Sunday, July 17, 2011


From the Scribe’s desk, for the week ending Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Rabid Enragement
It is widely known that we have rabies here in Bali. Even idiots who supply feedback to websites and who apparently think its rabbis we have here, and must in consequence be constantly on the look-out for seven-branched candelabras, would probably know that, if they thought about it. They just can’t spell, which would be a giggle were it not merely tedious.
   We’ve had the disease here – officially – since 2008 when officialdom officially woke from its customary torpor to discover several unexplained deaths of people in the southern Bukit area from symptoms that any properly instructed medical student – not to mention a vet – would instantly recognise. Unfortunately, as well as inevitably, the disease had by then become established in the island’s stray dog population. Upwards of 130 people are therefore dead when no one should be.
    It is a critical epidemiological emergency as well as a preventive health imperative. There are far too many malnourished and diseased stray dogs on the island and they are a pest. Their numbers must be controlled, wherever possible by humane means such as vaccination and sterilisation but if necessary by culling.
   This process is under way (or so they keep telling us) but in various places local authorities have been taking it upon themselves to cull the dog population, without official sanction. You can’t blame them, especially in the face of arguments from the Don’t be Nasty to the Nice Little Doggies Lobby that culling is bad and longer term veterinary management is better. No one wants a rabid dog in their street.
   But – and it is a very big but indeed, and uttered in incandescent rage – mass indiscriminate poisoning of beach dogs at Seminyak is beyond the Pale. It’s more moronic than anything else, given that promiscuous scattering of strychnine baits kills domestic pets – even some on leads we hear – and risks killing small children who might pick one up and put it in their mouth.
    Who is organising it – if we accept that “organising” and “Bali” are not mutually exclusive terms – is unclear, but it’s most likely the banjars, the community precincts that are the very heart and soul of Balinese society. Who is paying for this indiscriminate extermination campaign is similarly unclear – it certainly won’t be the banjars – but its location on the Lurex Coast, the emerging Wannabe strip north of the existing Plushopolis, points in a certain direction.
   Naturally enough, high tariff hotels and high price-low behaviour places of entertainment and other pastimes don’t want dirty, diseased and potentially rabid dogs on their doorsteps scaring away their beglittered trade. But there are better ways to achieve a desirable outcome than mandating murder.  

An Interlude
We’ve had a busy week, doing this and that. We even ventured into Kuta one afternoon (a long way from the Bukit now you measure road distances here in time spent travelling) to see some lovely friends – and some lovely friends of friends – who were sensibly sojourning in Bali during Western Australia’s school holidays. We dined later at Un’s, off Poppies Lane I at the Jl Legian end, always a favourite spot and not just for its gnocchi gorgonzola.
   It was a lively evening, spent in Hector’s case in engaging discussion about literature and politics. Such fare is not generally available, at least readily, in English, in Bali.  And afterwards, having collected the clothes donation that came along with the visitors for distribution to various people desirous of same, the Bukit was much nearer Kuta than on the inward trip, which had taken place at pique hour.

Pay Up, Stay Up
The handy beach warungs (little cafés) at Balangan Beach on the Bukit, one of the few remaining places in the playground not yet cordoned off for the over-moneyed crowd, have been ordered to be torn down by Regent AA Gede Agung, who has put his Public Order squad (Satpol) on the job. The ramshackle little hostelries are unlicensed, you see ... and that means Regent Agung isn’t getting any money out of them.
    That’s fair enough. If there are rules and regulations and licensing arrangements (and notionally there are) then obviously they should pay their whack. But there’s a little matter of mutual benefit that is forever overlooked here. Regulations are applied in Bali to acquire money for the authorities.  Precious little of it comes back, either in cash or in kind. And little beach warungs make scant profit anyway from the cool drinks and Bintang and sarong sales and massages that they offer to the budget crowd.
    It would be nice to get from Regent Agung (and all the other local government leaders) an actuarially sound accounting of where the revenue they scrounge actually goes, and what benefits flow back to the people.
   He might like to consider, too, how tearing down helpful and pleasant little budget tourist facilities, licensed or otherwise, benefits anyone other than Satpol heavies who fancy a themselves a chance for a morning of public ordering.

Bugger That
Here’s a little tale that demonstrates the delights of life in Bali. Residents of a village in Gianyar on the Sanur-Kusamba bypass (which is being given a dual carriageway with hefty Australian aid money) tore up the median strip and destroyed traffic signs the other day because the new arrangement meant they had to detour 200 metres up the road on their motorbikes to turn off to their local beach.
    Apparently, despite being “socialised” about the issue – as the term puts it here: it means they had the matter explained to them and agreed to it – they had a little paddy and ran amok. Such is life. Perhaps they’ll actually be penalised for disturbing the peace and destroying public property. But don’t hold your breath.

Monkey Business
Monkeys are an integral part of Bali’s traditional life and culture. They feature in dance, drama and folklore as well as in real life, and as long as they don’t pinch your lunch, your camera, your wallet or your sunglasses, they’re fun to see in the wild and semi-wild too.
    But not at one village near Amlapura in Karangasem recently. They’ve taken a leaf from the liberation liturgy of the Gianyar bypass villagers (or maybe it’s the other way round) and gone on the rampage. Village chief Wayan Yasa told the local press simian raiding parties have destroyed agricultural land and private gardens in the area.
    “Everything’s been eaten: pineapples, bananas ... basically anything that can be eaten,” he said, adding that because of this the village would be seeking tax relief from the local authorities.
    Teams sent into the bush to locate and exterminate the monkeys – in a fine example of the live and let live culture of Bali – came back disappointed. Their clever quarry made monkeys of the lot of them.

Chill Dinner
We saw some other friends one night this week at Gorgonzola, the Bukit Jimbaran bistro and wine bar where host Gibson Saraji lays on live music, tempts plenty of palates, and the beer is always cold. Our dinner friends that night are in Bali regularly, from Perth, and have a little house here that is their regular tropical holiday escape, especially from Perth’s rather chill and damp winters.
    It was nice to see them and we had a good chat. The evening was dry-season cool on the Bukit and the atmosphere was chill (it was not quite glacial) for a while. They arrived later than usual because the distaff part of the friendly couple is a West Coast Eagles fan and she had been watching the match on Australia Network TV.
    The Eagles had just been soundly beaten by St Kilda. Hector is a St Kilda fan.

Hector is on Facebook (Hector McSquawky) and Twitter (@Scratchings). He writes a diary in the fortnightly Bali Advertiser and the lovely people at The Yak magazine link this blog to their online site

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