Dancing

From the moment I heard it would be auctioned I knew; that one is mine. I hardly ever buy things for myself anyway. Everything anonymous of course, I’m not crazy. I could hear the outcries already; ‘Can’t you spend that money more wisely, how with inequality and poverty in the world, what does the guy that found it get out of it?’ Well, I have shares in that shop and believe me; this is good for all of us. It’s safe in my nightstand now, unfortunately one can’t go to the supermarket with it. Alone, at night under the blankets, I put it on and with my little flashlight I can see 55 million euro of glitter and shine, it looks like Xmas. It’s beautiful; to bring light into darkness, the money is well spent. The Pink Star, 59,6 carat of diamond, is mine.

What? “What a coincidence it’s pink…”

Dear All

Rain in Bali, the rainy season has started, it’s rains cats and dogs all day now and that’s not the first time. The harvesting of the rice from the sawah in front of my house is done and I hope that the rats won’t be looking for a new home. Those that died last time so tragically maybe forgot to inform their colleagues about the dangers. Now the ducks are let loose in the sawah, a funny sight and their sounds are a joy. At night it’s the frogs, there must be thousands of them, who make their noise. A good thing in fact, that way I don’t hear the beep that’s been in my ear for the last few weeks now. On the wall, next to my desk, sits a little frog with an enormous voice. Hilum? It’s not afraid, it looks at me with its round eyes and croaks again. For fifteen minutes or more I’m looking at it, fascinated. ‘Just evolution’. Yeah, I guess so, but it’s a miracle anyway.Image

With some foul play my garden does amazingly well. I bought a few flowering trees and that works great. I’m a gardener like my father – good intentions, hardly any insight, aiming for quick results – hereditary in charge. Or blessed by heredity of course. With the tourist season a bit over the roads are less full than before although, still good for sweaty moments. A Balinese buys his drivers license and has a highly developed ability to not see what he doesn’t want to see. What more do you want to know? Last week a visit to the hospital in Denpasar and I was, for more than one reason, happy to be home safe again. Kasih Ibu is the name of the hospital, it means mother love. Love not that strong really, a lot of money was involved. Not for the average Balinese thus, but it’s a good hospital. The worrying scenarios from the little clinic in Ubud were thrown aside; all is fine. Heart, longs, kidneys and some other parts were checked, all perfect. ‘A fine condition for 51 years of age’ the specialist said. ‘I’m 61.’ ‘Oh, oh yes, I see. Well, it’s fine!’ Friendly specialist makes a mistake(?), patient happy nevertheless. He studied in the Netherlands. ‘Nice country, warm people, hospitable, open…’ I wonder how the foreign students of today think about that.

At the dentist, another of those fancy places with pretty girls behind the counter, soft music and something to drink if you have to wait, some magazines lay on the table. I have to wait a bit and have a look at one. A fat glossy, completely filled with articles and adds about what there is in Bali in terms of expensive and exclusive. It’s a lot, an awful lot. Especially in the south, around Kuta, there must be restaurants, that try to outdo each other in price and exclusivity, on every street-corner. I wait for those that will serve tongues of larks, or koala-ears. Special too. I read about spa’s that grind real pearls and gold to mix in their ointments, offer facelifts and lifts for any other possible body-part, that inject botox wherever you’d like them to. Become ten or fifteen years younger, in two or three treatments. (Quite in line with the website of someone I know from South Africa. Her site claims that getting older is just an illness, no need to suffer from it as long as you swallow her little supplements.) Adds for hotels where they’ve tried to mask a lack of taste by spending a lot of money, for shops with bling and glitter jewellery that suits a prince carnival. Because they are ‘the real stuff’, the lady can wear them. You can leave the price tag on please.

These are the excesses, fortunately. It is sad, in the first place for those that ‘need’ it. Still, I wonder in how far this sort of behaviour brings the world closer to the edge. Dancing on a volcano. To see oneself in proportion, as a part of it all, seems to be difficult but it’s the only way to function. During APEC, when heads of state and dignitaries were flown in, kiting was forbidden in Bali. Too dangerous for air traffic. The rest of the year it’s not a problem.

Bali changes. On a website I read ‘in Ubud you think yourself in a world of twenty years ago’, Sanur is described as a quiet village, Kuta a little hamlet on the coast. It’s actually not possible but the only explanation is that that particular website hasn’t been updated for the last thirty years. Of course most tourist do not frequent the places I described above but the balance in life here is disturbed nevertheless. Tourists have always been privileged. That was already so in the fifties, in coastal areas in the Netherlands where people would live in a shack during summer in order to rent out their house to German tourists. Tourists bring in money, work and, at its best, another view to the world; maybe even the start of brotherhood. In this part of Bali tourists have taken over the shop. Balinese do the work, tourism is the boss. Ceremonies in the meantime are getting more in number and in elaborateness. Ibu Putu from the little restaurant confirmed it (again) tonight. ‘Yes, we’re doing a better job on that now.’ The why she couldn’t explain well. ‘We just do.’ Frans sees a possible connection between those ceremonies and tourism. He has a point I think. A lot of new but also a lot of incomprehensible comes towards people. A lot of things are attractive, although often with a ‘price’ that is not feasible or unwanted. Life changes quicker than ever and is often confusing, the priests see their grip diminish. Escape into the well known and trying to get things back in place again is a logical reaction that, alass, will work counterproductive. How it should be? A sign with ‘only respectful tourists’ on the border?

I just had a nice gado gado at Ibu Putu. No, there is no background music, you can’t lounge there, she doesn’t accept credit cards and diet coke or cocktails she doesn’t do. No happy hour, but happy all the time. She sits on your table and chat, you won’t go home hungry. They don’t know what they miss; those guys in those moneyjoints.

Love, Frank

 

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Dear All

Bali was totally blocked yesterday, traffic jams all over the show. The Mercedes club had promised itself some fun and raced in endless rows of (way too) expensive cars over the island. Everything accompanied by screaming-siren-police protection, everything is for sale and in Bali people still accept this sort of thing. I was stuck for over an hour and the people that were supposed to bring new green for the garden were two hours late. The result was that I had to plant all the plants myself, the gardener was already gone home. Good for me, you’re right. Sweating in a very hot Bali, my annoyance about a police that doesn’t do a thing for the little man and that rents itself out to those that are willing to pay faded away a bit, for a little while.

Iran is not allowed to produce nuclear weapons, rightfully so I think, nobody should produce that shit, let alone have it. That story about deterrence – one can destroy the world a hundred times, the other hundred and fifty times – must have been made up by sick or greedy people. Anyway; Iran no nuclear weapons. There negotiations between Iran and… a number of countries that do have nuclear arms, among others France. Mr Fabius is the minister of foreign affairs of that country. Till 1974 France went, in spite of protests from the world, on with atmospheric tests of nuclear arms, till 1995 they went on underground. Not at home of course but in ‘overseas territories’ in the South Sea. The greatness of France, someone else could pay the bill. Still today inhabitants of that area suffer from epidemics and illnesses; cancer and the like. When in 1985 the protests peaked and a great number of ships was ready to stop things in a peaceful way France decided to bomb the Rainbow Warrior of Greenpeace, located in the harbour of Auckland, New Zealand. A man was killed, the ship was gone, pure terrorism, the perpetrators later got the Legion d’Honneur in France. (I could compare some things there…) Mitterrand was president in those days, the same Mr Fabius that lectures Iran today was prime minister. Although they played their resentment and denied having any previous knowledge of what happened, in 2005 it came out that the president explicitly gave his permission for what they, a euphemism, called an operation.

Today Mr Fabius stated that Iran should do more and he blocked an agreement. Why is it that so many think the west hypocrite?

I had to be in the North East and decided to stay a few days on the coast there. It’s a few hours drive on my bike and back and forth in one day was too much. The goldsmith where I had to go, a couple in fact, I know for twenty years or more, from the time they started a studio. Now they have a serious business. Never they stop to recall that it all started when I had big orders for them, never I forget to tell them that it is all of their own hard working. It is great to see that things go well and the fact that their staff is really fond of them is a good sign. From the wedding-rings of my parents that I brought them earlier, I inherited them from my mother, they made one new ring and I’m content and touched. Wow Mamma, now I’m wearing it, a bit of home on my finger. We drank a lot of tea, I ordered the shape in silver I need for a commission, they went back to work, I went to the coast. The drive there is beautiful. A narrow winding road, often high above the sea, little villages where only the motorbikes remind of modern times, the perahu (little boats) of the fishermen on the beach are the way they’ve been for hundreds of years. Well, maybe the blue plastic sails are new too. It the hotel I got a nice, simple room, five metres from the sea; it was quiet, most tourists went home.  After all those hours on the bike wanted a massage and that was possible for Rp 150.000.—(US$ 14.–) . For Bali a lot of money but it was a good massage; reborn I walked along the beach. And a bit annoyed. Not because of the money, gone is gone, but because it was – again – money in the pocket of one of the big(ger) guys. The masseur, he has to be on call all the time, gets Rp 15.000 (US$ 1,50) per massage, the rest is for the guy that owns the hotel. Usually the boy does 3 or 4 massages a day – and then you’re finished, believe me – so he has a daily income of about US$ 6.—The hotel-owner gets, on the side, US$ 40.—a day. Many tourist things here – hotels, attractions, restaurants – are in the hands of westerners. Things are done according western rules and the tourist is ( usually / sometimes ) satisfied. Good for tourism but is it also good for the Balinese? Apart from the fact that hotel groups (Westin, Ritz Carlton, etc.) keep on building monstrous hotels that often ruin the landscape – there is a stop on building hotels but the right envelope in the right place makes that into a joke – is it always the big money that wins. It’s not only western companies, it’s rather a worldwide epidemic of greed, ever more money and power in less and less hands. Governments facilitate or, a little bit less bad, look on in astonishment.  

‘A house is not a home’ wrote Burt Bacharach long ago, I remember the Anita Kerr Singers. My house in not empty and Bali is warm in more than one respect but it is good to remember that home is formed by the others. Then there is home in a phone-call, a sweet email or simply in meeting or thinking of those I love. A warm evening, I sit on the terrace, the music is from Africa, thoughts travel, specially around this time of year, easy and far. Also in remembering there is home. Distance bridged by love; faster than the speed of light from here to the Netherlands, to Africa and, sometimes reluctant, back again. My home is as big as I want it to be, much and much bigger than the house I live in. You’ve become a world citizen a good friend says but I think he’s wrong there because it’s how we’re all born. The fact that I, sometimes, have difficulties to look further than the little box in which I was born doesn’t change the fact that, man-made borders or not, I’m part of all; everything is from the same source. Am I willing to look at what connects us? Those that emphasize and exploit differences are no peace makers, their motivation is dubious and dangerous. When I read the papers I seemingly row upstream, when I hear my friends – home – I know we’re together.

Love, Frank