I had a rough night last night, although it had started out well enough. I went to sleep at about 11 without difficulty, but then awoke to the sound of a storm outside. From that point on my mind was crowded with thought and rumination. Among other things, I thought of the difference between reality as it is and reality as one only wishes it were, and how the latter type exerts such a great magnetism that it can easily overcome the truer, dispassionate, unloving thing and swallow it whole, incorporate it, replace it. After that, you cannot see the real thing by looking closely, but only by viewing it from far away--through time, distance, indifference. Does it matter after it no longer matters? Well, perhaps for one with time left to learn and years left to live. Perhaps also where it pertains merely to peace of mind.
Monday, February 21, 2022
The storm began at about one o'clock in the morning. The lightning came first, which at first the man mistook for headlights hitting the long window in the wall opposite the bed. He tried to go back to sleep, but then the thunder came and the drumming rain and the repetitive barrages of lightning. He rolled to his left side, reached for the phone on the bedside table, turned it on. There were no messages. There had been no calls. What had made him hope that there might have been? Hope. He was sitting now on the side of the bed, wondering whether he should smoke a cigarette, thinking that it might be somehow medicinal. Something to fill the yawning emptiness in his chest, something to loosen the insoluble knot in his stomach. Standing, moving stiffly forward, guiding himself by touch, refrigerator, sink, counter, stove, he found the cigarettes and moved on to the door. Mark Twain was wrong. It is not difficult to navigate a small room in the dark. The world is not full of sudden surprises, vast spaces, impossible furniture. It is spare, brutally familiar, forever unchanged whether night or day. Everything is the same. It is only all the room inside oneself that is changed, in the darkness, in the silence, in the storm at night. Never in all his life had the man imagined that he would be alone in the end.
Thursday, February 17, 2022
The Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy announced this week that three carriers will now be resuming flights directly to Bali--Singapore Airlines, Jetstar Australia, and Garuda Indonesia. It's only three, sure, but three is better than none, which has been the case for the last two years or so. Additionally, quarantine for triple vaxxed international travelers will be reduced from 5 days to 3 days, making a vacation plan for Bali just a little bit more palatable. In the meantime, domestic tourism continues to increase in Bali, up, according to the Sanur Weekly, 182 percent in the month of January.
In other news, a young man from Bali's Tabanan Regency faces up to six years in jail and a one billion Rupiah fine after breaking Indonesia's strict anti-pornography laws when he posted naked photos of his ex-girlfriend online in a fit of revenge. Temper, temper. And, as it turns out, a really, really bad idea.
A 48 year old American national has died after plunging from the sixth floor of a Kuta hotel. The method of madness behind this incident is uncertain, but it is thought that the man was drunk and simply fell from his balcony.
In more personal news, I have been suffering for the last week with what appears to have been an exascerbation of my stomach ulcer probably brought on my eating some bad food at a local food stall. Seem to be on the mend now (fingers crossed).
Coincidentally, my various body aches have worsened, neck, shoulder, back, and so on. This would seem to be rheumatoid arthritis, but that's just my own assumption. I should really see my neurologist about this, but at 800.000 Rupiah a pop, the idea is nearly as painful as the arthritis. Today I fell asleep for awhile and when I woke up my right elbow was frozen in the bent position and very painful to move. My understanding is that steroids and/or NSAIDS is the prescribed treatment for this, but then again both of these meds worsen an ulcer condition. Bummer.
Well, simply hunching over the keyboard is now making my neck stiff and painful, so I will sign off.
Wednesday, February 9, 2022
This week's Sanur Weekly heralds the arrival of the first international flight to Bali in two years, while cautioning not to get too excited. The flight was carrying only 12 passengers, 6 being Japanese nationals while the remaining six were Garuda airline employees. The aircraft was welcomed with a water cannon salute while it taxied to the terminal. Shops and beaches, however, are not about to be overrun with tourists.
In the meantime, COVID is once again booming in Indonesia and COVID restrictions and precautions have been raised again to level 3 (out of 4).
In Gianyar Province, a 54 year old German national has been detained and set for deportation after consistently disturbing residents over a period of time. His behavior was reported by locals as "bizarre" and "annoying" as he wandered about in the street, stopping vehicles for no apparent reason, and so on.
Also in Gianyar, an intoxicated Russian fell into a ravine and had to be rescued by police. The Russian remembers only that he had to pee and the next thing he knew he was at the bottom of the ravine.
A Balinese man who had just finished a five year term in prison for drug trafficking straightway committed the very same crime upon release and is now facing a sentence of twenty years.
Sunday, February 6, 2022
I find of late that I have been largely sheltered from "the real Indonesia" here in Bali. It is an island of comparatively liberal values and culture, both catering to and transformed by western tourism. A live and let live attitude seems to permeate the place. Relationships are relaxed where people prefer it or traditional where others prefer that, and you may have the one on this corner of the street and the other on the next without conflict of discomfort.
Not so in my friend Eveline's little town, some distance outside of Jogyakarta on the island of Java. There the culture is much more like that of America in 1900 or so. Children, especially female children, are controlled by their parents, who in turn are controlled by the expectations and moral rigidities of the community--even grown children like Eveline, who is 48 years old. She is beholden to her parents and expected to be obedient and "proper", whatever that might mean.
As an example, Eveline has two ex-boyfriends with whom she is still friendly. They enjoy going out together, hanging out for dinner at the warung, taking a drive, or whatever. They're doing nothing wrong or outrageous or scandalous, but just having a simple good time. And yet, Eveline came home last night from having pizza with her ex-boyfriend to find herself suddenly forbidden to see him again. Forbidden. Do we even use this word in English anymore?
But it doesn't look good to the neighbors, her parents say. It doesn't look good to the community. The friendship is an embarrassment and a negative reflection on them.
No, as it turns out, if a man and a woman spend time in each other's company they must be officially going together, preferably on a short path toward marriage.
"You know," I told her, "in America we would say 'Mom, Dad, I love you both--but butt out of my private life!'"
"Oh, we can't do that," Eveline answered.
"So what will you do? I mean, you've been hanging out together for a couple of years, even after your relationship, right?"
"Oh, I'll just tell them he's my boyfriend again, officially you know, and then I'll break up with him when I find someone else."
Lol. Well, that's one way to go about it, albeit a rather circuitous one. But it will look better, that's the point. The lie will look better around town. It will look better than simple friendship.
Bali has once again, in keeping with its continued fit of inconsistencies, lowered the travel quarantine period, now from 7 days to 5 days. Apparently they pick a number out of a hat every week or so and just go with that. One number is as good as another, right? In the meantime, the COVID infection numbers have risen from less than 10 per day over the last four weeks to over 300, with an increase of 500 percent marked during the last week alone.
Speaking of quarantine, it has been found that various Jakarta hotels have come up with a nifty scan wherein they produce a positive COVID test after a week or quarantine, thereby compelling the unsuspecting traveler to quarantine for a second week at the same full hotel cost. Dastardly!
A high official for Bali's forestry agency has been arrested for illegal logging. Nothing more need be said.
In the meantime, Bali's vice governor has determined that there are too many "well dressed beggars" on the streets. These people show up wearing traditional Balinese attire, which the vice governor insists is damaging to the image of Bali. One wants properly disheveled beggars, certainly. These well dressed individuals are chased away to their villages (only to return a few days later).
A 36 year old man from Bali has been killed with a sickle and a woman stabbed 32 times with a pocket knife after a jealous husband discovered them meeting at the woman's phone kiosk. The male victim managed to run away with the sickle still stuck in his back, but later expired. The woman survived after being rushed to the hospital. The jealous husband was charged with murder, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years. However, since the attacker brought a weapon to the scene, the charge may be extended to premeditated murder, which might earn him either a life sentence or the death penalty.
So it goes.
Tuesday, February 1, 2022
I've discovered of late a couple of new coffee places to go to. It it seems that my life revolves around coffee, that's because it pretty much does. It's not the coffee so much as just something interesting to do, somewhere to go. I don't drink anymore, so I rarely go to a bar or a club. Also, I can't stay awake at nighttime. I did go to a local club recently (the only one I know of in Sanur actually). The music was rather good really, very professional, and I was enjoying listening to it. But then a hoard of people came in and one woman among them eventually asked me to dance. Yes I, who have challenge enough just walking. Not wanting to rude, however, I danced with the woman, and that was fine, but then she wouldn't go away. Just kind of kept hovering over me. Gave me her card, pointing out that her number was on the card. Did I mention that this woman did not interest me at all? That's probably an important detail here. Anyway, I eventually excused myself, having stayed later than I had intended to. Clubs, for a nondrinker, can be uncomfortable places as they pack up through the night with drinkers. One simply does not enter into the mood (or is stupor a better term?).
So about these coffee places. One is out on Jalan Danau Poso, called Gecko Coffee. It has actually existed for a long time--I remember going there years ago. But it has moved to another location and is much larger now and more comfortable. There is a little outdoor seating area in the front, and then an open air upstairs section. It's quite a pleasant little place with a small, pleasant staff (the staff members themselves are not particularly small, but the number of them is). Oddly, this place appears to attract mostly long time bule residents in the area of a seemingly rather bedraggled nature (myself included, I suppose). Last time I was there, I went out front to sit and ended up across from an elderly woman whom I determined by-and-by to be actually a man. Long gray hair, thin as a rail, wearing what appeared to be pajamas. This customer was eventually replaced by a New Zealander, as I would guess from his accent, somewhere around my age though hale in appearance and looking as though he had been under the sun wind surfing for the past 7 years or so, sitting there now in 7 year old dungarees rather frayed with time. In the upstairs section, it is only fair to add, there were two younger men, in their 40s, I'd say, who were in much better repair, intensely focused, as young people tend to be, on their phones and laptops.
The other place I found just today, and by accident actually. I was looking for somewhere else--a warung I remembered eating at some years ago--and walked into this place instead. I had some kind of spicy squid dish with rice, but then found upon paying my bill that they have "Ngopi Pagi"--morning coffee--buy one get one free! Can't beat that, so I'll give it a try later this week.