Monday, March 31, 2014


Another Nyepi Day in Bali - my fifth, by my reckoning. The day of silence and reflection. Not my favorite, at all, although it seems that I'm getting used to it by the progressive year. On this day you can have no lights on, you cannot go outside the house, and you are to be as quiet as possible. We buy candles, pull the curtains and watch DVDs. And, of course, write in our blogs. Of course, there's nothing to keep me from working, since I work at home anyway - although, technically, you're not supposed to use electricity at all. But who knew, right? So, I got some work done, and some emails sent, and some DVDs watched.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Getting a License

Finally, this morning, I got my driver's license renewed. This is easier said than done, here in Bali. Especially for a foreigner. Firstly, you must know someone, either an agent or someone in the police department. In the past, I have taken the former course, as the cost was included as a sort of 'courtesy' for using that agent for the Kitas (foreign visa) process. This year, however, my agent decided her fee would be $500,000 Rupiah instead of the usual $350,000.  In general, one might expect to receive increasingly better treatment after 3 years when the same agent, but such was not the case here.

So, my wife said 'Forget that, I can get it for $350,000. I know a guy."

Well, turns out she actually knows a guy who knows a guy - which is a very popular sort of arrangement here in Indonesia. Everyone knows a guy (who knows a guy).

Last Saturday, therefore, I drove to her office in Denpasar to meet up with Sugung, a driver, who was said to know a guy in the police department. However, when we got to the police department, we found it closed. He called his guy, who happened to be having breakfast nearby at the time, and we were told -- yes, you guess it -- that the place was closed. Come next Saturday, the guy said.

"But," as I pointed out, "my license is expired now. What if I get stopped in the meantime?"

"Oh, no problem," the guy said.

No problem for him, sure. But I would remain, for the next week, a juicy possibility for the random, lucky police officer.

Meet me next Saturday, "Sungung instructed. We try again."

Friday night comes around and I find that Sugung cannot go to the police station tomorrow. It's a holiday. So sorry.

So my wife, on Saturday morning, contacts Sarsen Oka at the department and tells me to meet her at the office. It is not, as it now appears, a holiday. By the time I get to the office, I find that she has moved even  higher up the line, through a friend at work, who -- yes, you guessed it -- knows a guy.

Off we go. The goal, if you've forgotten, has been to get a driver's license. A little card with my picture on it. A $350,000 Rupiah little card with my picture on it. (As a note of interest, these licenses cost $25,000 for Indonesians).

The young man whom we meet at the station turns out to be so important, indeed, that he does not even have to wear a uniform. He's wearing batik, comes to us immediately, has me sign a sheet of paper, and ushers me, forthwith, into the office where my picture and fingerprints will be taken.

And it's done. And it only took a week.

Carlos. Remember that name. For, next year, the whole thing comes around again.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Two things in today's Jakarta Post that newspaper that make me want to beat someone with the same. The first is the banning of the movie, Noah (along with the likely banning of Son of God). I'm not saying that these are good movies. I haven't seen them. But it's just the very idea. What kind of country bans movies in the 21st century? Well, an ignorant one, I guess, which is, by its own actions, bound to remain ignorant. In fact, Noah has been banned by all Muslim countries. It goes against the teachings of Islam, they say; although they cannot say exactly why or in what way. But, of course, that's not really the point. I feel fairly certain that it goes against the teachings of Christianity and Judaism, too. It's Hollywood, right? What do you expect? Do these religious police fear that someone will see the movie, embrace the Hollywood version,  and straightaway leave the mosque for the new truth they have discovered? Or is it that they do not know the Koran in the first place and will therefore fall victim to falsehoods, mistaking them for Islam (if that's possible). Purely ridiculous, of course. What kind of country states,  up front, "We are, and intend ever to be, an ignorant people, unable to think or judge for ourselves."

More disturbing yet is the list of movies previously (and still) banned in Indonesia, for it includes Schindler's List, a perfectly factual tale of the holocaust, the plight of the Jews, the death of 6 million, and one man's attempt to save just a few. What about this is at odds with Islam? What about this can be harmful to Muslim viewers? Is it not factual? It never happened? Well, of course, the answer is pure and simple. The problem is anti-Semitism, the pointless, baseless, unreasoning, evil hatred of another people. What a shame it is. What an insult. What an ugly smear on the face of a religion (Islam) and the honor of Muslims in general.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Honk if You've Never Seen a Bule

Took a walk around the neighborhood today and met a few more friendly types. Apparently, people out here are in the habit of honking when they see a bule. Makes me feel kind of a like a beautiful woman. But it's a bit unnerving. I keep thinking I'm in the way, somehow; but no, I'm just there. But that's not what I mean by friendly. That's just a bit weird. I did, however, meet a couple of folks at various markets who actually smiled and talked to me, which was nice. One supported my suspicion that there must be a reclaimed drinking water warung around here somewhere - although she couldn't say exactly where; while another chatted for a minute about where I was from and what I was doing and so on. Oh, and I found Pall Mall Menthols. Just when I thought the entire island was empty of the things - as happened with Marlboro Menthols. So I bought two packs and made her promise to order more. Not that she'll do so. Also found a car wash place, a motorbike wash place, and a number of food warungs that looked halfway decent, and smelled so, too. There is an IndoMart, a Circle K and a gas station. There is a tool shop, a helmet shop, and any number of laundries. Tomorrow I will stroll in the opposite direction, accompanied, no doubt, by a fanfare of horns.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Finally beginning to seem like home in the new house. Felt impossible for the first couple days. Actually scary. So much stuff, and so little room. But we've managed to pretty much  push it into place, in part by buying another big piece of furniture, oddly enough.

So, just have to get used to the new neighborhood now. Always confusing - especially so here in Bali. Streets don't seem to have been made according to any plan. Rather, probably a house was built, a street was laid down leading to the house, another house was built, a street was laid down leading there, and so on. It's a maze.

Need to get accustomed to the people here, too. They do seem different than in Sanur and other familiar haunts. There, many of them are involved in the hospitality industry and so they're -- well, hospitable. Not quite so friendly out this way. I get a lot of stares, because they don't see very many bules, and if I try to talk to them, they seem to panic.

So, new things to learn, new places to explore. Keeps life interesting.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Moved and Done With

I surely do hate my anonymous comments on Blogger. Every day they show up, and never have anything to do with the entries on which the comment has been made. Free Provigil! Cialis by special order. Viagra. Gabapentin. Or just a lot of gobbledygook in Russian, possibly pushing porn. It's irritating, depressing, annoying. I would say "please stop," but I know they won't.

So anyway - We finally made the big move to Renon. What a pain in the ass. I hate moving. When you first get all your stuff in the house, it seems like nothing will ever be back in place again, your life has turned to chaos, you're uncomfortable, you can't find anything, nothing is the way it's supposed to be. But, obviously, that passes -- because the next time you move, you experience the same feelings all over again. Ah, I wish we were still in the old house.

Little by little, you and your surrounding adapt and the house seems like home.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

We Found It - Really!

Okay, I'm gonna go out on a bit of a limb here. But I think I can say this with a fair bit of assurance - or more than fair, really - a pretty damn good bit of assurance: We've found and rented a house!

Yes, in lieu of some strange occurrence - strange even for Bali - we've successfully rented a house in Renon and will move in at the end of next week.

This is a small house, smaller than the one we are currently living in, but a nice house, seemingly in good condition, and in a nice, quiet neighborhood (no two-legged chickens), and close to my wife's workplace. Sempurna! Well, lumayan baik, anyway. It is also close to Sanur, where I most often hang out when I'm not in the house.

This one also has an outdoor kitchen. We had one of those some four years ago, and they seem to work out okay. Kind of pleasant, really, since the inside of the house gets so deadly hot here in Bali. And a nice yard, too, where we can set up a little table and some chairs for sitting and chilling in the evening.

So, move won't be fun, but we should be settled in within a another couple of weeks and able to get back to the (more or less) peaceful life.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Chicken Next Door

Yesterday, we thought we had found it. The house we had been looking for. A house fairly near my wife's workplace, with two bedrooms big enough to actually be used as bedrooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms, a back patio for washing and drying laundry and a driveway big enough to park a car in. Gee, were we excited.

But my wife had a reservation. Sharp girl that she is, and one familiar with the  life of Indonesia, she had noticed the presence of a cafĂ© next door to the prospective house, and determined that we should return late at night to see what, if anything, was going on there. It could be a chicken club, she noted. These are the two-legged sort of chicken, regularly for sale in Denpasar.

Sure enough. We returned to find the establishment lit up with flashing Christmas lights, booming music pouring from doors and windows, roaring motorbikes in the lot, and about 15 cross-legged women on display in the front of the property. In short, a chicken club.

Now, we don't have anything in particular against chicken, but we do like to sleep during the night. Have to, really.

So nix that one.

Today, we looked at yet another house. It has some of the specifications, lacks others. For instance, on the plus side, it is close to my wife's workplace. On the minus side, the two bedrooms are tiny. It does have a nice outdoor kitchen, and a nice bathroom (by Bali standards). And no chicken. In fact, it would seem to be a quiet, family neighborhood.

So we'll put in our bid and see what happens.

More to come, I'm sure.