Wednesday, November 30, 2011

HECTOR'S DIARY The Bali Advertiser, Nov. 30, 2011

Holiday Break

The Diary has just spent two weeks enjoying the pleasant ambience of the Nerang River in Queensland. It was, though not in the way Hyacinth Bucket (“It’s ‘Bouquet’”) achieved it, a riparian delight. We were well away from the faux glam glitter of the Gold Coast’s beachside tourist strip and – courtesy of some lovely friends of very long standing who courageously opened their home to Diary and Distaff – enjoyed all manner of domestic comforts.
     It gave us a chance to catch up with people we haven’t seen for many years (at least six, since we left Queensland for the sybaritic delights of Bali) and to reconnect with what for the Diary is truly home. We also spent a couple of days well inland, on a formerly frequently visited farm, the domicile of other dear friends. It is a place with plentiful cups of tea and long views of beautiful mountains:  the sort of landscape that the weather and Bali’s love affair with dysfunctional internal combustion engines so often conspire to deprive you of at home.
     We drove down into New South Wales to visit another old haunt, Byron Bay, and had a beer and some lunch, but were blown back from the beaches by a stiff northerly half-gale. Ah well, never mind; next time perhaps. We went up to the Gold Coast’s own special “mountain,” Mt Tamborine, a 500-metre high ridge nowadays littered with wineries, and sampled a few vintages. These are mostly from Queensland’s distant Granite Belt which is so high and so cold you actually can grow wine grapes there. We dropped in on a liqueur maker who was doing a roaring trade (the wattle myrtle vodka is a killer –Za vashe zdorovye!). Hector left a note in the visitor’s book.  We lunched at a Bavarian restaurant, far too well, and had to take the rest of the afternoon off.

Idiots’ Week

The peculiar Australian custom of “Schoolies Week” – an annual event during which young people who have just finished senior school go off and have a holiday with their mates – is a pernicious occurrence not only in Bali, where little idiots arrive and do foolish things, but also at the Gold Coast in Queensland. This year’s risk of choice there, among the mindless, was balcony jumping. That’s one way of bringing yourself down quickly from a party high, we suppose.
     But it was events in Bali that enraged the Diary; events as portrayed of course. A segment on tabloid television’s “current affairs show” ACA related the sad case of some other little idiot who had travelled to Bali to run amuck and had injured his foot in a motorbike accident. The enragement was less because the accident occurred – they do, with depressing regularity, though they mostly involve locals who are of no interest to visiting Aussie tabloid TV teams – than with the fellow’s determined refusal to acknowledge that he had been the author of his own misfortune because he was (a) drunk and (b) stupid.
     In that regard it was good to see BIMC chief Craig Beveridge on the programme explaining that his establishment sees plenty of such cases.  Perhaps some lapsed parents in Australia saw that and took it in. Well, just perhaps: sentience tends to be a genetic thing.

Blog for Health

High profile conferences and diplomacy are of course vital to the business of managing international relations and bringing assistance to countries and communities that need help (in whatever form) but it is at the lower, less visible, end of the equation that most of the practical work gets done.
     So it is with the Australian aid agency AusAID’s great Indonesian gig to get bloggers to help increase awareness of HIV/AIDS and of World AIDS Day (December 1). Active bloggers were invited to enter a dynamic online competition themed “HIV and Youth.” The competition called for young Indonesian bloggers to write about their own experiences or opinions on HIV/AIDS.
     Australia’s ambassador, Greg Moriarty, says of the competition: “Indonesia has one of the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemics in South East Asia. We need to do all we can to raise awareness of this disease.”
     The competition was aimed at tapping into Indonesia’s thriving social media scene – which has 38 million Facebook users and more than 3.2 million bloggers – to expose the country’s browsing community to inspiring and easy to read information about the disease. It was held by AusAID in partnership with Viva News, one of Indonesia’s leading news sites. Submissions closed on November 30.
     The winning blog entries will be announced on December 20. The top three bloggers will win computers, cameras and high-tech phones.
     In 2010, Australia’s $100 million Partnership for HIV provided services to 50,000 prisoners, helped 26,000 injecting drug users to gain access to clean needles, methadone maintenance programmes and harm reduction services, and improved access to medicines for people living with HIV.

Dream Road

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was among the squadrons of international political leaders who attended the East Asia Summit in Bali two weeks ago. These jamborees are important – genuinely, they’re not just photo opportunities or occasions for grandstanding as some of the more jaded among us might sometimes think – even if, for most of the population under the flatfooted footprint of the attendant VIP protection effort, they are chiefly occasions for mass inconvenience.
     Gillard took the opportunity of the summit to visit the Bali Bombing Memorial in Legian on November 19. She described it as a moving experience. It always is, of course. The Diary visits the memorial at least once a year to read (silently) the 202 names listed.
     Amid tight security, including roof-top snipers, Gillard placed a wreath at the memorial site and chatted with Australian tourists.  She met Governor Made Mangku Pastika, who as Bali’s police chief in 2002 led the investigation into first bombing.
    But what caused the Diary a particularly dyspeptic sigh was the ABC report that said she then left to return to Nusa Dua “about 20 minutes drive from the memorial.” Yeah, right. That would be about the travel time, if you’re in a high-speed VIP motorcade and everyone else has been shoved rudely out of the way.
Great Idea

The big bash at the Westin Nusa Dua from November 16-19 included, as is the fashion with modern day international group navel-gazing events, a number of side events and bilateral meetings. These were conducted at the Bali International Convention Centre and at the Westin itself.
    One of them was a think-in about Women’s Empowerment, hosted by Indonesia’s Ministry of Same and chaired by First Lady Ani Yudhoyono. Now that’s an area where a lot of work is needed.

What’s Cooking?

Janet DeNeefe, Fragrant Ricist and Festival Founder, is back in print with another little tome on Bali cuisine. Bali: The food of my island home, runs to 272 pages and was published by Pan Macmillan Australia on November 8.
     It’s always a joy to read publisher’s blurbs. This one invites potential readers to follow Janet on a spice trail through Bali and its rich food culture, with chapters exploring sambals, rice dishes, curries and coconut, street food, ceremonial food, modern offerings and sweets.  It notes that each recipe is accompanied by an insight into the local culture, while key Balinese ingredients – such as kencur, candlenuts and shrimp paste – are explained in an extensive glossary.
     And it says the book is not only a cookbook but also an incredible photographic journey. It sounds like a dream.  Perhaps it will feature in 2012’s writers’ and readers’ festival.   

Artist in Residence

If the Diary ran to an artist in residence, then we should have to choose Leticia Balacek. This is not just because she’s a decorative Argentine, or even because her art is first rate. It has to do with vivacity, verve and vitality. You need all those to properly engage with people.
     So it was good to hear that more of Balacek’s work is on show at Black Sheep (Jl Drupadi 69, Seminyak). It’s a mix media collection that includes Textures (Life is Paradise – Bangkok; and Transformations - Buenos Aires) and a work she hasn’t shown before, For a Little Bit of Sun, from Berlin, in A4 size.  The show runs until Saturday (Dec. 3).
     Gaya at Ubud is also showing Balacek’s work in an exhibition to celebrate the Mother as the central point of human society.  The organisers say the concept was born of the desire to honour and connect to the Mother through creative expression.  It’s true that everyone has an individual story that relates to this theme, which has unquestionably created who we are.  Works scheduled to appear at Gaya from December 17-24, by various artists in many media, include painting, photography, ceramics, sculpture, drawing, written poetry, video projection, song, spoken word poetry, dance and music.
     We hear, by the way, that Balacek will be exhibiting in Jakarta next year.

Back Home

It’s great to have an alternative to Virgin Australia on the Bali-Brisbane route and Air Australia, formerly Strategic, is filling that role very well. The Diary flew both ways with them on the recent trip to the old home town.
    While the airline is using Airbus A320s on the route there is the little matter of the “technical stop” on the uphill leg – the 320 doesn’t have the range to fly Brisbane-Bali non-stop against the headwinds and lands at Darwin to refuel. The downhill leg is fine. Pushed along by a friendly tailwind the Diary made Brisbane in around five hours and twenty minutes on November 11. The return trip on November 25 was somewhat longer.
    When Air Australia (then Strategic) commenced its Brisbane-Bali service it was using an Airbus 330 which doesn’t need to drop in on the Northern Territory capital en route.  Maybe we’ll see the bigger aircraft back on the route sometime.
     Air Australia has big plans – and not just for Bali, from where one imagines it should pick up a good proportion of the Bali-originating Brisbane trade. We’ll be back on board.

Hector's Diary appears in the fortnightly print edition of the Bali Advertiser and on the newspaper's website

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