19 April 2014


Paul has found a new limit to the time he can spend in PNG without completely freaking out: two weeks. Two weeks. He came back from Sydney on April 1 and on April 15 he announced that he needed to get out. You all know what that means. Five-year-old Paul came out to play.

We had a few chances to get out of the house this week so it’s not like we have been cooped up for days but, prior to this week, yes, we could have been on lockdown.

Monday we made a biweekly trip to the grocery store. When I moved here last July, I was taken aback by the grocery standards. Of course there are more run down stores and some in areas we have been advised to avoid, but the grocery at the Waterfront is quite nice. There are three separate stores under one name: one for home goods, one for grocery and cleaning supplies and a third for wine and other alcohol products.

The Waterfront Grocery

The three grocery stores are aligned along one wall inside the shopping center
The stores are clean, the aisles are wide and security is prevalent. The shelves are usually stocked but we do know that like our time in Singapore, we should hoard anything special we like for fear it will not be available on a future trip. I found Bounty paper towels one week and bought no fewer than six rolls. I may have been so excited that I did a happy dance in the aisle and then excitedly screamed at Paul when I saw him to tell him about my find. He seems to think cheap towels are just fine. I am about to give him a made-for-TV demonstration and prove him wrong.

While shelf life in PNG is questionable, most of the products are absolutely fine. By questionable shelf life, I mean that just because an expiration date is still a ways in the future, we have no idea how long said item has been on the shelf or how long it took to get here. For instance, I purchase bags of flour and then freeze them before use to kill any weevil eggs. After freezing I can open a brand new bag of flour and find half a dozen fully-grown weevils inside. Makes me feel great.

Sometimes even the simplest items are missing. Monday we offered Joe a ride to the store since we had a pretty long list and we were sure he also required sustenance. At the end of the trip, he stated that he was unable to find salt or pepper. As he and Paul loaded the belts with the cashiers, I headed for the spice aisle. I was able to find pepper but the store had no table salt, rock salt, iodized salt, tiny salt, crushable salt. All I found was one single crusher containing black salt. He took it when I told him it was his only option.

The meats are good quality; the fish is usually good as well. The local produce lacks good looks but I have found that the products sold on the street have great flavor. When in the store, we shop in the aisle that contains the imported fruit and veg, and that is usually where the majority of our budget goes. In Singapore I was trained to ignore the prices and just buy what I needed, so I am pretty good about that here as well. However, when a small carton of blueberries translates to 20 USD, I have a freakout moment and leave the berries on the shelf. I am still praying for the frozen fruits to reappear; they have been gone for almost two months and I have been rationing my stock.

The imported produce aisle

Local produce aisle

That is an entire belt full of fresh meats, fruits and vegetables

Because of the year-round heat, the clerks wrap cold items in newspaper before bagging them

This was a record high at the time. I may have surpassed the total last week.... By the way, this translates to $255.87 and the cartful lasted us two weeks. We apparently saved $1.73 on our purchase that day. Woo hoo!
It is surprisingly easy to find a lot of healthy and even gluten-free items in our grocery store. I stock up on nuts and seeds and produce and this week found a new appreciation for local goods. Joe was kind enough to share a bounty of local fruits and vegetables obtained from a local market. We had our first passion fruit this morning, local orange last night and local sweet potatoes earlier in the week. We still have one mystery fruit in the fridge that we will eventually cut open and try. It’s dark purple on the outside, round and on a stem, and a man told us to eat the white inside and that there is a seed in the middle, but that’s all we understood. I think the mystery fruit is also passion fruit. I am going to crack it open tomorrow to find out.

My super amazing, incredibly awesome fruit salad that I made this morning and ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. No joke. So good.

Tuesdays around these parts are Super Tuesday at the local cinema where tickets are 10 kina cheaper. They used to be half off on Tuesdays but apparently things have changed. We parked the car in the lot, made our way to the escalator and as we approached the third level, it became absolutely clear that schools were closed. Apparently it’s spring break and the thing to do in PNG is to go to the third floor of the local mall where the movie theater and gaming stores are housed. We turned around, headed back out to the car and decided to try again next week.

Wednesday Paul took Joe car shopping – we absolutely remember our car shopping days – while I stayed home. Thursday we ventured out again. I had run out of my local sweet potatoes and hoped to purchase some more from the woman who sells her goods outside my favorite coffee shop. I was sad to see that she was not there when we approached but pushed the thought aside as I made my way to the first gate entrance, my brain noticing that something didn’t look right.

The place was closed and no security men were in sight. I was just barely able to read through the gate slats to see a sign that read CLOSED on the second gate inside. Paul was backing out of his parking space, getting ready leave me on the sidewalk when I flagged him down and hopped back in the passenger side. We went to Joe’s for another errand running session that kept us occupied for another couple hours. Score.

I picked up another local paper – this is apparently my new thing. I am looking for articles that I can then write to all of you about. From the paper, we quickly learned that holidays around here are serious business. It’s not like Corporate America when people are expected to work every minute of every day and holidays are just a day when most people will be working from home instead of the office. Here, holidays mean everything shuts down and no one cares about anyone or anything else, even if they don't actually celebrate the holidy.

A note on the front page of Thursday’s paper announced: HAPPY EASTER Because of Easter, we will not publish tomorrow, Friday, April 18, and Monday, April 21. We will be back on Tuesday, April 22 with all the latest news and sports.

In case you missed my last post, there is a national liquor ban throughout the four-day weekend.

That’s right – no paper on a holiday. Joe had some internet workers installing his wireless when we arrived at his house that morning. They told us that every shop would be closing early, most by noon, and that their company would not be open beyond 3. I don’t remember if one of us said out loud that we were expecting the internet to go out all weekend, but I know that I was definitely confident in my head that it would. Sure enough, Thursday afternoon we were back home and the internet died right around 3:30.

“We are about to go without internet all weekend,” I said. “They won’t begin to fix the issue until Tuesday.” Sure enough, it’s Saturday afternoon and we are still out of internet. I sent a warning text to my mom, advising her that we would not be able to make or receive calls and that the service on my cell phone was spotty so she shouldn’t expect much contact.

Paul’s phone gets better service and he has set up a limited data package that allows us to tether our devises to a wireless connector on his phone so that we can at least pull up a few web pages when needed. The service is limited, so we can only browse. Apparently I used 100 megs just by surfing one site for a half hour, so we are really limited.

And, since the city is on lockdown because of the liquor ban in effect through Tuesday, neither of us wants to leave the compound to deal with road blocks and street police. Even though I was somewhat daydreaming about taking a vacation that did not involve cell phones or internet, I wasn’t exactly thinking that we would be stuck in our apartment when the opportunity arose.

You probably won’t hear from us for a few days, so Happy Easter. Find some eggs, crack some eggs, eat some lamb or duck or ham. Rejoice with friends and family. May the Lord bless you and keep you, may you see the grace that He provides and may you find peace in your lives today and every day.


Internetless in PNG
(who could not actually post this piece when written because we did not have the bandwidth)

UPDATE: Around 8 p.m. Saturday night, the internet was restored. We'll see how long we have it and will relish every freaking minute until bedtime. 

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