Dog Rescue

Yesterday morning when we came out of our house, we heard the most piteous yelping and squealing sound coming from somewhere just down the street. On investigation, we found that a little black dog had somehow ended up at the bottom of the deep culvert beyond the last house on the road, and there he had gotten stuck to something and could not free himself. The wall on our side of the culvert is quite high, perhaps 30 feet, but on the other side it is lower, no more than 7 feet above the little garbage laden stream.

My wife found some young men just up the street from us, who immediately offered their services. They surveyed the situation, hopped on their motorbikes, and we all drove around the blocks until we could reach the lower wall above the dog. My wife brought along a pair of scissors, as it was clear, even from the distance, that the dog was entrapped in some kind of wire, while I brought along a pair of elbow length leather gloves. The dog, naturally, was panicked and frightened, and would surely bite to defend himself.

Well, one of the young men lowered himself down to the putrid stream and found that the dog was indeed entrapped in wire, and had a hook stuck in his cheek as well. Thus the painful yelping every time he tried to pull away.

Very carefully, the young man snipped at the wire and at last freed the dog such that he could lift it to waiting arms at the top of the bank. At this point, it  became clear that we would need wire cutters to break the hook in his mouth.

Rushing back home, I found a pair of pliers which would also function as wire cutters, while in the meantime my wife and the young men attempted to comfort the dog and keep him still.

With a couple more snips, the hook came free, and the little dog ran to hide in the bushes nearby.

Back home again, we collected some soft food and a bowl of water and left this near the little hovel he had chosen for protection.

Returning to the spot this morning, I found the sausage gone, half of the water gone, and the little dog gone as well.

Hope the little fella will be okay.


In the Lap of Luxury


Yesterday, we were out looking at villas near Sanur — row upon row of luxury homes for sale or lease. The villa will commonly be a walled property with 2-4 bedrooms, full kitchen, 2-4 bathrooms with tub and shower (and hot water, of course), commonly arranged around a swimming pool and garden. They are private little paradises, segregated from the outside community — personal little castles for the rich.

Directly across the road from one such row of villas is the little shanty town in the photo above. These dwellings have been fashioned from sheets of metal, bits and pieces of cardboard and plastic and wood, balanced against one another like playing cards.

“Do people actually live there?” I asked a man on the road.

“Oh, yes!” he said.

So here is the reality of Bali, standing side-by-side, the mansions of the rich, the hovels of the poor. No doubt, those who live in the shanty houses are those who do the yard work and cleaning for the villa owners. Or perhaps they are those one sees standing on the main road, shovel in hand, hoping to be picked up by a work crew.

Upon this, our common earth, every paradise has been enclosed by walls for the benefit of the few. Are other folks starving? Are other folks ill? Are other folks old or unable? Are other folks struggling to survive?

Oh well, let’s not think about it. Let’s just take a swim and enjoy a brunch of brie and fine bread.


In the West, we tend to think of having a massage as a particularly cozy, relaxing experience – a way of comforting and spoiling ourselves. As you enter the massage parlor, relaxing music softly fills the air. A receptionist greets you and you are given a cup of green tea.  There is a lightly scented aroma in the air, vaguely flowery, spicy. You are ushered into your private room, where a soft, cleanly made massage table awaits you. The music wanders through aimless repetitions — flutes and other wind instruments, vaguely oriental, maybe some strings. A comely masseuse enters, whisking about like breeze in the grass, smoothing her hands over your skin, kneading and pressing like the paws of a kitten.

Switch to Indonesia …

Massage here is no game. It is not done for comfort. It is done to rearrange every bone and muscle in your body. In short, it is torture. The Indonesian masseuse (ahli pijat) — a good one, anyway – will meticulously search out every sore spot, every tender crevasse, and dig into that precise area, as if his fingers (made of iron, mind you) were able to enter through the skin and tug and pull and twist at the muscles and bones and nerves. You cannot hide these weak areas from the masseuse. His hands are trained to find them. Search and destroy.

Ah ha! You’re having a problem right here, yes?

Oh my God, yes!  Ouch!

It’s okay. I fix.

No pain, no gain, right? But it’s true. if you have a rope that is in a knot, you don’t just rub at the thing, or lightly poke it. Not if you want it undone, that is. No, you dig and tug and push and twist — and by God, little by little, that knot begins to loosen, thread by thread.

For more than a year, I have had pain in my right shoulder and scapula. I tried rest, I tried exercise, I tried medications — all with negligible effect. My masseuse, who visited the house last night — Ketut, by name — found the difficulty straightaway.

Ah, this hurts, yes?

Oh my God, yes!

After two hours of massage and reflexi (a strategic digging and gauging of the feet, I did feel better. Much, much better.

And I will call upon Ketut again next week.


Took a day trip to Ubud on Wednesday. Ubud is one of the five popular tourist locales in south Bali, to include Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu and Sanur. Ubud is different than the others in the sense that it is inland rather than on the coast. One drives up the gradual rise to the wide green plateau of rice tiers laying out like carpet before the mountains at the center of the island. Known for its ‘post-hippie’ sort of flavor, it is often promoted as the island’s ‘art and culture’ center, and was, as the reader may well know, the film location for Eat Pray  Love. Tucked into this especially green, especially lush part of Bali is the town of Ubud itself, along with its suburbs – a steaming, chaotic traffic jam that competes neck and neck with the island’s most stupendous jams.

But once you get out of the jam, Ubud is a pleasant little district to wander about in for a day. Our main destination, really, was place specializing in Kopi Luwak — a strong, aromatic coffee derived from, of all things, the waste products of a little critter called the Civit Cat. Here’s the story: During the time of the Dutch colonial era, the big land owners forbid the Indonesian people from using the coffee beans they farmed. They were to harvest them and prepare them, but then turn them over to the Dutch for their own use and for sale to European countries. But the Indonesians, always an industrious people, found that there was a certain little critter — enter the civet — which particularly enjoyed eating raw coffee beans. These could then be extracted from the civet’s waste, washed, filtered, cooked and so on, and, voila, you had coffee once again for the common people. Moreover, this coffee was particularly strong, aromatic and delicious. Sadly, however, this, too, was discovered by the Dutch in time. It is called Kopi Luwak and has become the Cadillac of coffees, available only at a high price (and therefore not generally available to common Indonesians, or to common people of any sort). A very small tasting cup of Luwak at this particularly tourist site goes for 50.000 Rupiah (about 5 dollars). Nor has it been a happy result for the civet, which is now hunted, captured and spends his life in captivity, eating as many beans as possible so that he can produce as much coffee as possible.



Upon entering the Sanur Starbucks the other day, I was greeted by the woman at the counter, who then said something that sounded like “Dee ozoo all?” I figured she must be speaking Indonesian and that this was a word I do not know.

Noting my failure to understand, she repeated the expression very slowly, enunciating each syllable. “Dee-Ooo-Zoo-All?”

Oh! Hang on … The usual! She was asking whether I wanted my usual coffee drink. Seperti biasa. Lol.

When you are expecting Indonesian, but English comes out, and yet with a heavy Indonesian accent, things can get confusing. The same thing happens with my own pronunciation of Indonesian words, wherein the response may be, ‘Sorry, I don’t speak English.’

In fact, it happened just the other day with the word Bingung, American pronunciation, ‘bing-Goong, meaning ‘confused’. And my American accent did indeed ‘confuse’ the hearer.

And then we have a third language called ‘rap music’, which is very popular among the young Indonesians.

So it happened that my friend, Iadi, wanted to know what does it mean, Ma Nigga.

Whoa, Iadi. It means that you, a non-black person, neva, eva say Ma Nigga!

House Hunting Once Again

As the year nears its end, we face once again the question of whether we will be able to remain in our present rental house or whether we will have to move. This is one of the more irritating features of Balinese society. The home owners are never sure whether they want to rent for another year, although they are sure, if they de decide to continue to rent, that they want more money for the ensuing year. The price tends to go up in increments of 5 million Rupiah (500 dollars, more or less). Nothing has changed about the house in the meantime. In fact, it is likely in somewhat worse condition than it was the year before, yet landlords are certain nonetheless that it must be worth more with each year. Like a collector’s item.

We have been in our present residence for almost four years now, and each year has ended in a (now predictable) back and forth negotiation.

First he will say, Hmm, I think I want to sell this house. You want to buy, yes?


No? Oh, hmm. Well, I think I must raise the rent. Thirty-five now. I make forty-five.

Oh, well okay — If so, we will begin looking for a new place.

What? New place? Why?

Why? Because that’s a ten million jump in the price, that’s why.

Oh! No, no. Did I say ten million? I meant to say five million.

For two years, yes.

No two years. One year.

No one year. Two years,

Oh, cannot do. Prices here very high. You cannot find for your price.

Actually, yes, we can. We’ve already looked at two.

Oh! Yeah? Hmm. Okay, I make a deal. Five million, two years. You stay.


So, it has been almost two years, and staying in our very small, very basic house will no doubt cost us significantly more than it is worth. So it does look as if we will be moving on to who-knows-where.

Personally, I hate moving. I get cozy in a place, I put down roots, I become intimately familiar with the neighborhood and the people. I find moving extremely unsettling. And finding a new house here in Bali is not a matter of just looking in the newspaper or going online. We have never found a place using that method. Most of the houses listed do not in fact exist. They have been bought or rented long ago. So what you do is you drive round and round through the neighborhoods, looking for houses with a sign on the gate. It’s not the most efficient sort of arrangement, but there it is.

So it happened that we looked at a house this morning, not far away from us. There was a sign on the gate. My wife called, and we went to visit the house. Nine of out of ten are bound to be dumps, and this one certainly was. Very small, dirty, unpainted, no toilet, just a hole in the ground. Nope. Not our cup of tea.

So the search goes on.

Or perhaps our landlord will change his mind. He has so far been quite good at that.

Glad to be Here and not There

Given recent events in America, the slaughter of hundreds of innocents in Las Vegas, the continued refusal of our congress to take serious, meaningful steps against the proliferation of guns and gun violence, I feel more grateful than ever to be living in Bali, where common sense rules the day, every day (except on the road). In Bali, private citizens are not allowed to own guns. The possession of guns is limited to the military and to certain branches of the police force. Of course, people are people, and there are bound to be violent people in every country. You may see, therefore, an incident involving a knife or a hatchet or what have you. But it would be very odd indeed (ie impossible) for someone wielding a knife to kill and injure more than 500 people at a time. And God help the man who kills even one person, for the response of the common folk will be swift and decisive. The police here are not really present in the same way that one sees in America. There is little in the way of police patrols and such-like. Mostly, they set up stops on main roads, if it’s not raining, and every passing motorbike is stopped and its driver checked for license and registration. It is a way of making some money for the force (and for their own pockets), as many motorists will be found lacking the proper papers. There is a special anti-terrorism detachment called Densus 88, which has been very effective indeed in tracking down and taking out those plotting terror attacks. Their motto seems to be “shoot first, ask questions later” (which seems to me a fair way of dealing with terrorists).

What is present in Bali, and is apparently less and less evident in America, is a sense of community cohesion and collective responsibility. Theft, in particular, is dealt with by those who witness the theft. Many of the local people in Bali have few possessions, and many of the possessions they do have are essential to their survival. A motorbike or a car, for instance, is a matter not only of conveyance, but of livelihood. They depend upon the vehicle for work, and they cannot afford to just run out and buy a new one, and, in many cases, there’s no such thing as ‘motor vehicle accident and theft insurance’. Thus, a thief caught in the act will be chased down by everyone in the area, and suffer a beating until the police arrive, at which point they may turn over the remainder of the beating to the police.

When someone is in trouble, bystanders respond. The call for help is not met with a closed shade or a locked door.

Every night, a member of the local citizen police (the pecalong) will walk a beat in the neighborhood, striking a front gate on every hour — one o’clock and all is well; two o’clock and all is well. They are employed by every local Banjar (community organization). Once a month, the Banjar collects a small sum for their services — about 5 dollars.

Ah, but what if the government becomes tyrannical and the people must rebel? They have no guns!

Well it has happened before, the people have rebelled, and neither rifles nor tanks nor helicopters, ultimately, could stop them. The idea popular among some Americans — that they must be armed should they need to rebel against the government — is on its face a damnable lie. For a citizenry that enjoys freedom and abundance and comfort unknown in many countries around the world, this conceit that one must arm himself for rebellion is nothing other than absurd. And in fact, one suspects that the rule of the rebels would be far more tyrannous than that of the government.

On the American Front

I have seen numerous editorials and comments post-Las Vegas shooting painting Americans as a people in love with guns. The fact is that fewer than 30 percent of Americans own a gun, while a lesser percentage of that 30 percent own multiple guns. A tiny percent of that lesser percentage are nut cases that own multiple guns. The fact is, most Americans would not know how to load, fire, or maintain a gun. Of the hundreds of people I have known in my long life, a mere handful have been gun owners. Most Americans, including gun owning Americans, are fully in favor of common sense gun control measures, from background checks to registration to limitations on automatic weapons. Let us squarely place the blame not on the American people or a fictional romance with firearms, but on the big money behind the NRA and the gun industry and its purchase of irresponsible, gutless politicians whose only shield is the shamelessly disingenuous hijacking of the second amendment for the sake of filling their pockets and advancing their careers. They are fully complicit in the murder that took place in Las Vegas.

Nusa Penida

Went for a short trip to Nusa Penida Island, about 20 minutes off the south eastern coast of Bali (Sanur beach) by fast boat. It is the largest of three islands just off the south east coast, the others being Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. Nusa Lembongan is better known and much better developed than Penida. Due to the lack of natural fresh water, little is grown or produced on Nusa Penida. and the tourist structure is very limited (though growing).

Nusa Penida is a very dry island indeed, as it receives very little rainfall throughout the year, and the rain that does fall, falls on the highest of the hills. The low lands have a grayish, ragged character, with forests of sticks rather than trees, and the inhabitants eek a spare living out of this land, growing I know not what. Many tiers have been cut into the soil, rather like the rice tiers in Bali, without the greenness of the growing rice, however. Nonetheless, there is apparently something beneath this rather cursed looking soil that is being harvested.

The tourist destinations on Nusa Penida are found in the truly scenic outcroppings of gigantic stone from the sea. Visitors who are more active, and younger than I, may walk down rugged trails to the beach far below. I gave this a shot at a site called Broken Rock on the second day, but soon found myself stumbling and exhausted, having to be helped along by two of our companions. Old age and poor health is a bitch.

On day one, we also visited Crystal Beach, one of the few accessible swimming beaches on the island. Unlike Bali, where the white beaches extend along almost the entire southern shore, the beaches on Nusa Penida occupy rare open spaces in the rugged coastline, and the ocean bottom is rocky and uneven, such that one has to painfully wade until he reaches water deep enough to swim in. You will find a couple of very simple warungs at Crystal Beach, and one very, very simple restroom, which you can use for a fee of 5 thousand Rupiah. Kind of a no other option option.

One cannot pass on Nusa Penida without mentioning the crude, Martian sorts of canals in the land which they call “roads”. All of these “roads”, no matter where they lead, go up and over the hills; paved, more or less, for a space, then unpaved, then unbelievable. Given that most tourist spots are about an hour away from the where one would find hotels or home stays, one’s tour may turn into a rough experience even from the seat of an SUV. Had I known of this situation, given my chronic back and neck troubles, I probably would have passed on any tour whatsoever, and hung out at the hotel instead.

And please don’t misunderstand the word “hotel”. Although there are now a couple of bonafide hotels being built on Nusa Penida, the existing accommodations are very simple arrangements, with bedroom, bathroom, and perhaps one chair. Our place, which was really rather expensive at 500.000 Rupiah per night, also had a communal swimming pool, which was nice, especially given that our party happened to be the only party staying there at the time.

I didn’t get much of a chance just to walk around the area,  which would have actually  been my preference if left to my own devices. The seafront here, as in many places, simply washed up against a retaining wall, and the shallows were being used for growing and harvesting seaweed in large, wooden enclosures.

Lastly, I must mention Goldie, the little dog who reckons that he owns the property. As the actual owner explained to me, Goldie will always bark at new arrivals, thinking that they are intruders, become friendly as he begins to recognize them on the grounds, and then confused when these temporary friends leave and new strangers invade the place once again. It is a life of constant interruption for Goldie. Perhaps he believes, perhaps he has faith, that one day people will  make up their minds and stay put, such that peace and happiness may at last prevail.


Before coming to Bali, I imagined that it, and that any tropical locale, would be teeming with exotic, and even dangerous critters. I imagined them slithering about beneath every bush, scurrying about in every dark corner.

Turns out, there are really not so many exotic critters in Bali. The most common critter one will see is the Cicak. This is a small lizard, about the size of one’s index finger, and it is your constant housemate, no matter where you live. They don’t bite, and they don’t bother anybody. They just run around on the ceilings and the walls, hunting insects, mostly, or crumbs of food. After a time, one barely notices their presence. One would more likely notice their absence —  like, huh, what happened to all the cicaks. They may occasionally startle you, if they happen to have gotten into the bed, for instance; or if their sticky little feet fail for an instant and they happen to fall on your head. But otherwise, they are harmless, and they make a point of staying out of your way.

Less welcome is their larger relative, the Tokek. The Tokek is perhaps a foot long, and less social that the cicak. Though one rarely sees them, he often hears them, for they make a peculiar sound, which itself sounds like their own name. The lizard will draw in a deep breath and then repeat, perhaps four of five times, “Toe-kay” as he expels the breath. They generally stay outdoors; although on one occasion, in the midst of a storm of flying brown beetles, two Tokek’s did pursue the (apparently) tasty flying morsels  into the house, scrabbling about on the walls, hiding behind doors, and generally creeping me out until they finally decided to leave, with the help of a broom. I do know of Tokeks who have set up residence in a house, by which the home owners seem unbothered, but, no, that’s not for me. While the Cicaks are kind of cute, the Tokeks are decidedly homely. Nor does one like them muttering “Tokek, Tokek” in the middle of the night.

Larger yet is the buaya — about the size of a small alligator. These guys do bite and are best avoided — and, thankfully, they feel the same about human beings. They stick mostly to the dense bush or to the tall grass of the rice fields. Some folks will hunt buaya and bring their catch home by the tail, to be the subject, later on, of a barbecue.

Many of the insects here seem to be on steroids. The grasshopper, for instance, is still a grasshopper, but perhaps 10 times the size of an Oregon sort of grasshopper. The first time I saw one of these guys on the wall, I was totally freaked. Silly, really, for, of course, they don’t bite, and they have no doubt found themselves inside the house by accident. Still, interacting with this enormous bug filled me with dread. Similar to the grasshopper is the preying mantis, a sinister looking bug to be sure. Additionally, there is also a certain sort of beetle that is about as big as an apple and quite indestructible with its armored shell. Like the grasshopper and the preying mantis, these guys will enter the house by mistake, and wonder only how to get back out again.

Which brings us to the universally hated cockroach. These guys do enter the house for a purpose, and the purpose is to gross you out. They are large and brown and can fly short distances, and they will actually bite if you give them time. One gets into the habit of shaking out a blanket before putting it on the bed, or looking inside a shoe before putting it on, and taking care when moving anything from any corner of the house, for a cockroach may well charge wildly from beneath the basket or the box. Why the Cicak is perfectly acceptable, yet the cockroach is not, I’m not sure. Like the spider, the cockroach inspires fear and disgust, and must be terminated with extreme prejudice.

There are snakes, though I have seen very few. Like the Buaya, they stick for the most part to the rice field and the jungle; although I did once find a long, black snake coiled up in the basin of my kitchen sink. There was also an event, a couple years back, involving a very large boa constrictor on the grounds of a certain resort in Sanur. A security guard picked up this snake in order to remove it, unwisely slung the snake’s body over his shoulder, and within a short time found the thing wrapped round and round his torso. The poor man was suffocated, squeezed to death, although several folks had tried to free him from the snake’s embrace. Other stories have snakes climbing trees and entering a house through a loose tile in the rooftop. Therefore, we avoid allowing trees to grow to roof height.  A former maid of ours once cut down a tree with a steak knife, explaining the snake/rooftop issue.

Ultimately, it’s the same everywhere when it comes to critters. In Oregon we have the deadly Brown Recluse spider, the tick that may carry Rocky Mountain fever, and of course the bear and the mountain lion and the rattlesnake. I lived with these critters there, and I lived with other critters here.  Each creature has its own place, and probably, as far as they are concerned, we human beings are the intruders.