Saturday, November 17, 2007

Papua New Guinea: The Long Walk: Part II

Another Saturday came to Port Moresby, and I called the duty driver at about 9:00 AM to request a lift to the store. Ephraim was on duty, and he was completely swamped. It wouldn't be possible for me to get a ride until some time later.

Based on past experience, I had a feeling that I wasn't going to get a ride on this particular Saturday, or at least not before 12:00 when stores closed, so I started for town on foot.

I wasn't wearing my Superman shirt this time, so I only attracted the normal “white boy” amount of gawking from the Papua New Guineans I encountered.

Our housing compound is on top of a hill, so the first part of my walk was all downhill and I made good time.

Then came the Poreporena Highway with its big hill.

It had been drizzling, and as I started climbing the hill, it started to rain a bit harder. The wind and rain were a nice trade, though, for the heat and sweat that could have been.

As I reached the top of the hill, Ephraim and my colleague Mike passed me in the duty car. Mike waved to me, and Ephraim honked. Then I continued walking.

As I walked along, many drivers took the opportunity to honk or shout at me, and maybe 20 minutes after Ephraim passed me, the Ambassador's driver passed me and also honked. I couldn't tell if the Ambassador was inside the car or not.

After about an hour and twenty minutes, I reached the Gordons district of town. I had originally wanted to go to the art gallery to get some framing done, but since I was without wheels, I decided to scrap that idea. I wasn't going to walk with art in the rain.

I hadn't planned on it, but as I passed by PNG Art, Port Moresby's biggest and best artifacts and handicrafts store, I decided to pop in for a look.

PNG Art is the coolest store ever, and I can never get in and out quickly or without making a purchase. It is basically a warehouse full of traditional carvings (masks, statues, and decorative pieces), textiles, pottery, and other odds and ends. The owner, a white-haired expat named Ken, is always getting new pieces from the provinces, so there are always new things to see.

Knowing that I would probably not be leaving empty-handed, I asked Freddy, one of the salesboys, if I could leave anything I purchased behind and pick it up on the following Monday.

He said this wouldn't be a problem, so I gave everything a look and found a few things that I couldn't live without.

As Freddy was ringing up my purchases, Ken walked up to the counter. Freddy mentioned that I was going to pick up my things in a few days.

“Why aren't you taking it with you?” Ken asked me.

“Because I don't have a car today,” I told him.

“That's what PMVs are for,” he responded with a bit of sarcasm in his tone.

I told him that PMVs didn't go as far as my house, so at best I could ride two-thirds of the way. Then I would still have to walk up the final hill in the rain with my artifacts, which wouldn't be good.

He asked me where I lived, and I told him.

“Well, how did you get here then?” he asked.

“I walked. It took me an hour and a half,” I replied.

And Ken was mighty impressed with this. “You walked an hour and a half in the rain to come here!? That's wild! We need more customers like you!”

I generally get a ten percent discount on my purchases at PNG Art, but Ken was feeling especially charitable at the moment, and I got a further discount.

He was also now completely on-board with me leaving my things until Monday.

Before I left, I called Ephraim again to see what the situation was. He was still busy.

I had spent nearly an hour in PNG Art, so when I walked the 10 minutes further to my favorite grocery store, Food World, it was just about lunch time.

Every Saturday (and maybe other days as well) a charity called Cheshire Homes sells sausages outside Food World to raise money. I don't know what the charity is about, but I almost always buy one of the sausages.

I was so hungry on this day that I contemplated getting two. In the end, though, I stuck with one, and it did the trick.

Soon after I started shopping, I bumped into the Ambassador. We briefly chatted and then continued on with our separate shopping.

As I walked through the produce section, the celery caught my eye. With Thanksgiving coming up in a few days, I needed to prepare a side dish for a dinner I was attending.

The celery inspired me to make dressing, and I picked up a nice bunch of stalks.

I continued to stroll the aisles and stopped at the meat case.

The first thing that I wanted was minced kangaroo. It was only offered in diced form in the meat case, however, so I asked one of the butcher ladies if it was possible to have it ground.

I hadn't thought it was such an odd request, but the butcher gave me a strange look. Then she consulted with someone in the back and informed me that it was possible.

With my kilo of ground roo in my cart, I turned my attention again to my dressing.

When we would make dressing back home for Thanksgiving, we would always incorporate the giblets that came with the turkey. Since I was only cooking the dressing and not a turkey, I wouldn't have any giblets to use. I walked over to the poultry portion of the meat case and scanned it for organ meats. There were none.

It was time for another special request. I called the butcher lady over and asked her if she could check in the back for chicken livers, hearts, and kidneys. I was pretty sure that there wouldn't be any turkey organs.

The lady gave me another weird look and went to check. The only thing that was available was liver, so I took a quarter kilo of these.

The last thing I requested was too much for this butcher to take.

“Can you check one more thing for me?” I asked. “The last thing I need is a chicken neck or maybe a backbone.”

My butcher lady had been joined by two others by this point, and they all burst out laughing. “Nogat!” they told me.

I mostly needed the neck to lend flavor to a broth, so I bought a few wings instead.

When I left, the three ladies were standing there grinning like cheshire cats.

I had had a good time as well, although I honestly didn't understand what was so funny to them. Surely in whatever villages they hailed from, they ate much stranger things than what I had just ordered up.

After the meat case shenanigans, I finished my shopping and checked-out.

And thankfully, about half an hour later, Ephraim was finally able to give me a ride.

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