Will Their Easy Money Now Be Just A Distant Dream?

By Hector

It’s good to see that new Bali Police chief Hadiatmoko has given orders that, if followed, which would itself be a novelty, will foreclose on at least one informal police revenue-collecting point, the Dreamland turnoff on the Bukit. He has ordered a report on the practice and has promised to make this public. It could make interesting reading, since – even though informal – unofficial revenue collecting is a widespread hobby among what would be the constabulary if Indonesian police were peace officers rather than enforcers and can never have been unnoticed by those higher up the food chain.

It used to be a firm rule of bureaucracy, as well as politics, that you never start an inquiry whose outcome cannot be known. In recent times, happily for diarists in search of snippets that will cause them and their readers to fall about the floor laughing, this sensible caution has gone out of the window in pursuit of something erroneously called “openness.”  

But what did surprise The Diary was the insubstantial nature of the levies apparently required of passing surfer-foreigners on motorbikes who, when flagged down by the plods, found their perfectly valid licences to be invalid and their wallets invited to make a donation to ensure their problem went away. On the few occasions when The Diary has fallen into the hands of unofficial police revenue collectors (it’s a lottery: you don’t have to have done anything wrong) the sum required to make the problem go away has been substantially in excess of a mere Rp25-50K.

Perhaps, on the unofficial donation tariff which the feisty Hadiatmoko is apparently about to outlaw, older bules who look as if they might bite are charged a special premium.

Boys from Brazil

Some tourists deserve to be targeted. The ones who drive like madmen either because they actually are gila or because, from the examples they see around them, they think that’s how you should drive here.

The police could do more about regulating local driving and motorbike-riding practices (a good starting point would be “something”) but at least local people – and long-term foreign residents – know roughly what to expect.

Most short-termers don’t, naturally enough. The sensible ones know this and react and behave accordingly. With excess caution is a good rule. But when you’re a testosterone-charged bullyboy, you are by definition not sensible. You are an idiot.

There was a tragic accident the weekend before last near Uluwatu. Such things are a commonplace of course, so much so that it didn’t make the local Bahasa media. The Diary heard about it much later from some Australian surfer friends of the victims.

They were a young woman named Made – she was not yet 30, The Diary is told – and her daughter, known as Cindy, 11. Made was killed instantly; Cindy is in intensive care.

Their nemesis was a carful of Brazilian boyos flying home, heedless of caution, insensitive to the sanctity of the lives of others, oblivious to the bends in the road, from Kuta after an all-night session in party town. It was around 7am and Made, by repute a very careful and cautious motorbike rider, and Cindy were on their way somewhere or other, a little mum-and-daughter duo inoffensively going about their business.

The word from the tragic and unnecessary wreckage was that the boyos were uncooperative with the police. They’d apparently come here to party, bitch about the high price of warung food and ignore surf etiquette by stealing other people’s waves around the breaks at Uluwatu. It was not part of their programme to waste time talking to inconvenient police who back home their rich daddies would just pay off.

One of them finally had the guts to own up to being the driver.

Here’s a photograph of Made as her many friends will remember her. It’s from a friend’s Facebook:

* Your Diarist did not know Made; and shed a tear because now he never will.

Mind the Dogs

They say that organising festivals is like a walk in the park. That’s if you don’t mind the resulting disorganisation and can accept it as all part of the local colour; the ambience of the event. And it is this factor – the delicious alchemy produced by the confluence of Murphy’s Law, Sod’s, and those of Unintended Consequences and sundry others – that came to The Diary’s mind when in an idle moment last weekend the foraging cursor lit upon the Schedule of Special Events posted on their website by the good folk at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, whose 2010 short working week in the global spotlight is October 6-10.

For Rp250K, also delineated on the website as AUS$32 and being roughly approximate (in the currency against which the rupiah is generally quoted) to US$27, you can Jalan Jalan With the Poets on Friday, October 8, on a tiny trek through Janet de Neefe’s local Garden of Eden from her Casa Luna restaurant (that’s not the other, unconnected and apparently frowned upon, one in Sanur) to Sari Organik.

We’re sure it will be fun, particularly since the little ramble is being led by local Irish expatriate John O’Sullivan, who when he’s not being a perambulatory poet is in charge of the Four Seasons hotels at Jimbaran and Ubud. Lionel Fogarty, a robust Australian, and other gabblers are on the manifest.

They say wear walking shoes and a hat and carry water. We’d suggest carrying a stout stick, too, since Ubud’s dogs, rabid or otherwise, also like to make a breakfast of everything.

The special events schedule is devoid of any mention of Israeli writer Etgar Keret, by the way, which is a shame since he’s said to be coming such a long way under difficult circumstances.

Saying Hi

An old mate – he really is: he’s five days older than your Diarist – plans to drop by on Sunday for a late brunch at The Cage. He’s staying in Ubud for a break and, traffic and driver willing, will find us with the kettle on in the wilds of Ungasan. It could be a long brunch. We have more than five years of gossip and scandal and reminiscence to catch up on.

Ross Fitzgerald, Australian historian, author and commentator and long-standing chum (we share a deep affection for coffee and Australian Rules football; customarily we order the same brew but barrack for different teams) is a lively companion, an assiduous scholar, a keen observer of the peripherals of life as well as the things that matter, and a first-class bloke.

He’s also an alcoholic. Last Christmas Day, when he turned 65, it was 40 years since he touched a drink. He’s written a book about it, called My Name is Ross: An Alcoholic’s Journey (published by New South in Australia). It is a tour de force in every sense.

No Reading

Make a note in your diary: No reading (or writing) on September 25. That’s because it will be Saraswati Day. The name comes from saras – meaning flow – and wati, which means a woman. The goddess Saraswati is the symbol of knowledge, which flows like a river and is alluring, like a beautiful woman. (The Diary goes for a sense of humour in a wati above all else, incidentally. Physical beauty is but a visual stimulus.)

There are many mysteries in the Hindu religion and its rites, whether here in Bali or in India, where the forms, substance and a number of the rites themselves are differently expressed. Elizabeth Gilbert is an expert on neither, by the way. A wandering wati of a certain age and distressed status in search of a way to justify a substantial publisher’s advance rarely has answers to anything. So give that movie a miss.

Anyway, back to mysteries: quite why one should celebrate knowledge by not reading or writing is a puzzle, at least to the Western mind. It does give the kids a day off school, though. The Diary was a youngster once and can see the allure of that.

But seriously, Saraswati Day is among the most colourful of Bali’s panoply of ceremonial events. On the day, offerings are made to the lontar (palm-leaf scripts), books and shrines. Schools and other educational establishments hold ceremonies to worship and thank Saraswati for her blessing; they offer a prayer that knowledge and the arts will continue to develop and grow.

Teachers and students forgo their uniforms and wear bright and colourful ceremonial clothes. Children bring fruit and traditional cakes to school for offerings at the temple. Ceremonies and prayers are also held at the temples in family compounds, villages and businesses from morning to noon.

Worth seeing; just don’t write about it (on the day).


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