Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Photo of the Day: Gunung Kawi

by Barrie | December 26th, 2010  
A breathtaking and awe-inspiring site located two kilometres south of Tampaksaring, Gunung Kawi is two rows of ancient royal tombs on the banks of the Pakerisan River deep in a ravine overlooked by terraced rice-fields. A long, steep stone stairway leads down to this ancient site.
The holy Pakersian River flows through the centre of Gunung Kawi cutting the site into two separate sections with a bridge to connect one side to the other. It is believed the holy waters of the Pakerisan sanctify Gunung Kawi, and the eerie beauty of the place is evokes a peaceful atmosphere. There is parity with the tomb of Artaxerxes II at Persipolis and the Ellora Caves in India with Gunung Kawi.



Friday, December 24, 2010

Seven Stunning Places in Bali

by Barrie | December 22nd, 2010  
There are so many places and objects to see in Bali that it would take quite a few years to see them all and, pretty much over the decades I have seen and explored Bali to the max. On my travels there are those places that I have re-visited and been disappointed mainly because of the ‘overkill’, due to the mass tourism that exists now on the island, where tourists and travellers alike are being charged ridiculous prices for entry fees and then getting hassled non-stop by persistent hawkers.
Then there are those beautiful, quiet places that were gems to find and these were generally off the so-called tourist track and now, as I am led to believe, are also being included on tour itineraries. So, I decided to put together a few gems that maybe some of you have already seen, but if you haven’t, then it will give you something to look forward to on your next sojourn.
Vihara Amurya Bhumi: On the outskirts of Blahbatuh in Central Bali there is a beautiful, secluded Chinese temple. I can guarantee that you have crossed the steel-girder bridge as you enter town plenty of times, but, if you had have stopped on the left-hand side after you crossed the bridge then you would have noticed a stone stairway leading down to the river below. Here you will find Vihara Amurya Bhumi. This is a stunning and large temple literally sitting at the base of a cliff and on the cliff walls, unique carved Bhuddas. Entrance is free but a donation would be appropriate.

Danau Tamblingan and Danau Buyan: A half hour drive north of Pura Ulu Danau Bratan on the road to Singaraja, there is a sharp turn-off to the left. You can’t miss it because there are heaps of monkeys on the road where people stop to feed them. Take the turning to the left and follow the road for about five miles and you will see on your left-hand side the twin lakes of Danau Tamblingan and Danau Buyan. There are plenty of places to stop and take photos here and the scenery is spellbinding.

Sanur Mangroves: Most of you will have driven along the Jalan Ngurah Rai bypass on your way to Sanur and you would have passed all the mangroves on your right-hand side. These mangroves are vital to the ecosystem of the area and you can actually walk along wooden walkways through the entire mangrove swamps to the ocean. There are two walkways and so, enter in one and walk back out the other. The people at the research centre located at the entrance are a boon of information.

Pura Luhur Batukau: What I would consider to be one of the most peaceful and beautiful temples on the island, Pura Luhur Batukau is located at the base of Gunung Batukau. It is the quietness of the area that I find appealing and the cool air is refreshing. Walking around this temple at the base of the mountain is surreal as is the reflective gardens.

Brama Vihara Arama: Without a doubt the most stunning Chinese place of worship on the island of Bali is the monastery of Brama Vihara Arama. Located not far from Singaraja just east past Banjar you will find the Buddhist monastery. The Brahma Arama Vihara is a spectacular place and is the most important Buddhist monastery in Bali. Complete with golden Buddha statues and a pristine natural setting, the most stunning part of this monastery is the miniature replica of Borobudur on the top level.

Amed & Surrounds: The east coast of Bali is in my opinion the most panoramic part of the island. Amed and surrounding areas are great places to stay and wile the days away far from the madding crowds of the Kuta tourist strip. Losmens and good hotels are clean and affordable, the diving and snorkelling is excellent and the locals, probably the friendliest that I have encountered.

Bunut Bolong: In the central-west of Bali you will find one of the most surprising and eloquent surprises, Bunut Bolong. The road actually goes through a tree. Of course there is a hole carved in it and it is a sacred place to the Balinese. Head west to Negara on the coast road and turn off at the town of Pekutatan. The long winding road up into the cool hills will see you passing by coffee and clove plantations and just as you turn the next bend, voila, there it is.

French Couple in Mystery Deaths

SINGARAJA

Mystery surrounds the deaths of a French couple at a small hotel in Banjar, Buleleng, on Monday. They were found dead in the bathroom about 7pm, only an hour after they checked in.

Police named the couple as husband and wife Oliver Marroni, 35, and Marron Scapin, 34. The woman was naked but the man was fully clothed.

Banjar Police officer Burhanuddin told reporters there was no indication of violence or of drugs.

Medicine was found on a table in the couple’s room and a bottle of alcoholic drink on the terrace outside.

Four staff members who dealt with the couple when they checked in at the hotel, Lumbung Bali Cottages, have given statements to police.

Police said on Wednesday the deaths had been reported to the French consulate but so far there had been no request for an autopsy.

Filed under: Headlines

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Purchasing Textiles in Bali

by Barrie | December 20th, 2010  
Everyone who visits Bali inevitably leaves with one kind of souvenir; it could be a T-shirt or some strange looking phallic symbol. However, for that special souvenir, and one that is everlasting, look at the options of purchasing a piece of textile. I don’t mean your wrap-around sarong but a hand-woven or loom created piece.
Don’t restrict your choice of textile to just Bali. Seek out those pieces made in Java, Lombok or Sumbawa. In fact, on the island you will be able to find quite a few of these pieces. Indonesians are renowned the world over for their textiles. Balinese traditional textiles are much more than simply decorative pieces of cloth. In Bali, the Balinese produce textiles for a variety of markets and, one of them the tourist trade.
Various forms of cloth are produced on the island of Bali and each one beautiful in its own right. Batik is a textile is manufactured mainly in factories these days but there are some smaller places in the outer lying villages where the batik process is still as it has been for centuries.
The two main styles of Batik are batik tulis and batik cap. The art of Balinese textile decoration is best expressed in skirt, chest and head cloths. There are three main categories of Balinese textile and these are Prada, Songket and Ikat.
The main batik manufacturing town on Bali is at Gianyar where many factories can be found and visited. Be warned though, the price you pay at the factory is inflated and you would be better of checking the street prices in markets such as Sukawati first. Be warned though that purchasing traditional cloth in the markets along the tourist strip will not give you the quality you will find in the places of origin. There are other traditional weavers in other places across Bali that weave stunning pieces of cloth and it is to these places you should visit.
Grinsing is one of the rarest weaving techniques practiced and you will find this textile in the traditional village of Tenganan, East Bali. Gringsing is also known as the ‘flame cloth’ and in this elaborate dyeing process both the warp and weft threads are carefully bound before dyeing. This creates numerous patterns that once finished seemingly fit together perfectly and harmoniously.
Tenganan is the only place in the world where the double-ikat process is practised. There are not many women left in Tenganan who know this practice of weaving but it is being handed down to the next generation. To weave a piece of gringsing could take up to three days but the finished product is superb. When you visit the village you are welcome to have a look at this weaving process and of course for a fee!.
Endek is a tie-dyed woven textile popular with most Balinese. Wooden hand-operated looms are used in the process of the weft-ikat method. This is where sections of the cloth are tied and then wrapped before immersing them into tubs of dye. The basic designs are irregular and soft wavy patterns. Also created are diamond designs and a zigzagging pattern. Endek is a versatile cloth for the Balinese because it can be worn for both daily use and ceremonial purposes.
Songket is a brocaded silk that has interweaving patterns of silver and gold thread and is classified as the ceremonial dress of all Balinese. Worn mainly on religious occasions, it is also worn to weddings, tooth filings and other important ritual events. The cloth is tapestry in appearance and has various motifs including wayang figures, birds, butterflies, flowers and leaves. The process of weaving is done on back-strap looms. Because of its thread and quality it is generally accepted that it is a wealthy man’s cloth.
Interestingly, the kain songket is bought in two pieces and then sewn together. The men wear the songket saput. This is a narrow piece of cloth worn over a sarung. Together with a songket udeng or head band this is for more formal and ceremonial occasions.
Decorated with silver or gold thread, kain prada is a lustrous fabric woven of cotton or silk. A ceremonial cloth, it is generally two meters in length and can take up as long as three months to weave from start to finish. Various patterns include lotus blossoms with swastikas as border decorations. These are however the most common motifs.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Beware of Those Who Say They’ll Save You the Bother of Voting

By Hector

How Indonesia chooses to govern itself is wholly a matter for Indonesians to decide. Those of us who live here without benefit of citizenship may merely observe the processes, form views about these and their utility or function, or more often the lack thereof; and if we can break through the all but impenetrable thickets of local culture, custom and language to make a point to our friends, and they choose to listen, offer our thoughts.

So it with that caveat in mind that non-national observers should demur at proposals to snatch back from the people a significant democratic advance but lately granted, by removing direct election of provincial governors and returning appointment of these people to the hands of the provincial legislatures.

This is not the way to go, if Indonesia is to construct a genuinely democratic polity (it hasn’t yet). It is the absence of a properly codified and constitutionally enforceable set of rules that is to blame: the simple matter of devising a compact to divide up power and allocate responsibility. It isn’t the governors and the expense they allegedly cause by being directly elected that is the problem. It is the absence of constitutional rules that govern the practice of politics and administration.

It’s clear enough that the present half-baked policy of regionalism isn’t working. But that’s not because it can’t work. It’s because the placemen in the apparatus of central power won’t let it. They want all the money: witness the departure from Bali of all of the visa income this island earns. It’s because provincial legislatures, like their national counterpart, are talking shops whose members aren’t interested in policy, preferring to waste their time bickering about politics and placement. And it’s because the incomplete and imperfect methodology of present regionalism policy has allowed regents (bupatis) – who in reality are merely local council administrators – to run their regencies as if they are fully autonomous states within some loose federation.

The present system isn’t working and needs revision. But the answer to pernicious and rampant national, provincial and district sloth and official theft is to agree on a workable system consistent with the regional differences in culture and ethnicity that so enrich Indonesia. Governors should be the real leaders of their provinces, not the creatures either of the president or their provincial legislatures. To achieve this they must be directly elected and have the constitutional authority to pull lower-level miscreants into line. To save costs all provincial and district elections should be held on the same date nationally, under uniform legislation that sets the electoral rules in concrete and which is rigidly enforced, no exceptions permitted.

How a new deal on regionalism should be achieved is a matter for national debate. It might start from the premise that at present nothing much works as it should. It must define financial and administrative responsibilities (it could start by making regents legally as well as politically responsible for ensuring that national and provincial planning and environment laws are enforced). And it should ensure that regional government is adequately and effectively funded.

Any system of devolved government is complex and will forever create argument over who pays for what. But central control, the only other workable alternative, is in the end vastly more costly in social disadvantage and potential conflict.

Flame Wars

It will surprise no one that Michael Made White Wijaya, MW2 for short, has no time for Hector or his doppelganger, a chap we know well who operates a Facebook from which MW2 long ago withdrew friendship. We think it was the references in The Diary to his formerly phosphorescent status that upset the self-proclaimed Sage of Sanur.

However, there are Facebook pages around where Hec’s mate and MW2 occasionally cross paths, though rarely swords. One instance of the latter variety did occur last weekend, however, when a mutual friend posted a list of countries that had failed to front their ambassadors at this year’s Nobel Peace Prize presentation in Oslo, at which jailed Chinese dissent Liu Xiaobo was honoured in absentia, and commented in passing that a number of African states, those for whom the yuan is a powerful persuader, were on the absentee list.

With his customary back-of-the-bike-sheds humour, MW2 advised in response that Chinese had a significant hair deficiency upon a part of the body about which he is apparently fixated but which diarists would not mention in print and that he therefore preferred Africans. Hec’s friend, having nothing better to do at the time and being in a playful mood, posted back: SCOOP! Made Wijaya HATES Brazilians.

It went downhill from there. The poor (and thoroughly nice) Facebook owner felt it necessary to post a warning that flaming – personal attacks on others – would be deleted. Wijaya nonetheless flamed back: “Do us a favour and unfriend the Heckler: he is a traitor to the cause of hacks without borders.”

Now we know that’s not true. Hec, who has been a hack since well before Wijaya first sprayed himself with Day-Glo, has crossed many borders in his time. It’s just that he finds uncouth and in-your-face blowhards tedious.

Thirsty Work

Rio Helmi, who has spent more than 30 years taking great photographs of Bali, had a big date at the Amandari at Ubud this week. He gave a talk about his latest book, Memories of the Sacred, at the resort’s regular Thirsty Tiger Thursday.

The book is a personal photographic record of Balinese ritual, trance and communal ceremonies; like all Helmi’s work it is a collector’s item. It would have been great to be there for the event but, schedules being what they are, Thursday afternoons just aren’t in the race.

That’s a shame. Amandari’s Thirsty Thursday includes canapés and laid-back tunes. Now there’s a recipe for decadence.
Wikied Ways

Last week’s Diary item on the WikiLeaks saga seems to have stirred the pot. All sorts of people apparently must have believed that The Diary is as taken in as them by the pernicious effects of modern instant celebrity, which creates heroes out of huff-and-puffs and mounts crusades from positions of one-eyed ignorance (that much holds true to historical practice).

So we’ll say it again: the benefits of hacking willy-nilly into national computer systems and spraying confidential information about like confetti are in fact rather less than crystal clear. Broadcasting masses of private conversations doesn’t help make things more transparent – even though transparency is an essential element of democratic government and must be sought and sustained everywhere – because all it does is fill the air with chaff that is then consumed by many who, while convincing themselves they are now informed, are and will remain ignorant of both the context and the full facts.

It also risks unintended consequences that Assange and his growing army of cheerleaders either don’t comprehend, or which they think should now be immaterial because confidentially has been rendered redundant by new technology.

Julian Assange is not a martyr. He is not Our Cyber Saviour. He is a meddlesome – and evidently mendacious – activist. He either doesn’t understand, or chooses to ignore, his responsibility (if he is a high practitioner of the arcane arts of “new journalism,” as he claims) to act responsibly and assess material objectively.

He has an agenda that has been deployed in his own interest. He asserts that this coincides with the public interest. In fact it is very far from clear that this is so.
City Slickers

It’s great to hear that Yemen, which is not exactly a haven of democracy, has committed to advance the cause within its own borders. We hear this from the Yemeni news agency SABA, which reported that the country’s deputy foreign minister, Ali Muthana Hassan, had made an important speech emphasising the importance of strengthening the democratic process by states and its impacts on economic and social development.

Apparently the minister was speaking at a forum on democracy held in the Indonesian city of Bali last week; or so SABA reported.

Going Cheap

Deborah Cassrels, the fun girl-about-town Sydneysider who like so many Aussies, adoptive or otherwise, now calls Bali home, gave Seminyak’s JP’s Warung Club a nice little plug in The Australian newspaper on Monday. She related how a venture into popular classics by its German operator, Diary friend Tom Hufnagel, had gone so well that classical music is now regularly on the repertoire in Jl Dyana Pura.

It all started with former busker and now lyric tenor Tarik Akman – he grew up in Germany but like all the millions of Turks in that country cannot be a German because, well, you have to be a German to be a German – wowing a packed audience from around the globe.

Seats at JP’s for that performance would have sold like hot cakes (or possibly Apfel Knödel) though. The Australian (we’re sure it wasn’t Cassrels, who’s a dab hand at counting the shekels) reported they cost 50 rupiah. Ahem.

diary@thebalitimes.comFiled under: The Bali Times Diary

Counter-Radicalisation Is Bedevilled by Fiery Pitfalls

By Abbas Barzegar

Many of us are still bewildered by the bizarre news of the 19-year-old Somali-born American citizen, Muhammad Osman Mohamud, arrested on 25 November for attempting to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. Putting aside questions regarding the nature of the FBI’s involvement in this case, it appears that despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on counter-radicalisation programmes in the United States, Europe and Muslim-majority countries around the world, a seemingly well-adjusted American youth is once again willing to carry out a horrendous act of violence.

If strategies to deter extremist violence are to be effective, we must take a serious look at some of their strengths and weaknesses.

Where the voices of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have faded, this new stream of at-risk youth are being inspired by the likes of ideologue cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Despite their small numbers and lack of mainstream followers, extremists like al-Awlaki disproportionately affect the discourse on Muslim-Western relations because their acts of violence capture the most headlines and provide ammunition to political opportunists determined to further complicate Muslim and Western world relations.

In an effort to combat the influence of radical ideologues, an entire cadre of Muslims leaders around the world has come forward with active campaigns to take the “Islam” out of “Muslim terrorism.” They aim to make clear that such acts of violence are not only morally repugnant but clear violations of Islamic principles and law.

For example, earlier this year an international group of Muslim scholars gathered in Mardin, Turkey in order to publicly refute the infamous fatwa (non-binding legal opinion) by 14th century cleric Ibn Taymiyyah that calls for violence against non-Muslim rulers. The fatwa has been used repeatedly as justification by extremists.

Similarly, earlier this year scholar Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri issued a 600-page fatwa condemning “Islamic terrorism.” Relying upon traditional sources and methodologies, scholars like ul-Qadri hope to break the monopoly violent ideologues have held over the discourse on Muslim and Western world relations.

Governments, civic groups and Muslim leaders around the world have supported these efforts in a number of ways. For example, in the UK the Radical Middle Way and the Quilliam Foundation have sought to educate the public about Islam, while at the same time promote a distinctly British Muslim identity for emerging youth. They do so with the help of prominent Muslim leaders like Hamza Yusuf and Abdul Hakim Murad.

While these efforts should be commended, many of them have fallen short of their mandate because of their largely non-political orientation. If de-radicalising potentially violent Muslim youth and deterring religious extremism is the aim, how can these approaches reach their target audience without offering a viable pressure valve in today’s intensely conflicted world? How can such programming influence the angry and disaffected to deter extremism?

It is common sense to most people that the acts of violence committed by groups like Al Qaeda and their home grown wannabes are political in origin but wrapped in religious ideology. Muslim youth today are enraged, for instance, by misdirected drone strikes in Pakistan that kill innocent women and children, and the seemingly endless oppression of Palestinians. Both Afghanistan and Somalia, today’s terrorist hot spots, have been failed states for two generations; the youth in these countries have only known social strife, war and failed promises from the international community.

It is these raw conditions that brew extremism. Nonetheless, counter-radicalisation programmes often shy away from difficult and direct political conversations. Instead, they overemphasise topics like the multicultural legacy of Cordoba in Spain, the inward spiritual teachings of Sufi sages, and the scientific achievements of the medieval Muslim world.

Muslim leaders and their allies in government and civil society must move beyond simply nurturing the “Good Muslim” role model and encouraging acts of good citizenship like charity and community service. They must realise that stories of water-boarding and pictures from Abu Ghraib will have a far more profound influence on shaping the political perceptions of Muslim youth than US President Barack Obama’s eloquent words of peace or the interfaith declarations of Muslim clerics.

If Muslim leaders are expected to guide their youth in a religious cause against violence and extremism they should also be encouraged to speak truth to power against issues of political injustice, which are real driving factors fuelling extremism. By ignoring this call, Muslim leaders and their allies will not only be seen by their target audiences as mere puppets of Western governments, but guarantee that those disaffected masses are forced into the shadowy world of extremist cyber space and the arms of figures like al-Awlaki.

Abbas Barzegar is Assistant Professor of Islam in the Department of Religious Studies at Georgia State University and Co-Editor of Islamism: Contested Perspectives on Political Islam (Stanford University Press, 2009).

Filed under: Opinion

Custom v the Law

In a country as vast size as Indonesia, a centralised system of jurisprudence is the only way order can be maintained and certainty provided for society. But here, nationally enacted laws are in many places made irrelevant because of the customary laws of regions.

This should not be allowed to continue.

In Bali, like many areas of the country, traditional ways are so strong – and in many spheres this is to be lauded and supported, in an era of tradition-destroying globalism – that the laws of the country are sidelined.

Governor I Made Mangku Pastika said last week he was powerless to prevent local laws – devised and enacted by local-level leaders – from usurping the laws of Indonesia, which are devised by representatives of the people from all areas of the country in accordance with our democratic system. It all shows a radical disregard for our still-young democracy. If change does not come about to right this legal uncertainty, of which there is much else here due in large part to the pervasive problem of corruption, the ambiguity will endure and corrode.

All regions of the country should be mindful of the common good – and if they are not, they should be informed though publicly funded community-education campaigns – and that customary laws must give way to the laws of the nation. We are not, after all, a collection of autonomous states.

This week there was welcome evidence of a shift, a yielding to the process of advance, however, when the High Council of Customary Villages in Bali ruled that women are as entitled to inheritance as men, in a landmark decree that should also see women entitled to claim custody of children and support payments in the event of a divorce.

It is admirable that such longstanding patriarchal traditions that have given men basic rights where women have none have been overturned; but not just that: it is a significant step towards bringing the island, and the Hindu religion and cultural precepts that define its unique status, into the age of equality in which the world (for the most part) now lives.

It is therefore to be hoped that many other areas of customary law will be adapted to modern-day life.

Filed under: Editorial

December 17-23, 2010

By Dr Robert Goldman

Longevity News and Review provides readers with the latest information in breakthroughs pertaining to the extension of the healthy human lifespan. These news summaries are compiled by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M; www.worldhealth.net), a non-profit medical society composed of 22,000 physician and scientist members from 105 nations, united in a mission to advance biomedical technologies to detect, prevent and treat aging related disease and to promote research into methods to retard and optimise the human aging process. Dr Robert Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., D.O., FAASP, A4M Chairman, and Dr Ronald Klatz, M.D., D.O., A4M President, physician co-founders of the anti-aging medical movement, distil these headlines and provide their commentary.

Tomato Compounds ‘Promote Healthy Skin’ 
Lycopene, an antioxidant compound found in high concentrations in tomatoes, has been shown by previous studies to exert beneficial effects on the heart, blood pressure, prostate and bone. M. Rizwan, from The University of Manchester, and colleagues studied 20 healthy women, average age 33 years, with skin types defined as phototype I/II.  Women either received either 55 grams of tomato paste (containing 16 milligrams/day of lycopene) in olive oil, or just olive oil, to consume daily for 12 weeks. The team found that the daily dose of ultraviolet light needed to cause skin reddening increased, from 26.4 mJ/cm2 at the study’s start to stand at 36.6 mJ/cm2 after lycopene supplementation, a result which shows an improved resistance of the skin to reddening among those subjects who consumed the tomato paste. Additionally, the researchers found that lycopene supplementation reduced the UVA-induction of the matrix metalloprotease enzyme MMP-1, which has a key role in the degradation of the extracellular matrix during premature skin aging. The team concludes that: “Tomato paste containing lycopene provides protection against acute and potentially longer term aspects of photodamage.”

Dr Klatz observes: Daily consumption of a lycopene-rich tomato paste reduces ultraviolet-light induced skin reddening, thereby adding to the growing body of evidence to suggest a functional health role for tomato compounds.

Adequate Sleep Leads to Lean Body
Previous studies have shown that inadequate sleep has adverse effects on energy intake and expenditure. Plamen D. Penev, MD, from the University of Chicago, and colleagues enrolled 3 overweight, non-smoking women and 7 overweight, non-smoking men, average age 41 years, in a two-week study involving moderate caloric restriction with 8.5 or 5.5 hours of night-time sleep opportunity. The team monitored for changes including loss of fat and fat-free body mass, energy expenditure, hunger and 24-hour metabolic hormone concentrations. Subjects who slept 8.5 hours nightly burned more fat than those who slept just 5.5 hours, with the latter group burning more lean muscle mass, experiencing hunger and expending less energy as a result of the lack of sleep. The subjects who slept for more than 8 hours lost an average of 1.4 kg, compared to 0.4 kg of fat loss in the sleep deprivation group. Explaining that: “The amount of human sleep contributes to the maintenance of fat-free body mass at times of decreased energy intake,” the researchers observe that: “Lack of sufficient sleep may compromise the efficacy of typical dietary interventions for weight loss and related metabolic risk reduction.” 
Remarks Dr Goldman: Middle-aged, overweight men and women who slept 8.5 hours nightly burn more fat than those who slept just 5.5 hours. This finding reaffirms the restorative role of adequate sleep.

Walnuts ‘Improve Stress Response’ 
Omega-3 fatty acids – such as alpha linolenic acid found in walnuts – are a type of polyunsaturated fat that may help to reduce the body’s biological responses to stress. Sheila G. West, from Penn State University, and colleagues studied 22 healthy adults with elevated LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, supplying each subject with meal and snack foods during three diet periods of six weeks each. The three diet periods consisted of: first diet as an “average” American diet – a diet without nuts that reflects what the typical person in the US consumes each day; the second diet included 1.3 ounces of walnuts and a tablespoon of walnut oil substituted for some of the fat and protein in the average American diet; and the third diet was comprised of walnuts, walnut oil and 1.5 tablespoons of flaxseed oil. The researchers found that including walnuts and walnut oil in the diet lowered both resting blood pressure and blood pressure responses to stress in the laboratory. Results also showed that average diastolic blood pressure was significantly reduced during the diets containing walnuts and walnut oil. The team observes that: “This is the first study to show that walnuts and walnut oil reduce blood pressure during stress. This is important because we can’t avoid all of the stressors in our daily lives. This study shows that a dietary change could help our bodies better respond to stress.” 

Comments Dr Klatz: Revealing that walnuts and walnut oil may help the body to better respond during times of stress, these researchers uncover a novel benefit for this food substance.

Anti-aging medicine is the fastest-growing medical specialty throughout the world and is founded on the application of advanced scientific and medical technologies for the early detection, prevention, treatment and reversal of age-related dysfunction, disorders and diseases. It is a healthcare model promoting innovative science and research to prolong the healthy lifespan in humans. As such, anti-aging medicine is based on solid scientific principles of responsible medical care that are consistent with those applied in other preventive health specialties. The goal of anti-aging medicine is not to merely prolong the total years of an individual’s life, but to ensure that those years are enjoyed in a productive and vital fashion.
Visit the A4M’s World Health Network website, at www.worldhealth.net, to learn more about the A4M and its educational endeavours and to sign up for your free subscription to the Longevity Magazine™ e-Journal.

Filed under: Longevity News & Review

Fates Sealed with a Kiss

By Novar Caine

It is extraordinary to think that while people cavort, oftentimes hedonistically, in Bali, at the other end of the country people are being whipped for minor transgressions, if even that. Things like kissing, an apparent shock-offence that saw an adulterous pecking couple publicly caned in Aceh last week.

Morality police in country’s northernmost province scooped up the amorous pair in October before they could engage in any further passion. Witnessed by a bloodthirsty crowd numbering in the hundreds the two – he 24, she 17 – were given eight lashes apiece at a mosque.

The medieval punishment follows the caning of two women in the decency-obsessed, tsunami-levelled province for selling food during the fasting period of this year’s Ramadhan.  

Lawmakers in Aceh caused uproar last year over their inhuman introduction of stoning for offences including adultery. Aceh’s governor has wisely refused to sign off on the legislation, but it may only be a matter of time before he caves in to Islamic pressure and the law comes into force.

Since the ordered era of the Suharto dictatorship ended over a decade ago, Indonesia has been caught in the flux of morphing into democratic modernity and hard-line Islam. There is no doubting the power and influence of fundamental Muslim groups in this country. They have our political leaders, nay our government, in thrall. At the same time the average Indonesian has little interest in religious zeal, preferring a life infused with internet-injected global values mixed with the country’s rich traditions and customs.

The danger is in the progression of hard-line organisations, some of whom want the nation run under Islamic law. This would be a peculiarity in Southeast Asia and Indonesia’s firm ties with Western powers such as the US and Britain, and especially Australia.  

Indonesia as an Islamic caliphate would turn it into even more of a magnet for terrorist elements. Jemaah Islamiyah, an Al-Qaeda-linked group in Southeast Asia responsible for much of the carnage in Indonesia over the past decade, including the Bali bombings, seeks to force the entire region into Islamic rule, a doomed strategy if ever there was one. But the Islamic organisations in our country are playing directly into the terrorists’ hands with their hard-line-religious goals. The electorate here would be wise to distance themselves come next election from any party currently enjoying the support of Islamic elements.

Otherwise we run the real risk of seeing barbaric punishments meted out right across Indonesia for so-called morality crimes. In Iran last week the supreme court upheld a sentence for a man to be blinded in an eye-for-an-eye verdict permissible under the country’s medieval, Islamic-based criminal code. Do we want that here?  

In our country there is so much fervour over what people are doing in private when the real problems dragging the country down are flourishing. Corruption is probably worse than it has ever been – under Suharto at least it was (allegedly) highly centralised – but now it has extended so far into every aspect of society and become so chronic that it has almost ground to a halt the wheels of government, justice and almost every other arm of authority. Some say the official clampdown on morality in places like Aceh is intended to deflect attention from official theft, and they may be right. As long as the media spotlight is focused on personal issues graft can grow unfettered.

So where does all this leave Bali? It’s not a Muslim place, we know, but increasingly people from all over the country are making their home here, largely for economic reasons because Bali is thriving with record numbers of foreign-tourist arrivals – way over two million this year – and that now means a sizeable Muslim population among us, evidenced in the growing number of mosques sprouting up around the island.

But unlike anywhere else in the country, ours is an island of peace, social harmony and tolerance. It is also a place of acceptance. Nowhere else in Indonesia are there such vast numbers of foreigners, for instance, holidaying and resident on the island. Bali is also the only location in the nation with a living culture that is based on Hinduism and aspects of tradition of it that are unique to Bali. All religions claim to be belief-sets of peace, we are told by their leaders and followers, but history and current headlines do not bear that out for all. The violent punishments of Islamic law dispel any notions of tranquillity.

For many, then, Bali is a haven from the ravages of hate-speak that fill other parts of the world, and our country. Long may it stay that way, even as others whip themselves into a froth-mouth frenzy for which there is no basis whatsoever in the 21st century.

Tweet with Novar @novarcaineFiled under: At Large

Groundhog Day Gets the Blood Boiling

By the time we’d negotiated the Saturday afternoon traffic from Ungasan to the Kuta hospital, the blood pressure reading of the driver and patient sent medical staff into a serious spin and the passengers needed a hefty sedative and a lie down.

We thought we’d left early enough to avoid the seething masses of maddened motorcyclists hell-bent on getting from southern Bali to their villages for the weekend. We’d miscalculated, badly.

Bikes wobbled and weaved all around, rocketing suddenly in front of us and screeching jerkily to a halt to avoid smashing into the vehicle ahead, causing us to slam on the brakes and pray that whatever was behind was alert enough to follow suit.

As they spoke and texted on their mobile phones, riders swayed across lanes and abruptly wrenched their bikes perilously close to us to avoid ditches and hazardously abandoned vehicles that must have broken down. Not so, The Playmate assured. Those cars had been precariously “parked” by mindless morons without an iota of thought for the safety and convenience of others.

Riders on bikes bearing helmet-less children zigzagged from one side of the Bypass to the other, across two lanes of traffic that had turned into four, sometimes stopping horizontally across the road to fit between the rear of one car and the front of another.

Then, with phones still plastered to their ears, they twisted their bikes into the general direction of forward and screamed into impossibly small spaces that were being diminished by car A on the left and car B on the right, both honing in on mid-point C ahead.

They’re going to get squashed, I gasped. “Silly unprintables!” shouted the normally mild-mannered Playmate, whose vocabulary has sunk to lows that reverse-match the highs to which driving in Bali pushes his blood pressure.

Into the combat zone loomed massive and under-subscribed tourist buses, plying the power of their bulk like military tanks, forcing aside the general troops and further hindering any prospect of orderly advance. Out of the blue and without a glimpse in any direction from their drivers, bikes, trucks and taxis shot into the melee from hidden side streets, adding to the heart-stopping hiatus.

“You unprintable unprintables!” shouted The Playmate. “Do you want to die, you pack of useless unprintables?” He caused the slow throbbing vein in my temple to pound about like a maddened Bali bike rider trying to get home for the weekend.

At the airport turn-off, police stood by as riders and drivers screeched diagonally across the intersection after the lights had turned red and before they’d turned green. It was the same at the Roundabout of Recklessness at Simpang Siur, where no one in control (or not) of a vehicle had the faintest idea of what that nice, newly marked area for bikes at the lights was for.

Here, last week, the police had again stood by as a rider who had missed her turn-off to Sanur jerked wildly to a halt across our front, as we were taking the Sunset Road exit, causing The Playmate to hit the brakes and utter a previously unheard unprintable as my head hit the window.

She, who had obviously woken up late and with a start, proceeded to walk her bike backwards into the traffic until she was sufficiently close to the turn-off she’d missed to swing her machine around in front of another car, causing it to brake and swerve as she returned to her dreams and sailed off towards Sanur.

There is little adherence on Bali to the requirement to wear a bike helmet, or turn on your lights. There is deliberate ignorance of the sign-posted rule that trucks and motorbikes should keep left and there’s no apparent effort to enforce it. Compliance with this rule would be a great start to better traffic flows and improved road safety. There are enough police at major junctions to start educating the wayward, and it would give them something better to do than waiting around for a green-looking bule (foreigner) to hit for some cash.

And how about all those kids, some only 10 or 12 years old, careering about bare-headed on motorbikes? That’s illegal, and it’s treacherous for them and others on the roads.

Back at the hospital, delayed by the journey and staff insistence on hanging onto The Playmate until his blood pressure subsided, we decided we were too far behind schedule to wait for the prescription to be filled. Instead, I went out for the medication the next morning, Sunday, when traffic was far less dense but just as daunting.

On Jl Raya Uluwatu, a woman wheeling a motorbike plunged without warning across fast flowing traffic, causing another episode of slam-on-the-brakes-or-hit-the-idiot. On Jl Kampus Unud, an approaching car decided without indicating to turn across the front of me.

Driving in Bali is like Groundhog Day. No matter how hard you try to prevent it, the same thing happens. Wake up, drivers and riders. Learn the rules. Acquire some patience. Use some common sense. Stay alive.

Perhaps our police could help the cause?

LCFiled under: ILAND

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Major Breast Cancer Drug Trial Disappoints

A major trial that aimed to see if a common bone-strengthening drug could help prevent recurrences of breast cancer found it did not benefit most patients.

The five-year study, known as the AZURE trial, followed 3,360 women with advanced breast cancer who had already undergone surgery.

The study randomly assigned some to take the osteoporosis drug Zometa, also known as zoledronic acid, in addition to standard therapy. Zometa is made by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis.

The hope was that it would prevent cancer from resurfacing, as it often does, in a survivor’s bones.

But the American Association for Cancer Research said the drug was found to have no impact on “disease-free survival” for the group as a whole.

“In the larger population, we did not see a difference,” said Robert Coleman, professor of medical oncology at the University of Sheffield in England, who presented the results at a conference in San Antonio, Texas.

He added, however, that there was a slight difference across age groups, with older patients faring slightly better on the drug.

The 30 percent of the group who were post-menopausal by at least five years, 1,101 in all, saw a 29 percent improvement in overall survival, which was “unlikely to be a chance finding,” Coleman said.

“We will clearly want to investigate further in this population.”

He added, however, that “the young patients are getting no benefit. If anything they are doing worse.”

Zoledronic acid is a bisphosphonate that works by lowering the amount of calcium released by the bones into the blood.

It is used to treat high blood calcium levels that can coincide with cancer and also to prevent fractures in patients with cancer.

Filed under: Health

Pfizer Pulls Thelin Due to Fatal Risk

US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has pulled its blood pressure drug Thelin off the market due to a potentially life-threatening risk of liver damage.

Pfizer said it was voluntarily withdrawing Thelin in the European Union, Canada and Australia and is also suspending all clinical tests on the drug that treats pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a rare, incurable disease that can result in heart failure and early death.

“While liver toxicity is a known complication of the class of drugs to which Thelin belongs, a new potentially life-threatening idiosyncratic risk of liver injury with Thelin has been observed,” Pfizer said in a statement.

“Given the availability of alternate treatments, Pfizer has concluded that the overall benefit of Thelin no longer outweighs the risk in the general population of PAH patients.”

The company said it had notified health authorities about its findings and its decision to withdraw Thelin from the market and stop clinical studies.

“Patients taking Thelin or participating in Thelin studies are advised to consult with their health care professional as soon as possible,” it said.

It added that patients should not stop taking Thelin until they speak with their doctor.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it had been informed of the move and would discuss the issue at its meeting next week.

Pfizer acquired the rights to Thelin – an oral, once-daily drug – when it took over Encysive Pharmaceuticals in 2008 in a 195-million-dollar deal.

Thelin had yet to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, which said it was not sufficiently effective.

PAH is estimated to affect 100,000 to 200,000 people in North America and Europe, including about 55,000 in the United States.

Though rare, the disease affects men and women of all races and ages, but is more common among women aged 20 through 40. The disease may be misdiagnosed as asthma, anemia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

PAH is characterized by high blood pressure and structural changes in the walls of the pulmonary arteries, the blood vessels that connect the right side of the heart to the lungs.

The pulmonary arteries become thickened and constricted, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood through the lungs, leading to fatigue and eventually to heart failure.

Thelin acts to dilate the constricted blood vessels, thereby reducing pulmonary arterial pressure and improving the heart’s performance.

Filed under: Health

Sidelining Christians in Arab World Will Be Our Downfall

By Hasni Abidi

Should we be concerned about the fate of Christian communities in the Arab world?

This issue hits the headlines time and again whenever a church is attacked in Iraq or Egyptian Copts are bullied. Most recently an appeal by a group of Arab intellectuals to rise above sectarian divisions was published in the French media following a gory attack against Iraqi Christians.

The media routinely characterise the disappearance or wholesale departure of Middle Eastern Christians as “imminent” or “unavoidable.” And the trend has been to explain the dangers facing the Christian community as a result of the rise of “radical” Islam. This explanation reinforces the idea that Christians are victims who must be “saved” from Islam.

This coverage also provides the opportunity for Arab governments to escape responsibility by blaming religion for any political or social unrest, thus renewing their lease on legitimacy on the cheap.

Conversely, some Western opinion leaders do not realise the impact of statements asserting, for instance, that the end of colonialism deprived Middle Eastern Christians of valuable support from Europeans, or calling Arab Christians “Westernised Arabs”. Such remarks ignore the importance of Christians’ ideological contributions to Middle Eastern societies, and the fact that in the mid-20th century it was Christian elites who imagined, conceived and carried the inspiring project of Arab unity.

The concept of Arab nationalism, conceived in part by Christian Arab intellectuals, such as Michel Aflaq, the Syrian founder of the socialist Ba’ath party, was based on the idea of a social body where clan, tribal and religious divisions would be subsumed in the nation, or even in the Arab community. Arab unity was the avenue to a pan-Arab state bolstered by the values of reason, citizenship and modernity.

Despite efforts for pluralism, such as the UN coining 1999 the Year of the Dialogue of Civilisations, the international community seems to be blind to the real challenges of diversity in the world in the past decade.

Celebrating coexistence is not the only response. Dialogue between cultures at the international level can succeed only if it is paired with changes at the national level. How can cultural coexistence be promoted if, within national borders, the cult of the dominant faith, or indeed the one-party system, still exists? Governments in Arab countries should protect their Christian citizens instead of bringing to court men and women who have chosen a way other than that of the majority.

Multinational organisations can also lend their support. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, in addition to defending Muslims living in the West, can also advocate against the abuse inflicted on Christians in the Middle East.

Some voices, including that of Saudi Prince Talal ibn Abd al-Aziz, the brother of King Abdullah, warn that the departure of Christians would be a threat to democracy and modernity in the Arab world. More such voices should speak up in order to initiate a long overdue debate about the living conditions and rights for religious minorities. A failure of democracy, in which citizens lack equal rights under the law and where there are few checks on leaders’ powers, is largely responsible for the current disaster.

To say that Christians should merely be “tolerated” in the Arab world is grossly unfair. Christians have always been an integral part of the land where they were born and raised, the land of their forbearers, the land of the Bible. They are not a recently imported religious minority that deserves our charity. They do not come from a foreign country. They are active citizens of their homeland where they should have the choice to remain.

If they leave, it will be the end of our history and the beginning of our downfall. The fate of Christians in the Middle East is linked to the fate of the Arab world as a whole.

Political analyst Hasni Abidi is Director of the Study and Research Center for the Arab and Mediterranean World in Geneva.

Filed under: Opinion

Places to Visit in Bali: Tenganan

by Barrie | December 16th, 2010   Tweet
Tenganan is the most famous Bali Aga (original Balinese) village and is located close to Candi Dasa in East Bali. Villagers maintain a strict cosmology and social organization. Villagers must live inside the village and marry from within. There are parts of Tenganan, outside of the village proper, where villagers who have married outside of the village can live and complete outsiders have yet another part.
Tenganan produces fine basketware and a double weave ikat, called geringsing, the only such place to be found in South-east Asia and one of only 3 in the world. Visitors to Tenganan can wander around the long rectangular village, which is laid out in tiers, wide stone steps in between. Tenganan is closed to outsiders after dark. The pura puseh (temple of origin), which is in honour of the village founders, lies outside the village walls to the north. At the other end of the village, just inside the entrance is the bale agung, the long rectangular bale where the village council meets.
Legend has it that in the 14th Century, King Bedauli, the ruler of Bali, lost his favourite horse and offered a reward to anyone who could find it. The horse was eventually found dead near Tenganan and local people asked to be given the land as a reward. The king sent his representative to decide the boundary of the land to be given, and told him to include all the land where he could smell the dead horse. The local village chief accompanied him couldn’t figure out how he could smell the horse wherever he went, eventually drawing wide boundaries. Apparently the village chief had a chunk of horse meat inside his clothes. The descendents of the chief now work as money changers in Kuta.
The thing Tenganan does have is unique cultural history and a special weaving tradition. There are only 600 families in Tenganan, and locals are forbidden to marry outside of the village. If they do, they are banished from the village forever. A Tenganan local once told me that there are really 3 parts to the village, the western part, which is the proper part, the north eastern part which is where exiled locals go, and the south eastern part, where outsiders, Javanese and other Balinese live.
Tenganan is one of only 3 places in the world, the others being India and Japan, where a double ikat is woven. In a double ikat (cloth), the weft (longitudinal) and weave (lateral) threads are tied separately before being dyed, creating an intricate pattern. A single ikat takes 5 years to make and is used in religious ceremonies.
There is a 3 day festival held once a year in the village called UDABA SAMBAH and held mid-year usually in the months of Juni/Juli. When you visit Tenganan try and get there early in the morning to avoid the tourist buses as it does get quite like a circus. Best times are before 10am and after 4pm. The village is closed to outsiders and visitors after dark. Be aware also that you will have to pay a small parking fee outside.

Hotel Boom in Denpasar

by Barrie | December 15th, 2010   Tweet
It appears there is a sudden rise in hotels in Bali’s capital of Denpasar. Although for most tourists the idea of being dragged away from the vicinity of the beach and shops during their stay in Bali, they really are missing out. Of course there are those people who take the ‘cultural tour’ of Denpasar and get back to Kuta ASAP. But, this is great news for tourism in Bali.
The capital of Bali can now, hopefully, attract more tourists than it usually does. Denpasar is a bustling and energetic city that possesses a lot of attractions for tourists and travellers. A great majority of tourists dislike the city preferring the madness and mayhem of Kuta but I reckon it is a fabulous city to explore and has some excellent eateries.
In an article I read the new phenomenon of “city hotels” cropping up across the island’s capital of Denpasar is amazing. According to the article: By their estimation, there are now around 8,000 hotel rooms in Denpasar, prompting the Denpasar, Bali chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) to undertake synergistic promotion programs with the municipal government.

Rail System for Bali?

by Barrie | December 17th, 2010   Tweet
In the last few weeks there has been some banter about a Bali rail project. Considering you can drive to most places from Kuta in a matter of a few hours, the whole concept of constructing a railway line, supposedly circumnavigating the tiny island seems futile to me. There were a few factors that summoned up this brainwave and the two prevalent were traffic problems and pollution.
Although I am a great lover of train travel, having travelled by rail extensively on the other islands in the archipelago, this whole concept to me I look at from a conservationist point of view.
We already all know that has some of the most stunning landscapes and panoramas in Indonesia but, at what cost will the construction of the new railway be. The ecosystems and the environment will be the victims in all this as they are ripped up to accommodate the railways lines and accompanying infrastructure.
According to the article I read regarding this: The chief of rail transportation at the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation, Tunjung Indrawan, told NusaBali that the Japanese government is actively pursuing a role in the Bali rail project via continuing discussions between Indonesia and Japan.
Tunjung confirmed that any eventual rail system for Bali must include private sector participation, saying, “studying from the Japanese transportation system, the participation of the private sector is essential together with support from the central and provincial governments.”
Delightful as an attraction for tourists as it would be, I personally feel that the environment is far more important.
What do you think?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bali Travel Warning for Dengue Fever

by Barrie | December 18th, 2010   Tweet
The climate in Bali is one that is a natural breeding ground for germs. Add to that some of the local methods of washing and cooking and so its no wonder tourists get ill occasionally, and now, the Health Department in Australia has put out an alert regarding Dengue Fever and the growing number of people suffering the malady is increasing. In fact, there had been over 430 reports of dengue fever in West Australians this year and that is a threefold increase on last year.
Dengue Fever is transmitted by a virus carried by mosquitoes. Today I read about this potentially deadly disease and the symptoms can develop within three to 14 days of being bitten and include fever, vomiting, severe headaches, aching joints and muscles, rashes and pain behind the eyes.
There is no medication to stop or treat dengue fever. This mosquito tends to attack during the day and is slightly larger than the malaria carrying variety. In an article I read the Health Department suggested people take the following precautions to avoid being bitten by dengue fever infected mosquitoes:
Ensure accommodation is mosquito-proof. Use mosquito nets, insect sprays, mosquito coils or plug-in
insecticide mats in rooms
Wear long, loose-fitting, light-coloured protective clothing
Use tropical strength personal insect repellents
Ensure infants and children are adequately protected, including using infant-strength repellents
Most 5 star hotels smoke out their gardens every couple of days to keep mosquitoes away. One good piece of advice is to ensure you have travel insurance so if you do contract this disease, you ill be covered for treatment at one of the excellent facilities in Bali.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Indonesian Lives with a French Twist

Around 7,000 Indonesians currently live in the French territory of New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific as a result of a relatively little-known chapter in the history of Indonesia, writes University of Tasmania Indonesian culture and language lecturer Pam Allen

Aged 65 and still working as an engineer in Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, Djintar Tambunan is a member of an unusual minority. He is one of very few Indonesians in New Caledonia who speak fluent Indonesian. His Javanese wife Soetina does not. Nor do his two adult children. Like most of their Indonesian friends, their preferred language is French.

Born in Belige, on the shores of Lake Toba, North Sumatra, in 1945, Tambunan (as he prefers to be called) moved to the Pacific Island of New Caledonia during the mining boom in 1970. He came to work for the big construction company Citra, and has remained there ever since. He describes himself as part of the third wave of Indonesian emigrants.

Who, then, comprised the first and second wave of emigrants, and what were they doing in New Caledonia? Djintar Tambunan’s story, and that of the 7000 or so other Indonesians currently living there, forms part of a relatively little-known chapter in the history of Indonesia. Like the history of the Javanese in Suriname in South America, and that of the Cape Malays in South Africa, it is an intriguing story of the tension that results when populations move, or are moved, to new surroundings.

That first wave of Javanese emigrants comprised 170 contract labourers, who arrived in Noumea in 1896. Forty-two years earlier, Napoleon III had established a penal colony in the French possession of New Caledonia. Most of the convicts transported there were political prisoners from the Paris Commune. In 1894, the French Governor of New Caledonia, Paul Feillet, abolished penal immigration and replaced prison labour with Asian immigrants, mainly from Japan, Java and Vietnam, who came to work in the mines and on the plantations.

Initially sent to work in agriculture, from 1899 the Javanese began working in the mining industry, which offered better pay but more difficult conditions. They were expected to work long hours with pick and shovel and to put up with demanding French employers. Once their contract term had ended, some returned to Java. But many remained in New Caledonia, a choice that robbed them of their right to repatriation. It was a choice that also brought with it the burden of paying the costs of finding new employment.

The second wave of immigration of Javanese occurred in the years preceding World War II when the New Caledonian economy faced a chronic labour shortage with a boom in nickel and coffee production. Between 1933 and 1939, over 7800 Javanese left Java for Noumea. Many of these had been signed on to five-year contracts by recruiting agencies. When they arrived they found employment in agriculture and mining, as well as in domestic labour.

The most compelling contemporary relic of the first and second waves of Indonesians in New Caledonia is the abandoned Tiebaghi mining village in the remote mountainous region near Koumac in the north. This was the destination for many Indonesian contract labourers (both new immigrants and locally born) between 1896 and 1949. In Tiebaghi, the Javanese worked underground in the lucrative chrome mine, alongside Vietnamese and Japanese, all valued for their agility and small physical stature, which ostensibly made it easy for them to negotiate the underground tunnels.

The mine site and the relics of the mining village are currently being restored by the Association for the Protection of North Caledonian Mining and Heritage. They harbour a wealth of information about life in the multicultural mining community which, as well as housing the Asian labourers, was home to Italian, American, French, Caledonian, Wallisian and Melanesian miners and their families.

While language prevented some non-French speaking Javanese from mixing with the other ethnic groups, sport, music and theatre brought everyone together. The Javanese played soccer for the Tiebaghi team, the Chromes, and photographs abound of them playing a variety of musical instruments, including guitar and accordion, and performing classical Javanese theatre in the Tiebaghi Club. While most were Muslim, there was no mosque in Tiebaghi, so prayers were conducted at home.

The New Caledonia-born descendants of the first and second wave Javanese emigrants, such as Tambunan’s wife Soetina, are referred to as niaouli, after the niaouli tree, a hardy eucalypt that is emblematic of New Caledonia. There are differing views as to why this name was chosen to refer to the Javanese. The more prosaic view is that it simply refers to the fact that the Javanese were as resilient and adaptable as the niaouli. The more romantic view is that the name was given because the Javanese mothers working in the coffee plantations had the habit of hanging the sarong in which they cocooned their babies on the branches of niaoulis as they worked. Behind this, however, sits a somewhat less romantic context. Apparently Vietnamese women, being French citizens, were allowed maternity leave as afforded by French law. By contrast, Javanese women had no such entitlements and had to return to work, with their babies, immediately after giving birth.

The third wave of emigration, of which Djintar Tambunan was a part, comprised approximately 600 Indonesians who came to New Caledonia during the nickel boom between 1967 and 1972, to work on renewable annual contracts, mainly in the construction industry. The Javanese earned the reputation of being industrious workers. According to Tambunan, only a few of those third-wave migrants remain in New Caledonia; the vast majority moved back to Indonesia and some have passed away. Those who remained in New Caledonia worked – and in some cases continue to work – in a variety of industries including engineering, transport and infrastructure development.

In addition to these three waves of migration, there were other categories of migrants. Suminah (who calls herself Evelyne when she goes to France) is an example of a wong baleh – an Indonesian who was born in New Caledonia, was repatriated to Indonesia but later returned. Suminah moved to Indonesia with her mother in 1953 and then four years later returned to New Caledonia because her mother was unhappy with the move.

Suminah is married to Andre Vaquijot, whose father came to New Caledonia from Java in 1902. Unlike his wife, Andre cannot speak Indonesian, although he understands it. Andre provides an interesting example of linguistic proficiency not being a prerequisite for cultural affiliation. Both he and Suminah are active members of the Indonesian Association of New Caledonia, in which Andre holds an executive position.

Shirly Timan is an example of a wong jukuan, or someone born in Indonesia but brought to New Caledonia by local Indonesians. Often these are women coming to get married. Shirly, who teaches Indonesian at the Indonesian Consulate in Noumea, came to Noumea twelve years ago to marry her niaouli husband. She spoke no French when she arrived and earned her living as a singer, an occupation in which she is still engaged. Now, however, she is sufficiently fluent in French to be able to use it to teach Indonesian.

The tension between cultural hybridity and ethnic cohesion is evident among the Indonesians in New Caledonia. It is a tension that was faced by those early agricultural and mine labourers, who had to learn to speak French and eat bread rather than rice, but remained Muslim and loved to watch wayang performances. This tension is also felt by contemporary Indonesians who, while holding French passports, speak Javanese at home and are enthusiastic participants in events organised by the Indonesian Association of New Caledonia.

Analysis of demographic patterns in New Caledonia reveals that there is no distinctive “Little Indonesia” in Noumea nor are there Indonesian towns; Indonesians are dispersed throughout the country. The Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Noumea (established in 1951) plays an important role in supporting and promoting Indonesian culture. The consulate runs dance, gamelan and pencak silat (martial arts) classes, which attract both Indonesians and those from other ethnic groups. The twice-weekly Indonesian-language classes are also well-attended. A significant number of the students are niaouli, many of whom travel regularly to Indonesia.

While the majority of Indonesians in New Caledonia are Muslim, the mosque does not appear to have a strong role in the promotion and preservation of ethnic cohesion. The Islamic Centre of Noumea does organise religious celebrations and holidays, sometimes in cooperation with the Consulate of Indonesia, but the Islamic community in New Caledonia is multi-ethnic in nature, comprising Arabs, North Africans, Africans, Yugoslavs, Melanesians and French, as well as Indonesians, with the current Imam being from Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, current figures suggest that although there are about 3000 Muslims in New Caledonia, only a couple of hundred actively practise their faith.

However, there are a number of Indonesian associations in New Caledonia. Marcel Magi is one example of a niaouli who felt increasingly embarrassed that he could not communicate with his aunts, uncles and cousins there. Prompted by his sense of linguistic disconnectedness from the land of his ancestors, he wanted to forge some group and ethnic cohesion among locally born Indonesians. To this end, he was behind the establishment in 1999 of a group called Asal Usul, meaning Origins. The stated aim of Asal Usul is to safeguard the cultural identity of the Javanese in New Caledonia.

The various branches of the Indonesian Association of New Caledonia – whose president is Djintar Tambunan – also regularly organise events and celebrations designed to reinforce a sense of Indonesian identity. For example, a commemoration has been held to honour the arrival of the first Indonesians in New Caledonia, held annually since 1996. The official description of such events, in the press and on the consulate website, is couched in rhetoric about the importance of the Indonesians feeling “equal” to their “Caledonian brothers” and being “up to par” relative to other ethnic groups. There is also a strong sense of pride in the achievements of individual Indonesians in New Caledonia, such as the success of Member of Parliament Rusmaeni Sanmohamat, the sixth vice president of New Caledonia. While diverse in interests, orientation and background, the Javanese of New Caledonia demonstrate a pride in their ethnic heritage and actively seek to nurture and maintain it.

This article is reproduced with kind permission of Inside Indonesia, where it initially appeared.

Filed under: LIFE

Thursday, December 16, 2010

5 Million Foreign Tourists in Bali by 2015?

by Barrie | December 2nd, 2010   Tweet
I can recall back in the late 80’s and 90’s when the amount of tourists inundating Bali became too overwhelming. It seems to be happening now with cheap flights to Bali from Australia and other regions in South-east Asia and for Australian tourists, the exchange rates for the Oz dollar has made an even better reason to visit Bali.
In the last two decades of the last century there was a growing concern as to the point whether or not the tiny island could sustain such a dramatic impact on the environment. Although, up until now, it appears to maintain a manner of status quo there is one big factor causing concern now; water. Can the water table sustain such an influx of tourists? Without building desalination plants somewhere on the island the answer is ‘No’.
And now, according to the article I read in the Bali Discovery, the Governor of Bali wants to double foreign tourist arrivals in four years. This would be great for the Balinese but what concerns me is the amount of land being chewed-up to build hotels and resorts, the drain on water resources and other environmental impacts.
As the article states: Bali’s visionary governor I Made Mangku Pastika remains confident that foreign tourist arrivals will continue to grow, reaching 5 million visitors by 2015. If achieved, this would be a more than 100% increase from the 2.3-2.4 million foreign visitors projected for all of 2010.
Will this prove disastrous for the idyllic island or will Bali become another statistic in global tourist destruction. Let me know what you think.

9 Great Reasons to Visit Bali Now

by Barrie | December 10th, 2010   Tweet
Bali has been rockin’ n’ rollin’ big time of late with visitor numbers to the island increasing beyond all expectations. Now is a great time to visit with so much on offer for the traveller. The weather is perfect with sunny days and cool breezes off the ocean.
Not only that, Bali and its beautiful people are glowing. Everywhere you go in the countryside the jungles are lush-green and the padi fields aglow with colour. There is so much to see and do that at times one is spoilt for choice and fitting it all in for the period you are on the island. Right now is the right time to visit Bali. Airlines are offering fabulous deals and it is their competitiveness that is a winner for all of us.
Cheaper than Ever to Visit: With the US Dollar in decline it has made most major currency rates rise to great value; especially for Australian travellers. More Rupiah for your hard-earned means more to spend! One thing to note, when changing money at a money-changers only use those that are authorised. The others offer a high rate of exchange and that’s a sure sign you will pay a hefty commission. So, get out there and spend, and…enjoy!
Good Shopping: In Bali this and can be overwhelming, especially for first-timers. It seems that everywhere you go all the vendors have virtually the same products for sale but, at different prices. Besides local markets there are several shopping centres and handicraft outlets for you to visit and enjoy. Always make sure you bargain ther price. Unfortunately this is not allowed in the major shopping centres as the prices are harga pas or fixed price.
Good Range of Accommodation: There are hotels all over Bali in one form or another, but the greatest concentrations are in the main tourist cities in the south of the island. When searching for a hotel in Bali it’s first very important to make sure that’s what you are, in fact, looking for. The great thing about Bali is that no matter what your budget there is a place for you. Of course those with the money have on offer a great selection of luxurious hotels and resorts spread around the island.
Amazing Culture: The numerous facets of Balinese culture are truly amazing. Religion plays a dominant role in the lives of the Balinese and is an integral part and includes every aspect from birth to death, life-cycle and daily rituals. Balinese Hinduism is animistic at core. It lacks the traditional Hindu emphasis on cycles of rebirth and reincarnation, but instead is concerned with a myriad of local and ancestral spirits. Visitors to Bali will be immediately aware of the strength of the local culture and its Hindu based religion.
Jumping Off Point Base: Bali is ideally located within the archipelago of Indonesia to afford tourists the opportunity to visit other regions such as East Nusa Tenggara, Kalimantan and Java. In fact, there are virtually flights going to most of the islands from the domestic terminal making it possible to add a few days experiencing another culture. There are so many other islands that you will find interesting and, they are all reached easily by local air carriers such as Garuda Indonesia, Mandala Air, Lion Air and many more. So, if you are in Bali and want to experience a different culture or just want a couple of days in another part of Bali, do so because you won’t regret it.
Travel is Easy: Around town there are many taxi companies and the best being Blue Bird, which has light blue cars. They can also take you around up country for a price but you can find better. Perama Tours are one of the best and affordable companies to get anywhere you want on the island. Or, if you like, rent a car or a motorbike. Everywhere you walk along the tourist areas you will be offered a Bemo for rent. This is one good way of getting around but bargain the price.
Best Food: Travellers to Bali are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to food. There are a multitude of international restaurants serving all manner of scrumptious food. In reality, tourists never have to veer too far away from relatively safe eating, that is, unless they wish to immerse their palate in the savoury foods that Indonesia has to offer. In this case you will find a superb array of foods from around the archipelago in various places. My favourite place is Jimbaran Bay for a seafood feast. Definitely must be on your list of things to do.
Adventure Tourism: There is a virtual plethora of adventurous things to do in Bali besides the great surfing. On offer are kayaking, canyoning, deep-sea fishing, water rafting and paragliding. There are several reputable companies that organise these activities. If these are a tad too adventurous for you then take a leisurely cycle ride in the countryside or a camel ride along the pristine beaches. Climbing a volcano is another popular activity but it is highly advisable that you obtain the use of a local guide for this venture.
Diving Paradise: Among the reasons why Bali has a few dozen scuba diving companies is that they are set up for all skill levels, from the absolute beginner to the lifelong expert looking to combine some diving with an unforgettable trip to an island paradise. The crystal clear waters off the coast afford some spectacular view of coral and a range of colourful fish that will astound you. Also on Bali you will a few great

A Few Balinese Ceremonies

by Barrie | December 12th, 2010   Tweet
Bali is renowned as being the island of the Gods. There are countless ceremonies at whatever time you visit the island throughout the year and you will have many opportunities to see religious ceremonies; at temples, in house compounds and even on the streets. Being in Bali lets you experience the endless series of offerings, purification, processions and dozens of other religious rites that Balinese devote their lives to.
Balinese culture revolves around Agama Hindu, the local version of Hinduism. The highlights of this culturally religious observance are the upacara (ceremonies) that are colourful and frequent. The most important ones are Galungan, Kuningan, Tumpek and Nyepi to name a few.
There are those ceremonies that a majority of travellers to Bali are unaware of. Here are just a few.
Bersih Desa: This ‘ritual’ is an expression of appreciation to the fertility Gods such as Dewi Sri. Subsequently, this ritual takes place around the period of the rice harvest. I suppose you could call it a ‘village spring-clean’! Roads and paths in the village area are repaired. Houses and other buildings of importance are cleaned, as are most of the garden areas within the village. Whatever needs painting gets painted, and in general, the whole village is renewed in appearance.
Hari Raya Sariswati: Batari Dewi Saraswati, the beautiful goddess, was the wife of Brahma. She was the goddess of the arts, sciences and learning. This day is to commemorate her and nobody on the island is allowed to write or read for the day. Special ceremonies are conducted by a pedanda early in the morning at the Pura Jagatnatha temple in Denpasar. On this day, books are offered to be blessed by the Gods. Hari Raya Saraswati is a day of appreciation when wisdom was brought to the world by the Gods.
Pagerwesi: Literally interpreted means ‘iron fence’. It is a day when man should fortify the space around himself to fend off evil spirits – the continuous battle between good and evil. Pagerwesi is a day of offerings requesting spiritual strength when confronting the life-cycles of suffering and worldly fulfillment. It is also a day of offerings for the protection of the village and families and the world around them. On this day, villagers take offerings to cemeteries for the un-cremated dead. As on the day Galungan, on the day of Pagerwesi ‘penjors’ are raised which makes it a day as almost as important as Galungan. You will find this ceremony almost strictly observed in the regency of Buleleng – the northern regions of Bali.
Melasti: The day before Nyepi. Everybody knows that the day of Nyepi is a day of silence, but, the day of Melasti is far from that and especially at night. It is a day when the villagers purify the deities – known as ‘Pratima’ – with water. This is the day when the villagers, dressed in their finery and carrying long-poled umbrellas, proceed in lines towards a source of water – a holy spring or the sea. In this procession, the women carry offerings of fruit and sweet cakes and flowers, and the men carry the sacred family statues on bamboo litters. Upon arriving at the water source (generally the sea), the pedanda prays and rings his small bells whilst the men carrying the litters rush the sacred figures into the water symbolically washing them and thus purifying the statues.
On the day of Melasti, you will also find the offerings of the flesh of domestic animals at crossroads – the haven of the evil spirits ‘bhuta‘ and ‘kala’. The offering of flesh is to placate these demons. Later in the evening, all hell breaks loose with all manner of noise and din created to awaken all the evil spirits and demons. This is the most spectacular part of this day.
There is also another very important ceremony called Eka Dasa Rudra. It is a ceremony to restore balance in the world and, is the most important and biggest religious ceremony on the island of Bali.

Image of the Day: Lombok Sunset

by Barrie | December 5th, 2010   Tweet
It had been a fourteen year hiatus since I last visited Lombok; properly, having only passed through there on my way to other islands in the archipelago. The sister island to Bali hadn’t really changed that much apart from the Senggigi area; the tourist mecca on the island where most of the five star hotels are located.
Considering my visit was a relatively short one the decision was obvious as to my choice of accommodation; the upmarket Senggigi Beach Hotel. Okay, it was going to cost for a few nights but compared to Bali it was cheaper and, I had all the luxury amenities at hand [not that I used them].
After hectic days of travelling around the island, researching and photographing, it was delightful to return to my small cottage on the beach and lazily soak up the sunset from the perfect view of my balcony.

Jalan Legian in Kuta Becomes a Mall

by Barrie | December 8th, 2010   Tweet
The idea of creating a Mall in the heart of Kuta, Bali by sealing off sections of Jala Legian has been bantered around for the past few years. The greatest objection to it was that it would be difficult to funnel the already heavy traffic around the Mall area. Now, the idea has become a reality and I am pleased.
In an article I read, Jalan Legian – between Bemo Corner and the Jalan Patik Jelantik intersection – was closed on Saturday, November 27, 2010, from 10:00 pm until 5 am. For those of you that know this section of road then you will know how excessive the traffic is. It’s always been a cough-spluttering walk along there!
So, if you are heading to Bali then look forward to a relaxing Saturday night along this stretch of road where you can walk in relative safety, enjoy the several nightclubs along this stretch or shop to your heart’s delight. Personally, I would like to see this ‘car-free’ zone nights on a Sunday as well as the Saturday.