Wednesday, September 29, 2021

September 29, 2021

 As October approaches, Bali is once again gearing up for a hopeful reopening to foreign tourism, at least at some level. Under the best of circumstances, tourists will be able to enter if fully vaccinated. They must, however, undergo a week of quarantine at a designated quarantine hotel at their own cost. Not a very exciting vacation feature, as it would seem to me. Better than nothing? That remains to be seen. 

In the meantime, domestic tourist visits to Bali are increasing beyond earlier expectations. So there's that. 

In other news, 25 unclaimed bodies stored at Sanglah General Hospital have been cremated without being claimed. The bodies have been at Sanglah for up to two years. It is assumed that family members have not claimed the bodies because they have no money to cover the open hospital bills. 

This week's stupid criminal award goes to two men who tried to steal from a construction site worker while he slept. The victim woke up during the theft and the two men fled on foot, forgetting that they left their motorbike behind. When they returned shortly to get their bike, they were taken into custody by police on the scene. Both are now facing up to five years in jail. 

On my own street, there is a large boy who shows up daily at my house, usually along with the dogs or in search of the dogs. This boy, perhaps 12 years of age, is either deaf or retarded or both. Louis tells me that he is merely deaf, and I suppose that could be so. The boy does not speak other than to make noises. He has kind of taken it upon himself to arrange various things in my house for me. For instance, he opens both leaves of my gate in the morning. When he enters the house, which happens as soon as I get out of bed, he opens the sliding back door for me and draws the curtains. When I get my morning tea, he presses the hot water button on the water dispenser. 

This boy is particularly interested in grooming the dogs, by which I mean that he likes to hunt through their fur and remove fleas and ticks. Who needs a flea collar, right? This actually has always seemed kind of gross to me, but Louis used to like to do the same thing, plucking off fleas and other bugs in a way that seemed nearly obsessive. The dogs don't mind, by the way. 

And speaking of grooming, Otis, the one dog among the pack who is less aggressive and rough than the others, enjoys nothing more than grooming his siblings, especially when they are napping and not up to resisting his efforts. He will lick the inside of their ears tirelessly, then nibble into their fur from head to toe. So if the big deaf boy is not around, there is still Otis to get the job done. Better them than me. 

You may have seen from time to time an endearing story on Facebook or whatever about an animal of one kind taking care of an animal of another--a dog with a raccoon, for instance, or a cat with a duck. Well, there is a little poodle-like dog named Lolli who lives just around the corner from me, and Lolli, at some point recently, brought home a very tiny kitten from who knows where. The kitten has one blue eye and one gray eye and has decided that Lolli is her (or his) mother. The amazing part is that Lolli, who has no offspring of her own, has actually managed to produce milk for this tiny kitten. You know, I really ought to get a video of this. Post it on Facebook or something. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

September 24, 2021

 As I learn today from the Sanur Weekly, Bali is once again in shutdown, after a several day respite. This shutdown is forecast to be in effect for the next two weeks (not just one this time). At the conclusion of those two weeks, the situation will be reassessed. So the long and short of it is that apparently things were not going very well after all. Although a number of visa agents had begun to post "Bali is open" notices, this is untrue, mere wishful thinking. So don't get your ticket to Bali, folks. 

Beaches will now (supposedly) be under an odd/even entry arrangement, which means that on certain days vehicles with even license plate numbers may enter and on certain days odd license plate numbers may enter. This, as it seems to me, is not likely to work very well, if at all. 

The PeduliLindungi app, which shows that the holder has been vaccinated, is now being required almost everywhere, or so they say. I was able to enter the supermarket yesterday simply by telling the guard that I don't have the app, but we will see if that lasts. As I've mentioned previously, I cannot get the app until I get an NIK number and I cannot get an NIK number until I get an SKTT number. This will take about two weeks, and to the tune of 1.2 million Rupiah. The app, in any case, according to the newspaper, is "pretty buggy and well known to cause a massive battery drain." Sounds like a blast. 

A 23 year old Indonesian woman from Cianjur in West Java was arrested in her apartment in Denpasar,  Bali, for alleged "pornographic action", or live streaming of obscene acts on social media for money. Monthly profit from her shows is said to have been around 30 million Rupiah. According to the paper, she started her online career after running out of money during the pandemic. (This is actually a fairly common story--pandemic leading to crime). Shockingly, the woman is facing up to 12 years in jail. 

On Thursday night of last week, a law firm in Denpasar was attacked with Molotov Cocktails. A fire resulted, which was extinguished with garden hoses. No idea why the firm was attacked. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021


 It has been entertaining to watch these puppies grow up and grow into their own personalities. 

Jagger, who was supposed to have been my dog, shows no particular fondness for me, or really for anyone in particular. He shows up at the house every morning, along with the rest of the dogs, and waits to be fed. This necessitates getting rid of the other dogs, which I do by tossing a handful of kibbles out the door. The other dogs run out to grab the scattered kibbles, but Jagger has learned that if he hangs back, I will shut the door on the others and give him his own bowl of kibbles mixed with a bit of canned dog food. So he is at least a smart dog. This he finishes, tops it off with the leftover milk from my bowl of oatmeal, and then waits to be released back to the great outdoors. Often, I will not see him again until the afternoon, when he shows up to crawl under my chair and nap, accompanied, usually, by the other dogs, although Jagger has staked out the floor under the chair as his own space and allows no others to intrude. 

Jagger's brother, Otis, very nearly a twin, could hardly be more different in temperament. Otis is a sweet dog who likes to be petted and to sit close to people. He is a calm dog who seems not to enjoy fighting and wrestling nearly as much as the others. What he does enjoy doing with the others is cleaning them, which they will allow him to do when they are too tired to resist. Otis licks the inside of their ears and nibbles after bugs in their fur. He is very serious about this task, almost to the point of obsession. He will often stay most of the afternoon in my house and sometimes plants himself on the rug in the evening. Unwilling to leave, he must be carried outside when I go to bed. 

Loki, the third male, is light brown from head to toe, just like his father, and has already grown large, again like his father. Loki spends more time on his own than do the others. He is independent. And he is more a creature of appetite. Not really interested in affection or petting, but quite interested in food. Loki is also the naughtiest of the pack, most often found guilty of stealing shoes or clothing or rugs--anything he can get his mouth around, really. A few days ago, I was called away from my dinner for a moment to talk with one of the neighbors, and when I reentered the house, I found Loki sitting in my chair eating my food off the plate. 

Dixie, the lone female, is much smaller than the males, but makes up for it with ferocity. She is galak, as they say here--vicious, temperamental. She holds her own in any dispute. She is a quick, bright dog, and the only one among them that will follow me for the entire length of my evening walk. This may be because part of the walk trespasses on the territory of other dogs in the neighborhood, but Dixie don't give a damn. 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Vaccine #1

So yesterday morning I got my first AstraZeneca injection. Felt fine until about 8 o'clock that night, then became very ill indeed--full body aches, high fever, sweats and chills, weakness. Around about 3 o'clock in the morning, having failed to sleep more than half an hour at a time anyway, I dragged myself out of bed and into the shower, drunkenly bounding off the walls on the way, in hopes that this would stop the shivering, bring the fever down. It didn't. Lying in bed, then, I thought Gosh, did I make a big mistake? Is it really true that people with MS should not get AstraZeneca? Am I dying?

Well, it turns out, after talking to some of the neighbors the next day, that some of them also had a very similar reaction to the injection. And in fact as I searched the internet, I could not find any particular caution against using this vaccine with MS. 

Anyway, I'm feeling better today. Still fatigued and a bit achy, but nothing like last night. Should be right as rain by Monday, they say. 

In the meantime, I have found that the paperwork I received at the vaccine site is not sufficient for me to attain a PeduliLindungi app on my phone. This is the app that everyone needs to have in order to do a whole array of normal things such as go to a mall or a supermarket or eat in a restaurant or take a flight or get a driver's license or get a vehicle registration and so on ad infinitum. 

One cannot get a PeduliLindungi, I have discovered, without first having an NIK (some sort of Indonesian resident record), and one cannot get an NIK without first having a SKTT (some sort of proof of domicile). 

Sometimes I hate Indonesia. 

I'm hoping that my agent here can help me through this process sometime next week, as I really have no idea of what they're talking about or where one might seek these documents. Nor do I know how much it's gonna cost me. 

Should I join the rebellion against vaccines? Hmm. Well, that would only get me deported, wouldn't it.

One step at a time, to be taken when my legs stop wobbling. 


Thursday, September 16, 2021


 Got kicked out of my first mall today. Well, not actually kicked out, because I didn't even get through the front door. I didn't get through the front door because I have no vaccine app on my phone. I have no vaccine app because I've not been vaccinated. I've not been vaccinated because Moderna is not yet available in Bali. I have to wait for Moderna because I have MS. The guard at the door muttered something about an official letter of excuse, but I don't know what that letter is or where one might get it. Certainly not from my doctor, who has already told me that he doesn't know anything about it. Lol. 

So at this point Louis has advised that we just f--k the Moderna and get Sinovac, which is readily available. Sinovac is the original Chinese vaksin that was the first to come here to Indonesia, I believe. 

So whatever. It's a quality of life issue, right? Also, I don't know how I'm supposed to survive if I can't go to a supermarket, for instance. Although I could certainly do without the mall. Trouble is, a lot of the supermarkets here are inside of malls. 

Anyway, here's the news of the week, per the Sanur Weekly: 

Bali has now decreased to Level III COVID restrictions. Not sure what that means. As I've mentioned, the beaches are open, for one thing. And I suppose that dining restrictions and operating hours may be relaxed (although, as far as I can tell, they are already pretty relaxed here, at least at local establishments). As always, the government is hoping for a swift decrease in restrictions so that tourism can reopen and the island can revive. However, in the past weeks, Bali has been the province with the most COVID-19 red zones in the country. So that don't sound so great. 

A 30 year old Balinese man who snatched a phone in Karangasem regency has been arrested and is facing a few years behind bars for theft. Moral of the story: Don't steal things in Bali. 

There Javanese men, temporarily employed as construction workers in Bali, have been apprehended on their way back to Java after stealing seven air-conditioning units from residents in and around Ubud. The units were were dismantled and sold for around 2 million Rupiah (140 dollars). They face up to 7 years in prison. Moral of the story: Don't steal things in Bali. 

Hundreds of sparrows dropped to the ground in Bali's Gianyar regency on Thursday of last week. Local authorities initially believed that heavy rainfall was the culprit, but apparently it was eventually pointed out to them that birds have been dealing with heavy rainfall throughout the ages and it was later determined that pesticide poisoning was at fault. The newspaper adds, somewhat oddly, that this is "certainly not the best news for all the organic-vegan-yoga community members in an around Ubud as it shows that living in the area is anything but healthy." Hmm. Do I detect a prejudice here? 

In closing, I will mention that while I have been typing this, a couple of friends have advised against Sinovac in favor of good 'ol AstraZeneka, as Sinovac is not recognized by some of the Asian countries and not accepted for travel. So AstraZeneka it is, for now. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Aches and Complaints

 Jeeze, I have this band of pain in my midback from flank to flank. Don't know what it is, but it did keep me awake during part of last night. Took some methylpredisolone this morning and some Panadol, and we'll see if that helps any. 

Otherwise, I see that the beach roads seem to be open this week, so perhaps I will be able to visit my favorite beach spots again. Then again, the roadblocks could reappear as quickly as they disappeared. Who knows? No one really knows what's going on around here. Just poking around in the dark, hoping for the best. 

One bit of happy news is that the COVID app check which I had feared (that which would have kept me out of supermarkets and such-like) doesn't seem to be in effect, or anyway is not being enforced. So far. I still, of course, have not gotten a vaccination and no one seems to know when Moderna or Pfizer will be available in Bali. So I'm just plugging along with a target on my back every day. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

September Ghost Town

 It's a lonely feeling these days to drive the main streets of Sanur, all but devoid of traffic, the sidewalks vacant of shoppers, browsers, diners. One zips along the road from one end of Sanur to the other in a fraction of the time it used to take--a nice enough feature in its own right, and yet a strangely eerie one as well, the persistent back-of-the-mind whisper that something is not right in this place. And one cannot help but wonder whether this will simply become the norm. Will Sanur, will Bali, ever recover?

Well, another week of lockdown is upon us, and new rules are about to be put in place. 

Nothing Has Changed For Bali, reads the headline in this week's edition of the Sanur Weekly. PPKM (Pemberlakuan Pembatan Kegiatan Masyarakat, in other words the lockdown) will now continue to the 13th of September. 

A chilling new restriction is about to be added (on the 14th) which will require all people entering a mall or supermarket to show their PeduliLidingi phone app, demonstrating that the holder has been vaccinated. Those not having the app will be denied entry. 

So a guy like me, who has neither vaccination or app, is in a bit of a bind, isn't he? How, I am wondering, am I supposed to get my groceries in the future. I suspect that the government is likely as unsure as I on this matter. 

In other news, a "plus-plus" spa in Denpasar (this being a euphemism in Indonesia for establishments offering 'happy ending' massages (a euphemism in itself) has reportedly violated the current COVID-19 restrictions in Bali by remaining open late at night. It has so far gotten away with this because the authorities in Denpasar and Badung cannot agree on whose jurisdiction the spa is in, as it is situated on the border between the two regencies. This is apparently a quandary without a solution, as the spa remains in full operation. 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Various Interruptions

 Just about every day here after darkness falls there will come an ominous growling rising to a roar as a hoard of extremely loud motorbikes cruises up the main artery a block away, headed, I'm quite sure, nowhere in particular, given that most places during shutdown are closed at nighttime. Ah, but the point is not destination but how loud you can be on the way. Supposedly the police were to have put an end to this sort of thing by enforcing recent rules regarding motor noise, but who knows, maybe the police are among the enthusiasts. I will never understand what great pleasure there is in being as irritating as possible, and yet it is a sport that continues to attract a consistent following. For my own part, I think I would merely feel embarrassed to be inflicting this sort of auditory invasion on others, but hey that's just me. 

While at coffee this morning, a young man came over to my table to borrow my lighter, then asked if he could sit down and chat. This would be an unusual thing back in America, where we would think our space invaded or our time interrupted, but here it is common enough, and pleasant enough once you get used to it. 

Later in the evening, while on my walk, a little boy stopped me on my way to ask "Are you older?" 

What was your first clue? My gray beard? The fact that I walk with a cane? The fact that I don't walk very well even with a cane? My wrinkled face? My hunched shoulders?

And anyway, older than what? Huh? Huh? Answer me that! 

Friday, September 3, 2021

Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror

 There is a new series on Netflix--Turning Point: 9/11 and The War on Terror--that every American adult really ought to watch, and most especially those suffering from severe Dunning Kruger Effect. You know the ones I mean--those folks on Facebook who have no idea what they are talking about, no grasp of history, even of recent history, no particular familiarity with the subject at hand, and yet no end of confidence in their knowledge of all things and no limit in their energy to express their views, generally in broken English. 

Turning Point covers the events of 9/11, those that led to 9/11, and those that proceeded from 9/11, and does so in a thorough and, as it seemed to me, a balanced and fair manner, rigorously honest and direct. It is both an interesting and a painful journey. It is also a necessary journey for those who were very young or not yet even born when the attack occurred, and certainly worth watching for all of us as we live out  the end of this long episode in American history.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Ships in the Night

 While out for my coffee at the Daily Baguette this morning, a woman and a man stopped for a moment at my table to say hello. An attractive young woman, a handsome young man. And I had no idea who they were. 

"Oh, hello!" I responded nonetheless, in a tone, I hoped, of familiarity. "How are you?"

They were fine, as it turned out, particularly the young woman. The man kind of stood back politely, cueing my brain to recognize that I probably did not really know him, but must somehow know her. 

After some brief small talk, about the weather or something, the woman suddenly uttered an unusual sentence. "Will you be coming by the Permata today?" 

Ah ha! The bank. Permata bank. 

Now, the fact is, I have only been once to that bank, and that perhaps half a year ago. But she had given me a place to go with the face, you see? Not that I haven't seen her face any number of times, for I have. This is Putri, who used to work with Louis at a different bank, and whom I have seen occasionally through the years at various gatherings or meetings. 

Obviously, there would be no reason for her to suspect that I might be coming to the bank this day. And so, obviously, she had let that word drop because my confusion, however I tried to hide it, was clear to her. 

Well, perhaps ten minutes later, I'm engrossed in the book I'm reading when another woman emerges from the cafe and stops at the table. 

"Hi, Richard!" 

So here we go again. Now who the heck is this one? 

"Hey! Good to see you," I exclaim cheerily.

But she is in a hurry, can't stop, must hurry on. 

So ... well ... I guess we'll never know.

I've written before about this facial recognition problem, associated with MS. Or is it just senility? Or both? Who knows. It is in any case embarrassing.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

September 1, 2021

Missed out on the Sanur Weekly for a time. Things are operating less than smoothly here during the continued lockdown. Speaking of which, lockdown has again been extended, this time through September 6th. Basically, nothing has changed, although they are now claiming some small successes against COVID. Not enough to tip the island back into normal status. We are probably just going to have to get used to the idea that this is the new normal. No doubt, once restrictions are lifted, cases will rise again. And of course all around the world, vaccinated or not, people are having to face the likelihood that COVID will become endemic rather than pandemic at best. 

On the shady side of it all, more high ranking Indonesian officials have been busted for COVID-19 scandals, from jumping the vaccination or booster shot queue to embezzling public funds allocated for the handling of the pandemic. A number of high ranking officials in East Nusa Tenggara, including the governor and regional heads, have been caught on videotape at a beach party involving hundreds of guests, mask-less and avoiding any kind of social distancing. In Jember Regency, East Java, a local official granted a fee of 100.000 Rupiah for every COVID death in the region to himself and to a number of other officials in the region. This fee was, of course, paid using government funds. Former Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Juliari Peter Batubara, has been sentenced to 12 years behind bars for accepting bribes from more than one hundred companies which had applied for contracts to supply COVID-19 relief in the form of basic food supplies in the Greater Jakarta Area. Batubara pocketed 10.000 Rupiah for each food package supplied by these more than 100 companies. It adds up. The total damage estimated to the nation is about 32.5 billion Rupiah. 

And so on. 

The Indonesian Tourism Minister is pleading with Bali hotel owners not to sell their hotels. Some of the largest and most well established hotels in Bali have shown up on various real estate websites. Bali hotels have around 140,000 rooms but are receiving only a handful of domestic tourists. Most of the island's hotels are actually closed and have sent their employees on unpaid leave or dismissed them completely. 

Two Indonesian men are facing possible life sentences for trafficking a large quantity of marijuana in Bali. I repeat: life sentences. On the other hand, in the well known case of the "Bali Suitcase Murderer" -- wherein an American woman and her boyfriend murdered the woman's mother, stuffed her in a suitcase, and abandoned her in a taxi--the American is being released from prison, having served a sentence of 10 years (time off for good behavior). The boyfriend, who wielded the actual murder weapon, a glass bowl, was sentenced to 18 years. So, uh, life for marijuana, 10-18 years for murder. All righty then.