Friday, July 01, 2011

HECTOR'S DIARY Bali Advertiser, June 29, 2011

New Refuge is Just the Cat’s Whiskers

Bali’s dogs have a bad name, for all sorts of reasons, not least the woefully mismanaged rabies outbreak which since 2008 has killed upwards of 120 people.  But that’s unfair. The dogs are not to blame. It is the studied indifference that the Balinese affect in matters of animal welfare, and their still widespread refusal to accept responsibility for animals in their care, that lies at the root of the dog dilemma.
    It’s much the same with cats. They are less obviously a problem, being essentially solitary animals, but Bali’s stray felines lead sad and sorry lives. So it is cheering to hear that a new refuge is providing professional veterinary care for strays or otherwise unwanted cats lucky enough to get a berth at Villa Kitty Bali, at Lodtundah near Ubud.
    It was the idea of Elizabeth Grant Suttie (some may know her as Henzell) who in her other life is executive assistant to Janet DeNeefe, the fragrant rice activist who feeds and houses paying guests in Ubud and is the luminous presence behind the annual writers and readers festival.
    Villa Kitty Bali has four veterinarians and four veterinary nurses on staff, plus support personnel. It began life as the cat section at BAWA – the Bali Animal Welfare Association – but moved to its own purpose-built accommodation this year, with the help of substantial private donations.
    Many of the cats at the refuge are adopted by caring Balinese families.
    Villa Kitty Bali is in the process of registering as a charity. When this is complete, Yayasan Kucing Bali - Bali Cat Foundation will be able to receive donations officially. In the meantime, Villa Kitty Bali, which opened on March 17, is on Facebook and welcomes visitors. We gather proprietary cat food for kittens is in great demand so if anyone has friends coming from overseas who could bring in a tin or two that would be very welcome.
    Hector is planning a visit. Possibly with kitty food.

Days of the Triffids

The walking programme – jalan jalan olah raga, “sport walking”, around here – is well on track, so to speak, and aimed at achieving a level of fitness in Diary and Distaff that might make survival of cliff tracks in Scotland and treks to wine bars in Budapest – both these excursions are scheduled for August – less of an unlikely outcome than might otherwise have been the case.
    We go twice daily, most days: an early morning trot around the ridges of beautiful Banjar Bakung Sari at Ungasan to see which of the local dogs are awake and a late afternoon reprise to check whether they still are. Most have revived from their afternoon siestas by then, it seems. Mercifully, though, most now also seem inured to the fact that two of the local Bules choose to walk rather than drive, and no longer set up a furious round of serial barking on our approach.  Our method of movement is certainly a novelty to most of the locals, the beneficiaries of price controlled petrol at Rp 4,500 a litre, who invariably fire up their scooters to travel anything over 50 metres rather than saddling up Shanks’s pony.
    Lately, however, some of the scenery has been moving as well. It’s cut-and-cart time at the moment and we’re fortunate perhaps that, now equipped with electronic readers – Kindles – we haven’t yet acquired electronic copies of John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids with which to alarm ourselves.
    Cutting and carting hereabouts, where the leafy product of particular trees and shrubs is concerned, is done by the simple process of pruning the selected plant and placing the collected result upon one’s back, and then trotting home with it.
    This means that on your daily perambulations you’re apt to see, disquietingly, what appear to be small trees or big bushes crashing noisily out of the scrub along the track, or heading menacingly up the road towards you.

Top Gere

Tourists visiting Borobudur in Java towards the end of June may have been fortunate enough to see the sights without running into Hollywood actor Richard Gere and having the stunning vista blocked or interrupted by the obsequious mayhem that surrounds celebrity these days. Gere and Family – wife Carey Lowell and son Home James Jigme – were special guests at a performance of the Borobudur Masterpiece Ballet at the 8th century temple on June 27 and while in the environs on that and the two previous days took part in a sunrise peace walk and tree planting and enjoyed an elephant ride through Medut temple and Borobudur village. Elements of the affray were televised nationally.
     Gere, who is chiefly memorable for playing goofball opposite pretty women, also met national culture and tourism minister Jero Wacik and dined with Sultan Hamengku Buwono X at the Yogyakarta Royal Palace
     We’re pleased to note that despite all these excuses for taking executive action, the authorities did their best for ordinary mortals. Borobudur remained opened to the public.
     Gere, who as well as being a Celebrity is also a Buddhist Celebrity, apparently, whatever that functional oxymoron is, then brought the family on to Bali for a holiday. We don’t know where; or care. But we hope it was a pleasant stay for them.

Top Nosh

Top nosher: Ewald Jeske

We imagine it wasn’t the Westin Resort and Spa at Nusa Dua that the Geres got into after disturbing the peace in Borobudur, which might have been a mistake on their part since the property has just acquired the services of an excellent new executive chef. For this intelligence we are indebted to general manager Bipan Kapur, who via Titin Rohayati, who spruiks for the establishment, sent us a lovely email about the arrival of Ewald Jeske, pictured here, in that important office.
     Jeske comes to Bali from the Sheraton on the Park in Sydney, Australia, a Starwood property in which your diarist has actually stayed, though long before Jeske’s time we imagine.  Jeske is a master chef graduate of the Hotel School Heidelberg in Germany and promises guests creative cuisine that simultaneously tempts the palate and promotes healthy living.
    We might have to check that out soon. The sea breeze at Nusa Dua at this time of the year can help work up a healthy appetite.

Lock it In

This year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival is getting down to brass tacks. Everything’s coming together nicely, we hear from programme director Melissa Delaney, and there will be plenty of international talent on show for the October 5-9 event, the eighth.
    One great attraction for old rockers like Hector is Paul Kelly, the Australian singer-songwriter and out-of-the-closet anarchist. Not to be missed.
    Authors already in the line-up include American novelist Alice Sebold and Booker Prize winner DBC Pierre. This year’s theme – it’s the eighth UWRF – is Nandurin Karang Awak, Cultivate the Land Within, the heart of the epic poem Gaguritan Salampah Laku by Ida Pedanda Made Sideman.
    Says festival founder and director Janet DeNeefe, just back from a gig at the Makassar writers’ festival:  “Developing the self is in many ways similar to cultivating rice fields: sowing the seeds of truths, cropping the stems of desires, and carefully reaping a bountiful harvest for the finest grain. This is a fundamental philosophical concept in the spiritual landscape of Bali.”
    The full author list is scheduled for announcement in early July. It will include writers from Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, Russia, Denmark, Italy, France, Palestine, Hong Kong, Columbia, Japan, Samoa, Germany, Malta, Cuba, the United Kingdom, Egypt, India, Africa, Tunisia, New Zealand and Pakistan.

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