Thursday, 23 December 2010

Bungklang Bungkling: BURON by Wayan Juniartha

Taken from ‘Bungklang Bungkling’, ‘Buron’, a column by I Wayan Juniartha, published in Bali Post, Sunday 9th December 2010.
Translated by Putu Semiada.

BURON (Animal)

Are ‘status’ of human beings are higher than animal?

“It’s a very easy question. Of course human beings are. That’s why when one does bad things, people will say that his behavior is like an animal,” says I Made Darmawacana (I Made Preacher).

Everyone nods. It is understood as they are all human beings. It’s human that they are happy when they are said to have high status. They might not just nod but they would also clap their hands if one said that they had the highest ‘status’ in the universe.

“That’s why a stupid person is called calah kebo mabaling gong (lit: like a buffalo watching gamelan); one who looks confused, called cara siap sambuhin injin (lit: like chicken being feeding black rice); one who does not appreciate one’s kindness: nyicing singal (lit: an evil mind dog); profiteer: lintah darat (lit: leech); one who is ‘afraid’ of his wife: paid bangkung (lit: bitten by pig), “ adds I Made.

Everyone is amazed by I Made’s opinion.

“Animals’ names are used to swear too; cicing nani (lit: you are a dog); bojog pelung (lit: you are a monkey), which means that animal’s ‘status’ is lower than human being.”

Everyone nods. If they keep doing this, they ‘deserve’ to be legislative assembly members. The main ‘qualification’ to be Legislative Assembly members is to ‘keep nodding without having a headache and being dizzy.

“Wait a minute, do you think that human being’s status is higher than animal?” asks I Ketut Nyem Lalah (I Ketut Tasteless and Hot).

When an animal kill other animal, it is because it is hungry. When it is full, it will stop chasing others. Human is not like that. Even when one is already full, he will still want more. One even fights to have more fortune, fights against each other because of a woman, and fights to have more political power.

That’s why countless wars have been created by human beings, from wars during kingdom eras, World Wars, to Iraq-Iran and Afghanistan wars. Animals never make wars.

“Have you ever seen any animal burn its friend’s place, rape its friend’s female, fill up lake to be used as recreation spot for tourists or ruin forest for building villas. Have you?” ask I Ketut.

Nobody dares to answer. All of them shake their heads.

“Have you seen animals produced guns, canons, bombs and tanks to kill other animals, have they made atomic bombs, or nuclear bombs?”

Everyone shakes his head. Of course they’ve never seen a monkey carries an AK-47 or shoot a human being. What they know is that it was the USA who dropped bombs in Japan.

“Now, isn’t it clear for you who is good and who is bad, who is greedy, who often creates riots, animal or human being. Answer me,” says I Ketut emotionally.

Everybody is quiet. Their heads bend down. Nobody gives comments.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Bungklang Bungkling: Galungan (Balinese Hindu Holiday) by Wayan Juniartha.

Taken from ‘Bungklang Bungkling’, ‘Galungan, a column by I Wayan Juniartha, published in Bali Post, Sunday 12th December 2010.
Translated by Putu Semiada.

Galungan (Balinese Hindu Holiday)

The palm toddy stall has been quiet these days due to the Balinese Hindu Holidays (Galungan and Kuningan). It is not because they have given up drinking nor become members of FPI (Forum Pengeng Inguh = Association of the Depressed and the Crazy)*.

“It is quiet because most of them are drinking beer and coca cola. Having received their holiday allowance (THR), they think that drinking tuak is less prestigious,” says I Made Butha Dungulan (I Made Evil Spirit During Galungan).

Only I Made and I Ketut Labuh Gentuh (I Ketut Sacrifice Ritual) are at the palm toddy warung. Both of them did not receive THR: they are unemployed so our friends do not get THR.

“It is quiet as they are at the other place,” says I Ketut.

What he means by ‘other place’ is the cock-fighting, Chinese card and domino card gambling arenas.

“The strange thing is that Balinese men try to wake up very early in the morning. They try to finish praying at family shrines and temples as fast as they can. Then they will play Chinese cards and go to cockfighting until late.”

Another ‘good thing’ about our holiday: the gods and our ancestors come down from heaven to visit their ‘children’ on the beautiful island. But, the strange thing is that only women are busy in preparing offerings; how they suffer pain in their waist from carrying offerings to many different temples. How they suffer pain in their knees from climbing flights at stairs of the temples and how their colored nails get spoiled from making offerings, and how their make up looks messy having carried offerings on their heads to many different temples.

It is great to see what men do but they don’t have much to do. They are just busy in the morning preparing food which they will eat themselves. Next, they make penjor (bamboo pole with decoration).That’s what they usually do. But they always claim that they have done a lot of things; they say that they are tired, complaining of having pain in their waist, and then they go to bed. After that they would go play Chinese cards.

It is great to see too, how there is more and more cockfighting and gambling, more Chinese card gambling and magic ball (bola adil) gambling when the gods come down to earth. And more and more beers are requested.

“Only Balinese can combine gambling and ritual; after praying they gamble, only Balinese men can celebrate Galungan by drinking, playing Chinese cards, and fighting with their brothers,” says I Made laughingly.

Only Balinese can celebrate the victory of dharma (good) against adharma (evil spirit).

“Other religions do not celebrate their holiday like we do. Usually after praying they listen to preaching for hours telling them what they should do and what they shouldn’t do, which makes them bored. Next, they have to give donations to unprivileged people — such a monotonous celebration,” adds I Ketut.

“I think Balinese Hindu is the most cool and colorful religion,” says I Made while belching after enjoy sipping palm toddy.

Other religions have too many rules but Balinese Hindu is very flexible. You can go to cockfighting (tajen), as long as you still have some money to return home; you can drink as long as you are not totally drunk.

“One doesn’t need to give donations to unprivileged people either. On the other hand, if one is too poor to pay fees (iuran) for the village (banjar), he will be ‘isolated’ (kasepekang) by the villagers and his belongings will be taken. For ‘most’ Balinese Hindus, they prefer spending money for love affair than giving donation to unprivileged people. According to them, it is all right for one to have love affair as long as it doesn’t ruin his own family,” says I Ketut laughingly.

“Ruining your own family due to your love affair is not a good thing indeed, let alone separating from your wife. If you lose your wife, who will take care of the offerings during Galungan holidays. You cannot count on the café girls as they just want your money; they can not make offerings (nanding canang).”

“Our religion is the best, I think: I will be a Hindu forever,” says I Made.

Happy Galungan! Let us maintain dharma and Balinese culture by ‘doing cockfighting’, drinking, fighting your brothers, and ‘isolating’ our unprivileged brothers.


*Also the Radical Islamist Group.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Bungklang Bungkling: Insurance (Asuransi) by Wayan Juniartha.

Taken from ‘Bungklang Bungkling’, ‘Asuransi’, a column by I Wayan Juniartha, published in Bali Post, Sunday 5th November 2010. Translated by Putu Semiada.

Insurance (Asuransi)

It is said that most Balinese did not care to have health insurance in the old days.

It was probably because there were only a few kinds of ‘serious illness’: mostly ‘illness’ was due to black magic or hallucination (kepangor) which means that the cure process didn’t cost much nor was it complicate. Anyone who suffered from black magic was brought to a balian (shaman) with a small offering (pejati) and a small fee (sesari) for the shaman.

As for those with hallucinations (kepangor); the family only needed to apologize to the gods (guru piduka) who might feel ‘insulted’. They also needed to give a small fee (sesari) to the temple priest to have the holy water (tirta) which had been ‘blessed’ by the gods (wangsuh pada).

“If the gods were All Merciful, then one would get well, but if the gods were bad tempered and revengeful, one would die”, says I Made Katulebo (I Made Scorpion) laughingly.

The process was not complicated and the result was fast: that’s why they didn’t need health insurance.

A Balinese did not need life insurance either. When he died, everything would be taken care by the banjar (village community). He would get his grave at the cemetery. If his family could not afford a cremation, the village council would be responsible for the cremation of the corpse.

“The banjar was responsible for everything, from the beginning, when one dies until one becomes ‘deified’ ancestor. So one needs not worry,” adds I Made.

Everyone nods but doesn’t give any comment. They are all thinking about what would happen to their savings if had an insurance agent whose manager was been busted by the police.

These days one needs health insurance more than before as there are more and more kinds of illness, such as cancer, rabies, etc. The strange thing is the ‘illness’ the legislative members suffer from that make them enjoy going anywhere they want for a holiday (using other people’s money). Another ‘strange illness’ is the president and ministers suffer from, that is ‘dirty mouth’ (bungut maong) which makes them talk bullshit that is not funny at all but brings more problems instead.

“Even though such an ‘illness’ does not make a legislative member, minister or the president die, it does make people sick—of their attitude—and get depressed.”

Modern medication is very complicated and expensive too: and results often take time.

“A patient might have medical treatment in a Public Health Centre (Puskesmas) for one week, then another week in a local general hospital; next he will be sent to Sanglah Hospital. He might be there for another week. After one month, he might die.”

We may describe the situation like this: the sick person (patient) may die, and his family will bear a big debt from the hospital charge, doctor’s fee, medicine and ambulance which sometimes costs one a plot of land. That’s why health insurance becomes more and more important (for Balinese).

Today, even when one dies, a large amount of money is still needed for a funeral. It will be even more costly when one wants to be buried like a high ranking official whose graves are concreted with marble veneers. And it will be even much more if one wants to have a huge cremation like the cokordas (kings), with huge cremation tower (bade), and coverage by television stations. Another cost arises when one has problems with the village during one’s life. When one dies, one’s family must pay an amount (penanjung batu) to the village council) to ‘solve’ the problem. Otherwise, his corpse will not be taken care of by the villagers.

“You need to have life insurance too, so when you die you don’t give problem to your brothers—so they can ‘share’ the funds as well, happily.”

I Made talks too much. Everyone gets upset.

“You talk too much, De. The most important thing now is how the people (krama) can get their money back from the illegal insurance company,” asks I Wayan Sigug Segul (I Wayan Always Complains to Something He doesn’t like).

I Made just smiles.

Well, in this case, I have no solution. But I know how to prevent people from putting their money in this kind of insurance company. They have to join the insurance which is called “Common Sense and Not Greedy Insurance.” Balinese have been cheated several times — there was KKM before, now Balicon — it all happens because they don’t use their common sense and are too greedy in wanting some profit without working hard.”

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Bungklang Bungkling: Kredit by Wayan Juniartha

Taken from ‘Bungklang Bungkling’, ‘Kredit’, a column by I Wayan Juniartha, published in Bali Post, Sunday 28th November 2010. Translated by Putu Semiada.

Kredit (Credit)

No matter what day a Balinese’ birth date is, they are all the same, thing…they are keen to be ‘prestigious’ (gengsi).

That’s the sort of opinion that comes from I Wayan Morat Marit (I Wayan Hard Life). Before the discussion even starts he comes up with opinions like this while his friends just smile and nod.

“That’s why Balinese are arrogant and proud,” he continues.

If a neighbor buys a new car, he will buy a more expensive one. If a neighbor buys a Kijang, he will buy a Mercedes, whether he can drive or not, or whether he has a garage. He will park his Mercedes under a jackfruit tree during the day and birds will shit under the car and during the night chickens will sleep on it. He doesn’t really care…as long as he is happy with his status.

“If a neighbor has a Blackberry, he will buy four Blackberrys, so his pocket will full of Blackberrys. It doesn’t matter for him whether he understands about email or chatting, or if his Blackberrys has phone cards or not: he just wants to show off,” adds I Wayan.

The most important thing is ‘appearance’ — or what you can see with your own eyes.

These sorts of people are usually lazy. They do not want to be workers nor staff in an office. They don’t like to be ‘subordinates’.

These kinds of Balinese will become “LPD” (Lemah Peteng Diwang = Hang Out All the Time) and KKN (Kilang Kileng Natakan lima ken rerama = Still asking for money from one’s parents even though one is already grown up).

“Where do they get their money even though they don’t work to keep their ‘prestigious’,” asks I Made Srarat Sririt (I Made Weak Body).

In old times, it was a bit difficult to keep your ‘prestigious’. Many people had to sell their inheritance to make themselves look successful.

“Today it is much easier as there are many agencies who can support you to make yourself look ‘prestigious’. If you want to have a new car like your neighbors, many agencies can help you buy something on credit, from Finance bodies, bank to LPD (village bank),” says I Wayan.

You can buy anything on credit these days; houses, cars, motor bikes and even creambath and rebonding.

“As everything can be bought on credit, never be surprised to see a poor Balinese can ride a new Honda!”

As many Balinese want to be prestigious, never be surprised to see a farmer going to a village bank. It is not because he has a deposit or saving: he goes there to borrow money.

Don’t be surprised to see more and more Balinese looking ‘prestigious’ and pretending to be rich.

Even when you are poor, you can be look ‘prestigious’ to your neighbors by buying things on credit. You can borrow money at the banks. And when you can not pay with cash, you can pay by credit.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Published in Now! Jakarta, January 2011


The city skyline of Singapore with the new Sands Casino building to the right.

Last month I flew on an Emirates Airbus 380 from New York to Dubai and it was the best flight of my life: the cabin crew in business class were all Miss Universe contestants and the back of the cabin has a gay bar with a bondage section for horse-trading sheiks and others.

My trip started in Singapore where I visited the famed Malay food hall at the colonial era Central Railway Station which straddles the station’s platforms and has quaint little gardens, replete with rusty old track-cleaners as artwork ‘accents’.

In January 2011 the station will close and the final curtain will drop on the Island Republic’s most convivial hawkers’ market.

It should be noted that, in the better hawkers’ markets of the Malay Peninsula, one often finds, amongst the greasy ‘prawn cushions’ and buckets of chili sauce, a liberal sprinkling of ‘Malays’ of Punjabi, or Arab descent serving the most delicious briyanis and goat meat stews.

While attractive dining options for the wealthy have increased one hundred-fold, the simple man’s pleasure spots — the kopi tiam cafes and satay stalls — have, for the most part, been demolished ‘coralled’ into noisy, neon-lit food halls.

Sanity over sensuality I call it.

From central station, it’s a short hop to Santosa Island, the old colonial era outpost which is now a sort of recreation and leisure centre — there are ten hotels, a Universal Studio, a casino, a Sea World and numerous well-catered beaches — with luxury coastal real estate on the side. I have a job doing a garden on Billionaire Row — that strip of cutting edge, slightly sinister houses mostly modeled on micro-wave ovens.

There is a slightly seedy side to Sentosa too. On Black Sabbath Eve ‘Foam Parties’ are held on the beaches near Sea World: lithe young accountants, homosexualists and party animals converge into one big writhing mass of shaving foam and dance to a disco beat.

I went once but lost my partial denture and couldn’t find it in the foam.

The handsome Art Deco façade of the Central Railway building in Singapore.

A facade on a ‘McDream Home’ at Santosa Cove, Sentosa Island, Singapore.

‘Jihadista’ Haji Abbas, my security consultant, at Sea World.

Mah Siti one of the vendors in Singapore’s legendary Central Railway food hall.

The assistant to the wash-room attendant at the Central Railway has been asleep for 38 years.

The food hall signage is militant, Malay but user-friendly.

• • •

Next I fly to Houston via Mangalore India: Emirates flies to Houston non-stop from Dubai daily.

Houston is the best international arrival point in the U.S.: they have a ‘One Stop’ lane for travelers with only hand luggage, and an airport Marriot hotel — reached via the airport’s excellent inter-link rail service — that has a fabulous revolving restaurant.

On my day off I visit the incredible De Menil Collection in one of the world’s finest small museums.

Designed by Renzo Piano, the exquisitely proportioned, naturally-lit, warm and friendly museum houses, in one section, a remarkable collection of African, Oceanic and Primitive Indonesian art — displayed in veranda-like rooms with wide-planked, timber floors — and, in another section, the best of America’s abstract expressionists. In another remarkable section are works by a collection of Europe’s best surrealists and impressionists — René Magritte and Picasso in particular.

The day I was there they had a room set up with pieces from surrealist artists studios, which included tribal art from Nias, Kalimantan and Papua!

John and Dominique De Menil had exquisite taste, great advisors and a knack for acquiring real estate — she was a Schlumberger, of Schlumberger Oil; he was to eventually run the world-wide Schlumberger operations from Houston). Their five mini-museums sit in a leafy suburb they purchased and ‘dolled up’, so that everything matches.

• • •

Next I went to Naples in Florida where the Asian garden section of the Naples Botanical Garden was finally opened by Sarah Palin.

Palin was fascinated by the Candi Sukuh ruinscape and the notion that Java was something other than a program on Windows.

I delivered a lecture on “Post-Zen Depression” to 200 septuagenarians at the Naples Garden Club. In America they now have ‘crowd controllers’ in Republican enclaves to guard against flash mobs of men kissing, or, as was the case here in Naples, ‘hot flash’ mobs.

The lecture was well-received: in the New World they are great supporters of my Romantic Charm Garden Revival movement. Alhamdulillah!

Students schmooze on a modern art sculpture in one of the many parks around the Menil museums in Houston, Texas.

The room of the Surrealists objets trouvées at The Menil Collection museum in Houston.

Our ruinscape in the Asian Garden Section of Naples Botanical Garden, Florida.

A dashing waiter at the opening party in Naples (Thai Garden in the backyard).

• • •

From Fort Meyers I travel to New York on the wonderful ‘boutique budget’ airline JetBlue which uses the old, chic TWA terminal at JFK. The terminal was originally designed by Eero Saarinen, in the 1960s and has now been re-vamped as the JetBlue hub.

In New York I got taken for a ride by venture capitalists and then went to the opera to see Verdi’s ‘Il Travatore’ at the Met.

It being New York they had lots of fit, black men on stage with their shirts off, hitting anvils.

• • •

Finally, on the home leg, I get to the top deck of the Gay 380 (as the Emirates crew call it) via a special chute that leads from the Emirates amazingly-stocked lounge at JFK. In the lounge they have Vanity Fairs and Chateaubriands and Diet Pepsis, and banks of computers waiting to be used.

The flight is wonderful and I love the lounge at the back of the business class cabin on the top deck.

I always thought ‘lounges’ on airplanes were a bit of a silly idea but in fact they are wonderful, particularly if one is slipping in and out of a fever, as I was. It is re-assuring to stagger back between sweaty sessions on the ‘lie-flat’ and engage a Miss Ethiopia or a Miss Well-borne Melbourne in witty repartee over a bowl of cornflakes at the bar.

Me in the bondage section of the lounge on Emirates’ Gay 380, New York to Dubai.

• • •

Arriving back in Delhi was hellish: after American teeth and sanitary ware, India just looks stained. Immediately I miss the big glasses of chilled water (that induce antrum seizure) and the supersized people (the Indian gardeners I work with are generally waif-like) and all the parks and recreation.

Public art in the arrival hall at Delhi’s new airport.

• • •

After two weeks on the road I arrived back to a Bali where the yoga and retail hags are still banging on about the ravishing new Starbucks in Ubud.

At the Linda Garland estate celebrity gays are getting married in full Balinese costume, dressed as village priests!

I don’t know why I leave, really.

It takes a few days to get over the jet lag but I soon return to my small village life ‘comfort zone’.

One night in late December, I arrive at my Scrabble buddy Putu’s house in Sidakarya village to find the Ponorogos, Pak Putu’s builders, cleaning a duck carcass in the bush kitchen. Putu loves his flock of garden ducks so I was distressed.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Too much lovin,” came the reply.

Apparently poor Daisy had become just another statistic in the tawdry tale of duck date rape in Bali.


Milo and Made on Mertasari Beach.

Bali’s Blonde Crusaders

Well, I am a bottle-redhead Sanur resident, I guess, and in the 30 odd years of banging on about Hindu-Bali affairs in this column, I suppose I’ve had some influence; but I’d like to be remembered more as the champion of the revival of the batik headdress, than, say, the inventor, with Putu Suarsa, of the Balilamp (Sanur’s answer to Microsoft).

(Left) 28th October 2010: Big Balinese Petileman (soul-purification rites) at Mertasari Beach, Sanur.
(Right) A celebrant on Mertasari Beach.

There is a growing number of ‘white crusaders’ changing the face of Bali. The new blonde vigilantes — power-dressed in well-structured Nehru-jackets — are driven and devoted.

‘Queen of Ubud’ Janet De Neefe is the leader of the pack. She is the founder of the enormously successful Ubud Writers’ and Readers’ Festival, inventor of the bullet-proof white corsette, and a lover of all things bright and beautiful.

Her presence is almost Messianic.

She has four Balinese children, three restaurant-loads of devotees, and a column in the Jakarta Post devoted to her inner goddess. Janet is the real deal and the Sarah Palin of Bali.

On the men’s side, couturier Milo (who, like many Latin superstars goes by only one name) is the most visible amongst the ‘born-again’ Hindus. A master of mix ‘n’ match, his temple dress is always inspiring. Over the last few years he has led delegations of Hindu Balinese priests — mostly from Seminyak — to South India, and to the oldest Hindu site in Indonesia, in Kutai, East Kalimantan.

Milo’s magnificent garden-home on Jalan Dyana Pura — the Palazzo Versace of Seminyak — with its signature opalescent gate and meditation tower is a symbol of piety in an area otherwise known for its jockstraps and nipple rings.

In Sanur, on the East Coat, there are any number of well-borne Melbourne girls married to local Brahmans (but none with the following of Our Janet of Ubud).

What about this writer did I hear some readers ask?

Well, I am a bottle-redhead Sanur resident, I guess, and in the 30 odd years of banging on about Hindu-Bali affairs in this column, I suppose I’ve had some influence; but I’d like to be remembered more as the champion of the batik headdress, than, say, the inventor, with Putu Suarsa, of the Balilamp (Sanur’s answer to carriage lamps).

Here, ‘Honkies’ take Hindu names — unlike India where they often remain ‘exotics’ and start sleeping with cows. ‘Born-agains’ in Bali actually enter the work force, and become militant and righteous.

Look at Jack ‘Voice of Bali’ Daniels of Discovery Tours fame, with his mega-popular website. The Hindu Street is defined by the Discovery blog. No bio-diversable conference goes unrecorded, no shift in government policy nor mutation in the tourism industry would take place without Jack, the Billy Graham of Padanggalak, first announcing it!

The kindly Jack is also a lay preacher and regularly conducts funeral services at the all-denominational crematorium in Mumbul.

Last month he was M.C. for the funeral of the much-loved musicologist James Murdoch, who died in Sanglah hospital aged 80. Le tout Ubud turned up — most in discreetly fabulous Hindu costume, including Jero Asri, wife of Ubud’s charismatic bendesa (chef of ceremonies) and founder/owner of the heavenly BIKU tea rooms in Jalan Petitenget, Seminyak (and founder with her husband, of the IBAH hotel in Campuan, Ubud).

James Murdoch’s beloved butler Diono collapses into a Balinese friend’s arms as the coffin entered the fire.

(Left) Jack Daniels and famed Malaysian dancer Ramli Ibrahim at Murdoch’s funeral.
(Right) James Murdoch.

Asri’s son Tjokorda Bagus recently married Jakarta film star Happy Salma in a lavish ceremony at the Ubud Palace (see Stranger in Paradise, ‘“B.T.”: Teen Depression in the Age of Starbucks’, November 2010).

Last month also saw the launch of a film ‘Sacred and Secret’ by a Belgian Film Production crew, which featured the spectacular cremation of Jero Asri’s brother-in-law, late Prince of Ubud Tjokorda Gede Agung Suyasa. The film crew’s guide and adviser was Barone Gill Marais who, with Pemuteran ‘Polly’ (Diane von Cranach), England’s Earl of Warwick, Lady Diana Darling, Sir Warwick Purser and Contessa Maria Grazzia, make up the island’s quite sizeable European ‘court’.

Literary world aristocrat Jamie James — former art critic of the New Yorker — holds court in North Seminyak with his consort ‘Bonita’ of Bonita Restaurant, ‘Bonita’ Real Estate and Warung Sulawesi fame.

While not a born-again Hindu, James is a director of the Writers’ Festival and Indonesia’s point man for Time magazine and Conde Naste.

No fashion-plate, Jamie James makes up for lack of sartorial splendor with an ever-changing display of his artistic consort’s ‘Easter bonnets’ in his studio’s waiting room.

Gung Bagus at the big Peliatan cremation on 2nd November 2010

* * *

9th November, 2010: The Asian Gardens open at the Naples Botanical Garden, Florida

Balinese gardens have gotten a bad name since the late 1990s when the ‘Bali-Style’ fashion trend peaked.

Bali-lamps, temple umbrellas and cheap statuary were exported en masse to every corner of the world, to litter the gardens of home-owners in search of an ‘exotic tropical’ touch!

Kitschy ‘Balinasia’ fantasy gardens started popping up in hotels in Bali, Thailand, Malaysia and India too.

The first decade of the new century has seen a marked interest in minimalist garden designs which suffer from a lack of soul, rather than an abundance of it.

All this is not to say that Balinese gardening is dead (one only has to go to any traditional Balinese village or temple to see that) but one could argue that the art of making a good ‘Balinese’ garden in a commercial setting is a dying art.

The New Asian Garden at the Naples (Florida) Botanical is the first landscaping project I have done — since doing the Four Seasons Resort in Jimbaran — which is unashamedly ‘oriental’.

All the elements except the plants were made in Bali and shipped, as were four of my garden commandoes — over six weeks they pieced everything together again and earned the love and respect of the local ‘crackers’ the way the Balinese do before stealing their wives. (Fortunately the average age for women in Naples is 71).

The team’s leader, Dewa Sucita, was quoted in the Naples daily News:

“I Love pizza, and beer, and Hooters!”

I went to Florida three times over the last six months to fine-tune the planting schemes and to carry, for the Balinese, rare food items (snake oil, fried eels, Nescafe ‘Three in One’) and magazines (Romans and Detektifa; Robb Real Estate and the Bali Post).

Tonight’s party for 500 donors and patrons is a gala sit-down dinner. The tables are decorated with stuffed baby alligators and Begonias. My Balinese are writhing, semi-naked, (flowers behind ears only) in golden cages, donated by the Tea Party (Naples is a conservative stronghold).

Vietnam vets have occupied the Thai pavilion from which pour clouds of herbal marijuana smoke.

I am sitting next to the editor-at Large of ‘Town and Country’ magazine, America’s oldest, who says she loves the garden and wants to take Dewa home.

I haven’t had so much fun since Melbourne Cup Day at the Canggu Club!

On large screens photos flash of the Balinese teaching Amerindians how to thatch and how to sell tribal lands to rich white women. Ahahahaha!

Not really, but is a great day for the noble art of Balinese gardening, and the romantic tropical garden movement in particular.

Balinese Shrine: Every Balinese temple is a gorgeous garden. In these temples there are shrines to the Goddess of Fertility (Dewi Sri), the consort of Dewa Wisnu, the preserver, the Lord of the Mountains, and of the mountain lakes so vital to irrigation and agriculture.

Compang: The four Balinese commandos in the Ancient Asia section. The ancient villages of Eastern Indonesia all have raised stone platforms, called compang, at their centre. Here tribunals are held. Often-times these compang ‘grow’ totems which signify an important person or event.

Hindu Javanese Temple Ruinscape: Before the arrival of Islam, Java Island was for 500 years, the crowing glory of ‘Farther India’, the countries that make up present day South East Asia. Candi Sukuh, the last temple of Java’s Classical Hindu Era (late 15th century), exhibited a return to ‘aboriginal’ Javanese motifs and a distinctly non-Indian style. This garden is a ‘ruinscape’ of the original temple, situated outside Solo.

New Asia: Tourism has ushered in a new ‘modern’ era in tropical Asia: no-where is this more celebrated than in the decorative garden arts. These murals (above) — realized by Bali’s oldest landscaping firm P.T. Indosekar — are a celebration of “New Asia”, and a celebration of motifs based on nature.

* * * * *


Tim Streef-Porter

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bungklang Bungkling: GUNUNG by Wayan Juniarha

Taken from ‘Bungklang Bungkling’, ‘Gunung’, a column by I Wayan Juniartha, published in Bali Post, Sunday 21st November 2010. Translated by Putu Semiada.

Gunung (Mountain)

Why do you think a volcano erupts?

“It is because gods are angry because of bad human behaviors; corrupt high ranking officials, bad police (who are no different than criminals); criminals who have no fear in fighting the police; and more and more human beings who have ignored God,” says I Made Karauhan Kasurupan (I Made ‘Trance on Trance’).

It seems that I Made would like to be the spokesman of gods. Every time they have a topic for discussion, from wallet lose, accident, to sickness, he always relates them to gods or unseen world. According to him, the gods or the ground spirit guards may get angry, or probably ancestral spirits that need attention.

Everyone nods. Many believe that natural disasters occur because God is angry.

“Doesn’t that mean that gods are ‘uneducated’? asks I Wayan Campah Kelur (I Wayan Undiplomatic Talking).

Everyone is surprised. It is for the first time they hear somebody says that gods are ‘uneducated’. Good for him that he is Hindu. If he was a Muslim, he might have been beaten by the Muslim mass organization (FPI).

“If gods are ‘uneducated’, why they don’t punish bad people such as the Legislative members or a person like Gayus, or judges or public prosecutors who take the funds for the flood victims,” adds I Wayan.

“You can see the victims of natural disasters such as mount eruptions are mostly unprivileged people, the old and even the innocent ones. They don’t even have money at all; a very contradicted situation with the legislative members who use people’s money for holiday overseas. The victims of tsunami are also the unprivileged ones as well.

If you think that a volcano erupts as gods are angry, that means that They punishes the wrong people. Instead, They should punish a person like Gayus who still can enjoy watching tennis championship in Bali, in spite of what he has done.

“So you only have two choices now: Are our gods ‘uneducated’, or do natural disasters really have a connection with gods? I myself believe that natural disasters are natural cycle. When the time comes a volcano would erupt itself, you know,” says I Wayan.

Everyone agrees with I Wayan’s opinion. They don’t think that gods are ‘uneducated’ and punish innocent people. It doesn’t make sense either that gods angry and create natural disasters such as volcano eruption and tsunami. Otherwise They will be just the same as sick criminals.

“Are you saying that Mount Agung and Mount Batur can erupt anytime in spite of offerings (aci-aci) and ceremonies we Hindu Balinese make? Doesn’t that mean that it is useless for us to make offerings to gods?” asks I Made.

“You know, they are volcanoes that can erupt anytime.”

“If that’s what you have been thinking, then you are wrong. You make offerings to gods, but you shouldn’t expect something a gift in return; if that’s why you stop making offering, it means you’ve been following your religion because you are just scared, and afraid that something bad happen to you. That means you are a fake Hindu,” comments I Wayan.