Sunday, October 31, 2021

This Day In Sanur

 This day in Sanur, Bali can be best described as simply stifling. Like living inside a furnace. Hot or not, I would usually go out to the air-conditioned Renon Starbucks on Sunday, but for some reason I decided to go down to the beach. Generally I avoid this on Sunday because of the crowds, but I guess I forgot about that and went anyway. I realized my mistake when I found that the only open seat at Oomba cafe was in the full sunlight. So I sat there not enjoying my coffee, squinting at the iPad screen, obscured by the pounding light and feeling like it might explode in my hands at any moment. Happily, the cup at Oomba is only small, so in no time I was done and on my way back home to swelter there. 

Actually, I suppose there were a couple of reasons I didn't go to Starbucks, one being that my laptop battery is dead, thus requiring me to lug along the power cord, and the other being that my brain is empty anyway. And even if there does happen to be some vague thing rattling around in there, I can find no way to put it down in writing. Or I simply lose interest after the first couple words, deciding that it was really of no interest anyway.

The older I get, the more I keep silent. There is the sense that my thoughts need to be hidden, that they are inept or embarrassing or will somehow betray me. I don't know how to say it, really. I don't know how to explain it. It is as if advertising them will make me seem feeble and weak. Nor are they generally even of particular interest to me. 

Finally in the evening time the clouds all gathered together, done at last with roaming the horizons, met in the center of the sky and exploded in lightning, thunder, and rain, and praise God the day cooled off a bit. This is nothing other than the usual drill for this time of year. You'd think I'd be used to it by now. 

I've probably said this before, but there is nothing so disarming to the typical American such as myself than the unworldly friendliness of Indonesian people. It always surprises me, and ultimately delights me. Yesterday evening as I sat outside at my front table smoking a cigarette, a young man, part of the work crew from the new house behind me, showed up at the gate, lingered there a while, just smiling, and then finally struck up a conversation. Most people back home would see that you were sitting there smoking and move on rather than standing there smiling, right? 

Well, he had a number of questions. Do you live alone? Where is your wife? How long have you been here? Do you have friends here. 

"Excuse me, I'm sorry," he said. "May I be your friend?"

Who says this kind of thing? Can you imagine someone just walking up in America and asking if he can be your friend? It's weird, right? And feels automatically disconcerting, leading to two questions in one's mind: Why? and What do you really want?

"Well, uh ... sure, I guess so," I answered. 

"May I come in and sit with you?"

So that he did, and we chatted together, as best as possible anyway, for his accent was very thick indeed, as he spoke what's called bahasa gaul (street language, you might say). 

After a time, I went inside and came back out with my cane. 

"Will you go somewhere now?" he said. 

"Yes, I need to go to the corner store, buy some cigarettes."

"Oh. Do you want company?"

"Umm ... sure, that's fine."

So off we went, continuing our conversation. About Jimbar, Java, from whence he comes. About the work he is doing here. About the fact that he is only 16 years old. Impressive indeed, for this is hard, hot, back-breaking work. 

"I will go to bed now," he said as we returned to the gate. "Thank you. Selamat malam. I will see you tomorrow, okay?" 

Umm ... yeah. All righty then.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

October 27, 2021

 Although Bali has been open for a couple of weeks now to international tourism, there is so far a decided paucity of takers--as in none. This is assumed to be due to the persisting COVID restrictions such as mandatory five day quarantine and two mandatory PCR tests. Sounds more like a visit to the doctor's office than a vacation. Moreover, there is the announcement that tourists will be closely monitored and will run the risk of fines and/or deportation if found breaking the quarantine rules. Whoopie. Anyone for a vacation in North Korea. 

Oh well, of course they must do what they must do. We certainly don't want another uncontrolled breakout of COVID on the island. The long and short of the thing is that it will still be some time before people can make an 'old-fashioned' visit to the island paradise.

Illegally building in Green Zones is in the news these days. Technically, building is prohibited in Green areas, typically land close to beaches or rivers. Nonetheless, building in these areas has been rampant over the years (it's all about money). What to do now? Well, probably nothing, as the Sanur Weekly points out. As a matter of fact, I do believe that my house (my rental, that is) is in a Green zone. I remember someone mentioning this early on, during the building phase, with a shrug of the shoulders. 

A domestic tourist and his Balinese guide have been swept away by waves at Kelingking Beach on the island of Nusa Penida. What, Nusa Penida again? Seems like that's often happening there. And these guys weren't even swimming at the time. 

The Sanur Weekly points out that it has been "extraordinarily hot" over the last weeks, which of course is something we already knew. The scientific folks tell us that this is because of the position of the sun directly over Bali in October and November. A bit of a no-brainer there. 

In my own neighborhood of late we have experienced an invasion of snakes slithering about on the road or in driveways or up and over the top of front gates. Most of these are probably two or three feet in length and apparently not of the deadly sort (or so someone told me). However, the neighbors do not care for these snakes at all and have rallied all the neighborhood residents to pitch in for a work crew to clear the mud from the roadside ditches and streams, which had risen nearly to the top and thus conveyed the snakes onto dry land. Where the snakes plan to go during this project, I do not know. 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

October 24, 2021

 Bali continues to gear up for visitors, holding its breath as COVID recedes. Malls, supermarkets and cinemas are now allowed to operate at 70 percent capacity and water tourism (such as Waterbom in Kuta) is now being allowed to operate again. The Bali international airport, which opened a couple weeks ago, has nonetheless seen not a single international airline booking, at least as of October 20th. At the same time, Bali's governor has declared that more than 20,000 foreign tourists have booked hotel rooms for November. Not sure how they're going to get here without an airline, but we'll see. 

The La Nina weather phenomenon, which increases the country's monthly precipitation rate by 70 percent, is set to be in effect from November to January. So I guess we will have more than 20,000 wet tourists. 

For my own part, I continue to enjoy watching these dogs develop their adult personalities--for they are puppies no longer. Jagger, for whatever reason, has taken on the role of alpha male. I don't know why, but he is the first to eat, the first to choose his spot for sleeping--the 'authority' among his three siblings. Curiously, Loki, who is as large as Jagger (the two being the largest and huskiest of the four) is the lowest in the pecking order. In all things, Loki comes last. Otis is the gentlest of the pack and prefers to spend most of his time on his own. Dixie, the female, is far smaller than the other dogs, and yet she is not to be messed with. She loves to play, to get the other dogs to chase her. She's fast as a streak of lightning and when tiring of the chase, hides beneath something that the others are too big to get under (such as my easy chair). This frustrates them to no end. And then suddenly she will dash out again and the chase continues. Dixie is, however, quick to anger, and if one of the other dogs becomes too rough, she will tear into him with a vengeance, leaving her victim cowering in shock. 

All of these dogs show up at my house as soon as I get home from my morning coffee, and there they stay, sleeping the rest of the day until evening when they are suddenly revived, at which point they run up and down the road or in the field or look for trouble with other neighboring dogs. After night falls, I do not see them again until I open my door in the morning, finding them all waiting in the driveway. It's just another day, quite reliably the same as the day before. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

An End And A Beginning

 Seems like there's been a spate of suicides hereabouts lately. I've not kept count, but they seem them pop up pretty regularly, just short clips of news about this or that person discovered in their home or apartment or hotel room, evidently dead by their own hand. 

The latest of these, about which I read yesterday, concerned, interestingly, an American national with MS who had hung himself from a tree in the Monkey Forest of Ubud with a plastic rope. The man left behind a couple of notes, discovered in his hotel room, describing an unwillingness to continue to live with MS. In one note, he asked that his ashes be spread in the Monkey Forest. By the way, he had hung there for two days before being discovered.

I find myself asking what it might have been about MS that he could no longer live with. Sometimes I think that a complete lack of mobility would do the trick for me, but this could not have been the case here, as a seriously immobilized man could not have managed to hang himself from a tree. So what then? Well, of course, there are no details in the printed news, so who knows? 

On a lighter note, I ran into my old friend Bhaskara down at the beach this morning. He was with his little daughter, whose dream, says Bhas, is to one day move to America and attend university there (about 15 years or so from now). Bhas therefore happily introduced me as a 'real live American', which had the effect of striking the little girl speechless. He tells me that she actually speaks English more often than Indonesian, and I take his word for that. They were on a swimming date, as it were, followed by breakfast at the cafe (which, incidentally, Bhaskara owns). She is also taking tennis lessons at the new indoor sports facility nearby. Looks like a damn nice lifestyle to me. Why the heck would she want to go to America? But oh well, exotic places are always faraway, aren't they, unseen and untouched, pure in the mind. 

Bhas tells me that a new, wider walkway is slated to be constructed all along the Sanur beach front, and for this reason he will need to clear the entire beach front portion of his cafe, which is basically where any and all customers would be sitting. He was to have done so by today, actually, but foresaw, as one who lives here is wont to do, that nothing happened, no workers had arrived, no constructions had begun. Wisely, he decided to stay open for the time being.

He described as well a very crowded town of Canggu--just like the old days--and he remembered the times before COVID when he had complained about the crowds and the traffic jams, and yet now feels thankful to see it all return, rising again from the ghost down days. Bali bangkit.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Thankfully Marooned

 It has recently been announced that Bali is now open to 18 countries for tourism rather than the six originally announced. Nonetheless, the restrictions remain daunting, to my way of thinking anyway. Tourists must come from a country with a positivity rate less than 5 percent, present a negative PCR test taken not longer than 72 hours prior to departure, provide proof of a completed COVID vaccination, must have health insurance with a coverage of at least $100,000, provide proof of payment for accommodation during their stay in Indonesia, quarantine for 4 nights/5 days at a pre-booked hotel, and must undergo two PCR tests, one on arrival and one on day four. 

Other than that, have fun!  

I read just now in the Sanur Weekly that visitors are also required to install and use the PeduliLindungi tracking app while in Indonesia--although I sure don't know how they're going to do that, because you can't get the app without having an NIK number (Indonesian identity). So ... whatever.

I do hear, though, that some 3000 tourists departed from Sanur's Matahari Terbit beach yesterday on tour boats bound for the island of Nusa Penida, so things seem to be looking up. Bali bangkit! they say. Bali is arising again. 

Oh, speaking of rising, there was an earthquake the other night. I woke up to the bed rocking mildly back and forth. In a distant province, as I read next day on Facebook, a house collapsed and a family was killed. 

And now for the good news. I discovered earlier this week that I will not need to leave Indonesia this year in order to renew my foreign resident permit (without which, of course, I cannot live here). According to normal rules, I would need to leave the country every five years, if only for a day. This rule, however, has been temporarily suspended (and quite reasonably so) in the presence of COVID and all the associated difficulties of both leaving this country and entering any other country. So hurrah! Likely I will have to face the usual rule next year, one year late, but for now I'm relieved. 

And who knows, I might not even be alive next year to worry about it. Not feeling well lately. Very fatigued, and there's some kind of pain in my right side, just under my ribs. Wonder what the heck that could be? Actually, I've had this before and it has gone away eventually, so I'll hope for the same outcome this time around. 

Sunday, October 10, 2021


 Finally, I got my SKTT document, which allowed me to obtain as well an NIK number and therefore enter this number into the PeduliLindungi app, all with the goal of being able to enter shopping centers or malls and so on. I personally found the app confusing, but then again I find most things confusing these days. I was entering various numbers and info in the app for hours on end until Louis showed up at the house and told me it was already working. 

So anyway I got to use it for the first time yesterday when entering the Grand Lucky supermarket. You just open the app, hold your phone screen in front of the strange computer design at the front of the store, and presto you're in. Take that! So excited was I about this that I decided to go to the mall as well. There, I found entry a bit more difficult. Not only must you scan your PeduliLindungi app, but must also present your passport or Kitas along with proof of your vaccination. As can be imagined, this creates a rather long, impatient line in front of the mall entry. I suspect the trick would be to go in the morning (whereas, I had gone in late afternoon). To tell the truth, I really don't have much reason to go to the mall anyway. I go only to visit the Gramedia bookstore, which more often than not has no good selections to read anyway, as was indeed the case yesterday. Ah well, the point really was just to get in! 

My second injection is still a ways away--November 13th--and actually I don't think they're supposed to let you in the mall without two vaccines, but I guess they decided to cut me some slack. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Boy, the Dog, and All

 The large, deaf, possibly retarded neighborhood boy visits my house more and more often these days, generally accompanied by his troop of dogs. Recently, he noticed a cannister of cookies Louis had bought for me. These are very common cookies in Indonesia of a sort that nobody really much likes but buys anyway. Sort of like fruit cake during Xmas time, only year round. Seeing the cannister, the boy pointed to the can, pointed to his mouth, and said Ooo-iii. 

Sure, have some cookies. Knock yerself out. 

So he takes the cannister, plants himself on the floor, watches whatever I am watching on TV, which he can neither hear (because he's deaf) or understand (because he can't read nor speak English) and proceeds, along with the dogs, to devour the horrible cookies. At the conclusion of several visits over the next two days or so, the cannister was empty. The boy pointed to the cannister, showed the cannister to me, and said "Eee-Ahhh." 

Yup, it's eee-ahh, all right. 

The boy and the dogs are disappointed. They resign themselves to watching TV shows they cannot understand. 

Very often, I have my venetian blinds open and the front window open during the day, and so the large boy has decided that this must always be the case. If they blinds are not open, if the window is not open, he says "Ohh-ahhh", and opens them. I begin to wonder whether he is autistic as well. 

In the meantime, Otis the dog remains in bad shape. A story has traveled around the neighborhood that he may not have been hit, or kicked, or run over, but may have fallen from the roof of the house next door. The more this possibility is spoken of, the more it is considered the actual case. 

Whatever happened, Otis simply does not want to walk at all. He came to my house yesterday, lay down on the rug by the back door, and there he stayed, refusing to move even when night fell. His owners came looking for him, but still Otis would not move. "Well, just leave him be then," I said. "He can stay overnight." 

At least he doesn't mess around with my TV controller or take over the one comfortable chair in my house. 

October 6, 2021

The big news this week is that Bali's international airport is slated to reopen for international flights on October 14th. The bad news is that includes only a handful of countries--South Korea, China, Abu Dhabi, Japan, Dubai and New Zealand. So not very exciting after all. Arriving travelers will also need to be fully vaccinated and will need to quarantine 7 nights, 8 days at a dedicated quarantine hotel. Sound like fun? I didn't think so. 

In the meantime, COVID restrictions have been extended for another two weeks, until October 18th, although the island is now completely in the yellow zone throughout all regencies. 

Bali will host the G20 summit in November, which will at least bring in 6500 delegates from 20 countries. So if tourism is low, hold a summit. There ya go! 

A 50 year old woman has died after a minibus carrying nine passengers plunged into a 30 meter deep ravine in Bali's Karangasem regency. That is scary indeed, as I've been through that area with its narrow little road along cliffsides. 

In Denpasar, a police officer allegedly assaulted a 14 year old boy, breaking the boy's leg. The boy was a spectator at an illegal street race when the police conducted a raid. He was tasered, and while on the ground the officer in question stomped on his leg, resulting in the broken bone. The identity of the officer is not yet clear, according to the police, but a police offical comments that "If the boy's injury was caused by a police officer, and if we find the officer, he will be sanctioned accordingly." 


Sunday, October 3, 2021


 Renovations have now begun on the house next door to mine--part of mine, really, for the place is like a duplex. And I realized this morning, amid the pounding and grinding and drilling, that this is going to be somewhat of a challenge. How am I to hear whatever Netflix show I'm watching, for instance? Moreover, this is going to be happening for some time to come, as an entire new house is being built behind mine and then attached to the one next to mine. Rather, it will incorporate the house next to mine as part of one big two story house. Humph. Oh, bother, as Winnie the Pooh used to say. 


 Sometime last night, somewhere in the early morning hours, still dark outside, I began to hear a dog crying outside my front door. The crying would wake me, go on for awhile, then stop. I would fall back asleep, only to awaken again to the same crying sound. It sounded to me as if perhaps the dog was merely hungry or cold or lonely, and so I just waited for the morning light. It is very difficult for me to stir myself from sleep, for I sleep the sleep of the dead, and function only as a zombie might when I finally do drag myself out of bed. 

Come 5 a.m., I gave up on further sleep, groaned myself out of bed, zombie-walked to the door, and found all four dogs on the doorstep. Jagger, Dixie, Loki and Otis. The first three immediately dashed into the house, anticipating food, but Otis did not move from beneath the chair beside the door. He did not stand when coaxed, did not want to eat, and soon began his crying again. 

At about 6, I notified the neighbors on the neighborhood WA line and soon someone showed up to collect Otis.

No one knows what happened to poor Otis. It does turn out, however, that he was not merely hungry, cold, or lonely. Somehow, as I am told, his left chest area had been injured, struck by something or someone. Was he kicked, or hit, or run over by a motorbike? No one knows. And of course Otis is not saying. 

I feel sorry for Otis, for he is the gentlest dog in the world--more than can be said for his ruffian siblings. He never hurts anyone or bothers anyone, but wants only to be petted whenever he's not busy grooming the other dogs. Isn't that just the way? 

Some are blaming an anonymous Gojek driver, saying that such drivers often dislike dogs, but no one actually saw anything happen. One of the neighbors, I believe, is planning to take Otis to the vet later, or at least get him some pain medicine. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again: It's a hard life for dogs here in Bali. One kind of has to expect from the outset that one disaster or another will overtake them.