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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On the Road to Bali


I have arrived in Bali! You may follow my (almost) daily jottings in my Bali Diary at www.ontheroadtobali.blogspot.com


Monday, March 30, 2009

Travelling North

My favourite movie and my favourite pastime and I'm ready for take-off in just a few hours!

This Big Brown Land

As I prepare myself to leave this Big Brown Land, I reflect on what I am leaving behind:

Being Australian is about driving in a German car to an Irish pub for a Belgian beer, then on the way home, grabbing an Indian curry or a Turkish kebab, to sit on Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV.

Oh and..... only in Australia ... can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.

Only in Australia ... do supermarkets make sick people walk all the way to the back of the shop to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.

Only in Australia ... do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries and a DIET coke.

Only in Australia ... do banks leave both doors open and chain the pens to the counters.

Only in Australia ... do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and lock our junk and cheap lawn mower in the garage.

NOT TO MENTION....

3 Aussies die each year testing if a 9v battery works on their tongue.

58 Aussies are injured each year by using sharp knives instead of screwdrivers.

31 Aussies have died since 1996 by watering their Christmas tree while the fairy lights were plugged in.

8 Aussies had serious burns in 2000 trying on a new jumper with a lit cigarette in their mouth.

A massive 543 Aussies were admitted to Emergency in the last two years after opening bottles of beer with their teeth.

and finally...

In 2000 eight Aussies cracked their skull whilst throwing up into the toilet.

Isn't this a wonderful country I'm leaving behind?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A very happy story!

The beautiful Melka Excelsior Hotel at Lovina owned by Karl Günther Meyer

As you know, I am involved with the Kupu-Kupu Foundation in Ubud whose founder, Beonia Lopez, looks after disabled children. I have helped Begonia with her webpages and also want to assist in other ways when I go to Bali this coming Tuesday.

I had already planned to visit the Melka Excelsior Hotel in Lovina to swim with their dolphins. Then I thought what a thrill it would be for a disabled child to spend some time in a pool with a dolphin and on the spur of the moment emailed the hotel:

I am coming to Bali next week. I'll be volunteering some of my time at the Kupu-Kupu Foundation for Disabled Children and it occurred to me that some of those disabled children would be absolutely thrilled to be given an outing from Ubud to Lovina and to swim with your dolphins. Could this be arranged? What would the charges be?

To my complete delight, I received a reply within hours:

Dear Mr Goerman, "Warm Greeting from Melka Excelsior Hotel." Thank you very much for your kind email. Pleased to inform you that Mr Karl Günther Meyer as owner will be pleased to offer 10 children free swimming with dolphin. So, it will be high appreciate if you can send the exact date of your arrival. Looking forward to hearing from you! Sincerely yours, Nadi

I promptly dashed off my reply:

Dear Nadi, dear Mr Meyer, thank you for your email and the wonderful news. You are indeed very, very generous and we will certainly spread the good word about your hotel. I have set up the Foundation's website and with your permission, I would like to add your hotel to the Foundation's sponsors. I have just now emailed Begonia Lopez of the Kupukupu Foundation in Ubud to ask when it would be a good time to come to your hotel. Mr Meyer, I have already made some arrangements about my accommodation while in Bali but I try and see if I can also spend a few days at your hotel as a paying guest. In any event, I shall do a write-up about your hotel and include it on my many websites. Whereabouts do you hail from in Germany? I am from Braunschweig but I have been away from there since I was 19 years old and I now call Australia my home. Anyway, I'm sure there's lots to talk about when I get there. In the meantime, I shall try and get some date(s) from Kupukupu Foundation for our visit to your hotel.

Come on, Begonia, what's a good day for you to arrange such a trip? I'll be happy to pay for the children's transport to Lovina and back and also pay for lunch, refreshments, etc. Just get back to me quickly so we can tell Mr Meyer!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

You're not a real Aussie ...

... unless you know who to call a wog. And in case any of you have forgotten what the Aussie definition of a wog is, allow me to refresh your memory:

Wog: (noun) Name given to anyone who arrived in Australia after you did.

So from one wog to another, let me help you find out a bit more about your own history: visit the website of the National Archives of Australia, click on COLLECTION, drop down to RECORD SEARCH, and click on SEARCH NOW AS A GUEST USER.

My picture on the 1965 immigration application formI was able to retrieve my original application form to emigrate in 1965 (complete with attached picture), my application to become naturalised in 1970 (until that time I was very un-natural!), the dictation test I sat in 1971, and lots more - why, they even kept the envelopes (front and back!) of letters I had sent to the Immigration Department!

You can have the whole lot sent to you for $25 - perhaps a bit more in your case as they have to box up all those skeletons hidden in the cupboard!


P.S. Read the whole story of my coming out to this Big Brown Land at www.riverbendnelligen.com/dearall25.html.

Consumer Protection in Australia

Label reads:

WARNING: This is a work of fiction. Do NOT take it literally.

CONTENT ADVISORY: Contains verses descriptive or advocating suicide, incest, bestiality, sadomasochism, sexual activity in a violent context, murder, morbid violence, use of drugs or alcohol, homosexuality, voyeurism, revenge, undermining of authority figures, lawlessness, and human rights violations and atrocities.

EXPOSURE WARNING: Exposure to contents for extended periods of time or during formative years in children may cause delusions, hallucinations, decreased cognitive and objective reasoning abilities, and, in extreme cases, pathological disorders, hatred, bigotry, and violence including, but not limited to, fanaticism, murder, and genocide.

It's a lot of holy smoke and mirrors, if you ask me!

Friday, March 27, 2009

This is my last weekend at home...

... and I've just received the sequel to a very (in-)famous book which was discovered years after the author's death. I don't think I'll have the time to read it before I leave for Bali.

I'm still attempting to further reduce the weight of my luggage and have just managed to hollow out the handle of my toothbrush. I'll be travelling very light with just a very small rucksack on my back as I want to hike all over the island to see and do as much as possible.

I still remember as if it were yesterday when my good friend Noel Butler came down from New Guinea to Sydney in 1972 to invite me on an island-hopping trip through the Indonesian archipelago. I had just come down from New Guinea myself after having helped an Australian catering company to kick off their multi-million-dollar contract on Bougainville. Six months later and with the Bougainville operations assured, they promoted me to Financial Controller in their Sydney head office. All this had been a huge adrenalin rush and, still on a roll, I told a very disappointed Noel that I wouldn't join him on his trip. What a pity because I am sure that, 36 years later, I could still be living off the memories of that adventure trip whereas the head office job is all but forgotten!

Adventure travel is for the young which I start to realise as I take my early-morning walk, cup of hot tea in hand, and begin to miss Riverbend already - and I haven't even left yet!

P.S. Mustn't forget to cancel my newspapers for the duration of my trip. "Newspapers?", I hear you ask. Yes, those things which, as their name suggests, are made out of paper and which in the era of steam locomotives and corsets, used to be sold by midgets in floppy caps who yelled "Extra! Extra!" for reasons that are lost to history. These days, newspapers are mainly used for lining bird cages, making hats to keep the sun out, and folding into packets to hold hot fish and chips. Some people - those who are really bored - also read them.

Slow coach to Canberra


Padma is travelling up to Canberra today to visit the Immigration Department where she will get her passport stamped with a re-entry visa for Australia before she leaves for Indonesia later in the year.

The bus leaves Batemans Bay at 8.52 am, arrives in Canberra at 11.20 am, and leaves again at 6 pm to arrive back at the Bay at 8.30 pm. It'll give Padma a good six hours in Canberra to go to the immigration office and also indulge in some "retail therapy".

Thursday, March 26, 2009

New economics

All this talk about "stimulus packages" and "bailouts"... A billion dollars... a hundred billion dollars... eight hundred billion dollars... one TRILLION dollars...

What does that look like? I mean, these various numbers are tossed around like so many doggie treats, so I thought I'd try to make sense out of what exactly a trillion dollars looks like.

We'll start with a $100 dollar bill. Currently the largest U.S. denomination in general circulation. Most everyone has seen them, slighty fewer have owned them. Guaranteed to make friends wherever they go.

A packet of one hundred $100 bills is less than 1/2" thick and contains $10,000. Fits in your pocket easily and is more than enough for week or two of shamefully decadent fun..

Believe it or not, this next little pile is $1 million dollars (100 packets of $10,000). You could stuff that into a grocery bag and walk around with it..

While a measly $1 million looked a little unimpressive, $100 million is a little more respectable. It fits neatly on a standard pallet....

And $1 BILLION dollars... now we're really getting somewhere....

Next we'll look at ONE TRILLION dollars. This is that number we've been hearing about so much. What is a trillion dollars? Well, it's a million million. It's a thousand billion. It's a one followed by 12 zeros. Are you ready for this? It's pretty surprising! Ladies and gentlemen... I give you $1 trillion dollars.....


And notice those pallets are double-stacked. And can you just make out that little guy standing to the left of all those pallets? Well, that's you, the taxpayer, who's paying for it all!

When pigs can roar

In a zoo in California , a mother tiger gave birth to a rare set of triplet tiger cubs. Unfortunately, due to complications in the pregnancy, the cubs were born prematurely and died shortly after birth.

The mother tiger, after recovering from the delivery, suddenly started to decline in health, although physically she was fine. The veterinarians felt that the loss of her litter had caused the tigress to fall into a depression. The doctors decided that if the tigress could surrogate another mother's cubs, perhaps she would improve.

After checking with many other zoos across the country, the depressing news was that there were no tiger cubs of the right age to introduce to the mourning mother. The veterinarians decided to try something that had never been tried in a zoo environment. Sometimes a mother of one species will take on the care of a different species. The only 'orphans' that could be found quickly, were a litter of weanling pigs. The zoo keepers and vets wrapped the piglets in tiger skin and placed the babies around the mother tiger. Would they become cubs or pork chops??

Take a good look at the picture and please tell me, why can't the rest of the world get along?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bamahuta


Akindly soul mailed me a copy of this book for review but failed to give me anything more than the return postal address Box 8080 in Cairns 4870. Even though I haven't got the time right now to become engrossed in a book, I couldn't resist the temptation to read the first chapter - and I was promptly hooked. As for writing a review, I really couldn't add any more to John Kleinig's review:

This is a book you will not be able to put down. The adventures of Philip Fitzpatrick prior to independence are told with wit, humour and pathos. The style is refreshingly crisp and this makes for the telling of a compelling and intriguing series of stories. There are some unforgettable moments.

Fitzpatrick reduced to his leopard skin jockettes leading a patrol in the oppressive heat of the Western District comes face to face with a group of nuns with their habits hitched up around their knees and wearing white rubber boots. One of the nuns, a French Canadian, who once worked as a dancer in a strip club, reacts in an unpredictable manner much to the consternation of the group.

The story of the contact with the border crossers on the West Irian border carrying the still conscious elder who has been disembowelled by Indonesian soldiers as an example to potential refugees, is heart rending and disturbingly real.

Seconded to the Security and Intelligence Branch in Moresby, Fitzpatrick is rostered for night surveillance duties around Government House during the visit of the Australian Prime Minister, John Gorton. What eventuates is a series of hilarious incidents.

Woven through these adventures is the question of the timing of independence. Fitzpatrick appears to avoid the temptation to overstate the obvious and instead skilfully canvasses the attitudes of others, although he could be forgiven for a little self-indulgence.

His relationship with Ihini, the young, attractive Papuan journalist on the Post Courier, is an integral part of the story. Fitzpatrick generally resists telling us the detail and leaves the reader to fill in the gaps. Perhaps it might have been better not to tell us of Ihini’s fate.

This story will be irresistible to those who have lived, visited or heard of Papua New Guinea. To those who have friends who only borrow from libraries or from others, do everyone a favour and buy an extra copy.

You can order a copy from Pandanus Books.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Einfeld Defence


My faith in the Australian justice system has been somewhat restored after what became known as the Einfeld Defence failed and former judge Marcus Einfeld was led from a Sydney court after being given a jail sentence for lying to avoid a $77 speeding fine.

Perjuring himself also cost him his title as Queen's counsel and his Order of Australia. Among the few things left intact is his $200,000-a-year retired judge's pension. Not a cent of which he needs to spend on board and lodging for the next two years! Now isn't that nice?

The 70-year-old stumbled and grabbed the rail of the dock in the New South Wales Supreme Court as he was sentenced to three years in jail with a non-parole period of two years for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

The court was crowded with his supporters. Some ran over and hugged him, one giving him jelly beans, before he handed his wallet and mobile phone over to court officers.

His daughter cried as she embraced her father. Einfeld told another supporter, "the bag is packed".

Justice Bruce James said Einfeld had engaged in "planned criminal activity" and "deliberate, premeditated perjury" to avoid demerit points on his driver's licence.

Einfeld committed perjury and perverted the course of justice, all to avoid a $77 fine for driving 10 kilometres per hour over the speed limit.


Tempus fugit - again!

Remember my blog about Teutonic bureaucracy?

Well, when I arrived back at Riverbend from my morning's volunteer work at the Coastal Patrol (after which I had a spot of lunch at Batemans Bay's 18-hole golf club, the Catalina Country Club), I found an email in my inbox from my old friends Sven and Grit.

They had attached a picture of their wedding which was already more than two years old! In a slight attack of sciolism, did I use the words 'tempus fugit' in a previous blog? Well, let me say it again: 'Tempus fugit!'

P.S. The lunch (and a glass of Merlot) at the Catalina Country Club was beautiful and I felt on familiar grounds the moment I entered the foyer and spotted an umbrella stand by the reception marked "UMBRELLA'S ONLY!" I asked the Club's Marketing and Function Manager, "Umbrella's only what?", which whistled straight over her head when she replied, "We offer a location for wet umbrellas to be placed (should it rain) and to be collected at time you leave. Some prefer to use this as a rubbish bin as well so we prefer to offer you your umbrella free of rubbish." I know that, Sheryl, but do you know the correct use of the apostrophe? There are rules for playing golf and there are rules for writing English. I was sent home to ponder the hero's fate in the movie "The Man Who Knew Too Much". Que Sera, Sera!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tempus fugit

It's now almost five years ago that I discovered a small boutique hotel in the Amed - Lipah bay area for sale. The American owner lived and worked in Japan and wanted to sell. I was very much attracted by the beauty of the property but was in no position then to spend much time in Bali. I placed this webpage on the internet to attract some "joint venturers" with whom I could share the use as well as cost of the property but received only one serious reply.

Just now I discovered its website again at www.bayucottages.com and contacted the "new" owners, a Dutchman and his Indonesian wife, who confirmed that they had bought the property in November 2004.

It's a lovely property! Mind you, it's very small and I wouldn't even want to think what it must be like when a dozen guests and the owner and his family all squeeze into the same 500 square metres of ground! Perhaps the owner tries to prevent this from happening by keeping his room rates at a rather exorbitant level (by Balinese standards for similar hotels in similar locations) as no Bali-wise traveller would spend 30 euros and more on this type of accommodation. Dutch Treat indeed!

My other car is a boat

Nobody can accuse me of not getting my priorities right: while my trusty old TOYOTA Camry almost doubled in value when I fitted new tyres last month, my "other car", worth ten times the old Camry, sits idly in the water.

Of course, I could argue that I can't make myself a cup of tea in the old Camry nor could I sleep in it as comfortably as I do on the boat but would Padma understand?

P.S. My other blog is about my trip to Bali.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

There's gold in them thar hills

Back in 2006 when it seemed that we had found a buyer for "Riverbend", I searched the net for Bali properties and came up with a little beauty, a Hillside Hotel in the Banjar Hills in North Bali. It was advertised at the time at around seventy-five thousand euros (approx. AUS150,000). I came across it again when I was looking for hotel accommodation during my trip to Bali next month - here it is!

I contacted the new owner (who is an Australian living in Canberra just "up the road" from us) to book a bungalow for five nights at the amazingly low price of 600,000 rupiah (that's approx. AUS15 a night). I told him that I had had an eye on the same property some 2-1/2 years ago and he said that he had bought it at about the same time - at a little below its asking price!

Not that this is a paying business proposition: even at the best of times (and these are not the best of times as tourists are staying away from Bali in droves and many hotels are empty), a 50% occupancy is about all a hotel owner can hope for. 4 bungalows x 365 days a year x Rp.150,000 a night = Rp. 219,000,000, half of which is Rp. 109,500,000 a year in income (not counting the restaurant). Electricity is probably around Rp. 12,000,000 a year. Three staff would cost about Rp. 15,000,000 a year. Minor repairs and maintenance and sundry bits-and-pieces is probably another Rp. 25,000,000 a year. That's a total of Rp. 52,000,0000 which leaves Rp. 57,500,000 (approx. AUS$7,000) for everything else: major repairs, running a vehicle, return on capital, etc. It's my guess that the Australian owner is losing money on the place!

Be that as it may, it's still an appealing lifestyle choice and he certainly was lucky when he picked up the place at the price he did. It must have been just after the second Bali bombing which was on the 1st of October 2005 when tourism and real estate in Bali were at an all-time low. It proves yet again how important it is to be in the right place at the right time!

P.S. Foreigners are not allowed to own real estate in Indonesia. While various schemes have been devised to get around this, none are without danger as these articles testify: Bali Villas Real Estate Fraud and Welcome to your second home in Bali, which you can not own or rent. And when things go wrong, they can go badly wrong - just read what Masa Fukuda, the Japanese ex-owner of this Bali property, put on his website. The ones who seem to have made off with the lot freely advertise the property on their new website at www.grandavenuebali.com.

Riverbend News

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Home is the sailor, home from the sea

I spent the afternoon on the river, dropping in on neighbours along the waterfront for a glass of red and to serenade them on my new GIORDY. I am now back at home and need to sort out the few things I want to take with me on my trip to Bali.

While there, I'll be inspecting a small boutique hotel that's for sale for IDR 1,500,000,000 or approx. AUS$200,000. It has an owner's residence and four guest villas. I've done some preliminary sums and figured out that it could show a 3% return on the guest villas while still giving us a free residence in Bali.

A week later, I'll also fly across to Surabaya to visit my in-laws and to meet "Professor Timmy" and little Cecil. Will probably stay for three nights from the 9th to the 12th of April. Three days and nights is about the limit of my tolerance level for big cities.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Alain de Botton is my favourite living philosopher. His insightful books "The Consolations of Philosophy", "How Proust can change your Life", "The Art of Travel", "Status Anxiety", and a couple of others have given me hours of very stimulating reading. He has just released another book, "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work", which is a celebration and investigation of an activity as central to a good life as love – but which we often find remarkably hard to reflect on properly. As Alain de Botton points out, most of us are still working at jobs chosen for us by our sixteen-year-old selves. It is the perfect guide to the vicious anxieties and enticing hopes thrown up by our journey through the working world.

Even though my own journey is over and I have, like most people, not had the luxury of living my life with the foresight of hindsight, it could still be interesting to ponder what might have been and so I've placed an order for the book with my local bookshop.

P.S. Alain is also involved with the School of Life - every community should have one!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Padma!

from Malty and Rover and, yes,

P.S. We acknowledged the occasion by making Padma an early-morning cup of hot chocolate. It was a combined effort: Malty licked the cup clean, Rover put his paw in it, and I took it to Padma's bedside table. Hope we didn't overdo it. What do you think?

BINGO!

Last night I helped the Coastal Patrol to run a Bingo Night at the Tomakin Sports & Social Club. I hadn't seen bingo since my early days in Australia in the mid-60s and it was quite a revelation to see who plays it. A lot of lonely people and a lot of people who really need the money, by the looks of it! Two-and-a-half hours of mind-numbing calling and stamping of numbers. Some won $20, some $30, a few $50, and one lucky soul hit the jackpot of $100! And for the many who had nothing to show for their hours of intense concentration, there was the final draw of a Chook Raffle! With such slim pickings, was this perhaps how bingo turned itself into the now famous dot-paintings?