Jun 21, 2011

Hiatus


Tonight, as I sat on Jumby Beach, having dinner while looking at the Tiki lights dancing on the wind, I decided I will have to apologize yet again, to the faithful readers of this blog. I have to put it into another hiatus. 
I don't have the heart for writing it these days, nor is there much to write about from this beautiful island, where life simply passes in quiet seconds, minutes and hours, without much ado.

I can't say for sure when, or even if, I will resume writing it, - my schedule has me back in Asia in mid July, perhaps by then. 
But should this turn out to be my final entry, I thank each and every one of you for having been with me on this journey. I have greatly enjoyed your company.

Love to you all,

Jack

Jun 19, 2011

Burning trees


The Poinciana trees are on fire outside my villa.
Set in the verdant lawns, running from the deck to the beach, their fire red and orange leaves present an explosion of contrast, up against the green of the sea and the blue of the sky. Birds are flying in and out of the burning trees, there is one in particular, jet black, the size of a child's fist, that move with the speed of light and is set off fabulously against the fiery red. I think I have counted close to 20 or so, different kinds of birds this morning, while sitting in a chair, enjoying the world around me. And I am not counting the Pelicans, as numerous as the planes landing and taking off over the skies of Antigua, way in the background.
Late afternoon clouds are rolling in, the winds have been high since dawn, and like a damned rookie I have landed quite a sunburn today, lying reading in the low water, not feeling the heat because of the deceptively fresh breeze and the coolness of the almost caressing waves lapping at my legs.
Oh well, the next couple of days there will be no time for tanning anyway. There is work to be done.

Jun 18, 2011

Back on track



A Pelican is riding high on a lazy Caribbean wind, while another flies low, just clear of the white crest of the waves lapping the beach. Everything looks like a postcard and feels just right. The skies are blue, peppered with small, white fluffy clouds, drifting aimlessly across the skies, while reflecting in the turquoise of the ocean surrounding the small island where I sit in a green chair, among the Sea-grapes, with my feet buried deep in the sugary sands of Jumby Bay.
There is nothing better than traveling towards the light, going east to west on this earth, where the day just keep going and going. This island, just off the coast of Antigua in the West Indies, will be my home for the next couple of weeks. Going from one Fantasy island to another, is not at all a bad way to pass time in this life.





Jun 6, 2011

Changi


There is something almost intimidating about Singaporean efficiency. This morning, arriving from Bali, and after I'd sauntered down the thick carpets of the hallways of terminal 2, passing design shop after big label shop after epicurean offering (no KFC or Cinabon's here) I cleared immigration in a little more than 35 seconds. There is never any queue. In 15 years I have never stood in line in Changi airport. For anything! Something they could learn from in every other airport in the world, especially those impossibly unforgiving, grumpy, ignorant and unwelcoming American ones.
I made it to the baggage belt where almost every other bag had already arrived. Here’s another thing I have never experienced, - being able to walk from the plane, through immigration and get to the baggage belt before my bags were there. I don't know how they do that, considering they don’t keep me waiting along the way. Everything just happens lightning fast.
But after a quick check at the belt, I determined that my suitcase wasn't there. (And that's a first with Singapore airlines).
I waited for a little while and when there were no more bags left on the conveyor, I gave up and walked over to a nice looking woman standing near the belt with a little sign next to her saying “Lost & Found”. No standing in line in some tired office here either.
I told her that my bag was lost and, I swear, she looked miffed!
Can I see your tag, please”? She asked.
Yes, of course”, I said and handed it to her.
She looked at it, sighed and walked away, towards the back wall where the luggage had dropped out from behind a curtain.
“Follow me” she said, without turning.
I did as I was told.
As we approached the back wall, ten or so feet away from the curtain, my bag emerged, as if willed from behind the concrete barrier. Plunk, there it was, on the belt!
She leaned down before I could say anything and read the tag.
It’s this one”, she stated, clearly not happy with me. “Sometimes you just need to be patient”, She added.
I could have explained to her, that it was their own damned fault, for always getting everything done so quick and organized, that I have become completely weaned off of waiting for anything at Changi, but I just thanked her, picked up my bag and walked through customs, which took approximately 15 seconds!
Outside Thomas was waiting and all was as it should be.

My computer is on the fritz, so tomorrow and the rest of the week there will be no entries in these pages, while it is being serviced.
Check again on Monday the 13th of June.

Hasta Luego

Jun 5, 2011

Tina & Lisa


This entry should have had a photograph, to show the two women I write about as they do their thing. But as I had too much opportunity to explain to my buddy Bill recently, I look like confused poultry in most photographs and thus abhor having my picture taken. 
Especially in swimming attire, which is what I was wearing today at the beach. I have often shunned beaches in the past, simply because I was worried about frightening children and stray dogs, but an old friend of mine once told me not to worry, most children today have already seen Shrek!
Tina & Lisa are two women, somewhere in their forties, who run a double act down on the beach, one gives you a foot scrub while the other gives you a full body massage. Dressed in layers, with scruffy, white Panama hats, with their names crayoned to the front bit, hard hands and weather-worn skin, they go up and down the beach every day, peddling their services. I have known them for a long time now and always seek them out when I go to the beach. They're fun and good company.
A foot scrub, I find, is always worth the time, massages are different, they have to be really good in order for me not to tense up with irritation that they're not. What Lisa lacks in basic knowledge about the human body, she more than makes up for with a wonderful enthusiasm. And she's strong as a longshoreman. 
I can think of few things better than to lie on a daybed on the Anantara beach, having a massage, while the waves pound the shore and the kites are flying high and wild above the sand. 
Today was a perfect beach day, one I will treasure when tomorrow morning I take the early flight to Singapore. Another trip to the big city to run errands. And to dwell in bookstores.

Jun 4, 2011

I clean forgot!


For all this time, I’d thought that things would turn ugly if I were to ever forget to make the daily entry in these pages. That at the stroke of midnight, I’d turn into a pumpkin.
Thankfully I did not, when yesterday I completely forgot.
I had gone to my friend Andrews house, in the early hours of the evening, and we ended up at a lovely little bistro on Jalan Legian, Sip, where we shared Lobster Bisque with Crab Ravioli, Black Pepper Steaks and bottles of good wine and Champagne. Later we joined another table of friends and newcomers, and I came back to my house at 2 in the morning, three sheets to the wind, and blissfully unaware that I had failed my duties as a diarist.
This morning the stark reality came through, in the form of angry and concerned comments from around the world. 
Alas, I cannot say it will never happen again!

The night before, we had said farewell and bon voyage to another dear, dear, friend
W’, aka Bill, aka Ketut  aka The Tall Man,  left Fantasy Island on the evening flight, to go back to wearing shoes and suits.
He would begin in London and then make his way back to the US.
We took him to the airport and waved him goodbye, after a great and wonderful visit.
Thanks for stopping by, old friend, and allow me to reiterate, “What happens in Bali, stays in Bali”.
Bill having poolside Papaya on his last day in Denguetown


Today was a beach day. The winds have changed, the currents have turned, the sun has moved to another path and the beach is once again clean, the surf is white and powerful and the ocean is wonderfully inviting. The oversize footprint of debris from the human presence here, has sailed away on the currents, to other shores, and will continue to do so, until the monsoon will turn the tide again. 

Jun 1, 2011

The rice farmer

On a misty, rainy morning, I woke up early in Pererenan, in a beautiful garden surrounded by rice fields.
The house where I had slept is deeply set in the landscape, cushioned by lush vegetation on two sides and verdant rice-paddies rising up from behind the pool and lawns on the others.
This was harvest time in these paddies, the rice was ripe and stood proud in layers of richness, the top yellow grains setting off wonderfully from the green of the crop.
This is a busy time for farmers and birds. There is much to feed on for the birds, and although it seems unlikely, in this vast sea of green and yellow, a sizeable flock of birds can violently diminish such a crop, so scaring off these vegetarian predators is paramount.
This morning, what woke me up, was the sound of metal clanging and an intermittent call into the wind. As I got up and looked outside, out across the grass and onto the rice, I saw a man there, pulling a rope, making a huge bunch of flags wave and rustle, all the while the rope also connected to a series of metal pans, pots and cans that were clanging against each other when he pulled on the rope.
When he did not pull the rope he would yell into the open air, a powerful curt shout, that traveled across the green terraces and onto ours.
Photo courtesy of Bill Hanzlik

When we sat down for breakfast he took it up another notch and walked through his rice fields playing a flute. Something he was clearly very good at.
I can think of nothing more romantic, than sitting there, being served breakfast from beautiful silver, with the view of these rice fields, the abundance of the sea of green and yellow, and the rice farmer walking in the paddies, playing wonderful, Balinese music on his flute.
Just a short 30 minute drive from where we sat, is my house, surrounded by madness, and here in this paddy, around the stunning and rarefied luxury of David and Jed’s gorgeous house, is a slice of old Bali, so vibrant, so rare and naked, in its deeply rooted connection with this culture, that it was almost overwhelming.





May 31, 2011

Sign of the ages

Bill and Jack were out on the town.
Two guys at the top of their game, out alone in Bali, not too far from Kuta where all the action is, surfer dudes and blonde bimbo’s galore.
Strapped and loaded we were coming down the road, a couple of avengers ready to tear this holiday island a new one.
Nengah Was at the wheel.
Bill was riding shotgun, so he had a 20/20 take on everything moving up along the sidewalk and suddenly he called out:
Did you see that sign?”
What sign,” I asked.
Back there. Finger licking cock teasing, it said!”
You sure?”
Damned straight”.
Nengah”, I barked.
That was enough. He turned that car around on a dime.
You really can’t blame us for the testosterone level in the car to increase considerably, as we doubled back to check out this most intriguing offer. We’re just guys, after all.
It was I who was sent to investigate.


Imagine my disappointment when I learned that not only were there spelling errors involved, but all it was, was a sign from a restaurant, offering a Chicken tasting menu.
Disgusted I took a photograph for these pages, for use as a constructive and educational warning not to be let astray by faulty signage.
I went back to the car where I shared the sad news. Never have I seen such devastated faces, and I can say that men from Texas and Bali look exactly the same in such circumstances.
A few minutes later, as we had come quite a way through the traffic, I wanted to share the photo with Bill, but for the first time, - ever, - I had used my camera without a flashcard. There was no image.
Deflated we abandonded our planned hell-raising and went to the Grocer & Grind for a cup of Joe instead.
This morning we went back, so I could get the picture and Bill and Nengah could see for themselves that I spoke the truth. It was all too good to be true.

May 29, 2011

A day at the circus


The circus has come to town. 
In a downtrodden, residential part of Singaraja, on an old track-field, a huge circus tent has gone up, and billboards all over town advertise The Moscow Circus Stars. 
We went today, Willard and I, with a bunch of people from Damai. We had bought tickets for the afternoon show, - to the VVIP section. (Very, Very Important People).  At an exorbitant ten bucks a ticket. General admission, was 3 dollars.


In spite of these quite reasonable prices, there was almost no one in the audience. Perhaps 200 people, all told, in a tent that could easily seat 800.
The Moscow Circus Stars turned out to be only two, very over the hill, stars, Miss Ilena and Mr. Dennis, who did their pathetic best to try to reach the splendor of a past long gone.  They did not succeed.
It was an unlikely bunch of characters from the back markers that actually made the show; a parrot, four elephants, the Indonesian performers - and our very own Oka, the indispensable butler from Damai, that stole the show.



Half way through the performance, a female clown suddenly jumped out of the circular stage and came straight up to me, grabbed my hand and tried to pull me on to the stage.
This is never going to happen”, I said. She pulled harder.
Never”, I repeated.
I then pointed in the direction of Willard, who looked petrified.
She tried him and he too protested. She walked away and found another hapless victim for a very long skecth, one that W' and I both found many reasons to be most grateful not to be a part of.


Later, during the elephants performance, another person came down looking for members of the audience in the mood for a massage from an elephant.
Oka signaled yes, and was invited up. Soon he was lying face down on a matt, a big elephant behind him, massaging him gently with its trunk. There were three audience members lying there on the stage, and after massaging Oka, the big, heavy animal stepped over all three of them, carefully setting its giant feet between their small bodies.

I looked over at Prima, his wife, who was laughing away and his five year old daughter, Ocha, who looked at her dad up there under the big animal, with big, open eyes. For all of them it was their first time ever at the circus.
Nengah, Nova and Dede were  there too, this was their second performance, they went a few nights ago for their first Circus experience.

I have never really cared for the circus, I hate clowns and don’t like performing animals and I especially dislike circus costumes. But today, at this almost amateurish circus, there was a disarming,  almost endearing innocence and quality to the show, apart for the two, sad and fading Russian stars, without whom it would have been an even better experience.
Nova, Dede, Nengah, Willard,  Oka, Ocha, Jack & Prima


May 28, 2011

Team Damai

Quite a long while back now, I was up at The Damai and one morning had decided to sleep in.
As the morning hours passed and we aproached noon, and the housekeeping staff noticed that I showed no sign of getting up, but rather just watched television in bed, while ordering juices and coffee’s from the restaurant, Komang Ayo made the executive decision, that since I was not going to get out of bed, they should simply go in and clean up the room anyway.
So they did.
She’s very spunky, Ayo, pint-size and always in a sunny disposition and very funny, in Bahasa, but even so, she always makes me laugh. I have no idea what I am laughing at. She also alwasy talks about about herself in thrid person, which cracks me up.
While she washed the floors she told me in her broken english that some members of staff had started a badminton team and that they had begun playing together after work, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
I asked her where they played, and she told me of this place in Singaraja and of how they paid by the hour for the use of the court. She also told me that they were also setting a little money aside, every time they played, so that one day they might buy outfits, Team Damai badminton uniforms.
I asked how many were playing and she said 15-16, some staff, some family members.
I thought 15-16 sounded quite manageable and I was also very happy that they actually wanted to hang out with each other after work, so I immediately offered her to pay for the outfits for all of them, provided they did the designs themselves. Ayo laughed and smiled and giggled and said thanks.
Over the next couple of weeks or so, the uniforms were designed, sent off to the tailor, the number of members had swelled up to twenty something, and suddenly there is was, Team Damai.
I have not been back to The Damai for months, but I am here this weekend and today I finally managed to do what I had promised Ayo and the team for quite some time, go to the court and take a group-photo of all of them. Well, not quite all, because some were on duty at Damai, some were out sick and one or two is on maternal leave. So we ended up with a group of 10-12 of the proud members of Team Damai.
Before we took the photo, Willard, Nengah and I watched them play for a while, in a dimly lit, barn structure, with no air-condition, on a hard as knuckles tiled floor! It is not rare that I get the opportunity out here, to think of how pampered and imposibble my approach to life has become, as these guys show me, that all it really takes to have fun in life, is to have someone to play with. Never mind the floor!
You guys rock!


Photo By Willard Hanzlik