Tag Archives: Sanur

Ants: Part II

So last week I had to get ants off my mind, which now seems a little absurd and entirely self-indulgent but since I promised a Part II, I guess I should follow through. And really this should be the more interesting of the two because not only am I going to include some videos but I’m also hoping to make some more insightful commentary. Granted, said commentary surrounds ants and their behavior, but there are some parallels between the eusocial insects and things here in Bali.

The first has to do with traffic and driving.

Now, I’ve written in these pages about the traffic in Jakarta, and while the traffic in Bali isn’t quite as bad it’s not exactly flowing. Many of the roads are too narrow, the ones that are wide are over-crowded with both cars and motorbikes, and, most relevantly, drivers here have their own ‘style’ of driving.

This ‘style’, for lack of a better term, is both aggressive and passive. It ignores much of the standard rules, like staying within one’s lane and/or waiting for a clear opening to enter a road, and yet it has its own conventions. For example, a high-beam flash that would ‘I’m yielding to you’ in the US, here means the opposite; essentially, ‘Get out of my way.’

But amidst this significant amount of confusion, ignorance of traffic protocol (because despite the actions of drivers here, the written rules of the road are just about the same), and the limited road-space that only becomes more limited with the lack of parking (cars (or buses or) can be parked seemingly anywhere here; on the curb/sidewalk, on streets that should be one-way but aren’t, behind a row of already parked motorbikes… you get the picture), it all works. The point I’m trying to make here is that Indonesian driving; especially the way motorbikes crawl through traffic at stoplights and find spaces unusable for cars ,is a lot like watching ants. The patterns can be hard to visualize or understand but they’re there and there are, maybe not rules, but guidelines. It might look messy and confusing and borderlines dangerous, but there’s a system. I think.

Next, I want to return to a book I cited in Ants: Part I and one that I’ll refer back to again, Bali: Sekala & Niskala, by Fred B. Eiseman, Jr. In Eiseman’s chapter on cremations he writes:

“When the big day is finally picked, an unbelievably complex, interlocking series of preparations is set into motion. And yet, in spite of the thousands of little details that must be attended to, there is no checklist of tasks, no boss who assigns jobs and see that they are carried out. Somehow it all works out, in typical cooperative Balinese fashion.”

Now, I mentioned above that ants are ‘eusocial’, which, according to Wikipedia is the “highest level of organization of animal sociality,” and because of this, ants are able to achieve pretty remarkable things. Here’s where the videos come in:

(Ok so no videos at the moment because of some technical difficulties but here are some snapshots from the vids)

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 4.19.57 PM

Some ants at my house doing some very impressive ant things. I’m pretty sure those are fish bones and they’re trying to carry them up the wall. I came back to the house like three hours later and they were still working on it.Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 4.20.35 PM

 

 

So while it’s always dangerous to compare things like a human society, with all its intricacies and conscious thought, with that of a chemically-automated social structure (Maybe? Don’t ants communicate with chemicals? But I guess so do we in a lot of ways, too. Right?), but I’m going to do just that.

Balinese society – especially the way in which everything gets done with no outright or imposing leadership and how everyone knows their task, seemingly without being told – looks a lot like ants to me.

So there you have it; just around 1000 words on Ants and Bali. I’ll be moving away from Formicidae-related topics next week so stay tuned and make sure to check out my podcast with Louis Rive. It’s called The Frying Pan, and this week we’ll be talking about the frustrations of foreign bureaucracies which is a lot more interesting than the bureaucracy itself.

Ubud is Brooklyn

It’s always dangerous to compare places, especially when they’re 10,000 miles away and have entirely different histories, societies and politics, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Ubud is the Brooklyn of Bali.

I feel confident making this analogy because, while I came up with it on the fly while having a coffee in a really cool warung kopi called Tutmak, I actually had to articulate it on the spot to two people who know Ubud relatively well (certainly better than I do) and who ended up at least agreeing with the premise.

Tutmak sits on the northeast corner of an impressively long football pitch-cum-park in the middle of Ubud and while its rear looks out over the pitch, the front faces Jalan Diwisita, one of the town’s narrow roads that is lined with restaurants, bars, and shops. It’s got three different levels and platforms where you sit on pillows (which isn’t as rare as it might sound). In other words, it’s a cool spot. There are lots of cool spots in Ubud just like there are lots of cool spots in Brooklyn but really that’s just the most facile parallel.

Both the origin stories of Ubud and Brooklyn’s current generation of coolness began around the same time. Vice moved to Brooklyn in 1999 and has since made billions as both the mouthpiece and id of the hipster (my) generation. A few years later, Elizabeth Gilbert ended her memoir-inducing year of travel in Ubud where she found the conclusion to what would be Eat, Pray, Love and made the village destination for self-seekers.

Now neither Vice nor Gilbert invented their locales, but I don’t think I’m giving them too much credit when label them as progenitors to a movement; the flag to which others have rallied. I would not be surprised if there was a strong correlation between housing prices in BK and the number of foreign tourists that arrived in Ubud.

And here, as a good friend of mine would say, is the rub. Brooklyn and Ubud are (were?) cool because they don’t (didn’t) have the Wall Street types or expensive rents and don’t (didn’t) have resorts or bused-in-tourists. Both have fallen victim to the paradox of attracting the very things whose absence made them attractive in the first place.

But Brooklyn and Ubud are still there. Despite all the hipster-nostalgia that says they aren’t what they used to be, they are still unique and cool and hip and fun. There’s a quote from HST that I posted a couple days ago and I think it’s relevant here:

“San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.”

Neither Brooklyn nor Ubud will have the political or social power that came from the San Francisco of Thompson and Kesey and Garcia, but maybe in five years, or six, maybe a lifetime or a main era, we’ll be able to look back at Brooklyn and Ubud with a sense of nostalgia, as places where some special things happened.

Also, Sanur is Queens.

The Post That Isn’t

I’m late in writing this blog post. I had planned to write it either last night or this morning but my dad wanted to skype last night and I was too tired after, then this morning I “Google Hungout” (is that what it’s called? Maybe just “G-Chatted” but then that doesn’t include the whole vidoe calling) with my sister who then encouraged (read: coerced) me to watch a four-part, 40-minute interview with Kendrick Lamar, in which he decodes his “capacious new record” To Pimp a Butterfly (Interscope, 2015). She’s currently researching a paper that compares Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Lamar’s new album. Or the rapper’s entire ouevre, I’m not sure she’s come to a hypothesis yet. And she wants my help, which I can’t in good conscious refuse since I was the one who suggested the topic in the first place. All I’ve read from FD is The Gambler and half of The Double, but I figured that there must be some parallel between 19th century Russian lit. and modern, if not avant garde, hip-hop. Then it was lunch, then I had to go to the airport, then I had futsal with the Bali Pugs, then I had a very tasty if contentious dinner and now I’m here, a few hours late and with no discernible topic to write about. Which is in itself relevant, because I had a skype with my mom yesterday morning (I’m not sure the last time I spoke to them all within a 24 hour period) and I really had nothing to talk to her about at the time either, which was a little awkward until she prompted me into a basic Indonesian history lesson that more or less covered Nusanatara. Read about it, it’s basically the Indonesian version of Manifest Destiny but without the overt racism.

The point is that I hadn’t gotten the chance to write this post until just literally right now and, again, without anything to really talk about and without any time for my normal in-depth research and mental, physical, and psychic preparation, you’re left with this. Which isn’t much, but I hope you’ll take five to ten minutes out of what is sure to be an unproductive Friday (because, let’s face it, it’s early May and it’s going to be nice out and you’re still in disbelief that it’s acutally, finally getting warm out) to read a 400+ word blog from some schmuck who’s living in fucking Bali of all places. So there you go, I’m at about 420 words or so and I think, if anything, I’ve made Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld proud because this has been a post about absolutely fucking nothing. But I wrote it and you just read it and that’s all that really matters.

Speaking of 19th century Russian lit., did you know the original title for War and Peace was War, What is it Good For?

 

The Leviathan, Amended

In six years of studying International Relations one hears a good deal on the power of The State[i]. In the first couple weeks, you learn how The State is a social contract between individuals to escape their ‘State of Nature’[ii] and The People give up some of their absolute freedoms to allow The State to have what’s called a ‘monopoly of violence’.[iii] After this, the conversation turns to how, why, and in what ways this monopoly of violence is manipulated, restricted, influenced, and undermined by things that happen outside of centuries old political philosophy tomes, but it is on this monopoly of violence that the global system of states is founded.

This week saw two events (good news/bad news kind of thing) that show pretty clearly the power of The State is not just some vague concept parried about in ivory towers. The first is the execution of eight prisoners convicted of drug crimes in Indonesia and the second has to do with the Byzantine bureaucracy of immigration.

Let’s begin with the bad news from Nusa Kambangan, the prison-dotted island off Java, where early Wednesday morning a firing squad executed seven foreign nationals and one Indonesia. The foreigners were from Australia (2), Ghana (1, although he was supposedly Nigerian with a fake Ghanaian passport), Nigeria (3), and Brazil (1) and the governments of both Australia and Brazil (along with the governments of France and the Philippines who also have citizens set to be executed) have lobbied the Indonesia government to spare those convicted for a variety of reasons[iv] but Indonesia, as a sovereign state, had every legal right to do exactly what it did.

The Indonesian government had and has these rights because its power does not come from other states but from its own population (theoretically speaking) and although poll numbers are hard to come by, there seems to be widespread support for the death penalty. So until the Indonesian people change their mind and the wheels of democracy turn away from capital punishment, the firing squads on Nusa Kambangan will continue. It’s also worth noting, albeit depressingly, that the US is still executing its citizens[v], some of whom are clinically insane and/or mentally handicapped, as well as those of other nations at an alarmingly immoral (not to mention extremely undeveloped country-esque) rate.

Now for the good news: Nadia, my partner-in-crime, got her Tourist Visa to the US so we’ll be heading there at the end of this month. She had been denied twice at the American consulate in the Netherlands but this trip to the Surabaya version of the same went much better.

That said, I’m beginning to build a strong dislike for immigration authorities and their regularly arbitrary, burdensome, and otherwise absurd regulations and requirements. After living in the conveniently open EU, albeit on two student visas, dealing with the bureaucracy of both the US immigration and Indonesian immigrasi is very quickly driving me to the libertarian side of this issue and allowing for the free flow of people wherever we/they damn please.

So there you go, just over 500 rather inconsequential words on The State and its power.

Merdeka atau mati.

[i] This basically means national governments but using the term ‘national’ is something academics would call “dangerous” since every self-proclaimed nation doesn’t have a state that is recognized by the international community, which leads us down a whole other rabbit whole that I spent several months researching and about ten of thousand words describing.

[ii] Which is “nasty, brutish, and short”

[iii] I.e. The State, as a representative of its population, is the only organization that can arrest, coerce, punish, execute, make war, et cetera.

[iv] The Philippines probably have the best case judicially speaking. Their citizen, a mother of two, likely had drugs unknowingly planted on her and she was unable to defend herself at her trial due to a lack of translation services.

[v] Perhaps the one difference between the two – Indonesia and the US – is that under Indonesian law, capital punishment is used for drug trafficking offenses and 15 other crimes (including murder) and not just murder as it is in the US. The flawed argument used by the Indonesian government is something like: “33 Indonesians die every day from drugs and it is the traffickers who are responsible.”

Athletes Anonymous

Hi my name is Rowan and I’m addicted to playing sports. I first got hooked probably around the age of eight or so and have been pretty consistently playing some sport or another since. When I don’t play sports regularly I get grumpy and depressed.[i] I don’t mean to make light of actual addictions but I’m pretty sure this is one of mine so when I moved to Jakarta in January, I pretty quickly looked up, hunted down[ii], and joined a pick-up basketball game on Mondays and Thursdays in Hall C of the Gelora Bung Karno[iii] Sports Complex in the Senayan neighborhood of Jakarta.

The GBKSC – apart from a number of basketball, badminton, and tennis courts, a swimming complex, minor football pitches and a plethora of other facilities and stadiums- houses the Stadion Utama Gelora Bung Karno (Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium), the home of the Merah-Putih.[iv] The complex was built for the 1962 Asian Games with a generous grant from the Soviet Union and from the look of Hall C, hasn’t been funded much since.

The gym was hot and tight and the floor was something hard that I’d never seen a gym-floor made of before (and I’ve seen a few gym-floors in my time) but the competition was decent[v] with some impressively skilled players- some of whom took full advantage of their home-court rims, and I met a few good guys including a couple Americans that were working in JakTown. I was just getting into a rhythm and getting some good runs in when we[vi] decamped to Bali, leaving both our little three-room apartment in Kalibata City and Hall C behind until the next time I’m in Jakarta on a Monday or Thursday.

Fortunately, upon arriving in Bali I walked right into the Bali Pugs Football Club (est. 2009). Our trial visit to Bali happened to coincide with the playing of Super Bowl XVIX and I watch that glorious occasion with a fellow from Seattle who has lived in Indonesia since 1999 but during that time has kept up impressively with the North American sporting landscape. He also co-founded the Pugs six years ago and has been co-captain ever since.

I’ve played futsal[vii] with the Pugs for the past two months and, while we had a beach soccer (which is a stupid sport and one of the few I really don’t enjoy) tournament last month and a few challenge matches over that time, tonight (Friday, the 24th of April, Year of our Lord 2015) is our first competitive tournament, so I’ve written this to kill the time until I need to put on the sacred Orange and White and head to Sanur Futsal for our 1900h kickoff. So there you go, first post. And, omitting footnotes, under 500 words. PFL.

 

Update: Champions

IMG_5075

[i] Quick anecdote: After Nadia and I moved to Bali we were heading back to Java for a weekend and I tried desperately to time it right so I could go. I forget exactly why but I ended up not being able to and was grumpy for much of the trip because of it. I think the sign of a true addiction is when it starts affecting those around you so, ya. I think we’re there.

[ii] Quite literally had to hunt down… The first time I went looking for the GBKSC, Google sent me to another Bung Karno Sports Complex about a kilometer away (which, in Jakarta’s traffic, can take an hour if you’re unlucky) and I had to take another taxi and a then walk 15 minutes to find the right spot.

[iii] Bung Karno is the nickname of Indonesia’s first president Sukarno.

[iv] The Red and White, Indoesia’s national colors and the nickname of their national football side.

[v] High enough for me who hadn’t played very much at all in the previous eighteen months…

[vi] Myself and my partner-in-crime Nadia who I’m sure will be featured heavily in Sem Stories

[vii] This is really all that Indonesians play for lack of better facilities. It’s five-a-side including a keeper and played on a pitch the size of a basketball court that’s made of the rubber-pellet turf stuff that leaves you with little black spots all over even after you shower.