Thursday, April 30, 2020

Pantai Karang

Yesterday, to break up the usual monotony of the days, which consists mostly in watching movies or YouTube on the laptop, I went down to Pantai Karang, a section of beachfront which is about a ten minute ride from my home. As is the common case now on the beaches of Sanur, this was just as deserted as the rest--only more so, as it is not home to the usual restaurants and hotels, but more an area of private villas tucked away in the bush that backs the sand. A fairly peaceful place even in more bustling times. In fact, it struck as I walked along the lonely path that this would be a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a peaceful ocean swim and some sunbathing, as I used to do in the old days. Trouble is, I no longer have the energy I had in the old days, so I will more likely simply enjoy the memory rather than invest the exertion. To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.


Sunday, April 26, 2020


...and the power of man was baffled and brought to an end. So the plague defied all medicines; the very physicians were seized with it, with their preservatives in their mouths; and men went about prescribing to others and telling them what to do till the tokens were upon them, and they dropped down dead, destroyed by that very enemy they directed others to oppose.
—Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe

Abundance of quacks too died, who had the folly to trust to their own medicines, which they must needs be conscious to themselves were good for nothing, and who rather ought, like other sorts of thieves, to have run away, sensible of their guilt, from the justice that they could not but expect should punish them as they knew they had deserved.
—Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe

Injected Lysol anyone? Hydroxychloroquine?

Well, here are two quotes from Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year, a fascinating account under the circumstances (though certainly not a well-written or well-executed novel). Most interesting though are the eerie similarities between the plague of 1665 and our ongoing coronavirus pandemic--different diseases yet similar responses in society and in (so-called) leadership. Here we have, then as now, social distancing and lockdown, paranoia, disbelief, magical cures that were as likely as the disease to kill, pseudo-religious claptrap. Conspiracy theories abounded then as now, unfounded blame-placing, quackery and so on. It is really almost like reading a record of our own time, and an echo through the centuries or how helpless we are in the face of such onslaughts, how sober and at the same time how silly we can be in our efforts to meet and deal with the threat.

What better to do during lockdown than to read books about where we were and where we are.

"That all plays, bear-baitings, games, singing of ballads, bucker-play or such-like causes of assemblies of people be utterly prohibited, and the parties offending severely punished by every alderman in his ward."
--Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe

From the lockdown orders of 1665 (resurgence of the bubonic plague). The more things change, the more they stay the same (although the popular entertainments differ. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Personal Effort

I think I've mentioned before that most people I meet and befriend here are quite a bit younger than I. This could be because the area I live in is home to many young working folks and university students. It could also be because I am simply older than most people in the world. In any case, I got to thinking this morning about these young folks I've met over the last nine years and a commonality that struck me is that they have all gone from speaking no English at all to speaking English rather effectively. This is quite different from the United States, isn't it, where most people are still monolingual. Of course, one could say that there is no need in America, as everyone speaks English, but that is not true anymore. More impressive yet, to me anyway, is that these young folks have learned not from schooling but simply from the application of their own desire to learn--through interaction, through self-guided study. They are a clever people, are the Indonesians, and an industrious one, and all they have to go on generally is their own ambition and effort.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Twisted Ones


In The Twisted Ones, T. Kingfisher, a pseudonym for Ursula Vernon, better known for her young adult fiction, takes what could have been a reasonably creepy monster story and steadily ruins it with her own disbelief for the next 400 pages. Yes, monster stories are intrinsically silly, and they are pulled off only by a writer who believes them nonetheless and thereby convinces the reader to believe. One thinks of course of Stephen King, whose ghosts, whose creepy clowns, whose devils are quite real and quite deadly. Strangely, Kingfisher pokes fun at her own story from page one, systematically short circuiting any chance of building tension.
Skip this one (if you weren't going to anyway). It's a mess.


Yesterday, I picked up three pairs of pants the tailor had made for me, but found upon trying them on this morning that one was far too large. So I trundled back out to the tailor in Renon, only to find that I had forgotten to bring the pants!

Stopped then at the market for some necessary food supplies, but found I had forgotten to bring my mask. Cannot enter the market without a mask. So I bought a mask, did my shopping, and then found that I had forgotten to bring a grocery bag (bring your own bag in Bali).

Hmmm. Alzheimer's? A step beyond MS? Or is it simply mental vegetation from sitting around doing nothing for so long? Are we all becoming idiots from lockdown syndrome?


Monday, April 20, 2020


Last night the dog woke everyone in the villa, sounding a loud, continuous alarm. I looked out the shades and could see him barking maniacally at the entry door to the villa, but by the time I got some clothes on and went outside, he was up the street somewhere, still barking, but I could not see him.

Comments in the morning on the community WhatsApp group were made expressing the need to lock the door at night. And I suppose that is right. As the lockdown continues in Bali, crime has begun to rise. People are in need. They are not working. Their money is gone.

In the past, locking the door has been a problem because the dog used to go out at night and then show up some time in the wee hours of the morning looking to get back in, which he did by throwing himself at the door until I woke up and opened it for him. Now, however, he rarely ventures outside the villa. He figures his job is here inside. And he has discovered that he need not scavenge for food, as people here are willing to give it to him.

Still wondering what's he's going to do when we change location, next month perhaps. Hopefully he will not decide that he needs to guard the entire non-enclosed neighborhood.

Speaking of the new location, I went again this morning, as requested again by Louis, to inspect the building site and to make 'a more complete video'. Five, actually. Things do seem to be progressing, and they do seem to acknowledge what they are supposed to be getting done. All of the fixtures are going in, piece by piece, but the AC and wifi have not yet been arranged (given that Louis is still stuck in Australia). And you know there's no way I can move into a place without AC and wifi. God forbid.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

What Saves Us?

There is a theory, particularly among evolution enthusiasts, that people ultimately behave well because it is in the best interest of the race, of survival, of the ability as a species to thrive. The point of this theory of course is to refute the notion, and scientifically so by golly, that our comprehension of good and evil, right and wrong, morality itself, comes from God and may be either chosen or rejected by men.
Now look at those, and those being many, who are resisting the directive to lockdown in the face of a pandemic disease threat, to practice social distancing, to sacrifice individual freedoms and enrichment for the benefit of all, and especially for the weakest among us. Look at those who are out on the street, wearing no masks but carrying guns, demanding their freedom--freedom, in fact, from social responsibility, from being imprisoned by the notion of what is 'good for all'. Selfish, self-absorbed, careless, thoughtless--this is the condition of the natural man.
No, there is no convenient evolutionary pragmatism informing our race. And in God, there is no pragmatism either, there is only love, and it is on this that we together survive or perish.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

No One Home

The Sanur beachfront is barren but for one old woman. The restaurants are closed. The shops are closed. The woman is dragging a plastic garbage can filled with fresh fruit, looking for a buyer on the barren beach. We sit together and I try to speak to her but it seems she does not speak Indonesian, only Balinese. But one does not need to speak to sell fruit. One points, one holds up fingers for counting, one smiles. I buy a bundle of manggis. Thank you, she says. She knows that in English. Suksma, I answer. I know that in Balinese.


Friday, April 17, 2020

Time Flies

How odd. Although I have essentially nothing to do throughout the day, time races by rather than drags and I find myself getting ready for bed even as it seems I just got out of bed. I find also that I have often somehow, despite hours of free time, not gotten around to writing anything here. What have I been doing? I really don't know.

I did go out this morning at the request of Louis to tour and video the building site for the new place, but after doing so (which took all of 1/2 hour), I've been in my room all day. Doing what? Yes, that is the question.

I think I spent a long time chatting with random people online. And I spent a long time watching the American news, otherwise known as the American Horror Story. I have two books that I am reading, but I touched neither today.

A friend of mine, a fellow sojourner among the elderly class, once noted that something seems to happen to time as one gets older. It speeds up, twists on its own time line and strangles hours at a time, which drop away like dust. Quite the contrary from time that seemed to crawl when we were younger and had nothing to do, or had everything of a tedious nature to do, now that same yawning valley of nothing opens its great maw and eats great chunks of time, and you never see them again because you never saw them to begin with.

Something happening here … What it is ain't exactly clear ….

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The System

For all of its good points, one thing that one sorely misses in Indonesia is the systematic competence we take for granted in America. Getting a prescription filled for a medication, for instance, is a fairly simple thing back home. Your doctor's office calls the prescription into the pharmacy of your choice (I used to use the neighborhood Fred Meyer store) and then you go pick up the medication. Done.

Not so in Indonesia. I have taken for the last year a medication called pregabalin for a chronic MS symptom, but do you think the hospital can get this straight? No, they can't.

For one thing, there is no calling the doctor and having him send the Rx to a pharmacy. No such thing. No. What the doctor told me is that I must call the ER, tell them that I need the Rx from the doctor, then they are to call the doctor. The doctor then writes the Rx (whenever he gets around to it, if he remembers) and then sends it down to the ER. They are then to call me, at which point I must drive to the hospital myself, pick up the Rx and take it to a pharmacy of my choice. (I could fill the Rx at the hospital, but I have been warned, by the hospital, that they charge roughly twice the price of a local pharmacy).

If this sounds complicated, it is really only the beginning of complications. Yesterday morning, I dutifully contacted the ER (and contacted the doctor as well just to give him a heads up). Naturally, they had no recollection and no record of this common transaction. (Records? What are those?). Well, the ER said they would contact the doctor tout suite and then inform me as soon as they had the Rx. The day passed and ended and became the next day. I called again in the morning. They had no idea what I was talking about. Pre-what-a-lin? Nonetheless, they said they would contact the doctor and get back to me as soon as the Rx was ready. A couple hours later, I called the doctor myself and he said that he had not heard from the ER until their call this morning.

But Doc, I called you yesterday about this.

Yes, but must go through the ER first.


And these are just the preliminary steps before going to the pharmacy, folks; which was, this time around, a particularly distasteful task given the coronavirus situation and the usual crowd of sick people at the pharmacy. Now, each time they must do a time-consuming price check and inform me of the price before proceeding to the long process of actually filling the Rx, even though I have told them that I already know the price and they can just go ahead and fill it. No cannot. Must check first.

Rather than hang around in this possibly contagious environment, I left the Rx with them (after waiting for the necessary price check, of course) and drove over to the mall, which was at least deserted and more likely to be infection free than the pharmacy.

So basically it took me two days to get my prescription.

That is the 'system' in Indonesia.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Progress in a Plague Year

I went to check on my apartment-under-construction this week, at the request of Louis, the owner, and found that they had progressed some, although of course everything has been slowed down due to covid. Not that the workers are sick (as far as I know), but building supply places are closed or behind schedule or whatever. I was to have moved at the end of March, but it is looking now more like somewhere in May. Maybe. But I had a pleasant chat with chief builder, or site manager, or whatever he is, and kind of toured the place, and have posted some pictures below. I am told that there will be a little sitting area out front with a table and umbrella. The odd looking narrow space inside will be an outdoor vertical garden area.


Journal of the Plague Year

What more apt reading material for these days of plague, I mean lockdown, than Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year, penned in 1772--a fictional account of one man's experiences in the year 1665, in which the bubonic plague struck the city of London. In fact, there are many choices for plague books, and so I decided the reading of these would be a fitting hobby as long as I'm stuck in my little room.

Defoe is not a great writer, and this novel, like Robinson Crusoe, is uneven, a bit clunky, sometimes engaging, sometimes merely tedious. But it is interesting for a comparison of plague times as well as the human response, which, perhaps surprisingly, was in that time rather similar to what we are seeing in our own time, with social distancing, for instance, and with slow, incompetent, and even secretive response from the authorities.

Saturday, April 11, 2020


I thought this morning that I would do a repeat of last week's marginally entertaining trip to the beach while the maid cleaned my room, but found upon driving to Sanur that they had closed the frickin beach. This seems a bit ironic, actually, as the beach was already nearly deserted, most of the restaurants closed, which made it kind of the safest place to be--not really breathing anyone else's air on the wide open sand.

Nonetheless, they had closed all the access roads, and so that was the end of that idea for the morning. Instead, I stopped at Planet Ban, the tire store, and bought new (and long overdue) tires for my motorbike. Of course, they put the tires on as well, and so this took a tidy amount of time, such that by the time I got back home, the maid had done and was just leaving. So it worked out okay. Other than costing me 700.000 more than a simple trip to the beach would have cost.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Mountains and Molehills

I popped out briefly this morning to buy a token for my electricity meter, only to discover that 1) it is Good Friday and 2) the Post Office is not open on Good Friday. I think that no land in the world observes as many holidays as Bali.

So much for that plan.

But as I drove back home I noticed the presence of a sudden humongous mountain looming above Pantai Matahari Terbit (Sunrise Beach), and I said to myself, Holy cow, there's a huge mountain this morning!

Usually because of clouds or smog or whatever, this mountain cannot be seen. It may as well not be there (though woe to the pilot who adopts this attitude). But the air seemed especially clear and clean this morning, and there it was. An astounding sight. And it will likely be months before I see it again.

Other than that, this was another day of watching movies, swearing at the American news shows, or rather at a certain man often featured in the news, and taking naps.

The boys who like to play in the parking bay outside are once again being accused of somehow getting hold of the villa wifi password and using up all the wifi power, which brings back unpleasant memories of last year and of being accused of divulging the precious code myself (which I did not do).

The fact is that the wifi here sucks, and it sucks because of the lockdown, which has naturally resulted in massive use of the internet beyond the capacity of the providers to support such use. That is why the wifi is slow, not because of several boys who like to hang out in the shade of the parking bay. As an example, I was watching the old movie 'Hangover' this evening and had to sit through countless long pauses despite the fact that there were no boys present at the time.

I will mention also that Takut the dog received what was probably his first bath ever (if one does not count the times he has been caught in the rain). It seems that several people were complaining that Takut stinks and was shedding hair and scratching a lot, and so naturally these complaints were brought to me.

The thing is, in my permanently weak and wobbly state, the dog is much stronger than I. Nor is he particularly inclined to view me as an authority. It occurred to me, however, that I could attach him to his leash (used only once so far in the past) and coax him into the bathroom, which, unlike most bathrooms in Bali, actually has quite a lot of elbow room.

This did definitely take some pleading and coaxing, but he did at last enter the room completely enough to where I was able to shut the door behind him. Naturally, this caused a moment of panic, which itself was heightened when I turned on the shower water, but finally he calmed down and actually rather enjoyed himself ultimately I think, especially given that we have warm water here.

So I sudsed him up and rinsed him down, and now he's feeling fairly important, it seems. Rather happy with himself. And the other folks are happy too. So it's all good.  

Thursday, April 9, 2020


As things stand now, the government in Bali appears to have cancelled the proposed three day Nyepi extension due to coronavirus, wherein we were all to have stayed strictly within our own homes. The cancellation has been ordered, as I understand it, because of the religious stress in the original proposal that seemed to be counterproductive, given that the point was to prevent the spread of coronavirus, not to encourage communal religious activities. Therefore, we will return to what was already in place, which is a voluntary lockdown wherein people have been 'advised' to stay home, and pretty much all entertainment sorts of businesses are closed anyway, such that there's not very much reason to go out of the house in any case, except to grocery shop or, indeed, take yourself to the hospital. Nonetheless, I found upon going to the grocery this morning, that the traffic was much heavier than it has been recently, which suggests to me that people may have taken the lifting of the Nyepi order as a lifting of all such isolation measures. Why else would so many have decided to hit the roads this morning?

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Price

A friend sent me a video graph yesterday that showed the death rate from coronavirus as it rose in countries throughout the world, and then was suddenly and swiftly overtaken by that in America. And this did not have to be so. It should not have been so. It has happened as a direct result of our president's attempt to minimize and ignore the threat until it got a solid foothold in the country. And the price of this is terribly high. It has been terribly high ever since the unwise election of this president, destructive bit by bit, but now the full price is being exacted.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A Life of Adventure

Seems like my big adventure these days is going out to the little nearly deserted mall every couple days, buying some food in the nearly deserted grocery there, the one with the nearly deserted shelves, and then picking up a takeaway Starbucks before heading back home. 

After that, it's trying to watch a movie before the overloaded wifi stops working altogether for the day. Or watching yet another handful of episodes from 'What's My Line?' That's right, the old TV game show featuring people who used to be well known. The guest panel tries to guess the contestant's occupation by questioning for clues. In addition, every show has a 'famous' mystery guest, for whose appearance the panelists must be blindfolded. It's a pretty amusing show, actually--although likely only in times of lockdown.

And then by golly it's time already for the midday nap!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Good Doctor

Well, I'm getting quite an education from the ER doc in Surabaya. She tells me that they (the medical system) have now lost control of the virus there and that it has spread everywhere. Doctors and nurses at her hospital, including she herself, are getting sick. Indonesia, she believes, is in the range of becoming another Wuhan or Italy. Slow and incompetent government response has masked the scale of the outbreak. Sound familiar?

The statistics we receive from on high are inaccurate and based on very, very partial information indeed, as people are simply not being tested. 155 tests a day on a population of 280,000,000. And as she added, "That's insane." But Indonesia, as is readily obvious, is quite ill-equipped for handling a pandemic. Their medical systems, abilities, and supplies are relatively primitive and scarce compared to western countries or fully developed Asian countries.

The one bit of happier news is that she confirms and concurs with research that suggests that the coronavirus does not thrive well in hot tropical climates, with the caveat that those factors (temperature, humidity and sunlight) will only cut the virus's ability to grow in half--so it does not exactly kill the virus, per se.

At the end of April, she reminds, we will enter the month of Ramadan, where Muslims will traditionally be taking part in a number of community functions, including gathering in mosques. Yikes. Thoughts and prayers may be the worst possible thing at this time.

Similarly, I read this morning about a Christian pastor in Bandung (Java) who had infected half of his flock with coronavirus. It would not surprise me at all to find that he was "laying on hands" in order to confer the Lord's protection.


Well, at least Trump's big Easter gatherings were nixed by those in the know. Something to thank God for, after all.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Score

So what, you ask, is the covid news from Bali?

Well, seeing as how all of my coffee spots are either closed or late opening and takeout only, I went down to the beach this morning for a walk while the maid was busy at my place. (The main thing is to get out of her way). The beach, as it turns out, is just about the safest place to go under present circumstances because there is barely a soul to be seen. Talk about social distancing. I did run into one Ibu (older woman) clinging to the hope that someone might pass by so that she could sell something from her little shop on Sindhu beach. There is a little complex of these shops just to the landside of the beach walkway, and hers was the only shop still open. She guided me back to the establishment to survey her array of generally worthless items and finally I picked out a little cloth carrying bag, for I had told her that I needed a new man purse and this was all she could come up with. But my goodness, I could not help but wonder how the poor old woman's family is eating.

Back to the beach then, I strolled east for a ways, and came upon a second woman, this one selling an item of more worth, for what she had was an enormous bag of hand-sewn face masks in many colors of brightly patterned material. "Three layers!" she said. "Better than store bought."

Well, this seemed an industrious idea to me. Meet the need, and do so with class. So I bought one of these, only 10.000 Rupiah (less than one dollar). Actually, I wish I had bought more, for upon arrival back home, I gave the mask to Sia, a nice woman who lives here in my apartment complex, as I thought she would appreciate the decorative pattern. I suppose they would even make good stocking stuffers, if covid stays around that long.  And at this point, who knows, right?

Took me a couple of pictures, found me a coffee, and then sat on the beach for a time. Quite peaceful, it was. No tourists running about in swimsuits, no waitresses bustling back and forth, no children screaming in the surf--just lone fishermen in peaked straw hats wading waste deep in the placid waters.

Incidentally, I've been chatting a bit with an ER doctor in Surabaya (which is a city of fair size on the island of Java). She herself has now tested positive for coronavirus, is feeling rather sick, and is self-isolating at home. It's happening all over the world, folks, frontline healthcare professionals first. I hope to talk to her more so that I might learn more of what is going on, for as I mentioned yesterday, we common folks know very little at all.

The score today is 2092 positive, 191 dead.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Cultural Divide

Even after nine years here in Bali (to the best of my foggy recollection), I am still occasionally surprised by the cultural divides I encounter. I was talking to a woman online, for instance, and she was telling me that she had fallen in love with someone, but he thought that they should stop chatting.


"Oh, because he is a very strong Muslim and he feels like he might do or say something wrong. But I love him very much. What can I do to make him stay?"

"Hmmm. Why do you love him so much."

"Because he's such a strong Muslim. A woman needs a strong man. He can guide me, teach me the 'right way'."

Guide me and teach me the right way? Would this not be perfectly odious to the modern American woman?

But there you have it. Indonesia's is an emphatically patriarchal society, and Islam is a stubbornly patriarchal religion. This is her world, her frame of reference.

"I wouldn't even mind if he had several wives," she said. "Do you think a dukun could help?"

"Dukun? You mean a sort of witch doctor?"


"Hmmm. Help how?"

"Well, you know, like make him fall in love with me? Lol."

Ah, that ol black magic.

"I dunno. It seems to me that a man who has several wives is somehow lacking in devotion to any particular one, don't you think?"

"I don't know what you're saying."

"Let me put it this way. In my religion, a man and his wife become one flesh. Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. Not a man and several wives. He is devoted to the one only, ideally. And if you ask me, based on three marriages, one wife requires sufficient devotion."

"Ya, I know. We don't have that."

All righty then.

"Please help me, Sir."

"I told you, my name is not 'Sir'. It's Richard. Or Will. Either one."

"I can't say that."


"It would be improper. Disrespectful."

"Yes, but--"

"Anyway, can you please help me? I'm so in love, and now he doesn't want to talk to me."

"Did you tell him you're so in love?"

"No. I can't say that."

"Improper, right?"


"Oh well then, try the dukun. Could be the only way around religion!"

Thursday, April 2, 2020


I hear that a French national was found dead on the street in Kuta. Covid-19.

The maid tell me that a man suddenly dropped dead in a minimart near my old house in Renon. Coronavirus.

News travels here in the form of gossip, as we are for the most part stuck in our own abodes. Oh we can come out if we want, but there are not many places to go. Most are closed. We get our news online. We get our news through small talk with the neighbor. Outside, everyone is wearing a mask. It's difficult to talk through a mask. And they're not out there to talk anyway. They're out there on some necessary errand. Like getting groceries. Get what you need, and get back home.

Is Covid-19 stalkng the streets of Bali? Who knows? All we know is what is on YouTube. And how much chocolate one can eat in one day. And how often one can fall asleep. And how very tiring it can be to do nothing all day.

We can check the Line app to learn the statistics in Indonesia. 1790 confirmed positive. 170 dead.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Ignorance and Bliss

Tempers seem to be flaring on the road out there. Pent up emotions from lockdown, I guess. It's ironic though, given that the traffic is so very light compared to the usual Bali gridlock. I turned out onto the road with plenty of time, really, but this guy was coming from behind so fast that he was soon bearing down on my ass and sounding his horn quite excessively. So I dutifully moved out of his way, albeit very excessively slowly. Do you think this made him angrier yet? Lol. 

Well, I guess people figure that if the coronavirus ain't gonna kill em, they'll find some other way to do it themselves. It was an odd occurrence, though, because traffic spats are actually very uncommon in Bali. Too hot maybe. Or maybe people in general are just too pleasant to bother with such foolishness. Really, one almost never hears about or sees road rage here.

Nor do they understand that an attitude such as that displayed by the motorist this morning would be likely enough to get him beaten at best and killed at worst on the roads of America. Ignorance can indeed be bliss.