imports were slashed – someone had heard the stirring beat of that nationalist drum again and had convinced himself that Indonesia Raya was self-sufficient in that variety of essential protein – local prices have shot up by 180 percent because (and we won’t even bother pausing for effect) supplies were now short. The government has said it will import 50,000 tons of Australian beef to meet the shortfall, or perhaps to fill in the gap in its mind.

We’ll move along to the next little upset apple cart. This is the invidious effect of steep rises in tariff charges on imported wine and spirits, which (to no one’s surprise except the sentient) have caused a conniption in the drinks industry – it’s worth rather more than a snip at US$300 million (Rp Something plus far too many zeroes) – especially coming on top of this year’s ban on beer sales through mini markets. From Jul. 23, importers have been paying 90 percent of import consignment value on wine and 150 percent on spirits. The industry says this will lead to retail price rises of between 15-100 percent. It fears, somewhat naturally, that this may have a negative impact on sales.

It is true of course that observant Muslims are forbidden alcohol – it is haram – and that premium wines and spirits are only ever so rarely found in your average Indonesian household whose occupants, if they have jobs, earn derisory wages that are flat out putting nasi bungkus on the meja. Cheap hooch is widely available and – as we have just seen again in Bali in a separate criminally stupid or criminal profiteering case – is highly likely to have been adulterated with methanol or other dangerous substances. Most Indonesians are unlikely to be affected by prohibition-style, speakeasy-level prices for imported drinks they will never consume.

But there is another aspect to the alcohol issue that should worry a great many people. It is that the drive to suppress consumption is coming from the hardline Islamist push in the legislature and the government. Consuming alcohol is not prohibited for many people who profess Indonesia’s other religious faiths. It is a commodity that the tourism sector must provide to meet the expectations of their markets. There are plenty of other places for tourists – or rich Indonesian elites – to go if they want a drink at a reasonable price with their holiday dinners, after all. This factor is critical to Bali, where tourism is the single most important economic driver. It’s quite clear that Islamic legislators in Jakarta – a world city in which alcohol fuels the metropolitan entertainment sector – have given little thought for the deeper ramifications of their campaign.

Drinking is not compulsory. It is elective behaviour of the sort that sensible, secular states permit (properly regulated) on the basis that people should be free to choose to indulge in lawful, pleasurable activities and ought to be facilitated in these pursuits. Too often when fanatics get into the act all sorts of things are proscribed because it is suspected that somewhere, someone might be having a good time.

Island Faces

There’s a lovely photographic exhibition at Lestari Art Space in J. Drupadi, Seminyak, called The Island’s Faces and featuring an eclectic range of local dials. The photographs are the work of Ayu Swarie. They have been acclaimed by many as emblematic of our island and won deserved applause from the crowd at the opening on Aug. 7.

The Diary could not be present on opening night because of a prior engagement (see below). But the exhibition runs through to mid-September and we’re not going to miss it. The works are for sale.

Beach Style

A good friend, filmmaker and photographer Adithio Noviello, and his bride Adita Dwi Putrianti chose a sunset beach setting for their wedding on Aug. 7. It was a lovely occasion, especially because it was a celebrated with Muslim rites in front of a gathering whose own religious beliefs encompassed Islam, Balinese Hindu, Buddhist, Judaism, Christianity of various sects, and a goodly component of those whose religious practice exists only as an entry on their ID cards. It seemed a delightful allegory of the real world, the one that exists away from Those Who Like to Bother You.

It’s always a pleasure to hear Arabic spoken or sung at religious occasions and, in the old days before loudspeakers took over from the solitary muezzin who intoned from the minaret, the call to prayer was a mellifluous affair. It’s also rather nice to hear Qur’anic Arabic that’s not being spoken or sung by a native speaker of the language. In that respect, it shares qualities with the Latin one used to hear in Christian churches: unintelligible to most and quaintly pronounced.

We said this, at the party at the Holiday Inn Baruna Bali at Tuban, to a fellow guest whose provenance is Jewish, and added that when such occasions bless the ear it is for us very much like listening to Hebrew. Shalom Aliechem.

Noviello recently produced a short film on the under-threat Bali Dog – it was launched at a function at the Mercure Bali in Sanur the week before his wedding – and auctioned the centerpiece work from his brilliant exhibition of still photographs in aid of BAWA, the Bali Animal Welfare Association. One of his other photographs now resides at The Cage, courtesy of the charge-card facility at the show.

From Vulcan’s Lair

Our favourite local blogger, Vyt Karazija, had a lovely take on Mt Raung’s lengthy effluence in nearby East Java that has lately caused distress to airports, airlines, and especially airline passengers who have no idea of the dangerous properties of volcanic dust except that it must be someone else’s fault. That episode had abated at the time of writing – though one should never wholly trust Vulcan not to return to bother us again shortly – but it gave all sorts of people an opportunity to fulminate.

Karazija fulminates quietly, in his own erudite way. He noted on his Facebook one day that his newly cleaned motorbike had acquired a dull sheen of dust – debu in the local parlance – and he became quite lyrical about this. He wrote that it was wondrous that minute particles of Inner Earth had been expelled by pyrotechnic flux and had floated free for the first time in four billion years, seeing the Sun and all the other wonders available above the crust. It was pleasing, he noted, that some of these microscopic and newly free entities had chosen to grace his motorbike.

This is sort of poetic prose that can bring a tear to eye of an old diarist, someone from the dark side who has seen the English language mangled by many for whom it is their native tongue and who unaccountably have been paid to write in that language. We did have a briefly lachrymose moment. But Karazija, while he is light with the virtual equivalent of a pen, is also a practical man. The rare dust that had blessed his bike, he finally decided, might actually be debu from the rampant construction and deconstruction, licensed or otherwise, that takes place round the clock in South Bali.

Then again, we ourselves mused, it could merely have been particulate-laden smog, that other constant in the atmosphere above the murdered landscape of Denpasar, Badung and parts of Gianyar and Tababan. We daily see that dreadful pall – beneficially, this is from a distance – from The Cage in our still mainly wooded and freshly aired bit of the Bukit.

See You in Sanur

The tenth Sanur Festival will be held from Aug. 26-30. Its theme is “Decade”, which is accurate at least, if not a natural crowd-puller of a slogan. Along with the usual mix of such events, including kite flying, a food festival, fun runs (on Aug.23), beach cleanups, turtle hatchling releases, a photographic competition and other entertainments, this year’s festival includes nightly showings of films from the 2015 Bali International Film Festival, which itself takes place from Sep. 24-30. For those more actively inclined there are Village cycling tours; and the Sanur Open golf tournament will be held at Bali Beach golf course on Aug. 29-30.

Sanur Festival chairman Ida Bagus Gede Sidharta Putra makes a good point. “If we do not have a flagship tourism activity, Bali tourism will stagnate and slowly it could be abandoned by tourists.”

Festival details are on the festival website.

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

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Feb. 4, 2015

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

A Tale of Two Statues

The new style of Bali’s fixation with monumental ornamentation, as seen in the grossly huge and garishly illuminated nightly by circus-style flashing lights “monkey mountain” that has been erected at the junction of Prof Ida Bagus Mantra Bypass and I Gusti Ngurah Rai Bypass just south of Tohpati, is certainly a distraction to drivers. That’s about the kindest thing you could say about it.

It’s true that after a while it fails to totally shock – the brain is adept at repressing all manners of vast unpleasantness – but we can personally attest that for the first several times this visionary excrescence comes suddenly into view one is auto-prompted to utter loudly a crudely pejorative four-letter word before asking (audibly or otherwise, and rhetorically of course) “What on earth is that?”

Fortunately the future of world-class Balinese stone craftsmanship is in safe hands in other areas. Gianyar regency sculptor Ongky Wijana, for instance, has recently completed a work that will honour the mining heritage of the little town of Laxey in the Isle of Man, one among the Queen’s possessions that has never been incorporated into the United Kingdom.

Wijana’s wife Hannah Black, an art editor and designer, is from the Isle of Man, which is in the Irish Sea roughly equidistant from the Irish and Scottish coasts and a little further from the nearest bits of England and Wales. That’s the connection. He has spent quite a lot of time there (he tells us he loves the weather; but he is a very polite gentleman) and got the commission after he was spotted practising his art amid the chill gales of winter as a good way of keeping warm.

It was a nearly year-long task – thankfully this was performed warmly in Bali – to create the statue from a 5000kg block of stone from Ireland and four pieces of Welsh slate. The finished work left Bali in early January and is due to be unveiled at Laxey on May 23.

A Hundred Shades of Grey

We’re not sure of the actual numbers (we were having far too much fun to count heads) but it’s in the nature of seventieth birthday parties to produce fields of grey wherever the eye might fall. And this was the case at The Santosa in Senggigi, Lombok, on Jan. 17, when former leading South Australian and federal Labor politician Peter Duncan had his big bash.

We flew over for the occasion and caught up with some old friends, including Barbara Cahyadi of the Lombok Guide who, because she’s a she, can legitimately crawl away and dye. She didn’t look grey at all. But then she’s nowhere near seventy either. Septuagenarian status in this context is a privilege shared only by itinerant scribblers and former politicians.

Duncan says it was not his idea, and we believe him, but The Santosa had erected a very visible backdrop behind the music stage that loudly (in the visual sense) congratulated “Mr Peter Owner of Taman Restaurant” on his birthday, which was on Jan. 1. It displayed a photographic representation of the present Mr Peter and another of the former political artist as a young man. Well, a very much younger man. This is why we keep our family album under virtual lock and key.

Duncan wore white for the night. His lovely wife Wiwik Pusparini had given him the outfit for his birthday. It was the evening’s one disappointment. Duncan had hinted earlier that he might, in his opening remarks, say that this was a great moment to appear in his birthday suit. Sadly, he flaked on that.

He did make an excellent point in his little address, however. He noted that if he’d held his big bash in Queensland, Australia, all his guests would have risked arrest. Among them were two members of bikie gangs. The Queensland government has outlawed any gathering at which more than one bikie is present. They like their paranoia by the shovelful in Bananaland.

Hang on a Tic!

The endemic political Tourette’s syndrome and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) that afflict Indonesia can be entertaining. Or they would be if they weren’t simply revealing ubiquitous dysfunction and the fact that those creating it would rather play silly games than do any serious work.

The real Tourette’s, a debilitating and limiting neurological condition, and OCB, an anxiety disorder, are involuntary medical conditions. The non-medical and characteristically self-inflicted political variants of these sad conditions are not. They are elective and risible.

It needs to be noted that while Indonesia has pervasive exposure to these syndromes – most lately demonstrated in the Keystone Kops tit-for-tat farce involving the national police and the anti-corruption commission which would be hilarious if it weren’t so dangerous – they are not unique to the archipelago. They are prevalent in many places, globally, including within the Australian political class.

Last year the government announced that five countries would get visa-free entry for short-term visitors. These countries were Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

In 2014 Australian arrivals to Bali, totalled 991,024, which was 26.3 percent of all visitors. Among the countries awarded free visa status from 2015, China last year sent us 586,197 tourists, a more than 50 percent increase; South Korea 106,774 (to Sep.), making it our sixth largest market; Japan, once our biggest market, fell to fourth place with not much hope of any marked improvement in the short term; and Russian arrivals fell 10 percent (to Sep.) due to unfortunate circumstances at home and the collapse of the rouble. Malaysia, which is on the ASEAN free visa list, was our third-largest market in 2014 with 224,962 arrivals.

Now Australia has been dumped from the list of those countries whose travelling citizenry is to be excused the tedious business of being tickled for US$35 on arrival. Officially this is because the free visa arrangements require reciprocity (and that would certainly be sensible on the basis of a short-stay holiday and a return ticket, should anyone in Canberra feel interested enough to notice). But since Australia was on the original list and now isn’t, it seems safe to assume that the move is political.

In the words of Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Indroyono Soesilo: “For Australians, the visa on arrival is enough.” Perhaps he means that US$34,685,840 is nice pocket-money.

But what Indonesia has just said to its potential one-million-plus-a-year Australian tourists, its largest market, is, “Welcome to Bali. Sod off.”  What needs to be understood in Jakarta and Denpasar is that there are now many other places in the region which offer Australian tourists holiday experiences with free visas, less expense, less inconvenience, and better facilities. As blogger of note Vyt Karazija observed, it’s that shoot first, shout later thing: Ready! Fire! Aim!

Move Along Now…

No doubt Bali will give its famous blank stare response to the recent decision of the Supreme Court of India to uphold a ban on cock-fighting in the Hindu state of Andhra Pradesh. An action to overturn the ban on cultural grounds was opposed by Humane Society International, which told the court: “These cruel practices are against the law and should not be conducted under the garb of tradition. These events are nothing but gambling events.”

In Bali, cock-fighting is ubiquitous. Only the blind or the beneficially suborned would suggest gambling is not. Blood sacrifice is integral to both Balinese and Indian Hindu rites but the question is whether a religious validation of cruelty extends to death sports for gain. Animal activists are working (in the case of the Bali Animal Welfare Association, with IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare) to educate communities in animal welfare and animal rights.

Interesting Thought

Waiting for a delayed flight can have benefits, not the least of them the chance to drink even more coffee. So it was when we flew back from Lombok to Bali on Jan. 18 after a weekend visit for a party (see above) and two lovely nights at Sudamala Suites and Villas on the beach at Mangsit north of Senggigi.

The benefit in this case came at our second coffee stop, after we discovered by the sort of osmosis required to obtain accurate information from anyone in Indonesia, that our Wings Air flight would be leaving 90 minutes late.

We were at the Dante’s outlet in the departure area and had switched off the smart phone to conserve its pathetic battery capacity. In an effort to delay terminal boredom, the eye wandered around the establishment’s many promotional billboards and found a reward.

One of these colourful eye-catchers was offering Brazilian Lemon. We wondered, briefly and indelicately, if that was a lemon with the zest shaved off.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print and online Bali Advertiser http://www.baliadvertiser.com

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Jan. 7, 2015

 

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

 

BAWA with a Bang

BAWA, the pre-eminent animal welfare organization on the island because of focused effort and the seminal role played by founder Janice Girardi in dealing with rabies when it broke out in Bali in 2008 – the disease is now endemic, but that’s Indonesian bureaucracy for you – ended 2014 with a bang, though not one that would frighten the doggies.

It held a Bridge to New Year fundraising dinner on Dec. 29 at Ubud’s Taksu Restaurant, an event at which the organization was able to brief guests on its plans for 2015 and beyond. It came complete with musical entertainment provided by BAWA staff members who, when they’re not doing their day jobs, sing and strum a guitar with enthusiastic aplomb.

Earlier in December BAWA announced a real coup. Ubud prince Cok De Piko (Tjokorda Gde Dharma Putra Sukawati) has become a BAWA ambassador and, because of his enduring love for dogs and particularly the very special Bali Dog, will be seen out and about with BAWA teams as they perform their daily work.

His favourite quote is from Mark Twain: “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” Cok De studied in Australia, where he did not adopt a dog because he wouldn’t have been able to leave it behind when he returned to Bali. That’s the sort of thinking casual pet owners the world over should get their heads around.

Ubud’s traditional royalty remains very influential in the local community and is extremely well connected where it matters.

On Jan. 3, BAWA hosted the third of its series of events at Kuta Beachwalk, themed around its Adopt-Learn-Chat with a Vet program. That came along with really good music that ran late into the evening; a selection of beautiful puppies; ready-to-chat veterinarians; and some lovely art from Urban Sketchers. The event was sponsored by Beachwalk, Legian Beach Hotel, and others including Scooby-Doo, the dog food-delivery people.

BAWA’s Christmas card was interesting, by the way. You might say it was highly traditional. There was snow everywhere. This did not bring to mind Snowing in Bali, Kathryn Bonella’s book about the drug scene. Instead, it reminded us that snow looks great on Christmas cards and is murder anywhere else. We did wonder what the lovely Bali dogs and the little monkey on the BAWA card were thinking.

Please, Do Amuse

Jade Richardson, the peripatetic scribbler, recommenced her writers’ workshops in Ubud this month. This is good to see. Her approach to the written word is unique and she has a mind that is fun to engage. It’s no surprise that in Bali, where Ozymandias still lives in self-nominated splendour and where so many have built glittering local reputations upon the geographically distant rubble of pasts imperfect, she’s not on everyone’s most-favoured list.

Her mission with The Write Path is to get intending authors of books, biographies, short stories, poetry and those with ideas for articles or scripts fictional or factual, to take that first bold step and release their inner muse. Richardson, who is not one with whom to trifle, says that her process with writers “releases a genie from the bottle – meaning that I can assist those who have the call to write to discover a genius for storytelling that they never knew they had.”

She started her workshops in Bali and they’ve since been to Ecuador, the Galapagos and Thailand and online. It’s good to see her home again. It’s worth looking at www.heartbookwriting.com too.

Play-tonic

Plato always gets a good rap at The Cage. He’s well up Hector’s Top Ten Thinkers list. So it’s a bit sad, as he is so anciently a posthumous source, that his engaging aphorisms, real or otherwise, get co-opted by the ignorant for all sorts of nefarious purposes.

A case in point: On Dec. 28 there was an event at Dragonfly Village in Denpasar billed as Sensual/Sexual PlayDay – Conscious pleasure with consent, organized by someone called Matthias Schwenteck. This gentleman purloined for his own purposes the Platonic observation (one of the many Plato didn’t actually utter) that “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”.

The event seemed more suited to Ubud, where lots of people like to spend their time examining their navels while harbouring the intent to get a close-up glimpse of someone else’s.

Perhaps the fixation with things better organized privately, or which are undertaken singularly in darkened rooms with the doors locked, really is spreading beyond the confines of Loopville.

Alpha Mail

An item a fortnight ago noted that the new British envoy to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, was still ambassador-designate because he had not yet presented his letters of credence to President Joko Widodo.

Well, he hadn’t engaged in this ancient formality when we sent the previous diary in by its deadline. He did shortly thereafter, it seems, though this was not without a little last-minute hitch. He tweeted on Dec. 18, the big day: “Almost forgot my letter from the Queen – had to run back to get it.”

Banzai!

We had a pleasant drive (we jest) one Saturday evening recently when the Distaff decided she’d like sukiyaki for dinner and suggested we journey to Seminyak to enjoy the table-top cooking at Kaizan. We hadn’t been there for a while, so a plausible excuse to avoid the trip did not spring to mind.

But Kaizan wasn’t there – perhaps the extortionate rents now demanded in the area had driven it away – so we dined instead at another favourite nearby, Kuni’s, on seaweed salad, Gyu asupara maki, Gohan, Sukiyaki Nabe, and a delightful green tea mousse. This was accompanied in order by “one large Bintang two glass”, some rather pleasant sake and a nice plum wine.

The Distaff has a thing for Japan. This dates from many years ago. And for sukiyaki, ditto, though it is more a home-cooking dish than a fine-dining experience. Her view on sukiyaki, as on many things, is “Doko ga warui no desuka?” It’s a colloquial Japanese transliteration of an interrogative “What’s wrong with that?” And we agree.

The drive from Ungasan was another matter. Large numbers of idiots were dangerously riding their motorbikes and the drivers of all the tourist buses were clearly on speed. Half the street lights were out on the by-pass. There were Hindu ceremonies everywhere that required fierce-looking village guards armed with Star Wars-style magic wands to stop the traffic so that scattered little groups of celebrants could wander at will across the thoroughfare.

The airport traffic circle was mayhem as a result. Northbound traffic had formed eight (we counted) “lanes” to force a way into the circus. The Distaff closed her eyes and thought of sukiyaki while her driver, whom we know as Perpendicular Pronoun, edged and all but nudged his way through. It helps, we think, to have been a lemming in a former life.

He’s Cooking

Vyt Karazija, the inveterate blogger, was thinking virtually out loud on Facebook on Boxing Day evening as to whether he should go out to eat or stay home and cook. Neither prospect amused him. We (and others) tendered advice. Ours was simple and direct: “Easy. Starve.” In the end he decided to cook and explained why:

“The prospect was get dressed, release security cobras, then quickly lock up premises, don wet weather gear, get bike outside, lock gates, ride to restaurant while trying not to skid, fall off, get hit by some moron, park bike somewhere where it won’t fall over/get stolen/get flattened by some blind idiot with a Hummer, order food, get accosted by friendly drunk, argue about the ++ charges on the bill and then do everything in reverse just to get home.

“Then having to round up the security cobras and put them back in their boxes and pacify them because I forgot to pick up their mice for dinner.

“Or alternatively, cook dinner and eat it.”

It’s a piece of cake, really.

Dance Class

A chance remark the other day, offered by an acquaintance who may have been concerned that some might have missed the module on delicious irony when they were majoring in epithet, prompts us to say that we know the iconic Bali dance that tourists have been going ga-ga about since it was invented in the antiquity of the 1930s is called Kecak.

Readers may have noticed a reference or two to Kecap dances in the diary in recent times.

It is often called Kecap by tourists and in many less than scholarly references on that global kindergarten primer, the world-wide web. Kecap is sauce. Though it must not be confused with ketchup, which is to piquant what semolina is to Bubur Injin.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter. His diary appears in the print edition of the Bali Advertiser and at http://www.baliadvertiser.biz

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Sep. 17, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

In the Picture

Myuran Sukumaran, the British-born Australian who has been on death row in Kerobokan Jail for eight years awaiting a firing squad for his leading part in the infamous 2005 Bali Nine drug smuggling case, has been on show in Melbourne. Well, his art has, at an exhibition at the Matthew Sleeth Studio in inner suburban Brunswick on Sept. 6.

Sukumaran, who says his art has helped give him a sense of self-control in prison, has worked hard to rehabilitate himself while his various appeals against his death sentence have worked their way through the Indonesian court system. His final plea for clemency now rests unanswered in the presidential office, where in the near-dead-duck closing stages of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s term not even the paperwork can be bothered to shuffle. The famous last words of the 19th century Australian criminal Ned Kelly, “Such is life”, come to mind. They are both a parable of Sukumaran’s own sorry record and an allegorical reference for SBY’s presidency.

Some people say criminals such as Sukumaran and the leading lights of the Bali Nine gang deserve no sympathy. But an eye for eye is neither a moral precept nor a sensible social response. Further, judicial killing is still killing. Two wrongs will never make a right. Policymakers everywhere should remember that.

One of the aims of a corrective prison system is to rehabilitate inmates. Sukumaran established the prisoner art scheme in Kerobokan. He has talent, as his work shows, and has plainly responded well to mentoring by Australian artists Ben Quilty – whose portrait of the painter Margaret Olley won the Archibald Prize in 2011 and who was the official Australian war artist in Afghanistan – and visual artist Sleeth. Both have been working with the Kerobokan art group for two years.

The 20 Sukumaran works shown in Melbourne were all for sale, at prices several floors above bargain basement. They are eye-catching – and conscience-gripping – works which among other things feature portraits of SBY and Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop. Funds raised from sales of his paintings went to support the Kerobokan art project.

That project is ongoing with the support of local interests – and the indomitable Lizzie Love. Good show!

Seal of Approval

BIMC Hospital at Nusa Dua has won Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) accreditation, the first hospital in Indonesia to receive recognition that its standards meet those set within Australia by the country’s leading independent authority on health care. The award was made in July after three assessors form Australia and Hong Kong spent three days reviewing the care and standards at BIMC Nusa Dua and commended the team on the quality of care and service.

This year BIMC linked with the Lippo Group and its Siloam hospitals in a major move to bring western standard health and hospital care within reach of more and more Indonesians. BIMC Nusa Dua is targeting the broadening market in medical tourism with a suite of specialties. These include cosmetic medicine, state of the art orthopaedic treatments and a dialysis centre that can cater for tourists who require regular sessions.

Executive chairman of BIMC Siloam, Craig Beveridge, said of ACHS accreditation that “[It] sends a clear message to the community that BIMC Nusa Dua, its management and staff, are committed to excellence in health care with a strong and continuous focus on safety, quality and performance. I would like to commend all involved.”

Beveridge is justifiably proud of his establishment’s achievement. He says this: “We believe our patients deserve the best. Going through the process challenged us to find better ways to serve our patients, and it is a constant reminder that our responsibility is to strive to continuously improve the quality of care we provide.”

As the leading independent authority on the measurement and implementation of quality improvement systems for Australian health care facilities, the ACHS provides assessment of the development of health care standards through consultation with industry by which quality of care may be assessed and a survey of health care organizations on a voluntary basis using these standards. This is done by peer review.

It also has an Australian national education program to help in preparing for accreditation; offers advice and consultation on health care programs; has information services on quality in health care; and offers electronic assessment tools to assist in recording data.

There is a rigorous process of external peer review to meet world class standards for patient care; performance outcomes that provide data for benchmarking throughout the health care system; and measures to improve outcomes of care and respect for the individual.

It also puts BIMC prominently on the marketing map. That’s no bad thing.

Throwing Petrol on the Fire

It’s surprisingly difficult to get arrested in Indonesia for crimes such as corruption or bare-faced incitement to murder. But try “defaming” someone with clout, real or imagined, and you can swiftly end up in the pokey. That’s what happened to an unfortunate young woman student at Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University after she ran into an intemperate queue at a petrol station – a queue formed in the crucible of the government’s unsustainable subsidy scheme – and bleated about it in a social media post.

She said that Yogyakarta was poor, stupid and uncultured and suggested friends in Jakarta and Bandung should avoid the place. Her post on Path went viral, in the patois of the text message age, and numbers of self-elected luminaries decided to be really, really pissed off about it. She was first subjected to online bullying (we get some ourselves from time to time: we find that a virtual knee in the goolies deters further assault) and then a precious group – oops, sorry, pressure group – called Jati Sura reported her to police for defamation. Astonishingly, defamation is a criminal offence in Indonesia. Pricking balloons and puncturing egos is a threat to the state, it seems.

The young woman apologized in the grovelling way one has to do that here and the little storm blew itself out without upsetting too many teacups. But it’s such a shame that there appears to be no provision for someone with rank in the police to stamp on such silly overreactions before yet another seriously embarrassing comedic opportunity is generated.

Silly Question

Speaking of social media, Ubud fixture Annie Canham had this to say on Facebook the other day: “Just a question … why are there now so many dog rescue people, shelters, beach feeders, sterilisation groups and more…but from my personal observations they don’t seem to be connected at all … seems crazy … why can’t they be one united group, sharing facilities, drugs, equipment food and most of all donations…”

She got an answer (of sorts) from someone called Nyoman Sugirawan, who said Canham surely knew the answer and why was she asking it again.

There are of course many reasons for separate efforts, including differences of emphasis (and intellectual value). But the general point is a good one. As we’ve noted before several times, there are more than enough needy dogs around to occupy any number of animal welfare groups. It would make sense to work together in a planned and organized way, in a spirit of mutual recognition. Turf wars are tedious.

Back Home to a Curate’s Egg

Blogger extraordinaire Vyt Karazija returned to Bali earlier this month – and to a more regular diet of social media posts – with two bits of intelligence to hand. In the manner of the apocryphal curate’s egg, some of this was bad and some of it good. On the demerit side of the oeuf, he found that after a spell in Melbourne using an Australian SIM card in his Telkomsel phone his Indonesian SIM wouldn’t work and that several other cyber difficulties also apparent.

On the merit side, he tells us the much valued and essential Multiple Exit Re-entry Permit is now valid for the full 12 months of your KITAS instead of the bureaucratic nightmare 11 months that has been the unbelievable practice until now.

You win some, you lose some.

Lit., Glit and Otherwise

Next edition’s Diary will appear on the opening day of Janet DeNeefe’s annual lit-glit festival in Ubud. This year, unfortunately, a date with another event in Australia and some further time necessarily to be spent in the Special Biosphere afterwards will deprive us of an opportunity to be present to ooh and aah with the in-crowd.

We got a little note from DeNeefe in our mailbox on Sep. 10, telling us that at three weeks out there was plenty of excitement building in Ubud for the Oct. 1-5 Festival. All the details of the 200 events at 54 venues were on line and the program book was making its way from Jakarta to Bali. Hopefully this was not by camel train.

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, May 14, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Intriguing Art

One measure of a country’s social maturity is how it responds to and interacts with those within its society whose culture is a minority expression. Most countries have minority populations. Mostly, let it be said, they do not demonstrate cultural maturity in their dealings with them.

Australia is by any measure an ethnically diverse nation. Even before the great post-World War II migration boom, its settler community included people of many different origins. Among these were large numbers of Chinese. But as with other settler societies within the Anglosphere – the United States, Canada and New Zealand – it is the descendants of the dispossessed aboriginal inhabitants who are most deserving of goodwill and a substantial helping hand.

Without canvassing colonial policy towards Australia’s Aborigines – about which the historical literature is excoriating – it is pleasing to note that today’s policies seek (though imperfectly) to return to Aborigines the self empowerment they lost when British settlers arrived two centuries ago.

Part of the problem is that much of today’s Aboriginal population is not in the same pre-bucolic hunter-gatherer circumstances as Bennelong, who is remembered in the name of a federal electorate in Sydney and whose place in history (as First Dupe, one might say) is assured.

Australia has long passed the point where it would Anglicize the name of its national animal symbol as “kangaroo”. Some sources assert that this means “I don’t know”, an early whitefella having asked a passing local what they called that strange animal. It has passed, too, the point where a future township (in Queensland) would be called Cunnamulla, which means midden.

It’s rather nice to think that while they were being harried out of their ancestral territories by a pack of uncouth and frequently murderous Brits, the Eighteenth and Nineteenth century Aborigines still found time to have a joke at the expense of those who were doing the harrying.

In the two centuries since British settlement and the beginnings of a distinct Australian culture and indeed ethnicity, the Aboriginal source of some of this identity has generally been left out of the narrative. That is a tragedy.

Complete redress remains a distant goal. But the Australians are actually trying rather hard across many areas of human endeavour. One such effort is the world-touring Message Stick exhibition. It portrays indigenous identity in urban Australia.

The art in the exhibition is challenging, in some instances because it itself perpetuates emergent myths about the principles and purposes of earlier policy towards Aborigines. Some is very striking, especially Christian Thompson’s three 2007 Hunting Ground works.

The exhibitions in Indonesia are the show’s last stop before it repatriates itself to the former Terra Australis Incognita. It was at the eclectic Maha Art Gallery in Renon, Denpasar, from May 4-14. New Consul-General Majell Hind did the honours at the opening assisted by Vicky Miller, First Secretary (Cultural) at Australia’s embassy in Jakarta.

 

Write On

Before we leave the Antipodes for other matters, one other thing deserves a mention. It is the Australia-Indonesia Emerging Writers Exchange organized through the Australian Embassy’s arts and cultural program.

Australia’s Luke Ryan took part in the Bali Emerging Writers Festival over the weekend of May 3-4 (it’s a useful spin-off from the annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, this year from Oct 1-5). He and his Indonesian counterpart, Ni Ketut Sudiani of Bali, will be at the Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne (May 27-Jun 6) and the National Writers’ Conference (May 31 and Jun 1) where they will discuss the exchange and potential for Australia-Indonesia collaboration.

Ms Sudiani notes that being in Melbourne will provide a completely different experience from her home in Bali. True. For one thing, the city’s climate is apt to give you all four temperate zone seasons in one day.

But it’s a fabulous place. A representative taste of the city’s contribution to Australian culture should include seeing an AFL game at the MCG, a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria, a peek at St Kilda beach (or Brighton for a different ambience) and plenty of coffee and culinary treats in Lygon Street.

Enjoy, Sudiani.

 

ART-ful Plan

Delphine Robbe, the motivating force behind environmental efforts on land and under water in Lombok’s northern Gili islands, is promoting a new project to grow a coral reef off Senggigi on Lombok’s west coast.

There’s novelty in the project, which is similar in concept to the successful Biorock coral regeneration in the Gilis. It is using metal works of Teguh Ostenrik, one of only a few Indonesian artists in that genre who exhibit widely in galleries. He is the founder of the project.

Among the novelties is the name – ART-ificial Reef Park Lombok. Look it up on Facebook and if you’ve a mind to, join its growing list of fans.

 

Pink’s the Go

Anti-breast cancer campaigners Bali Pink Ribbon organized a breast screening road show this month, in which free screening is offered to Balinese women at various locations around Bali. This is essential preventive health work and a very valuable effort.

Bali Pink Ribbon founder Gaye Warren tells us Bali Pink Ribbon is working with volunteer doctors and nurses from FeM Surgery Singapore and led by Dr Felicia Tan. Two mobile ultrasound units were sent to Bali for the road show, on loan from Philips Singapore.

BPR volunteer doctors and nurses led by Dr Dian Ekawati from Prima Medika Hospital in Denpasar also took part. Prof. Tjakra Manuaba, head of oncology at Prima Medika and medical adviser to Bali Pink Ribbon, led a seminar at the Badung breast screening road show.

The annual Bali Pink Ribbon Walk is on Oct. 25 and will be held as usual in the Nusa Dua tourism precinct. It’s always fun and the money raised is essential to help keep breast cancer education programs and screening going.

Free screening will be available at the Oct. 25 walk and a three-day screening road show will follow.

On Oct. 17 BPR has an “In the Pink” lunch and fashion show planned. It’s in our diary, as is the walk. Advance purchase walk tickets are available from Pink Ribbon House, Bali Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Support Centre, Jl. Dewi Sri IV/ No.1, Kuta. It’s off Sunset Road. Or check their website: balipinkribbon.com

 

Late Notice

There’s no stopping Nigel Mason, viewed by many as the undisputed king of adventure tourism in Bali. He celebrated turning 70 last month in spectacular style with a dazzling party at his Bali Adventure Tours Company’s headquarters at Ubud on Apr. 13.

According to Diana Shearin, of the aptly named DISH public relations outfit and who helped with the fiddly bits, Mason pulled out all stops with an evening of non-stop entertainment, decadent cocktails and an enormous buffet for 400-plus guests.

Mason’s Balinese wife of 31 years, Yanie, and their two sons Jian and Shan were present, as was Mason’s daughter Katia, who lives in Australia.

The proceedings were helped along by Australian comedian Kevin Bloody Wilson and a troupe of lissom young ladies who had delightfully forgotten (as so many do these days) that you’re supposed to wear something over your scanties. Still, this isn’t Aceh.

Shame we missed it. It’s also a shame that an accident in cyberspace prevented the appearance of our original brilliant report on the affray in last edition’s diary. The Great Cursor sent it to a galaxy far, far away. Or we hit the wrong button or something.

 

Won’t Work

Blogger Vyt Karazija posted a great little video on Facebook recently, relating to education about not dumping trash in waterways. He suggested – entirely reasonably – that it should be screened frequently on Bali television channels.

He’d found it while trawling Facebook, which despite its many demerits is a very useful social medium. The clip features a red truck dumping trash into a river near a sign that proclaims “No Dumping”.

So of course we had to rain on Vyt’s parade. We pointed out that while it was indeed a good idea, it just wouldn’t work. Most red truck drivers would simply assume the rule couldn’t possibly apply to them. And drivers of all the other trucks, the green, yellow and blue ones, could say without fear of contradiction that they don’t dump anything from red ones, so what’s the problem?

 

Swell Party

We dropped into the Legian Beach Hotel on Friday, May 9, to help celebrate the opening of the new Ole Beach Bar there. The LBH is a grand local success story. It celebrates its 40th birthday this year and is doing so with the assistance of its significant cadre of return guests, some of whom have been holidaying there for decades.

General Manager Arif Billah, who hails from Lombok, is rightly proud of his staff and the hotel’s place in Bali’s tourism sector.

The drinks at Ole Beach Bar are great too.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Mar. 5, 2014

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

Diving Lessons 

The matter of the Japanese divers whose expedition turned into disaster off Nusa Penida on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) is now in police hands. An investigation is apparently under way. The skipper of the dive boat is a person of interest, according to reports.

That seems fair enough. The facts of the case should not be the subject of ill-informed prattle or gossipy rumour. As always, one lives in hope that should the authorities actually discover the facts, they’ll let everyone know about this rather than finding another corner of carpet to sweep them under. One hopes. They do say hope springs eternal.

It was interesting that the rescue authorities – who did a magnificent job and deserve public praise for doing so – suggested at one point (there was a published reference to this) that the dive boat wasn’t where it was supposed to be when the seven Japanese female divers surfaced as scheduled because it was low on fuel and had gone away to get more.

If this is the case, it is yet another astonishing example of the cavalier approach to dangerous behaviour so often seen in Bali and other parts of Indonesia. It would seem to ordinary mortals, for example, that if you’re running a dive boat you don’t run low on fuel. You ensure you have enough for the scheduled task and a safety reserve to cover emergencies or unforeseen events.

The weather was foul on dive day. That’s another issue the regulators should look at both from the local regulatory perspective and in terms of measures to foreclose on foolish decisions to go ahead in risky conditions. The waters off Nusa Penida are not benign.

Five of the seven divers survived their experience, including three days adrift in dangerous waters or clinging to a submerged coral head. Sadly two did not. That makes it a tragedy, not just something that can be dismissed as bad karma.

Lobbying for Art

There was a lovely little soiree at Conrad Bali on Feb. 28 to introduce the in-crowd to the hotel’s Living Lobby Art exhibition. It’s often been pleasant to drop into the lobby at the Conrad in the past, since it has always featured art to catch the eye. It goes with the ambience, so to speak.

Some little time ago, when Michael Burchett was GM, we dropped by to chat with the delightful Cecilia Hatmandayani and while waiting were entranced by the delightfully outré art on display. The erotic does not have to be prurient, after all, and in fact is better for not being so. There are other places to view material that’s more explicit, if that’s your bag.

In any case the hint of hidden delights provides much greater cerebral piquancy. One of the problems with the modern world and its condign attachment to the banal is that you so often find the finer side of life has been abolished in favour of rude vacuity.

We couldn’t make the opening unfortunately. But it was nice of Imuthia Yanindra, Conrad’s marketing, PR and communications manager, to ask us along. We shall have to drop by now and then, while living art from sculpture to painting is gracing the place, and have a look. We’ll have a drink at the lobby bar too. It’s a fine venue.

Evening Wrap

Those who observe Australian matters (of which there are a few and they are important) will have noticed that Australia Network, the satellite TV service run by the ABC, has been attracting some critical attention at home in the Special Biosphere. In part this is because of the curiosity of how it funded, which is by the Department of Foreign Affairs, and debate about how the network achieves its aim of advancing Australia’s interests.

It actually does this very well in an environment (in Australia) where internalized self-interest does not necessarily bring benefits to those who espouse a world view. Its programming is specific and includes a useful English language teaching element. Australia is a small player on the world stage and the resources it can afford to outlay on winning friends (in this case audiences) and influencing people are finite.

Australia Network heavily emphasizes news and current affairs. This is sensible. There’s more than enough pap around elsewhere in the televised ether to service other needs. So it was good to hear that a new one-hour news and current affairs program will launch on Mar. 10. The World, presented by veteran Jim Middleton and former ABC globetrotter Zoe Daniel, will cover the news of the day and in-depth analysis of the most important issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region.

It will screen Mondays to Fridays at 8.30pm in Bali (7.30pm in Jakarta).

Moving Moments

Vyt Karazija, the Australian blogger and closet bon vivant who enlivens several social media forums locally, has recently moved house. This event is unremarkable. It is something many of us do from time to time, as fancy dictates or quantum increases in wet season leaks suggest is warranted.

Karazija’s move did strike a chord at The Cage, however, since he reported that his trusty domestic manager, the sibilant Seven, had taken charge of the program and had made it work. Moreover, it had worked more speedily, to greater effect, and remarkably smoothly.

This brought back memories of a similarly moving event in our own life. Twenty years ago we shifted house in Brisbane, Queensland, from one suburb to another. The Distaff was busy elsewhere at the time, doing important corporate things in Thailand. The Diary’s schedule was constrained by journalistic duties. You know, editorials to write, issues to research, news lists to ponder, copy to edit, writers to correct (“It was the Boer War you idiot, not the Bore War”) and sundry other things to attend to on behalf of Mr Murdoch; dross like that.

Plainly things were not going quite as speedily or efficiently as they might on the necessary domestic movement front. Nor were they ever going to, which was also abundantly clear, especially to our then local equivalent of Karazija’s inimitable Seven. She stepped firmly into the breach. We’ve moved any number of times in the course of our three decades together, Distaff and Diary, but that shift has passed into history as The One That Neither of Us Noticed.

Sanctuary Plus

One of the special delights of living at The Cage is that the little local kitty clan has adopted our securely walled back yard as a sanctuary for its latest kittens. We use it only as a utility area – it houses the underground tank without which we’d be as stuffed for government water as everyone else in the precinct and the gas house, which we built to the wonderment of the locals so we could shift the hot-water service and the kitchen gas out of the crawl space – and therefore mostly leave it alone.

But it is sheltered from the wet north-west monsoons and brightly lit for security at night. Regularly, the latest kittens are settled at dusk by their mums on the warm timber steps at our back door, safe from dogs and snakes and other dangers. They’re wary of us (we often delay daily checks on the utilities to give them time in the sunny mornings to pack up their swags and move on for the day) but each seems quickly to work out that while we’re big and noisy we’re no threat.  We engage in mutual meowing and purring through the glass door now and then. That’s nice.

We don’t feed them and they’re in no sense our cats. It would be unfair to feed them since our schedules make regular feeding impossible. But we like them around because their regular diet (you might call it “ratatouille”) helps keep under control the Norway rats that proliferate locally and which, unless sudden death by cat intervenes, feed and breed well on the selfishly and thoughtlessly discarded garbage of others.

On the mutually supportive neighbour scale, members of the kitty clan are great acquaintances for whom we’re happy to provide light and safety.

Good Work

It was nice to get a little note the other day from Alicia Budihardja, the helpfully svelte No. 2 in the public relations team at the top-line St Regis and Laguna resorts at Nusa Dua. It’s always pleasant to hear from good friends, especially if it’s good news.

It was in this case. Budihardja told us The Laguna Bali had been named one of the island’s top performing resorts by leading online accommodation booking outfit Booking.com, part of Priceline.com. The property achieved an exceptional score of 8.5/10 in verified reviews for consistency in delivery in six review classifications: cleanliness, comfort, location, facilities, staff, and value for money.

Hector is on Twitter @scratchings

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, Oct. 30, 2013

 

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

 

Somebody Loves Them

Bali Dogs, that is. And the anti-rabies fighter BAWA too, the Bali Animal Welfare Association, which as no one should have missed or failed to remark upon, has come to grief on the treacherous shoals of Bali’s perversely acquisitive and uniquely dysfunctional bureaucracy.

Jaymi Muzzicato, who is 11 and comes from Cranbourne in Victoria, Australia, has used her big heart and energy to raise funds in Australia for BAWA programs to support the welfare of animals in Bali.

After visiting BAWA in September, she says she just can’t wait to come back to Bali and BAWA as a volunteer. Meanwhile, back home, she’s busy ramping up more support for BAWA among her friends, family and fellow students and staff at her school, Courtenay Gardens Primary, where earlier she won the backing of her school principal and teacher to run a colouring contest for the benefit of BAWA.

To promote the contest, she researched BAWA and shared lots of stories about rescued animals and BAWA’s many other animal support programs. When Jaymi visited BAWA in Ubud in September she presented $150 (Australian) raised from the contest, her personal money and donations. And she made a new friend of Monkey, a street dog that has adopted BAWA’s Jl Monkey Forest shop as her daytime home but likes the street life at night.

Jaymi says her visit to BAWA was the highlight of her two weeks in Bali and that it has motivated her to plan further fundraising for Bali animals in need.

Saying thanks to Jaymi for her efforts, BAWA founder Janice Girardi noted the capacity of young people around the world to make a difference to animal welfare. “We are really heartened when people like Jaymi take the initiative to give their time and energy to promoting BAWA and supporting our work to protect and create a better future for Bali’s animals,”  said Girardi.

Some people around here might profit spiritually by noting all that.

 

Kindling a Fire

Inveterate Legian blogger Vyt Karazija has had enough, it seems. But it’s not the terrible traffic, brutish baristas, ‘orrible ‘olidaymakers, importunate Rp600K quick-time girls, predatory premans or any of the other dangerous denizens of Grossville that have him on the outer edge of his temper envelope.

He popped up on Facebook, where like the Diary he spends a lot of time that probably gets him into trouble, with a swipe at Amazon/Kindle for complicating the life of authors from outside the USA. 

It was no wonder, he wrote, that authors from elsewhere other than the Land of the Free hate using that Yankee conglomerate for their works. We quote:

“First, they put you through a tax grilling, making you pay ridiculous rates of tax to the IRS unless you execute some complex document relating to ‘treaty benefits’ with your home country. Then you have to physically ring the IRS and confirm. Then, a year later, they make you go through the whole charade again…

“Here is a typical bureaucratic question on their latest incomprehensible tax form: ‘Do you derive the income for which you can claim treaty benefits?’

“Simple, right? But then they helpfully ‘explain’ how to answer, and melt your brain in the process: ‘Income may be derived by either the entity receiving the item of income or by the interest holders in the entity or, in certain circumstances, both. An item of income paid to an entity is considered to be derived by the entity only if the entity is not fiscally transparent under the laws of the entity’s jurisdiction with respect to the item of income. Answer yes or no’.

“Why don’t they just ask: ‘Are you the one getting the money?’ I guess that would be too simple.”

We engaged Karazija on this, pointing out that millions of legislative drafters worldwide would be unemployed were the KISS principle to be invoked. He came back with a lovely line: “Bafflegab rules.”

We can’t beat that.

 

In the Running

Alicia Budihardja, late of Conrad Bali and most recently late of Mantra (the newish Aussie player on the comfy beds circuit) has popped up at the plush St Regis, as assistant director of marketing communications reporting to Stephanie Carrier, director of same. It’s a move “just down the road” but a big career step.

We wish her well. It’s so nice to know cheery people who enjoy their work and are good at their jobs.

The new gig encompasses fellow Starwood property Laguna Resort and Spa. It’s a cluster in the new-speak of the resort world. Perhaps we shall soon be seeing Budihardja winning beach races with all the practice she’s bound to get sprinting up and down Geger Beach to the Laguna and vice-versa.

 

Exit Report

We love seeing old friends who make it back to Bali from far-flung places – even though in this particular instance we were so busy in paradise we could only see them once (for a lovely lunch at a favourite spot, Café des Artistes in Ubud) – and it’s fun getting their post-trip exit reports too.

Thus we hear from Larry Sprecher, of Portland, Oregon, who truly is a senior citizen, as is his wife Maggie, the self-driver on their trips:

“Maggie had no trouble with the missing International Driver’s Permit. We were stopped at only one roadblock. The officer took a look at Maggie, did a double take, saluted and waved her on through.

“The new [Ngurah Rai] International Departure Building is impressive. It will be even more impressive when they get the new restaurants, shops, and provide places for 1000 people to sit.”

Ah Bali! Don’t you just love it?

 

It Ain’t Half Hot Mum

Well it would be, dopey. And very humid: It’s Bali and the rainy season is coming. (Disclaimer: Print deadlines being what they are, this item was sent off 10 days ago; if everything’s changed by the time you read this, and you’re wearing galoshes because it’s sodden underfoot or ugg boots to ward off the rainy season chill, don’t blame your poor diarist.)

Back in mid-October BMKG (the Department of Meteorology) felt obliged to tell people it hadn’t been any hotter than it always was at that time of the year. Then it said it had been, which came as no surprise, since in Indonesia yes is so often no and black so often white. Living within earshot of public discourse here is reminiscent of  listening to Jim Trott (admirably played by Trevor Peacock) in that fine Brit sit-com The Vicar of Dibley, whose seminal contribution to any discussion consists of “no-no-no-no – yes”.

But we digress. BMKG felt obliged, in its public disclosure of the state of Bali’s weather, to advise that the sun was moving south at the time – both astronomers and astrologers will be glad to hear that, no doubt, though boffin-like quibblers could point out it’s actually the earth’s pedantic insistence on oscillating that does the trick – bringing with it the weather we normally expect in October.

We quote Bali BMKG chief of data Nyoman Gede Wirajaya as our expert source: “The position of the sun is directly over the island in October, resulting in quite hot weather,” he said, further explaining that Bali’s position south of the equator affects the weather cycles. Thanks, Pak Nyoman. Glad you could clear that up.

Daily highs average 33C in October but had been 35C. Perhaps at the BMKG 35C is not hotter than 33. We are assured that things will be cooler in November and December, when the sun has moved to the south and is fully-frying our neighbours in Australia.

 

That Sinking Feeling

Tanjung Benoa is sinking, so it is said. Hundreds of residents of the mudflat and sandbar promontory at the northern end of Nusa Dua think so, at least, and as members of a group known as Harmony Bali they recently attempted to apprise the Governor of this unsettling information. Harmony doesn’t get a mention in police standard operating procedures, however. A handily present platoon of plods was resolute in denying them entry to the gubernatorial offices in Denpasar.

An appeal to the shades of successive Venetian doges might possibly bear fruit. The Serenissima was built on much the same sort of shifting and watery ground. It was only stabilized – as an infrastructural entity we mean, not as a political community, which might be another similarity – when Medieval and later Venetians got among the aquatic stuff with megatons of reinforcing material and backed that action with rigid building controls that saved the islands of the lagoon from disappearing into the briny.

In much of the world, you don’t build on mudflats and sandbars anyway, for very good reason.

 

Hector tweets @scratchings

 

HECTOR’S DIARY (in the Bali Advertiser, Aug. 7, 2013)

His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences 

Jam Session

The Ubud Jazz Festival (Friday and Saturday, Aug. 9-10 at ARMA) is one among many annual events that crowd the calendar there. And since jazz is among the more useful creations of human ingenuity, it’s well worth the trouble. Jazz is a fundamentally anarchic art form that demonstrates that people are not cattle who can be prodded into doing what they’re told. Fundamentalists of all stripes should note this.

While listening to some lovely anarchic music on the iPod recently – we were driving towards a delightful lunchtime appointment with our favourite Ubud-based scribbler-savant, Marie Bee, for which we were frightfully late – we found ourselves in a jam session of our own.

This one was not musical. It was so humdrum and normal that no one even bothered to toot their horns. It was but the latest example of the lack of capacity hereabouts to understand a very simple equation: ROB + VNS + ISB = TFC. That’s where ROB is Ridiculous Oversized Bus, VNS is Very Narrow Street, and ISB is Impossible Sharp Bend. The answer is TFC, as we all know; where T is Total, C is Chaos, and the middle letter is unprintable.

Ubud, You Know

The jazz festival’s website blurb, by the way, is a great example of how trite travelogue and pop history these days combine to give you hollow laughs, if not soulful sighs laden with ennui and exasperation. It is headed Welcome to Ubud and says this:

     Ubud is a remarkable town in the middle of the island of Bali, Indonesia. For more than a century, it has been the island’s preeminent centre for fine arts, dance and music. While it once was a haven for scruffy backpackers, cosmic seekers, artists and bohemians, Ubud is now a hot spot for literati, glitterati, art collectors and connoisseurs. Famous names walk its busy sidewalks every day. Elegant five star hotels and sprawling mansions now stand on its outskirts, overlooking the most prized views in Bali. Nonetheless, Ubud is still popular with backpackers, mystics and all the finest fringe elements of global society. Ubud is not “ruined”. Its character is too strong to be destroyed. It still draws people who add something; people who are actively involved in art, nature, anthropology, music, dance, architecture, environmentalism, “alternative modalities,” and more.

We go to Ubud for the music and the food – and, if Janet DeNeefe lets us, for the literature.

A Nice Drop

We sampled Plaga Wines’ newly introduced cabernet sauvignon recently, at an affray held at The Deck at the Semara Resort & Spa, Seminyak. It’s a very nice drop of wine. Well, it would be: Plaga’s range of quaffable products blends Chilean and West Australian grapes, which to our mind gives you a basically unbeatable southern hemisphere double.

Plaga’s pitch is to produce quality affordable wine for your table in Bali, a quest in which it deserves wholehearted support. The price of imported wine here is horrendous and largely unaffordable, unless you’re paying with someone else’s credit card. Plaga is one of a number of new (or improved) players in the field and we certainly wish them all good fortune. We’ll be adding Plaga’s cab sav to our modest cave at The Cage.

There’s something about wine that is quite irresistible, as the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda famously noted (Plaga’s Facebook page recently posted it as a neat reminder): “I had a fling with beer, a passionate affair with Cognac, but the love of my glass is wine.”

Many of us have travelled that particular life-path. The Diary admits to a continuing infatuation with whisky (as well as its attractive cousin whiskey) but we think wine long ago came to terms with the occasional lapses that inevitably follow.

We caught up at The Deck do with Alexsander Martins Paim, F&B director at the Semara Seminyak, and Marian Carroll of Ayana at Jimbaran. Carroll was just in from a business trip to Japan that (as they do) had ended with the modern hell of an overnight long-distance flight, but she looked trim, taut and terrific.

Fine Dining

We were back recently at a favourite grazing spot, variously known as Warung Chilli or Rice & Noodles and sometimes just as the noodle house. It’s at Taman Griya between Jimbaran and Nusa Dua. We like it because the food is great. It’s basically Japanese–Balinese fusion, reflecting the provenance of the family that runs the place. The chicken katsu-don and udon noodle soup are fabulous.

There are other reasons to like the place. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is: it’s a local eating-house. Its staff all know what they’re doing. They know what you’ve ordered. And they bring it to you with commendable speed. Plus it’s cheap. A winner on all counts, really.

Here, Kitty

Blogger-about-Bali Vyt Karazija, who like many among the fine and fearless is also to be found on Facebook (we share that and St Kilda as favourite lost causes) had a lovely tale the other day about the cat which came by his Legian digs. He tells it this way:

     So a cat wanders into the villa. The only way in is over a 3 metre wall. With monumental insouciance, he stares into the lounge area, climbs a tree, explores the garden and responds to my “Shoo!” and “Get the hell out of here” with utter disdain.
Finally in his own time he leaves by scaling the wall again.
Then I hear running water, and it takes 5 minutes to track down the source. The outdoor shower is running full-bore and I turn it off. But the only way to control that shower is with a lever that hangs straight down in the “off” position, and must be pushed 90 degrees to the right to get water flow. You need hands to move it; paws don’t cut it. There is no way a cat going up a wall can possibly turn that tap.
And yet the damn cat turned on the tap as it left. I am starting to develop a healthy respect for that cat’s ability to achieve engineering impossibilities.
No wonder the ancient Egyptians worshipped them. Maybe cats were the ones who built the pyramids.

Of course they were. We told him: “Get with the program, Vyt. Or the Loud Meow will want to know why.”

Very Important imPediments

We are, we suppose, glad in a way that Bali is to host the 2013 APEC CEO Summit. It will focus the world output of 10-second grabs and sound-bites on our beautiful little island for a nano-second and may even encourage some among the global media to go off and find stories they haven’t been spoon-fed by the PR machines. Plus we’ve got the Dewa Ruci underpass and that new aquatic playground, the Sanur-Nusa Dua toll road, as lasting memorials to the great jamboree.

The VIP lads and lasses are only going to be here for a day or so. But neither we nor those who manage the world’s airline schedules are going to miss the impact of their fleeting presence, since it will seriously disrupt that other time-delayed wonder, the Work-In-Progress International Airport.

This is because to accommodate the very important travel schedules of these honoured jests (oops, guests), the airport will be closed to normal traffic for significant portions of four days: Oct. 5 and 6 (from 10am both days until 4pm on Oct. 5 and 8pm on Oct. 6) and Oct. 8 and 9 (again from 10am both days until 8pm on Oct. 8 and 4pm on Oct. 9). That’s six hours or 10 hours a day, not counting Indonesia’s gift to the world, jam karet (rubber time).

It hasn’t been explained why this is necessary. It isn’t, of course. Other places manage to do these things with minimal disruption.

Hard Yards, Great Result

Sole Men, the charity group inspired by entrepreneur Robert Epstone, has done it again, this time with the help of the Hard Rock Hotel at Kuta, which takes its community service obligations very seriously indeed.

Over the last weekend of July they had a rave (if people still do that; it could be so yesterday for all we know) over two nights including body painting by Yaari, sexy dancing by outrageous Go Go Dancers, with MC Dee on hand and lots of live music headed by Indonesian super-group Superman is Dead.

Other sponsors were Heineken Beer and Plaga wines. Money raised – it was still being counted when the Diary hit deadline – will go towards proper housing for two poor Denpasar families who are supporting their seven severely disabled children.

Epstone tells us builder Nevhouses has said it will build two dwellings on land Sole Men are acquiring in Denpasar. As he says, given this level of support from all over, you can’t lose.

Hector may be contacted at hector.mcquawky@yahoo.com. He tweets @scratchings.

HECTOR’S DIARY Bali Advertiser, April 4, 2012

Off With the Pixels

Australia Network, the officially funded Asia-Pacific TV satellite channel run by the ABC, is always strapped for cash. It gets its money from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and is tasked with presenting an Australian image to the near abroad, so to speak.

It does a lot of good things with the modest stipend it gets from the government in Canberra (note to Bob Carr, new Foreign Minister: do something really useful and get it some more money so it doesn’t have to show us ancient examples of blinding self-abuse such as of The Gruen Transfer circa 2008) but its total annual budget would barely fund one of those awful reality TV shows everyone seems to like to watch nowadays.

(It is difficult to think why they do, except from madness or possibly ennui. Oscar Wilde once described foxhunting as the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable, and of course he was dead right, as he so often was.  A similarly fatal rapier thrust is urgently required to dismiss the relevance and taste of the disreputable modern sport of figjamming, especially as seen on reality shows.)

Australia Network is not targeted at Aussies who live beyond the boundaries of the Special Biosphere, even if they do tend to watch it for news from home and, occasionally, TV drama shows in a language they can understand (this rules out most Kiwi programmes).  We know this, having once asked that precise question. So given that the Diary is in that underclass – of Australia Network viewers about whom the operators affect a Rhett Butler air, frankly not giving a damn – the following complaint may well fall on deaf ears.

A new drama on air is Rake, starring the insouciant Richard Roxburgh playing yet another reprehensible but occasionally insightful roué, this time a barrister. It’s a good show, but it’s made for audiences accustomed to naked butts and bosoms on screen and these are pixellated out on Australia Network. Since the ubiquitous naughty words are bleeped out as well, watching the drama itself is difficult. You tend to watch for the pixels and listen for the bleeps and lose the plot completely, even in the brief interludes during which it is remotely visible.

The thought occurs that if nudity and foul language are judged unacceptable for Australia Network’s target audiences – and the censorious proclivities of their governments – the programming is wrong.

Of course, how you then effectively reflect popular Australian culture – given its preference for bad language, near-nakedness and self-centred disrespect for almost everything – is another matter.

Welcome to Purgatory

Legian resident Vyt Karazija – a good friend and eminently readable blogger – recently posted a cri de coeur that really should be read by anyone who still thinks Bali is a paradise populated exclusively by caring, sensitive, sentient souls in touch with their inner Muse. And then they should weep. It concerns a young Balinese woman whose life is being ruined by her grasping family, who wrench from her all the money she makes an enormous effort to earn.

It would not be an unusual story either; which makes it worse. You can – and you should – read it at http://www.borborigmus.wordpress.com. Look for the post headlined Suffering in Silence Behind the Smile.

Hello, Kitty

Villa Kitty, the cat refuge at Ubud that is celebrating its first birthday, had a fundraising night at Indus restaurant on March 27. We’re sure it all went well. Villa Kitty founder and Chief Meow, Elizabeth Grant Suttie, who in her other hat is personal assistant to Ubud identity Janet DeNeefe, is a fine organiser and a dedicated animal lover.

She tells us the fundraiser was brought forward from its original planning date due to the generosity of Edwina Blush, the sexy, sassy Australian jazz vocalist, songwriter, poet and (as Blush’s website self-describes) provocateuse. Someone once wrote of Blush that “she must have a tail under that gown”; and maybe that’s why she’s singing for the kitties, as it were. Or perhaps it is just that some people are cat people (the Diary is such) and it’s all in a good cause.

Villa Kitty needs to expand, we’re told, because it’s proving such a popular place with felines seeking accommodation.  We wish the establishment the very best of good fortune and we’ll keep up to date with its developing story.

Time Goes By

The delightful publicist Hellen Sjuhada, who among other things helps keep that haven of Catalan cuisine, El Kabron at Bingin Beach, in the public eye, tweeted the other day that she was old enough to remember when MTV played music videos. We sent a little tweet in response, noting that we were old enough to remember when there was no MTV. She replied in turn, saying she took her hat off to us. We said we were trying to age gracefully and that perhaps her hat might help.

But that’s the trick, when at the more mature end of whatever is one’s unknown allotment of Essential Vivacity: to age gracefully, which among other things surely means keeping abreast of technology. Well OK, disgracefully is all right too, and it’s a lot more fun.  But the real time-saver is to keep up with the pack. That’s why here at The Cage we’re right into gizmos. They cannot be allowed to bamboozle and must be conquered. We’re working on that.

It might be all downhill from here … but hey, as any former snow-skier can attest, it can all go so well until, finally, that unavoidable magnetic tree collects you.

Silly Clod

Why anyone would seek to break out of their villa at Nyepi defies belief. Why anyone would seek to do so merely to go in search of milk elevates the level of stupidity to stratospheric height. Yet this is apparently what an American villa owner in Seririt, Buleleng, chose to do on Friday, March 23, in an area where Nyepi rules are strictly enforced and where as a result his villa was blockaded by angry villagers.

His name, according to reports, is Claude. Perhaps he should be known as Clod. Nyepi might be an onerous imposition to people in Bali who are not Hindu, but there are ways round that. If it’s all too much, decamp to a designated tourism entity, where by convenient fiat some services continue and the lights remain more or less on. Or if you really want to make a noise, go to the Gilis off Lombok.

Or you could do what we did here at The Cage. We stayed home (having made sure we had sufficient milk for the duration) and stayed quiet. We didn’t observe the full requirements of Nyepi.  But we kept lighting to an absolute minimum and made sure none escaped our villa; that no noise got past the gate; and that the holy customs and practices of our Hindu neighbours were entirely undisturbed. That’s not only common sense; it’s also good manners.

Mea Culpa: In the Diary of March 21 we wrote that since Muslims would be allowed to go to mosque on Silent Day, it being a Friday, the authorities should provide the same privilege to Christians when Nyepi fell on a Sunday. An Indonesian friend who is a practising Christian tells us this is already the case.

True to Herself

Some of us live on Facebook – not literally you understand, it’s more of a virtual vitality – and some of us pay a price for this devotion. Some of us, for example, have Dear Spouses who wouldn’t touch Facebook with the grottier end of a used toe-rag, and say so quite often. But there you go.

Those among us who do use Facebook for rational reasons – those in other words who do not use it as their personal diary or for marginal notes on their day – generally get good results. Hector’s helper, for example, has many virtual friends, some of whom are actual people known to him. He says it’s great to be able to keep in contact in real time rather than waiting for the time-worn stuff that used to be stuffed into real mailboxes.

Then there are the others, collected as Friends rather in the manner that one might acquire buddies at a bar. These come and go. Hec’s helper recently lost a Dear Friend who rejoiced in the name of Ivana Logov.

Apparently, she finally worked out how to do that.

Bitter Glitter

We love a pun, as countless people have come to learn, some of them, poor things, believing this to be at their cost. And we’ve just been reminded of this little gem:

King Ozymandias of Assyria was running low on cash after years of war with the Hittites. His last great possession was the Star of the Euphrates, the most valuable diamond in the ancient world. So, desperate, he went to Croesus the pawnbroker to ask for a loan.

Croesus said: “I’ll give you 100,000 dinars for it.” The king protested: “But I paid a million dinars for it. Don’t you know who I am? I am the king!”

Said Croesus: “When you wish to pawn a star, it makes no difference who you are.”

Hector’s Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser, out every second Wednesday, and at http://www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).