Oh Yes, It’s Paradise Here
Some days you just want to sit down and cry. It’s not the crowded crassness of mass tourism that does this, or even the mindless self-absorption of the Rave ‘n’ Groove sector; though both can cause intense irritation if you let them. No, it’s the fragile, deadly, outer fringe of Bali’s already marginalised rural life that stings your eyes and makes you feel like a helpless fool.
We heard a dreadful story the other day from a new chum, Englishwoman Sarah Chapman, who now lives here after many years of visiting as a tourist – a common provenance – and who has found a little girl in east Bali who she calls Annie. She found her via a Balinese friend, Putu Yuni, who read about Annie in the local Bahasa press and told her the story. Yuni also went round her own friends and raised money to buy a mattress and some food for the family, and left the cash residue with them as well.
Rotary Seminyak has come to the party too, we hear, by arranging for Annie to have a full suite of medical assessments. Rotary does such a lot of good work that is often unheralded.
Annie is eight. She weighs – at last report – eight kilos, and that was after a three-week stay in Amlapura hospital. She may be deaf, since Chapman – an experienced nurse – tells us Annie seems not to respond to aural stimulus; she is given to screaming fits and tends to hit out at people. She lives in a hut in the Karangasem district of Sideman with her granny, another elderly woman who is apparently an aunt, an undersized (but otherwise OK) older brother who is 14, her grandfather, and her father, who is mentally ill. Her mother left the home when Annie was six months old, apparently because Annie’s father was violent.
The family basically has no income and care for Annie – whom they love – as best they can. The little girl now has a mattress to sleep on – it was old newspapers before – and a few other things. More help is on the way, courtesy of a small but growing army of people who want to help – including, belatedly, the authorities.
But there are questions here. Where was the local Banjar on this? Why wasn’t it helping the family? Where were the village authorities? Had they been doing anything? What about the regency social welfare people? Did they care, before the story broke in the local press? What about the provincial authorities and Governor Pastika’s programme to assist the very poor? And for that matter, what about the central government’s duty of care to all Indonesians?
We’ll keep you posted on Annie, who at last report was beginning to progress. If any reader would like to join Annie’s Army, drop Hector a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass the details on.
And now for some brighter news. We hear from two impeccable Bali-resident sources – Belgian travel and business adviser Marc Jacobs and Australian blogger Vyt Karazija – that the new IB Mantra Highway linking the crowded south with the less crowded east (the road provides travellers with a good idea of the extent of erosion on the Gianyar and Klungkung coasts) is now complete. Well, Jacobs told us 99 percent complete, and all the way to Goa Lawah. It’s long been a work in progress, funded by Australian aid, muddied by the truly Byzantine politics of this island, and doubtless bedevilled by the snafu factor and the ongoing belief hereabouts that making a road is just a matter of slapping a couple of centimetres of blacktop on some crushed rock.
According to Jacobs it’s now just an hour from Sanur to Padang Bai. That would be if the trucks and the motorbikes kept left, presumably. We’ve avoided expeditions to the remote east for several long months, not having a tent in which to camp out while they made the highway, but we’ll take a look soon. We certainly need to check out Vincent’s at Candi Dasa again, and we do hope the Haloumi has been getting through to the restaurant.
Karazija, by the way, was also able to advise us why the traffic signs telling trucks and motorcycles to keep left are universally ignored, on the new highway as elsewhere. We’re greatly indebted to him, because we hadn’t realised that Indonesian traffic signs use subliminal shorthand. Those KEEP LEFT signs actually say “KEEP doing what you’ve always done or you’ll be LEFT behind.”
The things you see: Angus McCaskill ,the Melbourne travel industry figure who used to double as Willie Ra’re, Bali party guy and drug convict, recently told a Facebook friend who posted a picture of her lunch at Kuta‘s Little Green Cafe (it did look good): “I so miss LGC and their delicious taste sensations... but I'll be back!”
The things you don’t see. On July 11 we noted the presence on Gili Trawangan of a revitalised AJ Hackett private retreat, Pondok Santi, now open to paying guests, and said AJ had a bungee operation in Bali.
Oops: For has, read had. A little e-billet-doux from Nigel Hobbs in Cairns, Australia, where he markets Hackett’s operations, told us the Kuta venue was closed last year as the land lease was not being renewed. Apparently the landowner wanted to build a resort on it. So Kuta is down one unique tourist attraction and up yet another resort property.
So, we’re sorry about that. If only we were into leaps of faith we might have joined up all the developmental dots and noticed that Hackett’s big plunger was no more.
Weaving a Tale
Textile-inclined bookworms at this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (October 3-7, don’t miss it) will have a chance to add another five days to their experience and join a tour of traditional weavers that UWRF and local not-for-profit outfit Threads of Life have organised.
Ubud-based Threads of Life uses culture and conservation to alleviate poverty in rural Indonesia. The heirloom-quality textiles and baskets are made with local materials and natural dyes. With the proceeds from the Threads of Life gallery, they help weavers to form independent cooperatives and to manage their resources sustainably.
The five-day sojourn takes in homes, studios and cooperatives in the Seraya area on Bali’s dry north-eastern tip, the lush rice fields of Sideman and the ancient village of Tenganan Pegeringsingan. Participants will be based at the rather-better-than-basic Alila Manggis, near Candi Dasa.
That all sounds fun and could be a powerful restorative agent following the diet of pious platitudes likely to be served up at the writers’ festival itself by veteran scribbler John Pilger, the Australian-born journalist who has made a stellar career out of bashing PHIABs (People He’s Identified As Bastards) and who is the headline attraction this year.
Incidentally, Janet DeNeefe who – when she’s not being determinedly insouciant about which well-moneyed corporation might agree to part with substantial readies and be tagged as this year’s UWRF naming sponsor – is officer in charge of coffee etc at a number of Ubud destinations for degustation, had a swish knees-up at Casa Luna on July 22 in honour of the establishment’s 20th birthday. Guests enjoyed fruits of the vine and canapés from 5pm-11pm.
Australia Network, the visual voice of Oz in the region and rated required watching by the Diary, has joined the iPhone App revolution. Now, wherever you are on regional terra firma, you can get news updates and all that other gizmo stuff out of the ether as well as programme information; and you can fool around on Facebook and make a twit of yourself tweeting on the go.
It also links you to AussieFunk. No, we’re only joking: we mean the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s emergency information service, which is a sensible must for travellers and overseas residents alike. The free application is available via iPhone download and at the itunes online store.
Seriously, it’s good news. Perhaps we should get ourselves an iPhone.
Blight is Right
Poor old Blighty! The London Olympics are upon us and the Misty Isles’ summer (that’s the northern hemisphere summer, which is what happens when the important bit of the world is having its winter) is being its usual self: abominable. We’re indebted – yet again – to James Jeffrey’s admirable Strewth diary in The Australian newspaper, which recently found time to report what one exasperated Brit said about it in the pages of the Guardian, a British newspaper for the meddling classes.
Charlie Brooker’s tirade – published on July 16 – ended thus: “It's got to the point where pulling back the curtains each morning feels like waking up in jail. No, worse: like waking up inside a monochrome Czechoslovakian cartoon about waking up in jail. The outdoor world is illuminated by a weak, grey, diseased form of light that has fatally exhausted itself crawling through the gloomy stratospheric miasma before perishing feebly on your retinas.”
Well, that’s tough on the Brits, but it’s oddly comforting. It precisely describes the sort of weather that drove your diarist to desert hearth and home way back in 1969.
Suggestions that Tantric practices were first thought up by Buddhists – this ephemera surfaced recently in the chatterverse – prompt the thought that, properly considered, this could have led to someone writing the Calmer Sutra.
Hector's Diary appears in the Bali Advertiser, published fortnightly, and on the newspaper's website www.baliadvertiser.biz. Hector is on Twitter (@scratchings) and Facebook (Hector McSquawky).