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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