Ni Made Jessica Keatinge, at home, on the day of her tooth-filing 3 June 2015
When I first lived in Indonesia in Surabaya, East Java, in 1973, people of mixed blood were called Indo. During the colonial era it was a derogatory expression: there was discrimination against, and even special schools for, the Indos. I remember my Javanese friend taking me to see some indo girls in East Surabaya, and being struck by their hazel-eyed, long-limbed, honey-coloured beauty. They were popular as models for advertising skin-whitening productions. Back then, in the 1970s, they were regarded as great exotic beauties.Indos seemed to live in European-style houses and behave more like Dutch people. Fast forward 40 years and the word Indo now means Indonesian and any stigma attached to being mixed-blood has totally disappeared. The great Buckminster Fuller’s prediction that by the year 2050 everyone on the planet would be tea-coloured is not far wrong, certainly not in Bali, where the expat community is very mixed. Jakarta wags use expressions such as Indokrupuk Bali-German or Indokrupuk Bali-Aussie to describe these kids. Originally Indokrupukwas a derogatory term for an ugly Indo (rare, somehow, as the Dutch and Javanese genes seemed to be well-matched for mixing), but is now just amusing, and bantered around high-society circles. Before the advent of surfing, and bronzed beach boys, it was mostly the Balinese aristocracy who took European wives — girls with whom they had been studying abroad. The children of these unions tended to become doctors or TV stars, to marry Europeans themselves, and then to disappear. In the late 1970s, Aussie girls in particular started falling in love with Kuta beach stud-muffins and ‘Love as long as your visa lasts’ sometimes became a life of drudgery in a Perth suburb. There were, of course, many exceptions! But these girls tended to take their exotic hubbies home. In the 1980s there emerged, in Ubud, a new breed of Balinese husband-hunter, the Tjokaholics. These tended to be well-educated girls from good families — Tokyo Japanese and East Coast Americans for the most part — who loved the Balinese culture and wanted to marry into Balinese palaces. These unions produced some of the most talented classical Balinese dancers (such as Peliatan), chiropractors (such as Puri Saren, Ubud), and entrepreneurs (such as Geria Tapak Gangsul, Denpasar). Meanwhile, the villa people arrived in Canggu in the 21st century with children as backup, and the expat playing-field was levelled: 50%Indokrupuk, 50% paleface, where it remains, pretty much, today.
3 June 2015: A special tooth-filing in Sanur 42 years ago I sailed to Bali on a 35-foot ketch with Sydney mate, Mark Keatinge. I stayed; he went back to Byron Bay, to breed. In 1989 he returned, took a lovely local Sanur bride, and had two more daughters. Today is their tooth-filing!!
Mark’s wife, Ketut, is a leader in the community, so the house courtyards are packed. Mark was awarded an honour — the Order of Australia Medal — from the Australian Government for his humanitarian assistance during the weeks after the first Bali Bomb. Today, their girls look like Bollywood goddesses! Everyone is beaming with joy. It’s fantastic the way the Balinese just fold us into their society. (see photo below).
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14 June 2015: To Wantilan Lama, Batu Jimbar, Sanur: Soft launch of an important book: Pray, Magic, Heal about the real Ketut Liyer, by David Stuart-Fox
Photo above: (standing, left to right) Diana Darling, Frank Morgan (who generously hosted the event), the Stranger, Desak Suarti, Kadek Krishna Adidharma, Sarita Newson, Graeme MacRae (anthropologist from New Zealand), Rucina Ballinger, Mrs. David Stuart-Fox, Janet de Neefe, Leonard Lueras; (seated) Rio Helmi, David Stuart-Fox, Garrett Kam (Photo by Rucina Ballinger).
35 years before Ketut Liyer of Ubud became famous as Elizabeth Gilbert’s faith healer, writer David Stuart-Fox started a friendship with him that led to this book. Stuart-Fox is one of a small band of scholars who spent time in Bali in the 1970s; he has come back regularly ever since. His voice in this excellent illustrated book (with 48 of Liyer’s ‘magic drawings’) has never been stronger and purer.
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Friday, 12 June 2015: A dinner at the Consul-General’s Residence for Allaster Cox, First Assistant Secretary South-East Asia Maritime Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Haters and whingers of Australia get real: your government does a great job in Asia. The Australian Consulate-General in Bali hosts many elegant events. It puts together leaders from the Balinese and the Australian expat community. Recently it hosted an event for the Emerging Writers Festival, and another evening for business people, at which Julie Bishop gave a rousing speech. One for Australian and Balinese artists is coming up. Tonight, Bali is represented by the assistant GM of Bali Hai Cruises and Ida Bagus Krisna of the Segara Beach Village family (his grandparents were pioneers in Bali tourism; his father now heads Bali’s Hotel and Restaurant Association). For four decades I have worked as gardener for nearly all the Australian ambassadors; over this time I have been impressed by the intelligence, compassion, and deep understanding of Indonesian customs and character our ambassadors and visiting ministers have shown. Australia is blessed to have had, since independence in 1901, good governance and limited corruption — which you can’t say about many other countries around here — or, indeed, anywhere. Seeing up-close the amazing contribution Australia often makes to Indonesia — in academic research, in the arts, in aid, in disaster relief — I have come to feel that the way so many Australians perpetually have the boot into whomever our PM or Foreign Minister may be is disloyal. All the embassy and consul staffs I spoke to tonight, who have all spent considerable time abroad, agree. Equally, when things go sour between the two countries as they now are, I find it unforgiveable that the Australian press beats it up with incendiary reporting. The Indonesia-bashing and-hating on social media lately are alarming. On the Indonesian side, there has been a lot of Australia-bashing — our record with our indigenous Australians and refugees is brought up time and again, as is our Big Brother posturing. But these articles come from the gutter press and don’t represent the feeling of the Indonesian people (certainly not the Balinese) for whom Australia is number one holiday and higher-education destination. The Balinese understand our underbelly — they’ve had 40 years to get used to it. They even find our boganism amusing, and can relate to it. We’re all island folk together
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Alaya Kuta Hotel Opens: Last month I completed a landscape design for this budget boutique hotel ― it had to be cheap and cheerful. My office did the interior design for the restaurant as well. I decided to cover the four-storey blank wall, poolside, with a lamak (woven Balinese offering) mosaic pattern, but it looked too busy and ‘Hindu’ (the owners are Christian), so I secretly developed a pattern based on a Barong’s vest, enlarged it 100 times, and called it ‘Lady Di’. They loved it! Now it’s the talk of the town. Ha! (Photo courtesy of Gabriel Ulung Wicaksono)
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Full coral Kul Kul at Batu Jimbar villas designed by Geoffrey Bawa and built by Wayan Cekog and A.A. Arum from Intaran Sanur in 1970
Cokorda Pemecutan XI, Raja Denpasar (Centre), his wife and palace priest Pedanda Telabah celebrate his oton Balinese birthday in the palace