Darkness would become me underneath the table / As the fury raged around the house

I’m not sure what to make of all this fuss over the very unfortunate death of the young-ish former NZ soldier in the dark (and quite ugly) depths of Kuta a week or so ago. What I do know is that it likely didn’t need to happen, and, more, that the story and the spin coming out of the New Zealand media in the last period is best generously described as ill-informed and reflects fairly badly on what New Zealand, also generously, calls reporting.

Taking a step back, and with some local knowledge, what it looks like to me is a very confused, very likely quite inebriated, 19 year old in a very, very alien and overpowering scenario simply finding herself unable to cope with an increasingly serious situation, which ended with the death of her fiancé. It’s a pretty terrible situation to find oneself in and I have much sympathy, especially as she has to live with that, even if she’s perhaps not being honest with those around her. The one person with the experience to cope was unconscious.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it reads in the NZ press, which, to anyone who’s ever had the misfortune to spend any time in The Bounty or it’s neighbouring clubs, comes across like a transmission from a parallel universe:

About 2.30am Sunday, they tried to redeem the coupon at the Bounty Bar. Staff sent them upstairs and downstairs, and then the bartender swore at them and ignored them.

As they walked away Mr Headifen accidently knocked over a glass.

Miss Whitburn turned to see the bartender pick up a fishbowl glass and throw it at Mr Headifen.

They both rather come across as victims here, so it’s perhaps important to throw a little reality into the mix.

Firstly, and this excuses nobody, but The Bounty, where the damage was done, is the key establishment in a gruesome strip of nightclubs aimed fairly and squarely at the lower end of the Australian bogan market. It’s like a sleazier low rent take on the uglier side of the mostly now defunct hell-holes that used to fill the back streets of Kings Cross. It’s a place where loud, often quite racist and thuggish blokes and their sheilas from the working class ‘burbs of Australia drink cheap but potent ‘cocktails’ of nameless spirits from large jars and get very drunk. They then as often as not, staggering from floor to floor, end up either unconscious or in brawls. And get thrown out.

Now, I may have missed something here, but, as ugly as these venues may be, they don’t have a history of killing, or even beating up their patrons, and Balinese are simply not known for beating up tourists or guests. More importantly, I’d argue that the patrons of these sorts of dumps would provide some pretty major provocations to the staff every night, and said staff seem very practised at holding back. So the idea that, after politely trying to redeem a voucher, the accidental knocking over of a glass led to the sort of unprovoked abuse and violence against Mr. Headifen described rather defies belief.

Let’s call it for the nonsense it is. I’d more inclined to buy the local version, in the Indonesian press – that they were too drunk, the club said no more, and he started a fight, which got out of hand.

So, to outside. Firstly, the ATMs in the street give up to RP10 million. You just have to do the withdrawal several times. But she could be forgiven for not knowing that – the Indonesian banking system is not known for its user friendliness on any level.

Setting aside the thought that anyone is crazy to travel to any country without decent medical insurance, but most especially one like Indonesia, where everything costs, the tourist orientated medical facilities – like BIMC, the one that they allegedly tried to take him to –  have full credit card facilities. But all that aside, within 20 metres of the hotel, there are, 24 hours a day, a steady stream of taxis, any of which would’ve been happy to have taken Mr. Headifen to any hospital – which would’ve treated him as a matter of course, without question and without demanding pre-payment. These are international standard medical facilities, staffed and managed by fully trained and competent doctors and staff, the equal of any you’d find in any emergency room anywhere in the world. The fare – about Rp30,000 (US$2.60), and the distance about 2km.taxi.jpg

The hotel would’ve known all this, which leads me to question the next part about the hotel’s actions.

None of this, of course, comes through in any of the New Zealand reporting which leaves the reader with some pretty twisted impressions of both Bali and the risks tourists take coming here. This is not Palmerston North, but neither is it some hell-hole where you take your life in your hands simply by being here. The simple reason these bars and the environs are so ugly is because of the Australians and New Zealanders that fill them. If you filled these with Balinese or Indonesians you’d have no such issues. In fact, the average Saturday night in Palmerston North or Levin would put you far more at risk than any bar anywhere in Indonesia.

Sadly this guy seems to have been the victim of too much booze leading to too much aggression, as is often the case, most especially in the sorts of bars that young Australasians like to inhabit the world over – coupled with the confused inaction of a young girl who simply didn’t have the faintest idea where she was and, too, was legless and thus unable to cope.

Very sad, but let’s not make more of it than it is.

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