We’re human


Dear All,

The calendar in that big office in the sky must still show March or April, they didn’t turn the pages I’m sure. Is the clerk sick or something, aren’t they working because of ramadhan? Bad organization and we are stuck with an extended rainy season. I’m not the only one, it affects the animals as well and they don’t have a proper roof over their head. Two rats found a solution; my bedroom. Nice and dry and all sorts of fluff, fabrics and what have you to make a little nest. I can’t condone their actions but it seems this is the way things go. The harvest is done and till the rice is planted again, they move to other places. As far as I’m concerned they are in for a permanent change. I bought little ‘snacks’, they already ate a lot of it and a final move is coming for them soon. Maybe not nice but hey, it runs in the family. My grandfather was responsible for the rats control in the harbor of Amsterdam. With tokeh’s (gecko’s) I can live – the moment I’m writing this from the ceiling one is looking with an exploratory stare ate me – but rats, no.

My mother used to say, when one gets older, time goes faster. ‘Sweet lady but a bit crazy’ is what I thought then. But she was right, again. It’s the end of July and it seems like yesterday but that I’ve left Africa is already a year ago. To love in combination with letting go is not my forte. And it doesn’t have to be I think, although connectedness does have its price. Quite some of the information that reaches me makes me worry.

T. had to go to the Eastern Cape for the funeral of a niece with whom he went to school. She is murdered. It’s a simple note in an email but what sort of world lies behind? C. is still sick in his little house in Alex. The treatment of his illness is just enough to keep him alive, more than that is not in it. To enforce a proper treatment is a full-time job and even then. There is no money for a decent healthcare, in the meantime the taking and grabbing of a small elite – the family of Mandela included – takes on grotesque dimensions. The idea that success and fulfillment of life are measured in money and power, is that exported from the West or is it in our genes? Or are we just too plain stupid to see the misery that comes from it?

It’s often that my thinking goes towards thoughts of prayer; that things may go better. The possibilities are there, with no guarantee to success. It’s only small rays of light that keep the hope alive. On Mandela’s birthday there was, again, a campaign to voluntarily devote 67 minutes of your time to do something for the good of others. 67 minutes for Madiba, that is not a lot. If a human life is just a flash in eternity, what is 67 minutes? Living up to the standards of our believes would, at least for most of us, result in considerably more than 67 minutes. Still, it’s a beginning.

In the meantime Bali is an oasis of (relative) quiet and peace. The work on the pool continues and although it creates a lot of noise, it’s a privilege to see with how much pleasure and pride the workers work. Happy conversations in which they tell me how beautiful it will be. The expression ‘the most beautiful pool in Bali’ seems a bit over the top to me but then, when I look in their eyes… In their eyes it is. And that’s correct if you made it yourself. The fact that there is also an element of small revenge towards the not so well executed small pool from the neighbor for whom they are not allowed to work anymore… Hey, they’re human.

Also in another way that thought came along this week. There was a problem; money was gone every day. No big amounts but still. In fact it was already a while that I more or less knew but I wanted to be careful not to accuse before I was absolutely certain. When the unanswerable proof was there I still had trouble believing it really happened. It was clear who had done it but… Little amounts, every day a bit – going on without action was not an option. Not an easy thing in a surrounding where I am guest and everybody and everything is connected or related. Because that’s the way it will stay, I’m a guest. A non-Indonesian can live in this country for 30 plus years, he’s still a tamu, a guest. Unlike in Africa, where the population is really multi-cultural, color of skin or an accent give away one is an outsider and outsiders – I wrote about it in another blog – usually ‘did it’. In a situation where hard words may be necessary, it seemed tricky to me. Thinking about pro’s and con’s.

For another, much more important reason, I’ve put those thoughts aside. We are human. I live a simple life. A budget that in Holland would keep me going for less than a week is enough for a whole month in Bali if I’m careful. Poverty and richness are relative. Everybody in my street has no means of transport at all and I have a bike. I’m rich. Now I still have the bike and they all have a car. I’m poor. In Bali I have a nice house with a garden, a pool is on its way (a present but still), my bike is paid for in full. For most Balinese I’m a rich man. And then there is a wallet on the table with, converted, more than 100 euro’s, lots of 100.000 rupiah notes. How about temptation? We are human.

Stealing is not okay, it is unacceptable. That’s my sentiment too. But another chance, to try it one more time, that should be possible I’d say. Therefor, a concealed warning – lot’s of things here a written and read between the lines – and hope for the best. A critical look at my own history will diminish my disappointment about broken trust. The pile of new chances I’ve got in my life is too high to look over.

Sometimes facts are so bizarre that they almost cannot be true. In Zimbabwe is a hospital in which women giving birth have to pay a fine of $ 5.—for every time they scream. (Source; Transparency International.)

With love, Frank


I am because…

Dear All,

Behind the poring rain I can see a little bit of sawah, not a lot really. Rain, we need it, I know, but it drives me nuts now and then. For days in a row now it’s raining cats and dogs. It’s the dry season but it seems someone up there is not aware of that. The pond overflows and the septic tank seems to be full of water. The result of the latter is hard to describe, certainly in the context of a decent blog. The building of the pool delays but looking around me I wonder if I really need a pool at all. Rain outside of course and some of it inside myself as well. The realisation that it really is… It takes time to sink in. I can live with it and everything will be all right but for now the days are filled with images of what won’t come again, with a looking back that opens many other doors in the process. It’s okay. There is a time for mourning and feeling unhappy is a part of our being as well.

It was a bit late when I came home. In a hurry because during an opening I all of a sudden realized that I forgot to give Zoef, the dog, his food in the morning. Normally the help brings rice and fish for him in the morning but it was Sunday and on Sunday… no help. It also became clear why Zoef had been so extremely friendly that morning. Proof that Zoef has a stupid boss.
When I came home Zoef was, in spite of everything, still happy to see me. He ate a full tray of food and I think he has forgiven me by now.
The workers on the pool had some news for me, they chased away three Javanese people from the road in front. They assumed they were potential burglars because that is how those Javanese are. Common knowledge…
Years ago a Balinese told me that all the kupu kupu malam (it means butterflies of the night so you know…) were Javanese as well. My answer that I had seen / heard ladies that did speak Balinese was refuted quickly by explaining that they would learn Balinese first, so that they wouldn’t stick out. Also in Bali evil and bad things come from the outside world. It must be a sort of exchange program because in Banyuwangi, just in Java, it’s always the Balinese that do the bad things. Nice actually, we can all feel good and better this way. And handy although not new, the other is always in danger in that respect. You look for a few bad apples – impossible to find in your circles or mine but elsewhere…
By keeping a distance between myself and the other I keep evil and bad out of the domain of my own responsibility. The African word Ubuntu – I am because we are, I sometimes forget to bring with me.

At the neighbours there was a party. The three little houses are (basically) ready and of course there had to be a ceremony before they can be used. The priest started at ten in the morning and it was close to two in the afternoon before he was ready. Well, three houses! After that it was party party with a lot of chicken, beer and domino. You might think that the latter is an innocent little play but in Bali it is a, for me incomprehensible, game of gambling and a lot of money is involved. I saw the workers that were invited loose a fat day of daily wages per round. Not all of the workers were at the party. Some of them were not invited. There is a bit of a fight going on or at least there is a huge difference of opinion.

It’s like this. The owner clearly reached too far, the whole project is beyond his means. He has debts everywhere and being thrifty is a must, he has to count every rupiah. That’s why he thought that a few of the workers, the ones he knows a bit better, could wait to be paid till he had money again. That could have worked were it not that in the very same days expensive materials and machines were bought and paid for.
The (not yet) paid workers didn’t like that and refused to work any more before their mini salary was paid.
The owner, in his turn, considered that not positive and that’s why those workers could forget about the party. It saved them of loosing money with the domino, that’s true also.
The management of some companies manages to celebrate with huge bonuses and salary increases while, at the same time, they send hundreds of people to the streets. The workers here had, at least, the guts to tell the boss that he could go and… In the west it’s called the forces of the market. Pathetic tinkering with new ethical codes and rules is a very sad substitute for understanding what being human is really all about. I am because we are.

Anyway, the owner of the little houses hopes to rent them out as quick as possible and for a long term. I don’t know. There is certainly no shortage of houses here in Ubud, there are houses for rent everywhere.
He also has a number of sawah’s (rice-fields). ‘Now how is that?’ I ask him, ‘that’s supposed to bring money as well, doesn’t it?’ Not a lot it turns out. Someone works the land and takes care of the rice till it’s earned. Then the owner of the land gets a third of its proceeds. Considering that a third is gone with buying the stuff to start with, bottom line is that owner and worker each get half of the profit. It sounds very reasonable to me.
Mr. van Beurden is the coming big man at Shell. Like his predecessor he will focus making the profit of the shareholders as big as possible. 90.000 people are working at Shell. PEOPLE. CEO forgets half of his task. Co-workers became human recourses.
For Farmers, a cooperation of farmers, wants to go to the stock exchange. Now in the hands of the farmers themselves, the cooperation would become a company in the hands of anonymous shareholders. The farmers, at one time owners, will be degraded to an instrument to make more money. Human recourses.

Sometimes I dream of a huge square with hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of people, not accepting any longer to be human recourse and demanding to be counted as humans again.

On the terrace, tonight I wear a sweater because it’s chilly, there is a lot of noise. Everything is wet so frogs are all over the place. One frog sits in the half finished pool, a good resonance-box, and is extremely loud. I switch of the stereo, it’s no use. Only after trying to locate the frog for ten or more times – every time I get near he keeps quiet – I see him. A very small frog with a very big mouth decides to go public with his feelings. Croaking loud he looks at me. Hi frog, good plan!

With love

166 people are captured for 11 years now, with no indictment, without a trial. A hundred of them are, also that against every international law, force-fed. Yeah, at times that take Ramadan into consideration….

Yes we can! Well, why don’t we then?