Monday, July 9, 2012


Sanur Beach
  Bali is not a bad place to hold a conference. The food’s great, the taxis are cheap, and afterwards you can stick around for a few days and go to the beach. And by ‘you’ I mean ‘me’, since that’s what I just did.

I got in late Sunday afternoon. Apparently I hadn’t paid enough attention to the itinerary update sent to me by Virgin Australia, which put my departure half an hour later than originally planned and routed me through Sydney rather than Brisbane, but a quick round-the-world call to my father and his smartphone cleared that up. (And no, I’m not getting one myself til they make it small enough to fit in the front pocket of a snug pair of jeans.) After that things were fairly uneventful. Dinner on the beach, then crashed early, given the 2-hour time difference and my 4am wakeup time that morning.

Note to self: Little Pond Homestay is where I stayed two years ago, and it was lovely. This time around I was at Sindu Guesthouse, which was simple and clean, the major drawback being a 5:45am gamelan serenade each morning from the temple across the street. Nice place; bring earplugs. On my final night I upgraded from the $20/night single room to the $35/night double, which was comparatively swanky – a/c, a tv, electric teakettle, the works. Water pressure in the shower sucked in both rooms though. Ketut’s Place in Ubud, where some friends stayed, was gorgeous. Definitely going there next time I’m in town.

The conference was good, but I’ll spare you the details. I went to quite a few interesting ones, a pile of boring ones, and maybe four horrifically bad ones. (The prize goes to one talk in which we learned, over the course of seven minutes, the environments in which the glottal stop appears in one Kalimantan language. All of them, it turns out, except word-initially and word-finally after /i/. Nothing was made of this. During question period the speaker noted that because, unlike Indonesian, this language is not often written down, we cannot know if there are any alternations involving the glottal stop, or where it might be underlying vs. inserted in the phonology. Insert linguist shudder here.) My own talk went well, though I was talking at what felt like breakneck speed and still came in at 25 minutes, which cut into the question period a bit. The biggest critique (from more than one person, independently) was that the first half was all formal phonology, and who needs that kind of theory anyway? Which gives you an idea of the programmatic stance of many of the attendees. In this crowd I came across as the crazy Chomskian formalist, which is, to say the least, rather a departure from where I fall vis a vis the usual Yale perspective. By the last day, when I accidentally went to a syntax talk that turned out to be formalist as well, it felt like a breath of fresh air. (Though maybe that’s my own fault for going to mostly historical & anthropology talks. Based on the phonology talks I did see, though, maybe not.) But even if the approach mostly wasn’t what I’m used to, the presentations were by and large quite good, and it was also a nice change to be able to hang out with people for whom fieldwork and grammar-writing is the expectation rather than the exception, and who could swap their PNG or outer-island Vanuatu stories for my Papua ones. And the networking of course is a large part of the impetus for going, so in that respect too it was worth the trip.

Monkey Forest, Ubud
Outside of conference hours, of course, was Bali. Most nights I had drinks (watermelon juice, mostly) or dinner out with one group of linguists or another. The biggest success I think was my $1 plate of nasi campur, rice with various dishes on top, from the night market – almost as good as the $1 nasi campur I took to eating for breakfast at the university canteen in the morning. I don't know why I ever bother eating anywhere but canteens, markets, and warungs; the food's way more expensive and never nearly as good. Wednesday, July 4th, was the day off, and I started out by sitting out on the beach to work on my talk and getting a nice sunburn on my shins in the process. Long skirts and jeans for the rest of the week. In the afternoon was a conference-sponsored tour to a little temple, a boardwalk through a mangrove swamp, and a picturesque rice paddy. Given what Bali’s got to offer, it was kinda lame. The mangrove crabs were pretty cool though.And Friday night three of us went out to an 'upscale' dinner at Alise's Restauran, where a Batak band will play you any song you want, as long as it's in their rather limited repertoire. Mostly it was the Eagles. (At one of the big hotels, the house band sang 'Hotel Sanur Beach' in place of 'Hotel California' in the lyrics. Really guys? Are you sure that's the message you want to send?)

Monkey staring contest.
Friday was the last day of talks, and Saturday I went with one if the other students from the conference up to Ubud for the day. We did the usual touristy stuff – fed bananas to macaques at the Monkey Forest, ate babi guling (spit-roasted pig) at Ibu Oka’s, shopped for souvenirs. And today, Sunday, I read on the beach, did some last-minute shopping, and got my nails done. Now it’s 9:30pm and my flight’s about to board. I get to Canberra Melbourne at 5:30am, then Canberra at 8:20. Should be horrific. Oy.


  1. I was amused reading about your experiences at the conference -- we've both become such formalists in just 3 years!

    Also, a flight from Canberra to Canberra that lasts almost 2 hours does sound horrific.

  2. Yay monkeys! (I just got back from Bali -- man, what a trip!)