Friday, December 31, 2021

New Years: Happy or Not, Here it Comes

 Well here we are again on New Year's Eve. I know I've mentioned before that I have always disliked New Years. And now I've mentioned it again. I don't like the drinking or the parties or the fireworks or the noise or having to stay up until midnight. Lol. Funny thing, though I spent some years as a drunk, I never went out on New Years. That's how much I dislike it, I guess :) 

So anyway, there will be no party here tonight, and in fact I didn't even buy myself any treats to eat, because I had forgotten altogether that it was New Years. Unlike past COVID years, the clubs in Bali, or some of them anyway, will be open and gatherings will be allowed (to a limited capacity, I would guess). 

One certainly hopes above all things as this year closes that 2022 will finally see the end of the scourge of COVID, for it has truly become oppressive. Moreover, it has put a hell of a lot of people out of work here in Bali and depressed the economy something awful. So here's to 2022 and better times, a return to normal, or as close to normal as we can get. 

Friday, December 24, 2021

Merry Christmas to All

 Christmas Eve in Bali, otherwise known as 'Where Are You, Christmas?"

Well, as the Sanur Weekly notes, last year at this time the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was just approaching its first real peak in Indonesia and no one felt very Christmassy as it was pretty clear that the situation was not going to get any better any time soon. 

A year later, most Christmas and New Years Eve celebrations have been cancelled with the arrival of Omicron and of course the travel restrictions are still in force. Bali has, on the other hand, experienced a rather large uptick in domestic tourism (although foreign tourism is still nil). 

Can we hope for a significantly better 2022? Not so sure about that. Probably more of a slow crawl out from under this mess, with some face plants along the way. 

In yet another purse snatching incident, a Balinese woman has been seriously injured after being pushed off her motorbike, breaking both legs. Somehow the perpetrator, a 31 year old man who fled the scene (naturally), has been apprehended by police, confessed to multiple similar crimes and is facing a long term in prison. 

In Bali's Buleleng regency police are investigating another case of gang rape, this one being unusually shocking as all those involved were minors, four boys aged 14-16 having raped a 12 year old girl. It is not yet known what will happen to these little shits. 

Tomorrow, although not news in the Sanur Weekly, Louis will host a Christmas lunch, to which I have been invited. Something to do anyway on a day I would otherwise spend watching TV or napping. As Louis' villa is 45 minutes away down in Nusa Dua (farther than I want to drive a motorbike in my old age), she is sending a car to pick me up along with some of the other guests who will gather to catch the ride at my house. It is also terribly hot these last few days--32C, cloudy, and deadly humid--so we will enjoy the two swimming pools she has available. 

Today I am still receiving nasty comments on Facebook connected to yesterdays "debate" on the existence or non-existence of God, but I've tired of the subject and of the uncharitable reaction it has created so I'm just kind of swiping past them without answering. Not gonna let these dummies ruin my Christmas spirit (such as it is)! Lol. 

And that's it for now. Merry Xmas to all. 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Christian Haters Unite for Christmas

 Well, I almost got through Christmas this year without being attacked by the Christian haters--those folks who are particularly fond of declaring, especially during the holidays, that there is no God and that all people who have chosen to believe that there is must necessarily believe as well in the tooth fairy and leprechauns and all other fantastical creatures. (I wonder if it ever occurred to them that God is not a creature but a spirit). I don't mind the debate, and I don't mind personally that they disbelieve, but many of them do seem to mind rather intensely that I do believe--and that's where the trouble comes in. I mean, why is my belief so offensive to these folks? And if they have such an affection for debate, how is it that they have not learned that arrogance and insult are not part of civil debate, and certainly not effective in conveying whatever point they meant to convey? Go figure. In any case, we're hardly going to sort the thing out on Facebook, are we? Why not read a few books rather than poke and sneer at a lowly fellow like me? The weakness in the lion's share of these arguments of course is that the anti-Christians are not talking about Christianity at all, but about fundamentalist/evangelical distortions of the faith. In short, they are fulminating against something we already know to be false, and indeed are more outraged at this than they. How can we even begin to talk about Christianity when Christianity is being defined by the one side as precisely what it is not? And how do we even begin to explain to these folks that they are contending against their own straw man? Oh well. I will try to clear all this unpleasantness from my memory and simply celebrate the Savior in the days to come.

Sweet little Jesus boy, we made you be born in a manger. Sweet little holy child, we didn't know who you were. 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas

 This year in Bali is less Christmassy than ever before, which is to say that there is practically no hint of Christmas at all, and this is because there are no western tourists. Why go to the trouble of putting up Christmas decor, the store and mall owners no doubt reason, if there are no foreigners here to celebrate the holiday? One sees a plastic Christmas tree here and there, but really nothing much other than that. No window displays, no Santas in the stores. Heck, there are not even any carols playing on the Starbucks sound system. Might as well put up a sign: Christmas closed this year due to COVID. 

Moreover, the weather is deadly hot, often raining, and deadly hot whether rainy or sunny. The expectation of a certain sort of weather during Christmas is deep in the soul of a native Oregonian. Something in him just automatically anticipates cold, frost, maybe even snow. This blunt and beating sunshine is just not right. 

But maybe Christmas is kind of a drag this year no matter where you are.  COVID has interrupted and mutated so much of our shared experience. And then of course there are the yearly Christmas and Christian haters on Facebook, telling us tirelessly, once again, how religion is the greatest evil known to man. 

Sweet little Jesus boy, they made you be born in a manger. Sweet little holy child, we didn't know who you were. 

I hear that all of the little dogs will be neutered on the 23rd of December. This seems part of the neighborhood peace treaty with the dog haters. Boy do those dogs have a Christmas surprise coming. 

The house that Louis is building behind my little place has a second story now and is actually starting to look like a house rather than an immense pile of stones, bamboo poles and mounds of dirt, the latter element often being spread through my place by the dogs. I am told that the house will have three bedrooms, a fully furnished kitchen, of course, and even a small indoor pool. Sounds nice. If I could only find two other people willing to pay 3 million rupiah a month along with my three million, I'd move in myself! 

Sunday, December 12, 2021


 Sitting alone this muggy evening on the patio of the street side cafe, just barely on the dry side of breaking a sweat, I note the soft strains of a familiar tune in the air, coming from nowhere in particular. Nowhere and everywhere. I know this song. I cock an ear, listen during the spaces between the passing motorbikes. Winter Wonderland. That's it. Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening. The man brings my coffee and an ashtray half-filled with powdered coffee grounds. I light my cigarette. I open my book. I sit gazing dumbly into the lowering of evening, thinking of something. A woman, magic, several hours of life. Everything else seems so plain. Like snow on a TV screen. Like the pages of the book in my lap. Sudden children all dressed in white dash past on the sidewalk. A flurry of children. Here and gone. And I can't help but note that the song has changed. God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. 

A Pleasant Change of Pace

 This past week I had the pleasure of meeting Eveline, a woman from the area of Jogyakarta whom I often chat with online, along with her delightful daughters, Monica and Michelle, 19 and 20 years of age respectively. The daughters have been living for some months here in Bali in order to attend university and a special yoga program, and so their mother had come to visit and made time to visit me as well. We went to the usual cafes in Sanur (though not usual for her, of course), strolled here and there on the beach, and just generally enjoyed the days. All are just very easy to be around, and the daughters reminded me so of my stepdaughters, Jamila and Ja'nat, at that age, the younger very outgoing, charismatic, and the elder more quiet and pensive. Now that mom has returned to her home town, along with the younger daughter, all seems very quiet and a little bit lonely. But hey, that's the life that I know, and so I'm sure I'll slip back into it like rain absorbed in the earth. 

I am a creature of habit, and habit, now, is pretty much all that I know. I am so habitual, in fact, that other people have "learned me" and know what to do the minute they see me. For example, the girls at the Daily Baguette know the instant they see me drive up to the curve that I'm going to want the usual cappuccino and slice of banana bread, so that by the time I walk in the door, they have already begun to prepare my order.

Speaking of habit, while I was talking to my online friend Darman the other day, it occurred to me that something felt very familiar about him. So I asked him to tell me about his day. 

"What time do you get out of bed?" 

"Four o'clock, for morning prayer." 

"And then breakfast?" 

"Breakfast is at 8." 

"And what do you eat?" 

"A banana and porridge." 


"Yes, I like the banana and porridge." 

"And then." 

"Then I log into YouTube and get the news and so on."

My goodness, I have a doppelganger in Java!

Otherwise, life in the little town of Sanur meanders on. We learn from the Sanur Weekly that the required quarantine period for foreigners entering Bali has been changed once again, this time from the overly hopeful three days, a plan which lasted about one quick minute, to ten days now, to be spent at an approved hotel at the cost of the traveler. Not surprisingly, they are getting no bites at all from foreign travelers and not a single airline has scheduled a direct flight to Bali. 

We learn that Mt. Semeru in east Java, only 150 km from Bali, erupted on December 4th, claiming the lives of 14 and completely destroying more than ten villages. 

A Dane, having spent time in prison for the crime of blasphemy, has been released after seven months and sent home to Denmark. The Dane, as it turns out, did not commit the more usual blasphemy against Islam, but a blasphemy against Hinduism for damaging a Hindu shrine. Why he decided to damage this shrine, the paper does not say. 

A 33 year old Ukrainian resident of upscale Nusa Dua has been arrested for somehow "skimming" 2 billion Rupiah from a single ATM in the space of four days (which amounts to 140,000 USD). I have no idea how she managed this, or even what skimming is, but it is clear that she did not plan the crime very well. 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Civil War

 The drama of the 'unruly' dogs has reignited in the neighborhood and ended up causing a bit of a civil war, neighbor divided against neighbor on the lines of whether they like or dislike dogs, these four in particular, Jagger, Otis, Loki, and Dixie, who run free, inflicting either delight or disdain in the hearts of those whom they meet. 

The problem, once again, seems rather simple. The problem is shit. Now, I don't suppose that anyone is particularly fond of shit but, well, it happens, you know? But what moves a person (as it has one neighbor) to threaten to kill one or all of the little dogs? What, over shit? My goodness. Wouldn't it be simpler just to pick it up or sweep it off the side of the road and into the garbage filled jungle on the other side (about which, by the way, they do not complain)? 

So after this threat, one prominent neighbor, a dog lover, 'seceded' from the friendly neighbor Whatsapp community and was soon followed by other like minded folks, myself included. It is fitting, perhaps, with history in mind, that those who left the community all live on the far end of the street while those who stand against the dogs live on the other. A nation divided, one might say. A new WA community was forged by the original protestor, to which the others soon added their names while deleting them from the old group. 

The dogs themselves, blissfully I guess, are unaware of this division of men (and women) and carouse about one end of the street to the other as if war had never been declared. 

Now as it seems to me, the dog lovers had already gone out of their way during the period of time wherein this conflict brewed to find an amiable solution, volunteering basically to be deputized all as daily pooper scoopers, but this, like the compromises that preceded the American Civil War, was ultimately not enough.

The sad thing is that the grim and less charitable seem poised to win, for he who had initially declared his murderous intentions took himself forthwith to the nearest Banjar (Balinese community association) and was told that he would be within his rights to kill any dogs that are loose and unattended. 

Poor little fellas. For my own part, I enjoy them way too much to be overly offended by their faults (pooping, for instance, or the bugs they bring into the house, or their overzealous self-appointed sense of responsibility for guarding the house, even against the guy who comes to collect money for the water fee or the garbage fee. Yes, there are people on this street who do keep their dogs inside and let them out only on leashes once or twice a day. But you know what? I feel sorry for these dogs. The houses here are mostly very small indeed, one room like mine, with no yard. What is a dog to do other than sleep all day and grow fat and dull-witted? What a difference it is to see these four free pups tear up and down the street, visiting place to place, friends to all, a free home security service at night? 

To me, it makes all the difference in the world.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

November 1, 2021

 Bali's short-lived and always less than likely return to normalcy has been rudely torpedoed by Omicron, COVID's latest offering to the long suffering world. Which is to say that all recent measures toward reopening have now been reversed--back now to the seven days quarantine requirement and other odious, tourist-repelling restrictions. In other words, here we go again. 

Perhaps as one result of the island's long isolation and increasing hopelessness, illegal drugs have been booming, with the number of arrests tripling from last year. So much for the conceit that drugs are mostly brought in by evil foreigners, as there have been no foreigners, evil or otherwise, entering for the last year and a half. What does one do when his business has gone bust, when the island's favorite industry has collapsed? Smoke weed, apparently. 

In a similar manner, the beaches in Jembrana, Bali's southwestern regency, are facing an annual problem of being awash in trash. This time around, the favorite excuse--that being that foreign tourists are responsible--is unavailable, as, again, there are none. There is no one to blame but the residents themselves. Reality bites. 

It is reported that a 14 year old boy has been killed in a single vehicle accident on Sunset Road in Kuta. According to reports, the boy crashed his motorbike after losing control at high speed. The boy had no license, nor a registration for the bike he was driving. He died of severe head injuries after hitting the pavement (which is to say, no doubt, that he wasn't wearing a helmet either). 

In nearby Canggu, a Balinese man was arrested after trying to snatch a Canadian woman's purse while both were in motion on their own motorbikes. The attempt resulted in both of them crashing. Bystanders then helped the victim and pinned down the perpetrator, who is now facing a lengthy jail term for attempted theft as well as assault. Hopefully the young woman was not seriously hurt. I can't help but be reminded of a similar though far more deadly incident some years ago involving two thieves and a young woman, Chinese if I remember correctly. In this case, however, as the thieves tried to tug the woman's purse free from her shoulder, she fell from her bike and ended up on the pavement in front of an oncoming truck. She was killed outright. I never did hear what happened to the two men who assaulted her.