Tuesday, December 31, 2019


Well, I don't drink alcohol, I don't dance, I don't go to the clubs, but I do drink coffee--so I have returned to Starbucks this evening to enjoy a latte and visit with whatever friends happen to be working instead of partying, although I suppose many of them will dash out for a party afterwards. 

I'm taking little videos of all the baristas here saying "Happy New Year", which, unfortunately, I cannot share because Blogger doesn't play videos (I don't know why). Anyway, it gives the evening a little bit of a festive feel. 

New Year's Fun

I'm having fun this morning wishing people a happy new year in Bahasa Bali--Rahajeng Warsa Anyar. Most of them smile (thinking, no doubt, 'What's wrong with this bule?'). Many here do not speak Bahasa Bali at all, only Bahasa Indonesia, because, of course, many are not Balinese at all but from islands around the Indonesian archipelago, for whom the more appropriate salutation would be Selamat Tahun Baru

This is the extent of my New Year's Eve amusement, for, as I think I've mentioned before, I don't like New Year's Eve and, as far as I can remember, never have. It seems to me solemn, sad somehow, especially considering that many can think of no better way to 'celebrate' the occasion than to get falling-down drunk, loud, generally obnoxious. This goes all the way back to my father's yearly intemperance I think, which always made me feel embarrassed. Of course, later on in life, I became the intemperate one, and much more often than once a year, fashioning many a cringeworthy and regretful moment.

Now, I celebrate the occasion by sleeping, if possible, before the fireworks begin. At the same time, there is a little voice in me that says that I am missing out. Everyone is partying, dancing, laughing, kissing, and what are you doing? Sleeping! But it's not really even a choice anymore. I simply cannot stay awake, regardless of the fact that I have already taken one or two naps during the day. My general physical status lately (and by lately I mean for the last couple years) is like that of someone who has just recovered from a terrible, incapacitating illness--weak as a lamb, slow, uncertain, wobbly, easily fatigued. I convalesce, I recuperate month after month. Parties are out of the question. The very idea exhausts me. Drinking is out of the question, as it merely exacerbates the existing troubles. 

Perhaps I am merely angry at my own disability, and so dislike the night itself. People tell me that they will be going to the club or a dance or watching fireworks in Nusa Dua. They ask me what I will do and I answer that I will try to sleep before the noise starts. Zzzzzzzz. 

In any case, my plan, so far as I have thus formulated it, is to buy some popcorn and other treats and watch a good movie. To this end, I wish I hadn't already watched Little Women, which would have been an excellent choice for this solitary occasion, being as it is a lovely, entertaining film among so many tiresome clinkers. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Point

I stagger to the conclusion of the year 2019 with a numbing case of MS brain fog along with a general sense of ennui. The foremost question in my mind seems to be "What is the point?" There is a thick doorstop of a book which sits long unmoved on the TV table to my left and it, too, asks "What is the point? Why would reading me matter? Why would bothering to lift me matter? What I might have to say, you would forget anyway." The book mark is tucked eternally at roughly the halfway point, somewhere between pages 400 and 450. Because what is the point? It is a good enough book, by one of my favorite authors, and yet what would finishing the book signify? There was a day when I felt I had to read as many books as possible as quickly as possible, in order to catch up somehow, to what I do not now know. What was the point, especially considering that I can no longer remember the things I read? It has all settled like dust, some of which clings indeed obscurely to corners, most of which has been swept away by an inappropriately efficient disease process. Well … I am thankful, at least, that I am feeling better now than I felt at the beginning of the year. It was a year which saw a long illness, beginning in February and extending to August--one thing after another, leaving me half the year bedridden for all practical purposes. It was a year that saw the death of my son, the loss of whom I mourn anew this Christmastime. It was a year that hosted the move from my cozy house in Renon to my cupboard-like apartment in Sanur. It was not a banner year, to put it mildly, and I am glad to be rid of it. And so I lift my cup (of decaf latte) to 2020--welcome to the world, baby.   

Sunday, December 29, 2019



I happened to snap a picture of this young couple at coffee yesterday. Initially I did so as a joke for my friend in Borneo, who was telling me how very many blonds there are in the city of Balikpapan, meaning Indonesian women who dye their hair blond. It does seem to be the latest trend, and, in my mind, an insult to the native beauty of their naturally black hair. 

But it soon occurred to me that there was more to this photo than a private joke. There is the dress, the body language, the pose and the poise. I watched this couple for some time as they interacted, the young man doing most of the talking, the girl shy, eyes generally downcast though acutely attentive; the young man with his dyed blond top, the young woman with her head covered, face haloed--a meeting of the traditional and the modern, the old and the new as the year itself wanes into renewal. Cultural propriety meets the brave new world, and yet the game of love is the same.  

This, my friend told me, is known as a 'Seratus ribu date', meaning that the boy has about ten dollars to spend on the super-sweet coffee drink of his date's choice along with whatever is left over for him, after which he may escort her around the mall on a window-shopping tour, seizing a chance, perhaps, to hold her hand, and maybe get her an ice cream if there is any money left--no more than two meetings a week, because seratus ribu is not that easy to come by. 

Past on present, new on old, manner on mannerism, custom and costume. Classic.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Almost New Years

Rahajeng Warsa Anyar 2020! 

That's Happy New Year in Balinese. Yeah I know,  it's a little early, but I need to learn it so that I can impress the all-Balinese staff at Starbucks on the proper day. Other than that, there won't be much else to New Years here. Oh, there will be raucous and generally disastrous parties in the tourist hubs, and noisy fireworks of course, but none of that for me. Hopefully, I will be sleeping by the time midnight strikes. I never have liked New Years, which is something that I say, traditionally as it were, every year. A movie and bed, maybe a chat or two with friends. That's my plan. Resolutions? Hmm, I'll have to think about that. Staying alive for one more year would be one, I guess, God willing. 

Friday, December 27, 2019

This Old House

This old house has its typical creaks and groans. That is to be expected. Things settle, things sag, things succumb to the law of entropy. A board on the upper floor cries underfoot and is answered by a whisper, a wince from the basement. From peak to foundation, the old house knows itself. These are not ghosts, not hauntings, but cozy, well accustomed tenants, slow, tenuous, feeling their way, guided along by countertops and banisters and windowsills, precise in their uncertainty. All is well, where well means usual, and yet something is wrong, there is a haunting after all--for in the night, the windows fly open by themselves and let uncommon extremities in. The doors rattle, suddenly ajar, and icy toes intrude, clutching the entryway carpets. Rainwater puddles beneath the window sills and spreads like unstopped blood, and the hardwood floors swell and suck in the irremovable stain. And though the windows and doors be shut securely and locked, they are found open again, disobedient to human hand or effort, ignorant of prayer or supplication. These are violent, deliberate ghosts which want what they want and will have what they want, and what they want is the house itself, consummate, every board and stone, each nook and alcove, from the lively soil that preceded it to the preciously weathered chimney top. The windows fly open, the night comes in, the doors slam against wall and jamb and sharp-toed feet can be seen in the dust of snow the wind blows in. The house has its creaks and groans. Those are to be expected. But there is no house that welcomes or tolerates an intruder. Houses are built to keep the weather out. Hauntings are the reapers that seep in nonetheless. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Two Videos

I'm watching two videos this morning. The first is of me and was taken yesterday by Louis at her Christmas party. I am struck first off by how very old I look. This cannot be me, I think, and yet it is. The proof is overwhelming. I'm struck secondly by how very similar my movements and facial expressions are to those of my son, now gone from us since March of the year. I think 'How very like Holden this is.' And yet, that is surely backward, isn't it? Isn't it more likely that his bodily attitude and facial expressions were like mine rather than the other way around? I do not see this as a good thing, because there is a reticence in my movements, a sort of stage fright in my interactions with others, an unsureness. I mumble and mutter rather than speak, seeming to poke about for the proper thing to say. Poor Holden. These are the things he must have inherited from me from his earliest childhood, and they are the things I most dislike about myself. In him, they were exaggerated to the extent where they looked very odd indeed. I'm so sorry, Holden.

I talked to Holden's mother on the phone on Xmas Eve (Xmas Eve there in America, Christmas morning here in Bali). I have always called on Christmas Eve as long as I have been in Bali, the point of that being to talk to Holden, who always visited their home on Xmas Eve to eat dinner and open presents. This was the first year without him, and so I wanted to call and see how Mom was doing, and Tim, her husband, to give them my holiday greetings as always. During our chat, Debbie (Holden's mother) asked if I ever dream of Holden. In fact, I do dream of him often since his death, whereas I very rarely dreamed of him beforehand. "Does he still talk like he talked?" Debbie asked, "or does he speak normally in the dreams?" I realized as soon as she asked this that this is exactly what is different in the dreams, for Holden does move and speak quite normally therein. There is none of the stilted quality, the artificiality, the unsureness. Thank God! At least you have escaped this self-imposed bane. 

Actually, I blame my own retiring posture and affect on my brother, who was free of artifice, outgoing, comfortable in almost any situation--always simply himself, to hell with anyone who didn't like it. I loved him with unspeakable vigor, such that the lion's share of my very being moved and lived in him. What was left, what was sheared off of him, the overshadowed shadow, remained to shyly and unsurely walk among men and call itself me. When he died, I thought 'Now I will be you. There is no one else left to do it.' But I did not become him, any more than a frog ever really becomes a prince. How is it that my brother did not impart his charisma to me? How is it that I gave as an inheritance mere self-consciousness? 

Who can say? 

The second video was taken by my little friend Ira in Borneo. She was bored at the time (bored in Borneo) and so sent a video of herself feeling bored. But what strikes me about this video is that she has made an amusement of being bored! I smile every time I watch it, and even laugh at the end when she herself giggles, making faces, panning at the camera. She so reminds me of my younger daughter, who would also often enough make a game of boredom such that it would become anything but. Ira, also, is very comfortable in her own skin, a blessing which I both admire and envy. Even so, I happily swim in sparkling waters such as these. I enjoy, in her, a feast of human delight.

I wish, by the way, that I could post these two videos here, but for some reason Blogger won't play videos. Sorry. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Day

There's something about Christmas Day, even in Bali, where there is no Christmas Day to speak of. But it's not so much a day, is it, as an awareness. I woke this morning feeling unusually rested, unusually well, and thought Ah, it is Christmas. The bright tropical light peeked intensely through the drapes in the front room and through the Venetian blinds in the kitchen, waiting to be let in. I found the dog on the front porch waiting to be let in as well. Merry Christmas, Takut! Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. What I had was a package of 'beef flavored' dog treats, which he happily received. On the way out to Starbucks I find a small army of splendidly dressed women, full of light and cheer, crossing to the park wherein, I believe, some Christmas event is being held. Selamat Hari Natal, I say to everyone I meet--Christian, Muslim, Hindu, it doesn't matter. They all know merry Christmas, for the day is in their hearts as well, and they return the greeting, glimmering, each a colored light of his and her own. We are all glowing, shimmering in the grand tree of life, flashing, radiant, reflecting in all the glassy globes. Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy. Christmas day is here. Christmas day is everywhere. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve

My Christmas here in Bali is kind of like Mr. Bean's Christmas, except for the turkey stuck on the head part. No turkey here in Bali. 

So I've got my cozy little easy chair and my Christmas carols on YouTube, my fake little tree, some Christmas cookies, and a dog rather than a teddy. 

"Takut," I said to the dog this morning, "it's Christmas Eve!" 

He seemed less than impressed. 

"Aren't you excited about Santa Dog coming? 'Course, here he just flies over, doesn't stop, but still …" 

Takut was asleep. 

Perhaps I will buy him some dog treats today as a present for tomorrow, and maybe pick up something for me as well. Hmm … what's on my list? 

I thought there was going to be a Christmas gathering at the ex-wife's villa today, but apparently I was mistaken. That is slated for tomorrow afternoon. Well, it'll give me something to do on Christmas. 

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 

Dalam Bahasa Indonesia, begini: Kemuliaan bagi Tuhan di tempat yang mahatinggi, dan damai di bumi bagi umat-Nya. 

Merry Christmas to all. 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Xmas Cheer

It seems that for the last decade or so I have decided on a given night during the Christmas season that I should go out and have some Christmas cheer--alcohol, I mean, in the form of Bintang beer, which is the only affordable sort of alcohol to be had here in Bali (save for Arak bought off the street in a plastic bag). 

Why I decide to do this year after year I do not know, given that I stopped drinking many years ago and that alcohol, even in a small amount, instantly makes me feel ill, especially now with my damaged stomach. 

Nonetheless, I went out last night for the traditional cheer and the outing was as distinctly non-cheery as ever, complete with the proverbial excessively inebriated Australian who roams the floor chatting up perfect strangers as if they were lifetime bosom friends. Ah the Christmas spirit spread abroad!

A small Chinese man was sitting at the nearby bar, and the Australian targeted this poor small man for the honor of being his new best friend. He leaned, swaying over the little man, wide-eyed, blaring, shouting God knows what in God knows what language, finally for some reason compelling the Chinese man to leave the bar and sit at a table--a demand with which the man meekly complied, glancing about at the same time for someone who might deliver him. Sadly this table was directly next to my seat, and so the large, booming, indecipherable Australian man loudly "befriended" me as well. 

Seated nearby, the Australian man's girlfriend had fallen asleep with her head on the table.

Garr lappo spam kar noksie goggle-doodle-doo, the Australian shouts in my ear and laughs uproariously.

Yeah. Time to go home. Should auld acquaintance be forgot? Yes. Better to remember the shelf-life of old traditions and replace those that have expired with new ones. 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Ghost Town

As Christmas day approaches, Villa Kampung Kumpul begins to become a little ghost town. The neighbor directly next to my room, Alex, has gone home to France for two months. The young man across the way, a Moroccan, has moved, apparently to more a more classy abode in Ubud. The large family of Indonesians in the room at the rear of the villa has returned to their various homes. This leaves only me, Peter the Dutchman, who has moved to his third room in the villa since coming here (what, only two months ago?) and is having as many complaints about this one as he had about the others, Sia, the part-owner of the villa, two rooms down from me, and Janette, who is now the longest term resident standing. I believe that Peter will also return to the Netherlands soon for some period of time. So everything has become very quiet and peaceful, and, at night, very dark with only two or three porch lights glowing.  

In fact, I myself will be moving soon enough--by March, if all goes according to plan. The building materials for the apartment complex have already been delivered to the site and the men are already working on the land, as well as laying a road into the settlement. This will be a whole new experience for me, as I have never in my life lived in a newly built dwelling. The place sounds like it will be very nice, as described to me by Louis--significantly larger than the apartment I live in now, with more amenities, a more functional layout, and so on. I'm looking forward to it. 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Mish Mash

I once told a young woman whom I had not yet met that I was better in print than in person. A sort of advanced warning mechanism, I suppose. Prepare to be disappointed. 

Gosh I miss that girl! 

And I reckon that the statement is now truer than ever, for I was still relatively young at that time (almost anything is relatively young compared to 65), I was still healthy, energetic, strong, able. I could function in all the basic ways a woman would expect.

At the same time, my mind has remained the mind of the person who once upon a time said those words. Or rather, wrote them. I have a child-like mind. Or should I say childish? Whereas I myself, in my body, am sedentary, slow, sleepy, dare I say slovenly, my mind is youthful, playful, active, quick--a clean, well-lighted place.

Jekyll and Hyde. 

I very much enjoy chatting online with younger people, laughing, flirting, jousting, while at the same I dread the suggestion that we should meet. Because, you see, the person you are talking to online does not exist in the flesh. Even though you are looking right at me, I am not there. I am here. I both am and am not the person you know. I am trapped within the irrepressible downward spiral of age and illness, and the only way out is quite superlatively extreme, and takes along no travel companions. 

Friday, December 20, 2019

December 20th

I noticed rather suddenly today that the date is December 20th, and this seemed immensely significant because it should he the heart of the holiday season, almost Christmas. But it's not. It's just another day. It's just another month. Santa Claus is not coming to town. Jesus is not about to be born in a manger. And Frosty the Snowman is certainly keeping his distance for his very life's sake. There is no Christmas tree in the house, no wax figures, no snow globes, no mistletoe, no wreath on the door, no date nut cakes or candy canes or toy trains or carolers. This is not December 20th! What can these people be thinking? 

So I've come out to the Starbucks, where there are Christmas decorations, seasonal coffees, a chattering crowd (because of the 2 for 1 deal today), and there is a large fake Christmas tree in the mall, and Christmas tunes playing both inside Starbucks and out in the mall. Now that's more like it! Sort of. 

Still, it's nothing like Peacock Lane, is it? All the lights lining the street, the cars crawling along, carols drifting along in the dark, a light snow falling, the clopping of the horses' hoofs as they pull their carriage and its passengers from Belmont to Stark and back again. 

There is another horse-drawn carriage downtown that travels from Pioneer square down to Old Town and back again. I remember riding in that carriage with my girlfriend after watching the tree lighting in the square. It was cold, terrifically cold, and we, snuggled together, were wonderfully warm. The icy flakes that touched our cheeks melted with our kisses, each of us wrapped in the other's coat, woolen scarves entwined as well. This was Christmas. 

Ah well, Christmas is for children, as they say; as is love, snow, music, romance. 

Still, there's no harm in remembering. 


Recently herein, I commented on a Jakarta Post opinion piece regarding the importance of proficiency in Arabic language as a cornerstone of genuine faith in Islam. Although that piece had some strong points to make, I considered the idea that one could only be a true Muslim (rather than merely a cultural Muslim) if he understood Arabic to be rather imbecilic, in that language alone, no matter which language it is, cannot convey or impart spiritual awareness, which must come through experience and belief. 

I note that an answer to the previous piece appears in today's Jakarta Post, offering some strong points of its own, and perhaps some either weirder conclusions. 

Mr. Aziz Anwar Fachrudin opines, rightly, I think, that "proficiency in Arabic does not determine the degree of a Muslim's faith," for a Muslim, as described in the Koran itself, is simply "he or she whom believes that there is no God but Allah, and that Mohammad is his Prophet. Faith, as described in the Koran and other scriptural sources, is "determined by how much someone is conscious of God in his/her day-to-day life, as well as his/her actions as a consequence of that consciousness." These are the teachings that proceed from Islam not only in the Arabic language, but in any language.

Strangely, however, the author then proceeds to pose the curious belief that "in the experience of faith across many traditions, cognitive knowledge about what God says in the scripture is often less important than reciting scripture--even if one can't understand it! (exclamation point the author's).

Really? All we need to do is babble words we don't understand? 

I don't think so.

In the same edition of the Post, two articles appear side-by-side--one concerning Christmas music sung by a choir for the enjoyment of Jakarta commuters, no matter which religion they happen to follow, and the other the prohibition of Christmas activities or services in certain city in Sumatra. Here is where language and comprehension comes in handy, whether the language be Arabic or some lesser form such as English or Indonesian or French or what-have-you. And it won't do to babble what Mohammad said here. Do you know what is more precious than prayers or fasting? It's making peace between two peoples.

Listen up! Don't babble. Hear and speak the truth in whatever language you know.


The drawing above is a rough plan of my new living quarters to be, slated for completion sometime in March. It's all Greek to me, as I've never been able to picture the three-dimensional results of a two-dimensional representation, but I'm excited nonetheless. For one thing, the structure will be new, built from the ground up, and will be sectioned off within to feel more like an apartment than just a single room containing for the most part a bed, which is the situation in my present quarters. Best of all it will be rent-free. Can't beat that, right? I suppose I will need to take Takut the dog with me, as it's a pretty certain thing that no one in my present apartment complex would bother to feed him. Sometimes the neighbors give him leftovers, but not on a consistent basis. He's a fairly large dog (some kind of Labrador mix), and so he needs a fairly large amount of food. He's pretty old, as I've mentioned before, and most often simply sleeps. Still, in the rainy season, he will need shelter. Moreover, he's become quite attached to me and I just couldn't bear to abandon him. Well … I guess I've become kind of attached to him, too.  

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Debate? What debate?

It seems that debating with Republican members of the House of Representatives is much like debating with stubborn children. No matter how many facts are put before them, no matter what amount of good reasoning, they simply repeat their complaints and their rote catalog of falsehoods, occasionally with a stamping of the feet. Quite discouraging to watch, and it looks like a similar performance is in cue at the Senate. Ah, my poor country. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


I was chatting on WhatsApp with my friend last night about why people use non-dating apps such as Hello Talk, a language sharing app we both use, as a 'meet-up' app, as if it were just another dating app.

"Mencari batu akik," she answered. 

It took me a while to figure this out, but akik means 'agate'. They are looking for an agate among all the common stones on the shore. 

I realized that she is exactly right, and that this was an elegant, apt way of putting it. No matter what else we night be doing, or pretending to be doing, we are all looking for an agate among the common stones. 

Most people on Hello Talk, and on any other app ostensibly designed for whatever else, are not ultimately intending to use the app for any other purpose than to make a personal connection, very often a romantic or sexual connection. 

This is especially obvious where females are concerned, for my friend had just posted a profile on Hello Talk and immediately began to receive messages from male users, who asked within two or three sentences whether she was dating or married or had a boyfriend and on. As if that has anything to do with learning a language, right? For me, it is usually more like ten sentences or so before a woman begins to ask about my relationship status, and of course the woman usually does this in a more roundabout interrogatory way. More finesse. But the information sought and the intent is the same--and it is not focused on learning a language. 

Curious creatures are we human beings. 

Bug Storm

Last night, we had our first full fledged storm of the big brown flying termites that always accompany rainy season here. These are among my favorite bugs here in Bali, even though they make a God awful mess of the house when they breeze in through the windows and doors. Still, even a thousand of these guys are preferable to one cockroach. The trick, of course, is to quickly shut your door and windows and turn off the lights, to which they are attracted, leaving on the porch light in order to tempt them to stay outside the house. But, as I've said, they show up suddenly, like a clap of thunder, and there is often not enough time to set up the proper defense mechanisms. The termites come just before or just after a rainstorm, just at the height of humidity. They fly only briefly, soon losing their wings which then cover the floor and counters and furniture like a dusting of snow. The little bugs themselves run around without their wings and are soon gobbled up by the house lizards, for they are a special delicacy to these repilian creatures. Also, if you happen to have one of the shy larger lizards such as the tokek in your house, you will soon find out as it creeps out of hiding to join in the feast. I recall that Sparky the dog also enjoyed snacking on these bugs, but note that Takut the dog has no taste for them, leaving me to clean up by myself--though of course I don't eat them, but sweep them out the door. Even so, one will still be finding the wings days afterwards, and even a scurrying leftover bug here and there. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Ceker Ayam

The headline here in the daily newspaper Kompas says that chicken feet can become shoes. That's right, folks. No mistake about it. 

The article goes on to tell us how one enterprising young man by the name of Nurman had the rather singular idea of fashioning chicken feet into shoes. After considerable monetary investment and experimentation, Nurman perfected his process and is now churning out shoes made from the previously worthless feet to the tune of one million rupiah per pair. 

What'll they think of next, right? 

In fact, there are many here in Indonesia who are accostomed to eating the feet, after they've been cooked of course, and so Nurman may have some slight conflict where it comes to taking food out of people's mouths. Then again, they also, believe it or not, eat the heads--a delicate and time consuming process, as I understand it, though I personally have never imbibed. Nor, for that matter, have I ever snacked on the feet. 

I will admit that, of these three choices, the shoes sound most appetizing, in a lifestyle sense, to me.


Possibly exciting news on the horizon. Louis (my ex-wife) wants to buy some land near where I now live and build a Kost-kostan (in other words, a little apartment complex) there, one unit of which I may have gratis. Menakjubkan! Which means amazing. It's a wonderful little area just now being developed. In fact, I have often walked there in the last year. The road is newly constructed and passes between fields full of beautiful flowers and whatever is being grown in the fields. The land is right near the main thoroughfare that goes to Renon and Denpasar, so quite convenient. So we shall see. Buying land in Bali can be a sticky business, but of course she is Indonesian and has a lot of connections, so hopefully there will be no big problems. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

Deja You

There is a young woman whom I often chat with here, several times a day actually. She is Balinese but lives and works in Borneo, and she reminds me very much of my younger daughter, always laughing, always doing something silly. She brings an extra ray of sunshine to my every day, even though Bali has plenty of sunshine of its own. But this is a different sort of sunshine, isn't it? It takes me back to the fun Jamila and I used to have, whether at home or in the mall or wherever. She was always having to do something ridiculous, and always having to employ me in it. I "got" her sense of humor, and sometimes even one-upped her with my own brand of stupidity. Not everyone was in the loop. Even her own mother didn't 'get it'. Those were precious days, those times I had with her between adolescence and adulthood. And so it is nice to 'revisit' them in this way, to share an easy, mutually plugged in sort of banter that is nearly prescient--such that sometimes we will say the same thing at the same time, and then laugh all the more. Who knew that my daughter had a clone on this far side of the world? And they are just about the same age! Life throughout life converses with itself and offers its precious gifts without pause.

Sunday, December 15, 2019


Indonesia has its own brand of hillbilly. They come from the little villages on the far flung islands, or even on the heavily populated islands such as Java. I occasionally meet these people on the language sharing app I use--young people who have signed up to learn the English language, but really just want to chat, for they speak no English at all, and do not attempt to do so. 

A girl who is 17 told me all about her five chickens and her father's goat. The goat, she says, likes to eat grass and is very funny. She offers me a chicken, but then withdraws the offer, because her papa will be angry to find that a chicken is missing. Her aunt, she tells me, works all the time but never has any money, and she wishes her aunt did have money because she wants her to buy her some new clothes. 

She asks me what sort of work I do. I tell her I do not work. I am retired. What is that, she asks? Sudah pension, I explain, which in Indonesian means the same as retired. She asks if that is what my work is called, or is it the name of my company? It is a term she has never heard in her language, because where she comes from, there is no such thing as retirement. There is only a lot of work, and never enough money. Pride and joy is found in five chickens and a goat. 

I ask her where she is from (dari mana?) and she says she is just home from school. I say, 'No, I mean, where do you live?' She says, With Mama and Papa. 'No,' I say, 'I mean what island do you come from' (tinggal di pulau yang mana?). What is 'pulau', she asks? 

Is it possible that she doesn't know what island she lives on, or whether she lives on an island at all? How far does her world stretch? To the edge of her village, and then the jungle? 

One imagines that she herself will one day have a daughter who enjoys five chickens and a goat and lives with Mama and Papa.

And I guess they ain't nothin wrong with that. 

Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets
and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north,
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Cultural Believers

I read in this morning's Jakarta Post an interesting, though somewhat wacko opinion piece entitled Indonesian Muslims: Believers in Islam or cultural Muslims? This was authored by one Patrick K. Meyer, who I assume is a convert to Islam, though I don't know this for a fact. 

In the article, Prof. Meyer addresses the distinction between cultural Muslims and authentic believers in Islam. The  cultural Muslim, he writes, refers to "the person who adopts a number of Islamic traditions in his life but lacks iman (faith). The believer is he who seeks through struggle and examination what Islam means and what it means to be Muslim. 

Meyer stresses the distinction between being born a Muslim and becoming a Muslim. As with Christians, there are those who identify with the faith simply because they grew up with it. They were born that way. Simply put, Indonesian children have been told by Muslim parents that they too are Muslim. As with the merely born (as opposed to born-again) Christian, they identify as Muslim in the same way that they identify as Indonesian, while the American identity in the Christian faith is much like his identity as an American. These are the cultural Muslims, the cultural Christians. 

For the Muslim and the Christian alike, these cultural faith folks will often have little knowledge of the faith they lay claim to. What they do and how they behave appears to have little to do with religious belief or instruction. 

Now here is the weird part. "This precious source of guidance and success (the Koran)," writes Meyer, "is written in the Arabic language and cannot be translated because it contains the words of Allah." He adds then that "Indonesian Muslims overwhelmingly do not speak Arabic and have not been through the necessary process of becoming a Muslim", something which, in his opinion, is directly tied to a fluent knowledge of Arabic, for God Himself spoke in Arabic. (The author does not state which dialect of Arabic He spoke).  

Well, hmm, that's a kerfuffle, isn't it? 

I suppose that in a somewhat similar way, we Christians, who have access to the Bible in every human language, will still not be able to access the Bible in any meaningful way unless we have entered into a relationship with the person of Jesus first, have believed first, and have thus received the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, the Bible may as well be in Arabic, or in pig-Latin, or what have you.

It does not strike me that an intimate knowledge of any particular language would automatically be the key to understanding all things written in that language. I understand English very well, for instance, and yet I do not understand the particulars of quantum physics as presented in English (or any other language). A fluent knowledge of French, by the same token, does not confer a perfect understanding of the writings of Camus or Sartre.    

I am skeptical, to say the least, that all faith needs is a knowledge or Arabic. To be sure, a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek is very useful indeed in understanding the Bible more fully--and this is a fact lost least of all on the responsible and knowledgeable translators who have strived to faithfully render the scriptures in English and in other languages. 

I guess what I am trying to say in plain English is that I consider the Arabic thing BS. 

Nonetheless, that said, we are on the same page where the distinction between cultural believers and authentic believers is concerned. 

In all religions, there are the incidental trappings and customs, and then there is God Himself. 

Worthless Wealth

Sometimes one learns things through a series of accidents. 

For instance, I had been thinking lately, after spending so much money on cataract surgery, that I should take some funds from what little I have left in my 401K account. This started out at about 70,000, but since I retired early at 55, this fund was pretty much our sole source of income over a period of about seven years, until I turned 62 and began to collect Social Security.

Well around the same time, I happened to click on an episode of the Judge Mathis show, which had appeared for some reason in my YouTube recommendations feed. Why it would appear there, I do not know, for I watch almost without exception American news broadcasts on YouTube. 

What I learned from this Judge Mathis episode was that if "extra" money appears in one's bank account, Social Security interprets this as meaning that you don't need your Social Security check for the month. Clearly, you are independently wealthy. In the particular episode, a woman had deposited a lottery winning of $5000, only to be informed that she needed to repay her SSA benefit for that month. In other words, she had won nothing at all. 

So, I realized that if I were to transfer money from the 401K to my bank, this would merely cancel the Social Security benefits. In other words, the money I have left in my retirement fund, accrued over a lifetime of labor, is useless to me. In fact, I had intended to leave this money to my son upon my death, but my son beat me to it. Moreover, since he himself was on Social Security Disability, the money I left would have been worthless to him as well. 

So I am thinking now of  'gifting' the money to someone else. Someone ought to be able to use it, right? But that in itself could be a tricky proposition, especially considering that nearly everyone I know is in Indonesia and using Indonesian bank accounts. 

It's a kerfuffle. 

Any lawyers out there interested in giving free advice? 

Thursday, December 12, 2019


'If there is something you don't want Mom to know,' my younger daughter would often say, 'whatever you do, don't tell it to Dad.' 

Well, she was right. A particular component is apparently missing from my brain, that being whatever part distinguishes between general information and privileged information. 

Many a time, teary-eyed with anger, Jamila would remonstrate with me about my big mouth, and I would say 'Jamila, if there's something you don't want your mom to know, don't tell it to me!'

The component, as I have said, is missing. It does not 'learn' over time, it does not 'adjust', because it is simply not there. I'm like a deaf version of Pavlov's dog. I don't hear the bell, therefore I don't know that the ringing of the bell means food, and consequentially fail to salivate. 

If some piece of shared information is supposed to be a secret, this needs to be announced with unmistakable clarity. 

So it happens that Peter, a resident at the apartment complex, or villa, where I live, is angry at me and no longer speaking to me. 

He has been unhappy with a number of things at the villa. There has been a problem with the water in general, with the hot water, with the AC units, with the wifi, and he happened to mention to me that he was looking for other places to live. 

Good enough, and quite understandable, and actually fairly predictable. Why then would I consider this information secret, something to be guarded? A little later on, Sia, one of the owners of the villa, was chatting with me about Peter's complaints, which had reached her on multiple occasions through multiple WhatsApp messages, and I mentioned, being also aware of the complaints, that Peter was thinking of moving out. 

Well, the next day, I began to receive angry WhatsApp messages from Peter. You shouldn't go around sharing private things! How would you like it if I told everyone everything about you? You betrayed my trust!

But … but, Peter … I didn't know it was a secret. What's so bad about looking for another place? We are all free to live wherever we choose, aren't we? I mean, my goodness, I had no idea this was a secret. 

Well, my explanations were to no avail. Peter has said his piece and is no longer speaking to me. Nor WhatsApp-ing me, for that matter. 

Should I have known this was a secret? I still don't understand why it was a secret. Is that only because of the component that is missing from my brain? 

The safest thing, as I told my daughter, is to simply not share secrets with me. As for myself, I try not to have them. If something is secret, it is pretty likely to be unworthy as well. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Sea of Sweat

Man do I envy Indonesians during the heat of the day, which nowadays lasts pretty much all day and most of the night. 

When I reach the mall, not very far away, and dismount from my bike, I may as well be stepping out of a lake--sweat running down my face, running down my neck, spotting my shirt-front, shirt sticking to my back. Ugh. 

And yet here are Indonesian men and women, boys and girls, also just arriving, fresh and dry as can be! How does this happen? Is it all about the skin pigment? Does an Indonesian's body temperature adjust more perfectly? Does the Indonesian body come with natural air-conditioning? I dunno. 

I always feel like everyone is staring at me. Poor bule. Even inside the Starbucks, I am still not dry. I am damp and clammy. How much of this is insufficient heat adjustment due to MS? Are other bules sweating this much. Hmm. I don't know. There are no other bules in this neighborhood. 

Perhaps, just maybe, Indonesia is not the best choice for a place for live. For a bule, I mean. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019


December here in Bali seems unusually bright, not to mention hot. For this reason, I have enjoyed buying multiple pairs of sunglasses to protect my 'new' eyes from the glare (and the wind, when riding the motorbike). So many styles and colors! And they're half price at the little Japanese store here at Plaza Renon (Mini Something-or-Other). I haven't been able to wear sunglasses in ages, given that I couldn't see without my prescription glasses, although, to be sure, they were the kind that darkened in the sunlight. But always the same color, of course. Gray.

The Farce

In watching the House impeachment proceedings, from the House Intelligence Committee, from the House Judicial Committee, one thing becomes clear, which is that the powerful, the wealthy, the entitled are not subject to the same laws that apply to the rest of the American people. Subpoenas, for instance, need not be obeyed. Those called to testify need not do so if they don't feel like it. Those most responsible to the people, ie those voted into the offices they hold by the people or elevated to those offices by he or she who is most responsible of all to the people, ie the president, need not submit to the same laws that apply inflexibly to the common people. Imagine receiving a subpoena and responding with 'Meh, I'd rather not--and if you don't like it, take me to court for the next year or so. I mean, my God, a certain young man was recently arrested and jailed for sleeping late and failing to appear for jury duty! Did he have the option to respond that he would rather not. What seems apparent is that our highest representatives are licensed precisely not to represent the people or the American system of justice, not to abide by the rule of law. Why then should we? The law, which is made to favor the innocent and punish the transgressor, vanishes within the circle of the powerful and the priveleged. Indeed, justice is blind. 

Monday, December 9, 2019

Groundhog Day

Near the end of the movie Groundhog Day, Phil Connors (Bill Murray) asks this simple question: 

"What can I do for you today?" 

That is the key to the story the movie is telling, and it is the key on the larger scale to living a moral and meaningful life. It is not all about him, as Phil finally discovers, but all about everyone else. 

I just love the movie Grounhog Day, having seen it umpteen times, and I love being reminded each time around of this elegant sort of gospel message. Love one another deeply. Seek not your own good, but the good of others.

Or, as the Beatles put it: And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make


For the first time since getting cataract surgery, I wept. Not because of the surgery, mind you, but in response to a maudlin sort of short Xmas video on YouTube. It was that sudden sort of impromtu and fairly unwarranted sort of weaping that I always associate with pseudobulbar effect, that strange byproduct of MS experienced by many of us. To be honest, I had actually worried about crying after having the surgery. Would stinging tears wash away the miraculous effects of the surgery, leaving my vision dim and foggy as it was before? Would all that money I had put out trickle down my cheeks and end in soggy, pointless debt? 

Well, thankfully, I can report that tears do not wash away the effects of cataract surgery. Which is something I'm pretty sure you already knew. 

Why is it, anyway, that I so readily weap for no reason, and yet do not weap in situations that clearly call for tears? Have all the tears been expended on pointless things? Or do I reserve tears for pointless things? Hmmm. 

Sunday, December 8, 2019


Three dump trucks packed from stem to stern with white-clad Balinese men and women rumble bumper-to-bumper down Jalan Hangtua bound for a burial ceremony. It is mid morning and the day is already hot and breathless. Last night there was thunder and then rain. It rained hard for perhaps ten minutes and then the rain lifted and the heat returned and the dissatisfied clouds pressed to the earth as if seeking again the moisture they had lost. The Balinese women in the dump trucks hold their headgear in place, hair drifting in breezy haloes, truck wheels rumbling, truck beds rattling, and the sudden blast of the lead truck's horn sends the scooters scurrying. It is morning still, and the day will be long and hot, but everyone is hoping for the rain to return when evening comes. 


Ran into my old buddy Dharma today at Starbucks, Plaza Renon. Dharma used to work here, but works now at a bank in another town. 

Dharma was the guy with always too many girlfriends and no money, who nonetheless envisioned for his future a life with at least three wives. He tells me now, however, that he has sworn off women. Too expensive, too much trouble. Lol. 

Dharma is a sweet, charming, very polite young man who always treated me with a singular mixture of easy comraderie and undeserved respect. Moreover, he often gave me a free latte. I miss Dharma. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019


The sun set gently in a whisper this evening, leaving behind a placid pastel sky streaked with timid pink clouds. Bats skirt the tops of the grasses that rise at the side of the road and there are people singing somewhere nearby, heard though unseen. It sounds like a hymn, some sort of praise, and fades in and out at the uncertain edge of dusk. A blessed coolness smooths the ragged mane of the day. imparts a hush, a sigh. Soon we will sleep. And dream.


She makes me remember feeling young, playful, able. I find myself forgetting who I am, who I cannot help but be. I become for a moment what I was, what I am not. And yet here I find myself quite easily. I am good at it, as long as reality is suspended. My person, my soul, remembers things, the way one's fingers remember a piano piece. I have from YouTube a saved file of a pianist playing Ravel's "Oiseaux tristes". I know that I once played the piece, and many others. The pianist even looks like me, but he is not me. I did play that piece, and yet for all practical present purposes, I did not. I do not. I merely remember.  It is somewhere in my fingers, wandering in the maze of experience, anamnesis. Outrageous things seem for a fleeting moment not only possible but quite natural. And I fear in the midst of my charade fooling not only myself but others as well. How then to explain that I am not really here? Forgive me, my child, for I have grown old. 

Friday, December 6, 2019


It is noon here in Bali on the 6th of December and the temperature is 34C (93.2F), with a 'feels like' humidity index, according to my weather app, of 42C (107.6F). 

In short, it is hot. So hot that synonyms are pointless. They fall short of a proper description. 

So I'm just sitting here in front of the fan with a towel at ready to mop off the sweat. Wondering what I can do that doesn't involve getting up from my chair or moving away from the fan. Watch a movie, perhaps? The dog is dead. Oh, wait, no he isn't. Just saw him twitch one paw. Otherwise, he's not moving either away from his spot by the open door. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

A Blast from the Past

I read a Jakarta Post article the other day about a young gymnast who had been dropped from Indonesia's national team for allegedly having lost her virginity. 

Of course, for an American reader this seems silly, outrageous, nearly unbelievable. Something out of the dark ages. A blast from the past. 

Nonetheless, this is Indonesia, and it is the way things are. 

Moreover, the story gets worse. 

The gymnast, Shalfa, who is now, reportedly, suffering psychological trauma since the incident occurred and the news of her supposed 'sexual impropriety' spread, has refused to go to school. Having been involved in gymnastics since the 2nd grade, the young woman has now decided to no longer pursue a career in the sport. 

At the outset of this drama, Shalma, who was known to be 'going with a boy' (horrors!), was subjected to a gynecological exam wherein it was determined that she was no longer a virgin. Shalfa, however, insisted that she had never had sexual relations, prompting her mother to seek a second exam. This exam showed indeed that Shalfa's hymen was intact. She was a virgin. These results, however, were dismissed by the gymnastics association and she was told that she would need to get yet another vaginal exam, which Shalma's mother, quite understandably, has refused. 

How, you may ask, does the condition of a young woman's hymen bear on her talents in gymnastics? 

How indeed?

Shalma has received 49 medals in various gymnastics tournaments, both at the regional and national level, including a gold medal. 

Indonesia has achieved something else again in the category of sappy mediocrity. 


My apartment is made wholly of stone. There are two windows at the front, one large window with curtains and drapes and one small window with Venetian blinds above the kitchen sink. Only this window opens. 

During the day, the stone walls gather and retain the heat like a brick oven, especially the back wall which faces the intense midday sunlight. The bathroom is located at the back of the apartment, along with a sink and mirror outside the bathroom, and this area becomes permanently sauna-like. One can actually feel the heat by placing his hand against the wall. 

While the night hours cool somewhat, the apartment remains toasty warm, immune to the futile efforts of the fan and the woefully weak AC unit. 

Needless to say, I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of rainy season, so that these simmering walls can at least get a regular dousing!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Hub 2

Oh my God! How much more difficult can this be? Much more than one might imagine, I guess. 

After my failure yesterday to accomplish the ostensibly simple task of picking up a medication from my neurologist at Kasih Ibu Hospital, I hit Kasih Ibu again this morning, confident that the prescription would be waiting for me in the ER, as supposedly arranged the day before yesterday. 

But no, the people in the ER have never heard of the matter, nor has the doctor contacted them nor written the prescription nor sent it to the ER as he was to have done yesterday. 

I am told to have a seat. Tunggu, as usual. Wait. After a considerable time, a hospital employee emerges, asks me to follow him, and ushers me back to a seat outside the doctor's office. 

He goes away while I'm still catching up in my mind. Wait a minute. What are we doing? Maybe the doctor just wants to personally hand me the prescription? Like he misses me or something and wants to say hi? 

It dawns on me that what I am doing in this seat is waiting for an official visit with the doctor. An examination. To the tune of 800.000 Rupiah. 

Oh hell no!

So I go back to the ER and explain to them that they have misunderstood my purpose here. All I'm doing is waiting for a written prescription from the doctor, for God's sake! Just like every other month in the last year! 


Ah, but they're catching on now. Moreover, a young woman employee who was here yesterday shows up. My lucky stars! 

As it turns out, I end up getting two prescriptions--one direct from the doctor, one from the ER according to the doctor's orders of yesterday, which all means that I will not need to return for quite some time, thank goodness. 

This is institutionalized confusion, folks, salted deeply into the fabric of the Indonesian healthcare industry, and every other industry to boot! God forbid that one actually ends up ill and in desperate need of urgent, or competent, care. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


In the first place, it took me years to figure out what "hub" means in Indonesian usage. Not that I expended exhaustive effort in the task; but it's just that one would see the word everywhere, generally associated with some sort of property or rental or an advertisement for services of some sort. "Hub", followed then by a series of numbers (a phone number, I presumed). What hub? What is a hub, in Indonesian usage? It has always been perfectly clear that in English the 'hub' is the center of some thing or some activity. Typically, one pictures the hub of a wheel. But in Indonesian? What is the hub and how is it associated with these numbers? 

It happened then that when I sent a WhatsApp message to my neurologist at Kasih Ibu Hospital informing him of my need for renewal of my prescription for pregabalin, his answer was "Hub ER". 

Hmmm. Did this mean that I was to go to the ER? Why? I was experiencing no emergency. 

"I should go to the ER to get the prescription?", I queried. 

"Ya. Hub dulu." 

Hub dulu. In other words, Hub first. 

What hub? Hub what?

Well, it finally occurred to me that 'hub' is an abbreviation for the word hubungi, which means 'contact' or 'call'. 


Nonetheless, this new knowledge did me little good upon attempting to apply it this morning. I drove out to the ER to hubungi them in person, at which point it was necessary for them to hubungi the neurologist. The neurologist, as it turned out, was busy with a patient and could not be hubungi-ed.

But hold on … why did the doctor, whom I had already hubungi-ed, tell me to hubungi the ER only so that they themselves could hubungi him again? It doesn't make sense, does it? I mean, why didn't he just send the prescription to the ER when I hubungi-ed him yesterday?  

I suppose, to be fair, that I may have forgotten about the typical hassles associated with the healthcare industry in the US (even after working therein for twenty years). Still, it just seems like Indonesia has accomplished an institutionalized degree of hassle not to be matched throughout the world. From banking to buying, from healthcare to immigration, everything requires multiple, mostly redundant or illogical steps, reams of paperwork resulting, surely, in the deforestation of whole continents. 

Well, the long and short of the thing is that I did not get my prescription. I did not care to wait hours for the simple result of something that should have taken one phone call (or one WhatsApp, rather). 

"I come back tomorrow," I said. "Okay? You have by tomorrow, yes." 

"Oh, ya, pasti, Pak.

We shall see, when I hubungi them tomorrow, whether all this hubungi-ing finally bears good fruit.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Violet Evening

Yesterday evening, I rode down to Sanur to stop by the ATM and get some rupiah, and then decided to stop for coffee as well, since I was out anyway. All-in-all, it was a rather unpleasant excursion, given the suffocating humidity and the heat still clinging to the evening. It had been 34C during the day (93F), making it day to just sit in front of one's fan and swab sweat off his head. In fact, when I made dinner, a simple one consisting of bacon and pancakes, I actually had sweat dripping into my eyes while my hands were busy flipping flapjacks or turning the bacon. It is an unwordly sort of heat, really, better suited to Venus than earth, I reckon. 

But anyway, as I read at a table outside that evening, I noticed that the sky looked awfully strange, a deep violet against the treetops, something ominious or potensive seemed about to happen, something unusual or perhaps even  earthshaking. I snapped a photo on my phone, apparently at just the right moment, for the starkness of the colors soon faded, such that they looked still unusual but not totally alien. 

Of course, nothing happened. That I know of, anyway. It didn't even rain, which I would have sworn would happen at the time. A sudden, unnameable mood passed over the heavens, that was all. A friend, seeing the photo, commented that this sort of sky often indicated, meteriorogically, an impending cyclone. But no cyclone occurred. It didn't even get windy. It is stil not windy, and the temperature, not yet 11 o'clock, has already risen to 32C. Another of those days. We shall see if it brings another violet evening.  

Sunday, December 1, 2019


I have been dreaming lately of weddings. Strange. I myself have never been involved in a traditional wedding, even with three marriages. My first wife and I were married by a justice of the peace in a little town on the way to the beach. to which we proceeded for our honeymoon. My second wife and I were married also by a justice of the peace, this time actually at the beach, in Lincoln City. We were with a friend and his wife, who had also recently been married, and our guests were anyone who happened to be passing by. The third time around, I was marriage in a small church, but there none of the trappings one would generally associate with an 'official' wedding. Short and simple.

But the weddings I have been dreaming of are large affairs, with fancy wedding dresses and bridesmaids and grooms and a large crowd of attendees--everything one might see in a movie. In the dreams, I am just one of the attendees, not the groom. Sometimes I know the person getting married, sometimes not. 

Regarding weddings in dreams, I read the following in The Dream Bible:

"To dream of a wedding represents unification with some aspect of yourself. The joining or merging of qualities. It may also reflect an experience in your life where you noticing something becoming permanent. Often a symbol for new habits or situations that are becoming common place in your life. A wedding may also represent a catalyst event that motivates you to do something all the time. Sometimes it can be a reflection of a transforming event.

Negatively, a wedding may reflect negative situations or negative thinking patterns that are becoming common place in your life being amplified in your waking life. Negative situations or unwanted aspects of yourself merging. Fear, want, jealousy, or guilt that are regularly occurring or feel permanent.

To dream of attending a wedding may reflect your feelings about permanent changes that are occurring to someone else. It may reflect witnessing yourself changing. Experiencing two sides of yourself merging."

Well … hmm … none of these seem to apply, unless it is indeed a feeling about other people moving on to other permanent circumstances outside the shrinking sphere of my life. That could be it. In the dreams, I am generally happy for those being married, and yet there is also an underlying feeling of loss or nostalgia. Perhaps it all has to do with a feeling of being outside the ceremony, observing other people proceeding with their lives whilst my own reality seems one of general disengagement, of greatly reduced options. Forward motion versus stasis. In fact, now that I think of it, I think that is it! 

Dreams always take a while to settle into interpretation. The languages are different.