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.