Saturday, April 17, 2010


I'm planning a general spruce up of the property this year. Keeping up with the Wayans, Mades, Nyomans, Ketuts and the like. There has been  a something of a building boom  in the neighborhood lately and I'm feeling left behind. Its also a chance to fix up some of the more glaring problems of the old house. Anyways I've clipped a first draft of the reno. Trying to think of a name for the place. Ideas gratefully entertained...

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Crocodile Farm

I remember going to a crocodile farm once. The guide showed us a small pool with a tall heavy mesh fence around it. "Watch this" he said and carefully inserted a long bamboo shaft through the mesh and tickled the edge of the pool. There was an immediate splash and the biggest crocodile that I would ever care to meet came lunging out towards us. We were all properly shocked and frightened, much to the amusement of our guide. I don't think I ever went back to that crocodile farm again.

This memory surfaced when I was reading about the recent riots in Tanjung Priok. Sometimes the crocodiles only need a little prodding to come charging out of their pools. I'm not sure who was carrying the pole this time. The incident requires credible investigation before blame, and ultimately punishment, can be apportioned. The police arrived ready for the trouble and an armed mob was waiting for them. Somebody tickled the pond and the crocodiles reacted predictably.

Now that the fires are out the blame game has started. There have been calls for the police to be disbanded, the mayor to be fired, the governor to be fired, and the vigilante group that imposed itself on the situation to be banned. Everyone is getting in on it. The Minister of Information has stupidly called for images of the riot to be banned as they would be bad for the nation. Someone forgot to tell him that there is a free press in Indonesia not to mention that the photos have already made it to the international agencies. The  Jakarta Governor has gone to visit the families of the bereaved, promised compensation, and pledged to convert the tomb of Mbah Priok to a historical site. Too bad he didn't think to communicate to the residents before the incident-lives may have been saved. And in probably the best instance of bad timing Home Affairs minister has trotted out his latest absurdity: that of the moral elegibility of  entertainers as elected officials. He's got it mixed up. They are already lots of politicians playing at governing  - they should be more concerned with being seen as actors such rather than actors being seen as politicians. Whats needed are leaders to calm the waters and and keep the crocodiles in their pools. Better yet if they can drain the ponds. Instead the guys with sticks seem to be in charge.

Photo clipped from the BBC

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I'm not big on moving. I sort of have the opinion that sometimes you are better off with the devil you know then the devil you  about to meet. But one must move with the times I suppose so here we go...

A few weeks ago our crew was forced to moved from our old house in Vila Alica to a new facility a little bit closer to the office. The old house had its problems: Hot water was scarce, the roof leaked, and the generator was constantly breaking down. The swimming pool looked more like a giant culture sample than a place to cool off in. The house happenned to be situated next to a park which meant that every weekend we were bombarded with Kizomba music till 6 AM from speakers the size of trucks brought in especially for the occasion. On the positive side the house had that comfortable feel to it that only comes from people living there a long time and gradually making improvements. Our kitchen/bar was one of those places- a natural hangout after work. Another was our common rooms with big screen TV, a library, and a DVD collection. We normally did barbeques on Saturdays with our (barbeque) technicians leaving a little early to get the meat started.  Overall is was the next best thing to being home - not the ritz but lots of little personal touches. We are at work after all.

Like most good things the staff house has come to an end. Presumably to save costs the company went into the process of building a hotel to replace all of the division staff houses. On paper this is probably a good idea. If only the planners had some idea of practicalities. For instance our total bedspace of all the staffhouses was 60-70 beds. This was replaced by a hotel with a bedspace of 50 beds. I can't really see how its going to work. Its hard to expand the business when there is no room to expand. The other litttle problem is the internet. We are basically in a situation now where we are service twice the number of people with half the bandwidth - what were they thinking eh?

The new building itself has some amusing quirks. The elevator must have been built for somebody else's building because the numbers on the elevator don't match the floors. For example pushing the button for the third floor will land you on the forth??! I thought I was losing my mind the first time I got off the elevator onto the wrong floor. Did the builders have drawings?  There are several other little issues too tedious to mention which I am going to attribute to the break-in process but if this were a hotel it would be the kind of hotel that you would only visit once. The room themselves are quite nice and the catering has improved. It just feels impersonal. There is just no common area to watch the game with your mates or curl up to enjoy a good book. And the price! This building cost us in the neighborhood of 35 million. Now our staff houses were costing us 1-2 million/year (its expensive here in Angola) but for 35 million - up front mind you - we get the new place for only 5 years. After that the lease expires and we are out on the street until the next super expensive accomodation comes along. Someone must have seen us coming.

Only time will tell if the move was a good thing or not. I am already missing the library.