Cheers, Mate: Australian war artist Tony Rafty (left) talks with Alit Bondan, son of Molly and Mohamad Bondan who Rafty met and befriended in 1945, at an Australian Embassy reception in Jakarta last week. See He’s a Hero, below.
For a Little
Weekend R and R:
A weekend in Amed can never be a bad thing, even if it does take three and a half hours to drive there and much the same back. The place is pleasantly green – thank you, La Niňa – and there seemed to be plenty of tourists around last weekend. The Diary, there with visiting friends from Australia, did not find the time to drop into Baliku (next time, Donna, promise) but did renew connections with Marcel Luitze, who operates Bayu Cottages at Lipah.
He related a story of interest to anyone who – like The Diary – wishes to keep a log of traffic idiocies. A day or so before the arrival of The Diary and Party a tourist bus had failed to make it up the steep cliff-front grade on the road outside Bayu and, slipping back without benefit of brakes (another frequent casualty of Indonesian driving skills) demolished a wall, narrowly avoiding a subsequent plunge into the inconveniently neighbouring abyss.
Never mind. In the event no one was badly hurt, unless you count Mr Luitze’s wall, which his insurers will pay for. And so passes yet another colourful incident in the long history of Bali’s wholly inadequate road and traffic regulation.
We dined at Sails, also at Lipah, on Sunday night, a double birthday celebration (visiting mother and daughter). Sadly the mahi-mahi was off – as in not available – but the lamb rissoles made up for this regrettable and (anywhere else) avoidable situation. And they organised a birthday cake, which was very nice of Anik and her crew.
Mt Agung graced us with its presence, mostly a morning occurrence, and Mt Rinjani was a low, grey eminence on the eastern horizon at dusk at Sails. Of such inconsequential material is the best of life made up.
Janet de Neefe appeared (elfin-like, again; it’s surely time for a photograph more reflective of the present-day Janet, especially as she wants to be taken seriously these days) in the Japan Times online recently. It was in a piece written by Jeff Kingston in which she discussed the regrettable absence of Japanese talent at Ubud Writers and Readers Festivals to date.
That historic absence is indeed a pity. Japanese literature is a rich field that deserves much wider exposure. It’s not quite as hard to achieve this as some might suggest, though it does take a little effort.
Never mind. Janet’s fixed this. Next year’s festival will have a Japanese writer – Mariko Nagai. She’s associate professor in English literature and creative writing at Temple University in Japan (and an accomplished poet and writer herself).
Oddly enough, the author of the Introductory Life of Janet to Japan Times online readers is professor of Asian studies and history at the very same university.
There was another rabies death last weekend, a 30-year-old man from Blahbatu, in Gianyar but basically on the north-eastern outskirts of Denpasar. That makes the official toll 105, assuming the various incompetent bureaucracies involved can get their numbers together. Doubtless Bali’s chief medical officer, Nyoman Sutedja, will view it as yet another opportunity to remind everyone not to panic or even to worry too much. Doubtless, too, the insouciant insurgents of the vaccinate-only front will say much the same thing.
Yet it is unarguable that we are in the midst of a deadly shemozzle. The provincial government’s 2012 target for declaring Bali rabies free (Dr Sutedja has even put a precise date on this flight of fancy: October 28) is just another sick joke.
So it was interesting to read this week a contribution to Unleashed, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s feisty blog, by Bob Gosford, who was in Bali to cover the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival last month but found a real story to write about instead.
He sets out the rabies situation here rather well. He quoted from The Diary on same (like many people overseas, he reads The Bali Times) and stirred up something of a hornet’s nest. That’s good on one score – people need to be aware of the facts as opposed to the political fictions – but bad on another. Continued publicity about invisible vaccination teams and further rabies deaths won’t be good for tourism.
It’s not good for Balinese who might contract rabies, either, but in the grand tradition of top-down government that seems to be rather beside the point.
He’s a Hero
There’s a lovely exhibition of artistic memorabilia in Surabaya (it opened on November 10 and ends tomorrow, Saturday) organised by the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and starring both the work and the person of Tony Rafty, who spent the August 1945-January 1946 period in Indonesia and recorded this in illustrations and correspondence. He spent a lot of that time with founding president Sukarno.
Regrettably, this is neither known nor cared about among the wider Anglo diaspora, especially the bit of it that still thinks Australia is chiefly notable for sporting prowess and deadly spiders. Equally sadly it is now ancient history even to most Indonesians, but it deserves to be remembered. Rafty was in Surabaya (on the right side of the argument) when British forces landed to reassert Dutch colonial control after World War II. Heroes’ Day, November 10, is celebrated to mark the Surabaya action, in which nationalists opposed the occupation of the city by force.
It’s not generally remembered that the British forces deployed included imperial Indian troops – who were none too keen, with India’s inevitable independence pressing, to prosecute the invasion with any vigour – and it is probably widely forgotten that one British unit embarrassingly refused to open fire at all.
What is more broadly understood, though far from widely, is that the Australians vehemently opposed the return of Dutch colonial rule here and actively encouraged and supported Indonesian national aspirations in the then fledgling United Nations and other forums.
Rafty, who during World War II was a war artist with the Australian forces in Papua and in New Guinea – they were separate Australian-administered territories in those days – played a key role in informing Australian public opinion during the Indonesian struggle for independence.
He’s now 95. But as the photo here shows (it was taken in Jakarta on November 8) he’s still got what it takes. In Surabaya he addressed a delegation of students from BRIDGE schools – Indonesian and Australian schools that have exchange arrangements, another very practical example of the enduring links between the two countries.
Not a Prayer
Novar Caine, who as he relates in this week’s paper has been At Large with a DVD of Eat Pray Love, confesses to conversion on that score. It’s a good movie, he says. Well, Julia Roberts is a comely wench of matronly effect, and, OK, she has a smile to die for. It’s a shame that some other wench’s legs do the dishabille bits but never mind. Allan Ladd had to stand on an orange box to pucker up, after all. Tom Cruise uses modern cinematic technology to the same effect. In the movies, nothing is for real.
So, Pretty Woman Does Italy, India and Bali may be a passable diversion. Being a curmudgeon, The Diary demurs. Julia’s publicity machine told us she had been so affected by the ambience of the role she was playing that she had turned Hindu. Frankly, that’s more of an embarrassment than good news, a sort of Californian thing to do. It might best be defined as an insult. Plus, it makes you wonder what she wanted to be after Pretty Woman.
We heard a lovely little tale while chatting with a young friend at Amed last weekend. She works as a flight attendant for a major overseas airline and was enjoying some well-deserved Bali downtime. The tale she told was of a cautionary nature, and came to light because – as you do – we were discussing massage and she said she personally preferred Thai massage because it was stronger and firmer: The Diary forbore to mention the very firm treatment you can get here from the right masseur or masseuse.
Anyway, to the tale; it is delicious. On a Bangkok layover (sic) recently the captain of her ark of the skies appeared at the hotel checkout fresh, or perhaps not quite so fresh, from his hotel night, to be confronted by an angry young woman. “Mister, you no pay me!” was her rather public message.
The moral of this immoral tale: If you contract personal services, remember to pay for them before you pass out from your exertions.
Hector's Blog appears as The Diary in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times,
Bali's only English-language newspaper and on the newspaper's website at www.thebalitimes.com. Print editions of The Bali Times are available worldwide through NewspaperDirect.