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Dear All,

I received bit more money from the inheritance of my mother and I decided to have the paths in my garden, till now plain, mossy, slippery concrete, cladded with little pebbles. Batu sikat it’s called, combed pebbles. A nice solution, not too expensive, the money was just enough. Wayan, Frans’ help, would come with a number of friends, they would bring the little pebbles, I had to arrange sand and cement. That arrives on the main road and has to be carried up to the house. Normally there is a number of ladies doing that job; doesn’t feel that well but that’s’ how it’s done here. This time the ladies were not available and Pak Par arranged something else. A lady who lives close by would carry the whole lot. That lady is 75 or older! I don’t think she could’ve been my mother but it’s close. There she went. Bucket with sand after bucket with sand, on her head, up the stairs, through the long alley and drop it in the back of the garden. Bags with cement, 40 kilo’s each, on her head, same way. And no opening to arrange it differently, she was happy to have work. The solution I thought of; ‘Maybe you can do the garden a bit, no heavy work, just clean a little, for the sand and cement I’ll find someone else then.’ Oh, she was willing to do the garden all right, tomorrow! First she wanted to carry the stuff. The worst part is that I’ve been hoping for most of the day that she would do it quicker, so that I wouldn’t have to watch it anymore. No Frank, that doesn’t go very quick, she’s over seventy, remember?

A bit different from the five months I have to work longer after my 65th birthday to get my pension. Yes, I know, for (even) younger people it’s even worse, up to two years, terrible….

There was (another) ceremony. I wrote it earlier, a neighbour died and the place wasn’t clean anymore. For a long day offerings were made, incense burned and prayers uttered and now it’s all okay again. Specially for me because my family grew a bit, at least ten bats are living in the top of my roof. In the daytime they hang like dark coloured rags, at night, when decent people sleep, they’re on the road. Well, that’s luck. Every Balinese would like to have them, I do. And also thirty goldfish but it’s unknown if they bring luck as well.

Last night I had dinner at Ibu Putu. She was glad that the people down the road were sent away. Muslims; made noise every Friday. In fact she would appreciate it if the tourists that were showering the place with music last night would be evacuated as well but, well, tourist… that’s not so easy. I’m not a Balinese so what can I say? But while I was writing this blog it was another night in a long row, with drums and singing from the temple nearby, I couldn’t hear the frogs anymore.

I admit, there are things that are not my forte. But, creative thinking, man, I’m a master in it. This week I had to go the a clinic, an X-ray of my lungs had to be made. I’ve been coughing for weeks now and wise friends advised me to have it checked. First I went to a clinic close by but that was no success. ‘You’ll have to go to Denpasar then.’ ‘But it says X-ray on the sign outside.’ ‘That machine is broken’ and the tone made it clear I should’ve known. And I could pay for the visit at the counter in the hall. Well, I didn’t think so. In a hospital in Mas it was no problem, had to come back the next day for the result. The night before – the time that less great minds are sleeping – I’ve been thinking what could be wrong. A lot I can tell you, creative you know. By five in the morning it was time to consider if I should put the really bad news in my blog or better not. It turns out to be an (ordinary) bronchitis, for the rest all is fine. But still, how creative I am. And it makes so very happy…

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Winner WorldPressPhoto John Stanmeyer

As if there is not enough to be angry or sad about. Uganda’s president, Museveni, signed a new law that will make the life of gays impossible. American ‘Christians’ pressed an African country to make existing colonial rules even more draconian. And then that country does so in order to preserve ‘African values’. Museveni based his decision also on a ‘medical report’, a report that, according to the Mail & Guardian, was ‘adjusted’ by MP’s before handing it over to the president. The first results of all this are visible already, a few people were murdered and a newspaper is so kind to ‘out’ 200 top-gays, whatever that may be. At least it will be easier to find them.

And now? Stop developing aid is what I read. And I don’t think that that is a good idea. Certainly, all aid distributed though the channels of self-enriching morons that form a government should be stopped immediately. One can even wonder how and why they got money in the first place but maybe that’s one of the mysteries of politics. One could for instance also wonder why Janukovitsj was the flavour of the week when he planned to associate his country with the EC although, also then, they must have known he was a megalomaniac that stole from his people.

Stop with supporting governments that do not hesitate to offer the happiness of people on their altar of power and greed. Stop where there should never have been a beginning in the first place and, I think, take of our pink glasses and realize that too many so called leaders do have a different agenda than we think and hope. Look at mr. Erdogan, he has a phone.

But not helping the really needy is paying back with the same sick attitude of denying other peoples humanity. Yes, I assume that many of those that will receive help in e.g. Uganda applaud those laws. That hurts, to use an understatement, not helping though hurts even more. Misled people might take a different position if we are really interested and involved in their lives and make sincere contact, not when we leave them in their misery. ‘You don’t care about us so now we don’t care about you’ doesn’t do any good for them and even less good for ourselves.

Love, Frank

Travel

Suppose you’re running the local store for a big retailer. It doesn’t look good; the stock is over date, the shop needs renovation, most of the staff is quite willing to do their job properly but is bothered by all sorts of formalities. Sales are down, the customers of the old days avoid the shop like the plague. If one asks why, the answer is basically the same whoever you ask; it is because you understand the staff nor the clients and, from your comfortable leather chair, you chase them away with your shouting and growling. Now the CEO wants to visit… Bishop Eijk (Dutch catholic bishop) thinks a visit of the pope is not a good idea right now. 

Dear All

On my way to the supermarket I see, literally on the crossroads, a neighbor sitting ‘jongkok’ in the grass. The boy looks devastated and bemused. ‘Are you okay?’, I ask but he doesn’t answer. Again: ‘Are you alright?’ Walking on doesn’t feel right, I keep standing and finally decide to sit next to him. What I don’t manage is a piece of cake for Zoef. He wiggles his tail, puts his nose to the boys hand and gets a response. ‘Not naughty, not mean?’, asks the boy. ‘No, not naughty, not mean, he’s not a good watchdog though, he’s nice to everyone…’ ‘It won’t be easy for you, back in the house?’ I say after a while. His father died quite suddenly a few weeks ago and the family was in the family-home till now. ‘I had to leave the house for a while’, is his sullen response. When he speaks again it is with: ‘One shouldn’t show his grief’. ‘Were you afraid you would cry?’, I ask. In his indignant ‘no’ I can hear the lie. ‘One shouldn’t show grief, the dead won’t get peace that way’, firm tone. I think about it and am surprised people can see things in such different ways. ‘And when you’re father is somewhere, wouldn’t he know you miss him? He loved you, didn’t he, and you loved him.’ I see him thinking and then, almost unnoticeable, he nods slightly.

‘I have to go home again’, and he gets up. ‘Bye, see you.’ ‘Bye, see you’, and I go on to the supermarket.  

On the road with my bike, no fun anymore, the traffic was hopeless again. How nice to encounter something positive then. The police! On my way I passed at least six schools where lessons were over, all showed the same picture. Kids of 12 years old or so on a bike with no helmet wanted to get on the road. How nice if the police is aware of the danger and helps them on their way, making sure they’re not killed on the spot. Bye dear children, take care, come home safe… The police, a good friend.  

‘Where have you been’, the help asks. ‘In Kuta and Denpasar, it was a mess again.’ And I think one doesn’t want to be found dead in Kuta but I don’t know how to translate that part so, let it be. ‘Kuta, what madness, what a horror, half-naked tourists on bikes, it’s getting worse all the time don’t you think?’ ‘I don’t know, I’ve never been there. I’ve been in Gianyar and Ubud, but not as far as Kuta.’ Kuta is 40 kilometer from here, Gianyar 15 and Ubud, well Ubud is a ten minutes walk. Later she elaborates. ‘You know, when I finished school I worked for family. Not for a salary, that I didn’t get, but for the food, my parents arranged it that way, I was busy all the time. And then marriage, kids, I haven’t been anywhere at all really.’

Travelling. I spoke with a young woman here who is travelling. A week in Cambodia, a week Thailand, two weeks Malaysia and now two weeks Indonesia. She had a whole list of countries she’d ‘done’. I heard the little boy I once was myself; Ermelo, Kootwijk, Fachbach, Niederbreitbach, Rattenberg; as stamps in an album, believe it or not but I thought I could impress with it. Why do we travel?

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In front of me is ‘Before they pass away’** by Jimmy Nelson, a huge, exquisite picture book with impressing, often touching pictures and text. (picture above from the book) It’s about peoples that don’t make it much longer in our modern times. The unbelievably diversity of our world goes down the drain, only our western culture seems to survive, for now that is. I know, that also is evolution but still… I each of those peoples there must be a treasure of knowledge and wisdom handed from generation to generation. Shouldn’t we try to preserve that at least? Some replenishment and correction towards our culture is no luxury. Maybe we, children of a culture that dominates, should want to bring a bit less and learn a bit more. Not all our export products are that wonderful and the (lot of) good we have to offer won’t reach its destination with force. Travelling with respect and sincere interest in people, without the feeling to be superior; many people go that way indeed and get home richer than they left. There is also a group that blazes through the world in a different way and creates, however irresistible western culture may be, an aversion against it, at the same time withholding valuable experiences form themselves. You cannot ‘do’ a country in a week or two, you cannot create encounters by racing half naked on a bike through Kuta. And, weird as it may sound, there are people that survived two weeks without McDonalds and without a disco.

Love, Frank

* Jongkok. Indonesiërs know how to do it, crouch with their buttocks to their ankles, for hours and hours.

** ‘Before they pass away’  Jimmy Nelson, Publisher teNeues Verlag GmbH + Co. KG, Kempen. ISBN 978-3-8327-9759-1

 

 

meaning of life

If it’s really about sports, I mean sports, why don’t we organize the Olympics in Greece every four years? No megalomanic projects, no politicians that try to make themselves bigger than life, in the meantime wasting billions of public money, no question about who can go and who can’t and when, no Olympic committee that’s bothered with travelling to all those possible locations. The sportsmen of this world have a party, at their own place, sports, free of politics.

And as far as the recent problems are a concerned.., Greek principles is a well known expression, so that’ll be fine.

Dear All,

With the oleh-oleh, the presents, all was sorted out and then again not. I’ve been searching a hundred shops in Holland for jeans in small sizes because those Balinese aren’t fat. A 28 and a 29 and yes, I found it. Too much luggage so I put some of it in one of those see, buy, fly bags from the airport, the yellow ones. In Singapore someone took the see and fly too literally, bag was gone and didn’t show up again. And in the bag, yes indeed, the oleh-oleh. I had to buy new presents in Bali.

Around the neck of the antique Buddha in my living room hangs, never seen it before, a very nice bracelet. Thick, tasteful colored pearls with little silver elements in between, not real I suppose but it looks good on Buddha. Hi Buddha, where did you get that bracelet? The solution is to ask ‘the help’. And indeed, she knows all about it. It was a present of a neighbor a bit down the road and she loved to wear it but then the neighborhood started to talk about it. She is too old (imagine, she’s about 40) to wear something like it. She wants to look like a young girl the banjar assumed, so she couldn’t wear it any longer. A pity but what can you do, she hang it around little Buddha. Looks nice don’t you think? With my legendary patience I ask her, IN CAPITAL LETTERS, so the neighbors decide what you can wear or not?’ Her answer is a simple yes. And that makes me quiet because even I can see that there is nothing left to talk about, the people had its say.

From there to the meaning of life is only a small step. Earlier in the week I had a conversation with a Balinese about it and it came down to more or less the same. Do what the priests tell you, the ceremonies and all that comes to it, act in a way that’s acceptable for your surroundings, clothes, behavior, etc. And voilá, your destiny is met. Yes, he added, of course you also have to take of a living, make money. A lot if you can because that enhances ones status in society. Keep in line with the others and make sure that, through the backdoor, you’re up front. That’s what I heard.

To walk upfront is fun of course and some has to be the first after all. But why is it that so many people want to be on top with funny things? Or rather, do we really see what’s up front and what’s behind?

We are confronted with the problems of the world, more penetrating and more heartbreaking every day. It’s impossible to see some sort of divine plan in all of it. The ‘double bottom’ that religion offered is gone, just float around and enjoy the weather is something we cannot do. And a pseudo scientific system, called economics, is quite willing to take over. A simple system, calculate the value of everything in dollars or euro’s and you know where you’re at. Clergymen with dollar signs in their eyes is no new phenomenon, dollar signs that become the new clergymen is a bit too weird really. Companies keep a close eye on what we do – that’s okay, it’s good for their turnover – football players are bought and sold or become an asser for an investment company there are formulas to calculate the value of a human life. On the side, I’m afraid that the price may differ per country, it all depends on where you’re born. As a reader of this blog your life is probably good for a few thousand dollars, young people in e.g. Bangladesh do quite a bit less.

The monotonous mantra is economic growth, personal growth at best an indication of a growing bank account. If you expect bliss from that sort of simplicity, then vision is like the Dutch prime minister said, an elephant that blocks the view indeed. But there is something very very wrong with our world if, like it happened a while ago in the Netherlands, a sixty three years old is afraid of his pension and asks a clinic for life-ending for help. Something very wrong .

The last blog provoked an irritated reaction. With the economic system it’s different, ‘it brought us a lot of good and I’m the one that doesn’t appreciate’. Thousands of people die each year in the most gruesome wars, usually wars for economic reasons. Millions don’t make by lack of food and medicine. Then looking at a little bit of good, not shared in an honest way at all, as ridiculous as stating that the trains under a despicable dictator run on time. It’s nice that someone reads but… 

Yes, a number of people in this world gains a lot with the system, I consider myself certainly one of those. But it’s a very small number and   ‘Wär ich nicht arm, wärst Du nicht reich’ 
(Bertolt Brecht) (If I wasn’t poor, you wouldn’t be rich.) It comes from the length or the width.  

The richest 1 % of the worlds population owns 65 times as much as the 3,5 billion poor together. The 85 richest have as much in hand as that poor half. The symptoms of a stinking sickness. So sorry, thanks for the reaction, no rectification.

Looking for bright spots

The pope, although negatively blessed with idiots as heads department, states that we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of beliefs or whatever. **** An email to and one from a friend, just to say I love you. *** Skype with a dear friend and a long conversation with ibu Putu. *** Dennis, the eight years old from the blog of December 6 that would be evicted from the Netherlands is allowed to stay after all. The tired minister used his jurisdiction. *** And I woke up this morning and have a chance to try again.

Who saves a man saves all humanity. A word that, hopefully, won’t be forgotten in that clinic for life-ending.

Love, Frank