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.

Friday 14 October 2011


Expatting can be hard, especially on women up here on a dependant visa. They're not allowed to work. So there are plenty of activities to get women out of the haus, and plenty of opportunities to network. There are card mornings, Mah Jong, Lioness Club, Rotary, various committees for the Show, Pink Ribbon Day, balls and dances, and the like.

One of the highlights of the month is LOTM, Lunch of the Month. Tickets go on sale a week before the event and the are usually sold out within a day or two.

There is a committee that organises them and they often have themes. I've been to a local PNG-themed one, a Mexican one, and yesterday was a South African one.

Lae is a polyglot of many nations. In the expat community, the most frequent nationalities are Australian, New Zealand, South African and American, with smaller Philipino and Chinese contingents. Cross-cultural relationships are common. It's not unusual to find someone on a US passport, who's been up here 20 years, and talks with an almost pure Aussie accent, married to a local of Korean/Philipino descent.

It makes for a weird accent.

But pretty awesome food.

Here's a glimpse of yesterday's LOTM:

There were boerwars sausages, heavily spiced with cinammon, corn bread, chutnies, and AMAZING dessert drink called Don Pedro, originally from Argentina, something called Bunny Chow- little bread rolls hollowed out and filled with spiced fruit and meat curry. And more.

Addendum: Just found my spiel on South African food, from th LOTM Ladies:

Rainbow Cuisine.

South African food is truly a multicultural combination of indigenous ingredients such as fruit, bulbs, nuts, leave and wild game, and food tat came with the colonial era fromHolland, Germany. France, Great Britain and India. Maize has become an integral part of traditional Afrian cooking since its introduction centuries ago that many people assume to be an indigenous plant.

Mielle brood/corn bread
Bunny chow: curry stuffed into a hollowed-out loaf of bread, called kots by locals
Braai: South African BBQ
Biltong:dried salted meat
bobotie: meatloaf with raisins and baked egg from Malay influence, typically served with yellow rice and chutney
Boereors: spicy, fatty sausage, grilled over an open flame
Sosaties: light curried meat kebab similar to satay
Potjiekos: African stew made in a cast-iron pot over hot coals.

The LOTM ladies usually put on some games, or a quizz, to learn a little about the culture of the month.

Did you know that South Africa was the first country to commerical grow and export aloe vera products?

If you're new to Lae, get on the LOTM mailing list. It's an awesome day.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Food in Lae

So, to food. If you're not much of a cook, you might want to brush up on you skills before you come up here. while there's a few restaurants, and the ubiquitous Big Rooster, (a fattier, greasier, nastier version of Red Rooster, if that is at all possible), your choice is limited. We have pizza at most of the big hotels, but for some unknown reason, the pizza base is usally quite sweet and, more often than not, undercooked.There are 2 Asian restaurants in town, the Bugger-Up and Th Aviat, both of which are pretty hit-and-miss in the quality department.

The Lae Inter does an awesome all-you-can-eat seafood buffet on Friday nights, but it's pricey, and the cost of drinks will kill you. There's the Yacht club, which is good... not great.. about 70% of the time.

And even if we had a better choice, not too many people want to eat out for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day of their 3 year tour.

So, some basic culinary skills are required.

Queue lecture on ingredients:



The supermarkets up here are odd, to say the least. Ingredients come in dribs and drabs. A few weeks ago, Lae hadn't seen honey for months. Then, within a blink of an eye, it seemed as every shelf in Lae was laden with honey. We had honey out the whazzoo.

Dairy products are usually past their use-by dates. Often, the use-by dates have been removed. Yoghurt is a premium item, and can cost you  up to 30K for a small tub. Cheese is most often dodgy, and is always very expensive.

Bacon comes pre-packed and will usually taste and smell of fish.

However, someone at Food Mart obviously is in the know, because, currently, there are some of the most awesome Middle Eastern products I have ever seen! Halva, falafel mix, tahini.. stuff I'd struggle to find outside a speciality store in Melbourne is fair falling from the skies in Lae right now.. and it's all super cheap!

Keeping ingredients is a bit tricky, as well. even in the 'fridge, vegetables only last a day or two, especially the leafy greens. Every time you open the 'fridge door, the 90% humidity enters, and things spoil quickly. Biscuits, once opened, have to be consumed,or the humidity makes them soggy within hours.

Keeping the ants out of the sugar/flour/spices is an ongoing battle I am doomed to lose, no matter how many ant traps I lay.

Even so, a bit of forward planning, and the ability to think on your feet will help you up here.

Just because you sa lamb shanks last week, doesn't mean you can menu-plan for them this week.

I do all my menu planning right at the supermarket shelves. Untill I know I can get all the ingredients, I don't bother planning anything in advance. If I feel like meat/seafood, I buy that first, and then plan all the trimmings around what I've been able to get.

A trip to the loal main market is quick and easy, and if you take a husband/mari/friend you'll be safe enough.

Also, plenty of families have their own gardens up here. Both expat and local families are only too happy to share/swap vegies that may not be available in the shops.The key to sanity survival up here is to roll with what's available.

And because I did the very delicious (if not somewhat vertically challenged) Miz Jan a favour recently, she turned up this morning with a veritible bounty of goodies from her garden.

while 2 minute noodles WAS on the menu, today's lunch is bought to you by:

Wild rocket, spinach, burdock and dill from Jan's garden in Mount Hagen, fresh pickled beetroot from Miz Jan's Lae garden, mint from her balcony, oven-roasted tomatoes from last night's lamb, and fetta (that has been sealed up as tight as a Scottish fish's arse) from my 'fridge.

Cheaper and fresher than a salad of wilted iceberg from Brian Bells, nicer by far than a gristly steak sambo from the Melo, and tastier than the not-quite-microwave-warmed noodles I had at the Yachty last week.

And better than anything they serve at the Golf Club. Mouldy meat pies, anyone??

A rite of passage

Well, I got robbed.

A classic PNG "home invasion", where fingers are pointed in so many different directions that, in the end, no-one knows what really happened.

All I can say, it Thank Goodness for rape gates. It appears that they came in via the front gates (more on my now EX guard in a minute), as there's no sign of them coming over the wire. They opened that back gate.. the one I haven't had keys to since I moved in, despite several.. like fifteen... emails requesting them.

At the time of the burglary, I had 2 keys. One to the front door and one to the rape gate.

They jemmied the sliding door, and took my bilum. In which was my wallet, containing some money, not much. But the REAL piss off is that it contained all my cards.

My credit card, my EFTPOS cards (both PNG and Aussie), my licence (both PNG and Aussie), my private health insurance ID, my medicare card....  the whole lot.

They also took all my cooking knives from the knife block on the bench.

There is nothing to suggest they tried to come upstairs, but thank goodness I had the rape gates locked. FYI, if you don't already know, "rape gates" are big steel "panic room" style gates that partition off a portion of your house, usually bedrooms. From behind the rape gates, somewhere in the partitioned-off area, there is (usually) an escape hatch. In most places I've lived up here, the escape hath is usually deliberately out-of-sight of the rape gate.. for self-evident reasons.

I have an escape hatch. It's locked and I don't have a key.

So, while there is no evidence that they attempted to come up to the bedroom floor, I still get a little squiffy just thinking about it. I mean, 99% of the time, there's just little old me and a puppeh in the whole compound.

Anyway, the story goes that I heard Bubbles bark, went down to see what was going on and realised I'd been robbed. The back door was open and my bilum was missing. I didn't notice the knife block until later.

So I run out on the balcony, wrapped in nothing but a towel and call to the guard.

"Can you come around the back, I've been robbed", I yelled.

And he looked at me, with the most gormless of faces and said:

"No you haven't, I've just been around the back. You haven't been robbed"

Right then I knew a) he was in on it and b) he warn't gonna be much help.

I then realised that the guard dog, provided for me added security was locked in behind the pool gate.


In fact, when I asked him to patrol the grounds WITH THE DOG, he refused, choosing to aimlessly pootle around the garden on his own.

I reckon his wantoks were still on the property.

Anyway, Captain Jack (of the Labu Mud Crabs fame) came around and sorted every little thing out. My phone is still being used. Some random guy answers it and has rung friends up here asking for money. The police have been, my cards have been cancelled, the process of getting them reissued begun.

Long-termers tell me it's a rite of passage up here, and I must say, I am surprisingly more relaxed about it than I thought I would be. I'm fine, my pup is fine. That's all I really care about.

It's not nearly as much fun, nor nearly as cool as a set of Hindu prayer flags, but it really is only 'stuff".

But my rape gate is my new best friend.

Sunday 2 October 2011


Give the lack of much to do in Lae, we make our own fun. with no movie theatres, no nightclubs, and no expat-friendly after-dark shopping malls, we tend to form little groups based on communal hobbies.

EnterThe "ARSOL's". It's quite an honour to be one. We have our own secret greeting "G'day ARSOL", and yesterday was our Annual Meeting.

ARSOL = Aussie Rules Supporters of Lae.

I'm an ARSOL. A proud ARSOL, infact.

So, yesterday. It was my first Grand Final up here, so my first ARSOL annual event. All the money raised in the tipping comp goes back as prizes, and the GF Party is funded purely by sponsors.

(in a "It Could Only Happen In Lae side note, my friend's company? A sponsor for many years? The company name was wrongly spelled on the Sponsors Board. It's Capacity P/L.. Not Capacitity, ok)

Lae is a funny place. It's stuck in a strange timewarp, where political correctness, OH&S and some of the social justice issue we take for granted back home, seem to have lost themselves on the way. It's Aussie humour of men and farting and taking the piss. There is a very clear gender divide, where people of my sex are still referred to as "ladies" or "wives". It's nothing to be talking to the CEO of a multinational corporation, as he drops the "C" bomb in conversation, gets stonkered and farts publically, all the raucous laughter of his mates. "Poofter" is still considered a term of endearment up here.

Imagine an English upper class boarding school run by Ugly Dave Grey, with Graeme Kennedy as the Pastor, George and Mildred as the grounds-staff and the theme from Benny Hill as the school Hymn. It's Monty Python's "Bruces" Sketch come to life!

That's the ARSOL's.

The loser of the tipping competion has to wear a toilet seat around his neck on GF day. The next-to loser has a pair of ladies stockings hung around his neck, the toes filled with huge salad onions to simulate boobs, and is dressed in a mari blouse. The winner has to publically schkoll a very large schooner of beer and invert it on his head, all the while being egged on by a rousing chorus of "Hooray for Henry, Hooray at last! Hoorary for Henry, he's a horses arse!"

It's slightly furtive in its male-centric-ness, but all good fun. And the sanctioned homoerotica of watching and AFL game just adds to the experience.

It's Aussie hunour that seems to have ripped its way out of the 1970's. It's VFL before the poofters got hold of it and turned it into AFL. It's going straight to the pool room. It's Hoges when he still called Strop a mate.  It's Kingswood Country, where Detetive Seargent Bargearse will still clout you on across the ear and send you home to a Mum who looks like Abigail.

It's a rousing chorus of ""All Coppers are Constables"

It's Lae, mate. And I'm an ARSOL.

copulater, blokes.

Friday 30 September 2011

Health Care

(Photo by Jenny Griggs)

This  sign, and the underlying chair are possibly the cleanest things at Angau Hospital. Angau is the place that Betti the Wonder Mari went recently, with suspected malaria. 30+ hours of lying on a flithy mattress, with no food, water or toilet facilities, she had her BP taken. 

And was sent home. 

15 minutes later, I'd bought her Quinine at the local pamasi, jabbed her in the bott, and started her on a course of anti malarials. For the cost of K17.

And the Aust Government, in its infinte wisdom:

The Federal Opposition says a Government plan to extend the life of two tuberculosis (TB) clinics in the Torres Strait, off far north Queensland, is a "small stay of execution".
The TB clinics treating Papua New Guinea nationals were due to wind up yesterday as the Commonwealth shifts its funding of TB services from the Torres Strait to PNG.
The Federal Opposition's Indigenous health spokesman, Andrew Laming, says the Government's proposed three-month extension does not allow enough time to train clinicians in PNG to take over.
"Papua New Guinea's a very tough place to treat TB because of the remoteness and inaccessibility," he said.
"We need a 12-month handover minimum, it's not that expensive to continue these TB clinics and it's certainly a lot cheaper than getting infected TB patients turning up in Australia.
"We understand that Queensland Labor, together with Julia Gillard, are talking about two extra clinics that will go through until September but it's completely impossible to train clinicians in Papua New Guinea in that time.
"What's needed is an investment in Papua New Guinea that builds up services, but we must not stop the Torres Strait clinics - they are the clinics that stop tuberculosis island hopping from Papua New Guinea down and infecting Australian citizens."

and from SBS
The federal and Queensland governments are being accused of unnecessarily exposing mainland Australia to virulent new strains of tuberculosis, with the closure of specialist clinics in the Torres Strait.

Two clinics, on Boigu and Saibai islands, near Papua New Guinea, have been treating PNG citizens infected with TB.

However they are due to close at the end of the month, leaving island patients to seek treatment in Daru in Papua New Guinea's Western Provnce.

But head of the Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine, Professor Ian Wronski says PNG's health system isn't capable of treating the patients.

Professor Wronski told Stefan Armbruster, the closure of the clinics will leave far-north Queensland exposed to the disease.


Daru. Hmmm... Daru hospital is where my blogger friend Malum's wife went, three years ago, for (by Australian standards) fairly simple post-natal treatment. And died. Daru hospital. Where they can't control the current cholera outbreak. Here's a little bit more of what Malum has to say about Daru:

Daru, the once-thriving former capital of Western province, has sadly become a forgotten backwater despite all the riches from the Ok Tedi mine.
It is a dismal-looking town covered by bush, potholes and very basic services such as health are wanting, as exemplified by the town’s hospital.

Head over to his blog, to read more.

So, the Australian Government, in its wisdom, is closing down services that scientists say are keeping new and virulent forms of TB from entering Australia. And their justification is that PNG can host them "in house" (hmmm.. that means "off shore" for Australia. Sound familiar??)

Let's just remember that Papua New Guinea is consistently ranked in the top most-corrupt nations in the world, by Transparency International’s (TI) 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index (along with Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan and Myanmar).

Here's a joke old timers tell up here.

The Australian Government give 10 million dollars to PNG for new roads/hospitals/schools. "Great!" says the PNG Government, "Thank you very much! But we're not going to spend it straight away, we're going to think about the best way to disperse the funds and wait a year. we're going to get together in 12 months to talk about it"

So, in 12 months time, the powers that be, here in PNG get together to discuss how best to spend the 8 million dollars. And they can't come to an agreement, except to wait 6 months and have a think about it.

So 6 months later, they meet, and the 6 million dollars is a big responsibility. Maybe they need to get more feedback from "grasroots" before they allocate?

So in another 6 months, they meet, and the 4 million dollars, so wonderfully donated by Australia, and they can't come to a decision because the Head of the working committee on how to spend this money has had to fly home to his remote tokplace for a haus crai.

So a few months later, they FINALLY decide what to do with the 2 million dollars. They'll use it for its intended purpose of roads/schools/hospitals!

So 2 years after the money is donated, a whopping big $600,000 is donated to **insert random Province's name**.

But now, the local Provinical Governemt must use it wisely. And guess what? They need to think about the $400,000 very carefully.

They'll get back to us in 12 months.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Dumpling feast

you give up a lot to expat. Especially over here. Living behind razor wire, guards, gunfire at footy matches, leaving friends and family behind, not being able to drive around freely..... To make up for it, you have to look for the upside everywhere.

Now I hate sounding like Polly-fucking-Anna, but if you focus on all the things you've 'lost' to come up here, you'll never leave the compound, miss out on so much and eventually find yourself pouring vodka on your Cornflakes.

I completely don't get people, especially women up here, who stay locked away in their compounds for fear of 'something happening'. I know of two families alone, who've never been to Madang, or Salamaua, or Goroka or anywhere, for that matter, despite being here more than 12 months.

The reason? They're "too scared". Then I argue, why the hell did you move here? There are plenty of places that are 'safer', where you can make more money. You're in one of the last, great, unchartered places on Earth, with possibly the most diverse culture on the planet... and you'll go home in 3 years whining about how Lae's such a hole, and PNG is so dirty and hot, and you'll do it all from the privacy and 'safety' of your company compound.

People like that shit me senseless.

Lae is perfectly safe. As is most of PNG. My mantra is always, "If I wouldn't do X at home, I'm not going to do it here" The key to surviving expatting is to be courteous, culturally aware and vigilant.

Oh, and to carry a bush knife.


The other key is to put aside your Western/ Eastern prejudices and look for the good. And if the 'bad' shits you enough, get out and do something about it.

One of the MANY good things about PNG is the abundance of amazing food. (I'd argue that those who 'hate' Lae, or PNG, those who never leave their comfy compounds are also those who've never been to the market for fresh crab, or tried aibika or kau kau, and who's cupboards are stocked with Oreos and Kraft Mac "N Cheese blue boxes)

Anyway back to the amazing CHEAP food.

Lobster. I haz it.

5kgs of juicy lobster tails, for about $200AUD. Dude, I will take all the dust and diesel fumes and PMV bullshit drivers in the entire country, for lobster this good and this cheap.

And I'm going to turn them into this:

Yep. lobster and chive dumplings with a little touch of XO sauce.

And because I like to think I am a person of integrity and have a pretty strong sense of social justice, I'm off to the market soon to spend a whole K40 (about $20 AUD) on veggies- thus supporting local farmers- to make up a big batch of soup, and take it to the local hospital.

The local hospital where patients have no access to water, food or toilets while they wait up to 30 hours to be seen.

The hospital wherein yesterday, my friend Lian gave birth to her 3rd son, and was discharged within 2 hours.

And I know this because I ran into her in the supermarket, shopping for her and the children... THREE HOURS after giving birth.

Jeez... and I thought I was hardcore....

Thursday 22 September 2011

The Case of the Elusive Ectotherm


Somebody stole my bloody fish!!

(Disclimer: This pic ISN'T of the fish. This is a pic from Wiki Images. MY fish, I didn't take pics of, as it was earmarked to be cooked. wrapped in bananna leaves, with ginger, shallotts and garlic. Which I was unable to achieve. Due to its STOLEN status.)

so. I've moved haus. No more Petyon Place, No more illegal bus stations right outside my bedroom window, with PMV drivers shouting "Lae, Lae, Lae, Lae, Lae. Market, Market, Market, Market, 2 Mile. 2 Mile, 2 Mile" from 6am to 8pm. No more living in the only street in Lae City that provides ingress (and illegal egress)  from the shopping heart of town to the main thoroughfare. No more neighbours playing their music at 11  on the stereo, from 9.30pm to 3am on Tues Wed AND Thurs nights. No more BBQ's with freaky weirdos telling me about Lae's Swinger's Club (whilst furtively licking their lips). No more visits from 2 Kina maris.

No more gun shot victims moaning outside my back door, on their way up the ramp to the 24hr Medical Clinic, No more rock-fights between gangs of Highland and costal boys.  No more waiting 6 months to get the cracked toilet seat changed. No more dealing with the compound managers who refuse to believe that a swimming pool requires chlorine and maintanence to function, and must believe that swimming in custard-thick green slime that smells of effluent is the way we expats like to take our leisure.

Every time I drive past the old compound, I break into my own version of Rose Royce's "Love Don't Live Here Any More":

"Just a vacancy, 
I don't live there, anymore"
CanI have a resounding "HELL YES!!" With a follow-up "BOO-YAH!!"??

So. I've moved to down-the-hill, right at the back of the staduim. Where I swam in my fresh and lovely non-slimy pool and watched the Independence Day fireworks go off RIGHT ABOVE MY HAUS!!!

I have 3 storeys of polished floorboard happiness, 4 bedrooms, 5 staff, a spectacular view across to the Yacht Club and out over the Huon Gulf. I have my quietude broken only by the sound of the next-door-neighbour's kakaruk crowing to greet the gloaming, and the satisfied snurfle grunts of my dog, as she chases skinks in her own back yard. With grass.

I earned every last second of this life, and now I have a haus that I can be safe and happy and content in. It matches my safe, happy and content life. 

EXCEPT, as I was unpacking everything I've accumulated over the past 8 months, a vague feeling of unease washed over me. Now, that in itself is not unusual, given my penchant for conspiracy theories and thet fact I live in a malaria-rich environment, but it's taken my up to a week to identify the case. 

Last night, while nomming on BBQ seafood (mussels, prawns, calamari and fish goujons at the Yacht Club), I realised what was causing this underlying sense of "un profond sentiment de malaise"

When I unpacked my freezer, I hadn't seen my fish.
This fish wasn't just ANY fish. This was a 3kg schnapper, caught for me off the reef at Salamaua. This was a fish I was keeping to really show-case my fishy-cooking skills, and share at the housewarming I'm planning. 

This was a fish caught to SHARE. Destined to be handled with love and anointed with organic garlic, lemongass, ginger and shallotts. THIS was a fish I was even thinking about whole frying Asian-styles. (or wrapped in plaintain lif and served with roasted kau kau and fried bananna.. THis fish hadn't made up its mind yet.)

This was a fish with a destiny, people. This fish had POTENTIAL.

This fish is no longer in my care. This fish has been relocated.It could have been one of the movers, on of the plumbers, one of the electricians. ANY one of the 30 or so workman who've been swarming over the haus, helping me move and getting the solar/airconditioning/sliding doors/paint up to standard.

To whomever unburdened me of making decisions on behalf of the fish, I hope it was freezer burnt and you choke on a pinbone. I hope that as you crawl up the ramp of the 24hr clinic, clutching your throat, gasping for breath, the last thing your conscious mind registers is the smell of rotting vegetation from the pool at 4th Street and your ears are assaulted by a cover version "Back In Black" on  loop,

I'm  piscean, man. You do. not. fuck. with. my. fish.


Sunday 18 September 2011

Only in Lae.

As part of mission to de-mystify Lae and its environs to you, I bring you an email sent to all Lae Golf Club Members this week.

The email sent out to the Golf Club Members yesterday -










So, because this is Lae, there was no small amount of confusion. I mean, I drink at the bar at the Golf Club, it's a high bar, about mid chest height on me. So does that mean I have to source midget caddies? Why does this rule even exist? It is racist? size-ists? How is only having midget caddies going to help stop theft? Again with the size-ist stuff. Tall caddies steal JUST as much stuff as shorter ones. And honestly, where am I going to find a drooling, inside, midget caddy at THIS short notice, for this afternoon's 2BBB Stableford?

And I thought it was Caddy Shack?

Just as I was about to rally a union for height-challenged golf caddies, and march them through the streets of Lae, chanting "We Will Not Be Moved", my getting-my-Jimmy-Hoffa-on came to a grinding halt.

Within minutes of the first email, this follow-up one was recieved by members.

Pls see attached, the bar referred to is not the drinking bar, but a height bar fixed in the ground outside the caddy shack as a height restriction for caddies. The caddy masta carries a cane.

Damn, need to find another cause to rock on with my Hugo... errr... Caesar Chavez self.

Saturday 17 September 2011

What a trip to the store looks like

On Independence Day Weekend, here in Lae, Papua New Guinea.

Keep telling you all it's not for the faint-hearted!!

My, my!

Wow. What a ride. The past two years have been all sorts of dreadful. But the good news is than kharma really does come to those who wait (to mix a metaphor and a couple of different dogmas). I've taken a few months off blogging to concentrate on my little business and also work in the UK for a few months.

It's not only me and mine that have been put through the ringer. This poor little blog has copped its share of trauma as well.

So I give you advance warning.

If you don't like it, don't read it. If you think it's about you, I can pretty much guarantee you it's not. Maybe it's time to re-visit my blog "rules". Hmmmm?

I very nearly closed AGITK down, until I realised that no matter how many apologist posts/emails/phone calls I make, there are those who will always make it about them, regardless.

So, I'z back.

AGITK will be heading in a new direction. Previously, it's been all about the food, but now that I'm living back in Papua New Guinea, I find myself becoming more and more political. More and more involved in social justice issues up here.

So if you were, previously, just here for the food, you might want to have a good hard think about whether you REALLY want to be reading the blog of an opinionated, tattoo'd  leftist feminist foodie with hippie tendencies who like to swear (albeit with perfect diction).

At the end of the day, it's up to you.

Sunday 4 September 2011

Good Lord!!

Has it REALLY been that long since I posted?

stand by for a FULL report on food, fun and frivolity soon.

pee ess.. met a fellow blogger here in Lae, whodda thunk??

Check her out:

Educating Wendy

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Porky Pies

Blogger is being a toss about uploading photos, so I will have one later. Suffice it to say that my UK bucket list is being pared down nicely.

Pork pies
gammon steak
beef and ale pie
Cornish pasties.
Yorksire pud
Eton mess

pix later

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Language barriers

I didn't think I'd have them in Ye Olde England, but I do.

Despite the common language, nuance and colloquialisms differ quite a lot over here.

Durex is QUITE a different thing over here, than is it (or used to be) In Oz. The word 'wog' is still considered HIGHLY perjorative and 'slut' doesn't have quite the same connotations as it does back home.

Although I'll never get used to the frequent use of the word 'beaver', I will treat it like men treat fart jokes.. ALWAYS something to snigger about.

So to faggotts.

As served at Sam Weller's pub in Bath.
Faggots are a traditional dish in the UK,especially South and Mid Wales and the Midlands of England. It is made from meat off-cuts and offal, especially pork. A faggot is traditionally made from pig's heart, liver and fatty belly meat or bacon minced together, with herbs added for flavouring and sometimes bread crumbs. The mixture is shaped in the hand into balls, wrapped round with caul fat (the omentum membrane from the pig's abdomen), and baked. Another variation of faggot is Pig's fry wrapped in pig's caul: the pig's fry and boiled onions are minced (ground) together then mixed with breadcrumbs or cold boiled potatoes, seasoned with sage, mixed herbs and pepper, all beaten together and then wrapped in small pieces of caul to form a ball. These are then baked in the oven and are usually served cold.

The dish saw its greatest popularity with the rationing during World War II but has become less popular in recent years. Faggots are usually homemade and are to be found in traditional butchers' shops and market stalls.

A popular dish is "Faggots and Peas". This is a common combination in the Black Country area of the West Midlands, especially so since the 18th century industrialisation onwards, but also for hundreds of years prior. It is still common to see small butchers' shops in the area selling faggots to their own (sometimes secret) recipe for a cheap price. Commonly, the faggot consists of pork liver and heart minced, wrapped in kel, with onion and breadcrumbs. Often, the faggot should be cooked in a crock, with gravy and served with peas and mashed potato.

They are less 'liver-y' than you'd imagine, more like a wild boar mince, the liver (and I think kidneys in Sam Weller's ones) giving the moist mince a strong gamey flavour.

Nigella has a recipe:

Ingredients•½ lb pigs liver

•3oz suet

•1-2tsp sage

•4oz fresh breadcrumbs

•2 onions

•2tsp salt

•¼ tsp black pepper


Serves: 4-6 1.In a food processor firstly process the bread into breadcrumbs, then finely chop the onions and lastly process the liver, emptying each into a large mixing bowl as you go along.

2.Add the suet and seasoning and mix well together. Form into round balls about the size of a small orange and place on well oiled baking tray and cook for 30 minutes at 200oC or until firm.

3.Alternatively you can just empty the whole lot out into a well oiled roasting tin and cook for about 40 minutes or so until the mixture is firm and cooked through.

4.If you chose this option  you need to cut them into squares when they are cooked.

Tuesday 31 May 2011

Vale Tucker's Grave.

Tucker's Grave Inn closes today. After some 200 years as a continuously operating Inn, tonight, when they shout 'time please gents', a curtain will come down on a small slice of SOLE, and the souls of those who have known and loved it.

There's no big story.. not corporate pirate chasing the little man from the land. The owners are too old to continue. Margaret and her husband (who's fought ill health for some time) are just finding the burden of running a pub.. and not just any old pub.. but possibly the most famous cider pub in the area.. too overwhelming.

Tucker's Grave is a three-roomed pub with no bar counter and a  tap room. An 18th-century former cottage which has been a pub for over 200 years. The pub name comes from the burial place of a suicide, Edwin Tucker, who died in 1747. The two original delightfully unspoilt pub rooms with simple panelling and fixed bench seating are either side of a central corridor with ancient panelling. On the right is the tap room - note the Georgian lettering on the door which probably dates from the early 19th-century, if not the late 18th-century, and is surely the earliest pub lettering in the country. It survived because, at some point, it was covered by a screwed-on-sign. This small basic room has wall benches and the odd bell pushes. The mantelshelf over the old stone fireplace was replaced in 2007 when the original one caught fire and the room required re-painting as a result of smoke damage.

On the left of the corridor a latch door leads to the tiny public bar which has a genuine Victorian tiled fireplace, some old bar back shelving near the door and above the window but more modern shelving opposite. There is no bar counter - casks of beer and cider are stacked in the bay window which has external shutters to protect the barrels from the sun. A third room to the far left was formerly the living room and was brought into use in 1985 - it has a Victorian tiled fireplace with marble surround. At the end of the passage which gets very narrow is a door leading to the outside gents and ladies on the rear right of the building. There is a skittle alley in a separate stone building at the rear.

Like the above description, there's not a lot to Tuckers. No food, no pokies, no gastro-pomp. It's a stone Inn, in the middle of nowhere, servicing the locals and a few discerning (read DAMN LUCKY) outsiders who know of it.
I got taken there via a tenous connection to The Wurzles, The Stranglers, a lab called Dougie and a thick leathery thing that I didn't like having my lips on. The scum on the rim of said leathery thing was nice, tho.

Tucker's Grave serves Thatcher's Cheddar Valley cider, a classic Heritage cider. Cheddar Valley cider, which is cloudy with a distinctive orange, almost red, colouration. These rough ciders have a short shelf life and are generally tapped straight from a barrel kept in a pub's bar rather than its cellar. Thatcher's Cheddar Valley is a lurid orange cloudy cider, served at room temp.

It looks like a glass of flat Fanta. However, at 7% it has a kick. Not a 'get you pissed and all argy-bargy' pissed. More like a mellow, giggly 'toke on a good joint' glow.

Simply, it's like no experience I've ever had with alcohol (and believe me, I've had a few!).

Thatcher's cider brewery is another local gem. Still run by the original family, it pumps out 1000 litres of various ciders a year. All made from local Somerset apples, sourced from local farms.
SOLE is where the heart is, and Somerset still has a fine tradition of supporting and encouraging local producers to stay true to heritage values. Like Thatchers. And Tuckers. Even the Bath Farmer's market was the first SOLE market in the UK. (as oppossed to farm gate purchasing)

**Blogger is being a tool, and the server is regecting my photos, so come back tomorrow and I'll upload some more.**
Then it was off to the Faulkland Inn for a pint of Phesant Plucker, some whitebait and a trad Sunday roast beef, Yorkshire pub and all the trimmings.

Given that most breweries, inns, ale houses and pub-grub houses are sadly owned by chains here in the UK, next your over here, give a wee thought to what you're drinking/eating and who your hard-earned £££ are supporting. Like Tucker's, they're a dying breed.

get in while you can.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Bath Farmers Market

I'll let the pics speak for themselves.

Thursday 26 May 2011

Foodie bucket list.. check!

"Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is quite my favourite of all the prominent food-writers and presenters. Never quite as shaggy, messy and disgusting as he first appears, his great knowledge, passion, insight, intelligence and skill are hidden under the silliest hair in Europe," say Stephen Fry.

River Cottage Cafe @Komedia Bath  01225 471578

Hugh's 'Rustic Fish Cakes with Tartare, Devon greens and toast', accompanied by organic River Cottage nettle beer.