Wednesday 21 December 2011

Crimbo treats in PNG

So, it's nearly Crimbo. And this year is my first away from my family. Sure, I've collected a new tribe up here, but it's times like these that make the normally-quiescent homesickness flare up.

I've said before:

Traditions are wonderful things. They link us to a group. They hold out memories in their fabric of sameness and comfort. But like everything, they have to evolve. Not change, so much as evolve. Like Mater Beige's AMAZING Xmas pudding. It was her mother's recipe of WW II, when many "traditional" ingredients were unavailable. That particular recipe has now become the tradition for myself and my children.

My Crimbo normally looks like this. But this year it's going to be different. Many of the ingredients my family use for our traditional Crimbo table simply aren't availabel up here, or are horrifically expensive.

Rice four is not to be found (for shortbreads), copha (for White Crimbo) is nonexistant, 6 glace cherries cost me AUD$8, and the only sweetened condensed milk I could find in all of Lae was chocolate flavoured. Dried fruit (for mince pies and Crimbo pud) was AUD$7.50 a bag, candied ginger was nearly $11 a bag. An Home Brand Crimbo fruit cake (which you break down with brandy and orange juice, re-form into balls, top with a dollop of white chocolate and a glace cherry.. making mini Crimbo puds) was AUD$18. A bag of white chocolate buds was about the same... meaning my tiny mouthful puddings would have come in at about AUD$1.50 each.

A box of Cadbury mini-assortment (for the centrepiece  Crimbo tree.. pinned on a bit of tree-shaped foam ) was about AUD$30

Erm, we're also still under an alcohol ban, so brandy for custard, butter, macerating fruit, etc is unavailable, even on the Black Market.

Let's also factor in that it's about 31C with 81% humidity today (9.30am). Weather NOT conducive to working with chocolate or copha anyway. Speaking of weather, Sunday is forcast to have tropical thunderstorms and a high of 39degrees.

If I chose to have a local Crimbo, I could feed 10 for about AUD$20.. mangoes are in season, as are mud crabs. I can get a couple of free-range chooks for about AUD$3.00, a whole 2kg schnapper for about AUD$7.50, chako lif for salads for AUD30c a bunch.

But I WANT Crimbo trimmings. I want Aunty Linnie's apricot balls. I want Mater Beige's chocolate spiders. I want my family's punch and honey toffee and cauliflower cheese and prawn crackers and Santa jelly mould and threepences in my pud.

And the fact I can't have them makes me feel so much further away.

Monday 19 December 2011

Accidentally vegan

Lae is a lot of thing.... as I keep mentioning, you give up a lot to live here.

One of the things I really struggle with is dairy products. The good news? Raw milk is freely available.

Bad? pretty any other dairy product is bound to be a) unavalable, b) ruinously expensive, c) out-of-date or d) all of the above.

So I had me an hankering for caramel sauce last night. The home made stuff.

Trouble is there was no butter or cream available.

So here's an accidental vegan tip.

Add a can of coconut cream, instead of butter and cream.

My original recipe for salted caramel sauce is here.


melt your sugar as per any other caramel recipe and then add a can of the richest, thickest coconut cream you can find.

As always, watch out for the splatter and sizzle.

And that's it!! Add some fleur de sel, or pink rock salt amd you're set!

Thursday 15 December 2011


wow. My first real earthquake!

Living on the Rim of Fire, we get plenty of tremors, but this one, a 7.3, was the real thing. The 1998 earthquake that resulted in a 59ft high tsunami was only 7.0.

The epicentre was only 55 miles south of Lae but, thankfully, it was deep, so no tsunami this time.

I was at my desk, trying desperately to follow the seisemic political situation in PNG, when the house simply started shaking. From side to side.

Now, for someone who KNOWS they live on the Ring of Fire, but has never experienced a quake, my first thought was a huge truck was driving up the street.

The noise was incredible!

I raced downstairs, the stairs being like the old Turkey Walk game at Luna Park. I guess right about then I realised that we were in a serious quake.

Outside, it was surreal. To be standing on 'solid' ground, watching your house hake from side to side, but the trippiest thing? The water in the pool was sloshing around, splashing up in the air and flooding the downstairs.

Your mind simply refuses to accept what it sees.

I reckon it lasted 45 seconds to a minute, but the trembling of glassware and the falling of pictures off the wall lasted longer.

We had no power, genset or mains for a couple of hours.

So thanks to all who sent concerned thoughts. I'm fine, Bubbles is fine, we're all fine.

Tuesday 13 December 2011


Remember Where You Are....

My mantra for living up here.

Yesterday, 4 workers at a local Engineering company went on strike.

4 workers out of a workforce of 200.

Their idea of a strike was to sit outside the company offices, on a planter box, smoking, for about an hour.

No placard, no chanting, no asking the passing-by community to support their ideals.

Now, as an old leftie hippy I completely support their right to strike.

I love to get my "we will not be moved" swerve on.

However, my inner beige to-the-right-of-Ghengis-Khan upbringing was the persona that actually got a run when I heard WHY they were on strike. In a country where the average wage is US$1.19 per hour, and most people still live at subsistence level, these people were on strike because:


I have it on good authority that everyone in this company, particularly the strikers, recieved gifts in the company-organised Secret Santa. I also know that the strikers attended the company-funded Xmas Party, where they partook in the company-funded luncheon. They also recieved vouchers to the value of K100, from the company as Xmas gifts.

The company, as part of the Xmas Party entertainment provided raffle prizes and the cost to enter the raffle was nil.. everyone got a ticket.

So, again I mention, they were on strike because THEY DIDN'T WIN A PRIZE IN THE XMAS RAFFLE.

I weep for the future of PNG sometimes.

And then I roll me eyes and mutter "RWYA"

Tuesday 15 November 2011




And that's not a sigh of the "OMG, hot, shirtless, ripped young tradies" kind, either.

It's a sigh of:

"when I call you to fix my lights, please send a sparky, not an illiterate numpty who cannot speak English".

It's a sigh of:

"when the sparky does actually arrive, can he please come equpped with electrical sparky workmen stuff, as opposed to a sparky that rings NOTHING in the way of tools"

I believe the most feared words in PNG are "I'll just have to go back to the office and pick up *insert blokey sounding tool name.. No, not Nigel**


Monday 24 October 2011

Go pinis

No, it's not a catchcry for the cheerleaders in the porn industry.

it means "go finish', and that's what it's called up here when expats finish their tour.

The very delectable Dr Wendy and her bloke are go pinis this week, so this weekend was their go pinis party (parties)

Dr Wendy and her posse hang out at Phil's Motel. I haven't ever been there. Phil's is in Eriku, a 'suburb' of Lae. Eriku is NOT the place to travel at night. And, to get to Phils, you have to drive over a pot-holed, dark car-park, up a weird little alley way  and into the car park. Which, on Saturday night, was full of unsavoury-looking characters milling around.

And that's just the easy bit.

To gt to the poolroom at Phils, you have to enter via a locked and guarded door, sign in.. as it's members only... except I wasn't a member. Apparently that;s no problem.I am white and female, so the Magic Door just opened for me.

You then traverse a undulating windowless corridor that looks like it was rejected as the corridor in "Dead Man Walking" or "The Green Mile" for being to scary.

It smells like a urinal, is slippery with unknown substances and goes on for a REALLY long time.

You finally come to an intersection, where you can head for the Reception of Phil's Motel, or you can hang a righty into the pool room.

Now.. to the Pool Room...

If you are of a certain age, and from Melbourne, you probabaly spent a large portion of your misspent youth at The Espy. And while Phil's is NOTHING like the Espy, it has the same vibe. It's dirty and kinda nasty.. and the loal clientele look suspiciously on outsiders. There is a tiny wee hatch that leads to the kitchen, where you can order burgers an chips and pizza, and mice frequent the skirting boards.

The Espy pool room was known for its sticky carpet. Phil's is famous for its sticky tiles. The Espy was famous for its 'roaches'. At Phil's, cockroaches big enough to carry off small children crawl up through the holes in the pool table.

The pool table is on an everso slight lean, making a clean break to the left almost impossible. Although, I am reliably informed that the more SP beer you drink, the straighter the table becomes.

Phil's Rules of Billiards allow for contact with small mammals and large insects.

The beer is cold and cheap. The kitchen does amazing rough-cut chips/wedges, and they let you bring your own ipod and speakers for the music.

It's awesome!

A little part of me that has been missing the funk and groove of Melbourne, has come home to roost at Phil's

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Morobe Show

It's Show season in PNG. Every major city hosts an annual show, wherein all the local ndustires and culture of the region are, well.. showcased.

I missed the Goroka Show this year, with its mud men and Highlands attractions, but there's always next year.

The Kare Bras Ban, and their drum leader.

The finalists of Morobe Show Queen pose in traditional costume with the members of the Demonites (?) Motorcross.

Runner up in Morobe Show Queen, with Bird of Paradise headdress, bone necklace and lime pot.

A traditionally dressed Spirit or Skeleton man, casually wanders by.

Back view. Check out the tail.