Building first

Every time sanctions are imposed, bank accounts abroad are frozen. Is that an empty gesture or do all those types have considerable amounts stashed away? And if, found on the street I guess? If we would just stop to stall that blood money, wouldn’t that be a start?

Often the breaking part of breaking news is that it breaks your heart.

Dear All,

The weather is sunny, if feels like 36 celcius, water the garden quite often, 400 laps in the pool (be aware of the goldfish syndrome) and for the rest take it easy. For me every day is a Sunday, only small problems. Like the pond in front of the house that wasn’t leaking, then all of a sudden was leaking like hell and now is not leaking again. (???) Maybe the threat that the fish would have to camp in a plastic bucket during the repair made them do it themselves down there? Oh, and a mirror that’s obnoxious. Every morning it starts to lecture about gravity while I’m doing my utmost. (see swimming). 50 plus is what I say then but it corrects me right away; 60 plus, very 60 plus. And it’s true, soon it will be 62.

It’s Kuningan. The ancestors leave again to where they normally dwell, last week during Galungan they arrived and now it’s over. If it were nice and pleasant visits, I don’t know, it was all but very busy. You won’t be surprised that lots of ceremonies and offerings were needed, the penjor, high, decorated bamboo poles only a detail of the total of work that had to be done. It’s a ritual that occurs every Balinese calendar, that is every 210 days. In between Wayan had a small ceremony at home as well – very small you know – it only costed Rupiah 500.000,–, that’s half a month of salary.

penjorA question I have that is still not answered is if the ancestors that are reincarnated do visit as well. Last week I thought I would get an answer, close by a Hindu priest gave a lecture and questions could be asked; it didn’t work out. It turned out to be an Australian full of himself and some other stuff, he answered a question with a monologue of an hour or more, using many Sanskrit words. Not only is my Sanskrit not wow, the risk of extending the lecture with another hour kept me from asking my question. ‘A fake, a fraud’, is what one of the attendants said to me when I met him this morning. Yeah, that’s what I think but frankly, I think that more often. In other words, is it really the beliefs of those priests or do they aim to keep people dumb and to safe keep their source of income? Are word and deed one is something I wonder, not only in Bali.

Maybe, just maybe belonging and do what you have to do according customs brings a feel of happiness. I is very possible, we all know that feeling when we did something nice and proper. It’s just a shame though that the priests here try to find the survival of their religion in isolation of the culture and more and bigger ceremonies. Promoting educating in it’s broadest sense, promoting better social conditions; it won’t come from them.

One day the revolution will start, keep people ignorant for ever won’t work, but by that time I’ll be on extended holiday for long already. Ah, maybe I’ll come and visit during Galungan.

In China they do it differently, there they force the Uigirs, muslims, to move to other places in order to mix with the Han. At the same time every one that might go and say something about Tiananmen square, on June 4 it’s 25 years ago, is put in prison or sent far away. It never happened, history is re-written or rather said, erased. Building on quicksand. Communist China, country of Bentley, Audi, BMW and pushbikes. Lots and lots of rickety pushbikes and workers, working a thousand miles from home and living in a shack behind the factory. 10 days vacation a year.

Impose developments, surpres religion, it won’t work unless you’d like to create problems for the future. I’m from a generation that thought that we could make everything happen. I’m convinced now that changes only last if they come from within. It’s like the export of democracy and western values, see in the media how wonderful that worked out. Keep the conversation going, with respect, that’s the only way. And one day thing will change.

And till then, till the people themselves want it different, Bali will be Bali. One can only hope that the Balinese find enough happiness in how it goes. It is, in many respects, a blessed island, the income from tourism is substantial and with a more honest distribution everyone could have a good life.

Honest distribution, it doesn’t come easy. Asylum seekers – in times we still understood it was about people that needed help we called them refugees – so asylum seekers, we have enough of those now. ‘Give them a place in their own region’ and about who’s going to pay for it and take care of it, not a word of course. ‘Look at it’, Carolien Roelants said in the NRC, ‘as if 4 million Belgians would flee to the Netherlands’. I think that would stop our joking about Belgians… Yes I do understand we can’t accommodate them all but let’s not exaggerate Mr Rutte (prime minister of the Netherlands), the only problem we may have is the inability to see the need of others, that we even, here and there, start to call refugees gold diggers… Where have we landed if the total despair that makes people cross the sea in rotten little boats is something we don’t see anymore? How about starting to create real possibilities in those regions and after that, we’ll see again. You can’t send people to a hotel that doesn’t exist yet.

Love, Frank




Time enough to write, I sit on a chair with a slightly dislocated ankle. On my way to the supermarket I fell from the stairs, stepped in a hole that, indeed, is there for months already. Rumors though that there would be a connection with the fact that a very nice young man went up the stairs at that moment are groundless, nothing but gossip and slander.

Dear All,

It was bule day. Bule is the word for every white person and this week the bule’s were target. I had to be in Kuta – adu and kasian, it’s a horrible place – and slipped at the very last moment through a traffic light. The sooner you’re out of there the better. A kilometer or so further down the road a police officer on a motorbike overtook me, I had ignored the red light is what he said. I had to follow him back to the crime-scene. Ten to one I’d get away with it to just not understand and run but, I’m raised a law abiding person and also, if they really want to get me…

At the crossroads five bule’s were sitting in line on the sidewalk, it would’ve been a hilarious sight if not I became number six. For more than half an hour I witnessed dozens of Balinese, without a helmet, pass by in all sorts of traffic violations, the line with bule’s in the meantime, grew a bit longer. When it finally was my turn it was clear they meant business. No lining of their own pockets this time, quite some registration certificates were on the little counter, waiting to be returned after the offender paid the fines at the police station. The conversation; yes no yes no yes and lots of small talk, was friendly although I expressed my surprise about the fact that so many Balinese were not stopped in spite of all those violations. ‘And now, how further’, the officer asked finally. ‘I buy you guys a cold drink an we just stay friends’ was my reply. Good plan he agreed although there was some disappointment when I did just that, I bought them a can of coke each in the small shop on the corner. His smile was crooked a bit but he managed a ‘have a good trip and drive safely’.

These are, next to things that go terribly wrong, the mild results of a society in which rules are not much more than a suggestion how things could be done. How wonderful if everything goes by the rules. Five years known to state institutions and some more requirements and you can stay in the Netherlands. Ah, you were dealing with the municipality, no, sorry, than you’ll have to go. Municipality doesn’t count, those are the rules. Fair rules or not, that’s of no importance. The protests of 200 mayors and the national child protector landed in the recycle bin.

‘Rules are rules’ has a very scary echo.

Land of merchants and preachers, as soon as it costs money the merchant wins. The Dalai Lama does hardly get any reception at all on government level. That decision is not connected to trade or China, is what the PM says, hypocrisy that doesn’t go well with the intention to muster more trust in politics. The blond, Islam hating politician who strongly opposes discrimination of gays, refrains from voting in the European Parliament when it is about a law against such discrimination. With anti Semitic, anti gay friends, what can you do? Human rights as capstone, a luxury that becomes a stick to hit political enemies.

In the meantime Musika en Musaka – the names sound like two characters from a fairytale – are not living in a fairytale right now, they are the first accused under the new anti gay laws in Uganda. Interest in their case is fading, as well as the interest in the 71 other countries in which Musika en Musaka can’t live their lives. There is enough to worry about and when I sign a petition to free the girls in Nigeria, it underlines my powerlessness more than that it gives me a feeling of doing something constructive.

In the New York Times I read an article in which the author states that it’s all reactions on the westernization of societies that originally are not western. Boko Haram he sees as an extreme of the same phenomenon. I think he’s right, I also think that the second part of his article is the most important part. He asks to not forget all the positive things that are happening in Africa, to not hide our image of the continent beneath the dark tones of the extremes but to be positive. A lot is happening that gives hope, Africa is so much more and different than women with bare breasts, warriors in traditional attire and hungry children. What he advocates in fact is; look at all the things that go well and support that, don’t give up hope and be optimistic about the future.

For me the last threads with Africa are seemingly broken now. Cedric is gone and for T. it’s over too, I have no money and I’m useless. It rather hurts but when I think about it I know it’s not true, the connectedness will stay. Soft voices when I only think the word Africa, eyes from those endless plains, always accompanied by that one voice that whispers my name… It remains the continent for which my soul bows, in admiration of all the beauty. ‘You can leave Africa but Africa won’t leave you.’ Those words of a friend are so true. He can and may not go but also all those people are do have, naturally, a place in my mind. “Too much love will kill you” is what Queen sung. I don’t think so, there is room enough in my house and I don’t have to be in each and every room at the same time.

Ibu Putu has been visiting her husband again. She is his second wife; that is, he has two wives. She was a stunning beauty once, he was jealous and suspicious and when she tells about those days it’s not about a rose garden. In her, of course one sided, story she had to find the money for her and her four kids herself, he visited mainly to grumble and complain. Now she visits him a few times every week. He can’t go out anymore and she makes him coffee and, she says, it goes much better now. It was a room she told me, she didn’t go anymore but now she is again, he needs her. This week it’s already a year ago that my mother had her birthday, got ill and passed away. She would have been 94 this week. Now there is a room that is so much part of me; I visit daily. In Ibu Putu’s story I hear again that it’s wise to keep going to all those rooms in the house, they are who I am.

And, there is nothing like “Too much love”.

Love, Frank


Dear All,

Over a month I didn’t write a blog and the last one in Dutch I didn’t translate, I was busy. Well, busy, Werner, a friend from South Africa was visiting and it was good and very pleasant. No world-shocking activities; just enjoyed Bali and more. He took me to Flores for a few days, Labuan Bajo on the very western tip of the island, and that was a fantastic experience. In the morning in a simple boat to one of the many small islands in the bay; a private beach would wait, just for us.Image

Throw your clothes in the sand and, the sun shines bright, run into the warm sea for snorkelling, see the miracles of underwater life. Back on the beach open a bottle of wine – some work has to be done of course – and after that another swim. Get dry in the sun while sharing the last bit of wine… Only the monkeys on the beach look at you. “People, strange sort of animal.”

And of course we’ve seen the Komodo dragons, Komodo and Rinca are two islands close by and that’s where they live. Werner thought they looked quite friendly, just lay beside them, show them you’re not afraid and nothing will happen. Is what Werner said… I didn’t try, he didn’t either, of the Swiss baron that disappeared some years ago they only found the glasses again. And his binoculars. Image

Good hotel on a dead quiet beach and, the internet didn’t work. Yep, sometimes you have all the luck in the world. “Oh dear, I’m so sorry, no connection for some days you know, it’s only now I see your email…” I met beautiful people and once again did see how life can be. A simple world with small wishes, with people that are at peace with their lives. For how much longer, I don’t know. Also in Flores iPhones and all other sorts of rubbish is advancing and clever politicians and multinationals how to get their money. Commercials try their best to convince people that for a decent life they need to buy more, much more. Politicians skim public funds and invest the money elsewhere – The Netherlands e.g., always welcome. The multinationals evade taxes, a nice expression for not taking ones responsibility, or more clear: to screw the local workers. Developing countries loose billions of dollars more because of taxes not paid than they receive in aid. So much for help. Flores is – still – of a miraculous beauty. Everything comes to an end but if I close my eyes a bit, I’m there again. At peace.

My pension – $ 500.—a year, yes, I should have worked, I know – is delayed by two years. In Flores the dammit I was thinking was quickly gone. People there have no company pension, no state pension either, they just keep on working, the same goes for Bali. Ibu Putu, of the little restaurant close by, must be far in her seventies. She gets up at 5am, goes to the market at 6 and cooks the whole day for her guests. At 8pm she closes, enough for the day. And she’s happy and content. I’m not so sure if it’s bad that one has to keep on working a bit, one stays part of society and in this country, if it really becomes a problem, there are always people to help. No government needed to organize that.

It’s all as long as it lasts, the society is changing rapidly. Wishes become bigger and bigger and to make ends meet is more and more difficult. P. came to lend money because he is behind with the instalments for one of the three bikes the family owns, the bank threatens to take the bike back. Before he came he informed with his iPhone if I was home. I see pitfalls many of us fell in a long time ago already.

It is the 5th of May, liberation day in the Netherlands. Terlouw, a writer and politician, wonders how it is with fraternity. Freedom and equality are there but he concludes that freedom without fraternity is false. We commemorate those that offered their lives for our freedom, we celebrate the gift that enables us to be free. If our freedom is not paired with brotherhood it becomes just an instrument to serve our own interest. False freedom says Terlouw and he’s right. Fraternity, brotherhood, it means sharing but inequality is growing, admiration for extreme richness is not diminishing. A politician, a socialist, doesn’t see how the queen could visit in a dress of H&M. And I don’t understand him, or maybe I do after all. If your socialism is an empty word, if you live your life in the parlours of the wealthy… And the voters, they don’t understand. Stupid voters.Image

Paper hat.

If expensive and exclusive become synonyms for dignified and significant, it’s time for new glasses. The bizarre idea to distinguish oneself by (showing) (extreme) wealth is really not of our times. Develop a morale in which that sort of expression evokes suspicion and disdain would be a good thing.

Etty Hillesum wrote “I don’t think we can change anything in the outer world that we didn’t solve in ourselves first”.

It’s often not easy. In Africa the kiln has a problem and needs repair. I can’t help and that fact didn’t go down well. You’re useless, I’m so done with you… and some more not very flattering phrases. How to deal with that, more is possible than I sometimes want to know but not everything. To find a balance, at times it keeps me awake at night.

Love, Frank