Ten kitties: Waterlilies

This cat was drinking from a bowl of waterlilies outside somebody’s house, but stopped and feigned innocence when I raised the camera.


Junk food of the week: Pangsit goreng

A pangsit goreng is a huge deep-fried wonton. Almost lost in its expanse of crunchy-crumbly dough is a tiny ball of chopped chicken.

I don’t think there can be any nutritional value in a pangsit goreng, other than whatever protein there is in the chicken. Luckily for my arteries, I don’t really find them all that alluring, but if you get them at Es Teler 77, my current favorite fast-food place, it’s kind of fun to make big puddles of sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) and chili sauce and use the pangsit as a vehicle to eat immoderate amounts of both.

Ten kitties: friend or foe?

Judging by the terrible howls we hear at night, cats here fight constantly over their territory. These two decided to be friends, at least temporarily.

Both of these kitties have short tails with a kink at the end, which is very common here. There are various theories for this, including some involving human cruelty, but I suspect it’s genetic.

Here’s a closer look at the kinky tail.


There are little offerings to gods, ancestors and spirits all over Bali, just sitting out on the sidewalks in front of the shops and houses. You often see people putting them out, like this woman who came onto the beach at sunset.

According to our chatty cab driver, you’re supposed to do three offerings a day, but some people cheat a bit. I wouldn’t be surprised; I bet the cost adds up!

The Balinese are mostly Hindus, practicing a form of the religion that developed distinct from Indian Hinduism. The Balinese version apparently places less emphasis on reincarnation and more on the interaction with deities and spirits.

The small offerings vary from village to village, but almost always include betel nut, which a mild stimulant, and is associated with the major gods. The ones we saw were made on palm-leaf plates and contained leaves, flowers, rice, and a little cracker or rice cake on top. There are more elaborate ones for temples, holidays and ceremonies. They must be a boon for the local animals; one late night we saw a cat perched atop a temple, maybe eight or nine feet in the air, having a snack.

Ten kitties: Andri’s cat

More on Bali in the next post but first —

I woke up early yesterday morning and the weather was really nice: sunny but cool, and the air felt clean. It was Sunday and the first morning of Ramadan, so the streets were really quiet. I decided to go for a walk and take pictures of cats. I wouldn’t look for cats; I would simply allow cats to happen. In Jakarta they happen with great frequency.

I ended up walking for 20 minutes, never getting more than three blocks from the apartment, and photographing thirteen kitties. I’ll be posting the ten best pics.

This is Andri, a boy who lives down the street from me. He’s sitting in front of a tiny shop that sells water; hence, the cooler in the background. Andri nominated himself to be my helper, and spent a few minutes running around finding cats for me. This was against the rules, but of course I didn’t mind.

The cat is called something like Gunam or Ganum. A lot of kitties here are feral, and run away from strangers, but Gunam/Ganum is at least partially domesticated. He was very relaxed and even let me scritch his head.

We came. We shredded. We crashed.

I have this tendency to open my mouth when I’m doing something difficult. I don’t talk, necessarily; I just open it. Maybe to relieve the pressure in my brain. I opened my mouth a lot during our surfing lesson, and perhaps that’s why I swallowed a fair amount of ocean water, but it didn’t matter because we were having so much fun.

The ocean off Kuta is a perfect playground for beginning surfers: the waves are big enough to give you a ride, but there aren’t a lot of sharp rocks or other nasty things to cut yourself on, and it’s so shallow you can just walk out instead of paddling. (“I hate paddling,” said our teacher Nyoman in his charming Balinese-Australian accent. “It’s so tiring.”)

For beginner lessons they use these big foam boards that are very forgiving, so it was pretty easy to scramble up there and start catching waves. The real boards are a little more difficult, as we discovered when we rented one the next day. But that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm. We are surfers now.