Jul. 31-Aug. 6, 2009

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WHAT? NO CARS?

THE Bintang Supermarket in Jl Legian at Seminyak is a curious place. It is often strangely empty of that essential ingredient of a successful business – customers – yet its car park, in an area where parking is a little difficult, is often packed. Or it was until recently.
Last Sunday, generally a very good day for the car park (car parks have feelings too, you know: they like to be popular), it too was strangely devoid of custom.
Perhaps it had something to do with the new sign that has been erected saying it will cost you Rp50,000 (US$5) to park there if you’re not in the store.

A Date to Remember if We’re Really Serious

WORLD Rabies Day is on September 28. The annual event, led by the Alliance for Rabies Control and supported by many human and animal health organisations worldwide, would ordinarily be of only passing interest. But this year, given the recent outbreak of rabies in Bali which killed a number of people in the Bukit-Jimbaran area, it takes on added importance.
Local authorities made commendable efforts in the months after the disease became apparent here, culling street and bush dogs – a regrettable necessity in the circumstances – and launching a vaccination and public awareness campaign.
Rabies is 100 percent preventable. Once symptoms appear however – except for one case in Wisconsin in the USA in 2004 where a previously unvaccinated girl of 15 recovered from the clinical symptoms of rabies – it is invariable fatal.
Prevention is difficult in a place like Bali, where registration – of anything – is a moveable feast and where shortage of money has a negative impact on ongoing preventive health measures.
Local communities are the best place to service these needs. Balinese society – and indeed Indonesian society as a whole – is commendably communal. Nothing much goes unnoticed and (at least in Bali) you can count on banjars (community organisations) and the Pecalang (local security) to know everything.
The key is awareness. The number of free-living dogs, unfortunately, must be kept down. There’s a role there for organisations such as BAWA, the Ubud-based animal refuge, but the fact is controlling wild canine populations is largely a matter of culling. This is best organised and executed at the local level. Money (and the interest and commitment) must be found to fund and administer human preventive health measures and domestic animal vaccination programmes.
It looks as if the 2008-09 outbreak has been controlled. Bali had been “rabies free” for 10 years before last year’s mini-epidemic. But local communities – and the provincial government – must stay on the job; otherwise, inevitably, this horrible disease will return.
Worldwide, it kills 55,000 people a year, half of them children under 15.

Hot Stuff

WHAT would life be like without chili? Or for that matter, cuisine? Which not without coincidence seems to be a theme of this week’s Diary. Well, you’ve got to eat.
The Chili Festival, a whole month of tongue-tingling and digestive disturbance, is upon us. It offers the authentic taste of Bali from the traditions of the royal family of Karangasem, whose territories once included not only much of magic East Bali but also West Lombok, which the kingdom of Karangasem invaded in the 18th century, taking Hinduism with it.
The festival, from August 1, is at the Bali Safari and Marine Park in Gianyar.

Playing the Goat

WE came across a lovely little story the other day, about the beauty of Indian goats. Apparently they are a hit with farmers in the country around Bojonegoro, East Java, not only because they are beautiful but because their meat is much prized by consumers. It’s said to be better than Indonesian goat.
One naturally places a premium of quality. If you see kambing (goat) on a menu, and your fancy turns towards such gourmet fare, it’s generally best not to think too long about its provenance but just to hope it has had the stringiness cooked out of it.
Hec’s mum was a master of that: she was a true aficionada of the venerable Ah Sou’tah School of cuisine, where you cook and cook and … well, you get the picture.
It’s a style, by the way, that lends itself to the traditional method of preparing Australian bush turkey for the table: You cook the turkey in a large pot with a big rock. When the rock is soft, you throw away the turkey and eat the rock.
But seriously, it’s good to read that Indian influences continue to have an impact on the archipelago (there’s such a long history to that!) and that the goat farmers of East Java are making premium income from providing beautiful goats.

Veteran Takes the Long View

THERE’S a certain insouciance to which one is entitled, having reached the venerable age of 108. We should not be surprised therefore that Britain’s last surviving World War I veteran, Claude Choules, takes his new status with understandable sangfroid.
Choules, who has actually lived in Australia since 1926, when he was seconded from the Royal Navy to the Royal Australian Navy, now lodges at a nursing home in Perth, the West Australian capital.
Of his new status, acquired on the death of Harry Patch, 111, who died last weekend, just a week after fellow veteran Henry Allingham, at 113 the world’s oldest man, Choules said: “Everything comes to those who wait and wait.”
He heard the news from his 80-year-old daughter, Anne Pow. He was married to his wife Ethel for 80 years. She died at 98.
The long twilight of the old world, encapsulated in survivors like Choules and the only other World War I veterans still alive – American Frank Buckles, 108, and Canadian John Babcock, 109, who both live in the United States – is moving inexorably towards its end.

Useful Feedback

LAST week’s front-page report on post-Jakarta bombings security measures (Tougher Checks on Traffic, Chemicals in Post-Bomb Clampdown) brought a riposte from reader James, who commented on our website feedback:
“All well and good but in my experience over the years the guards and the police tend to check tourists and expats but wave through Indonesians especially workers. Last week, after the bombs, I watched a truck loaded to the top, waved thru the check point at the Discovery Mall, whereas I was subject to a vehicle check. I’ve seen the same many times at Ku De Ta and elsewhere.”
Reader James has a point. There has always been a strong element of PR about security checks. They seem designed to say: Look, We’re Serious and We’re Doing Something. And on balance, it is probably safe to say that if there is a mad terrorist out there with a bomb, it’s most likely not some inoffensive expat trying to do the shopping.

Fame at last!

HEC was a little bit pleased with himself last week. Nutty News Wire, an Australian based laugh-along that operates in much the same way as The Onion in the USA, has suggested its readers follow Scratchings.
He is not entertaining suggestions that they did so because they’re nutty.

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