Thursday, April 29, 2010

My new kitchen appliance...............

Hand made, local crafted for 25kina. Any guesses?

It's a coconut scraper. Janet gave me a lesson on how to use it. First you grab your bush knife (which all men, woman and children carry)

Clean the coconut, whack it 3 times with the knife and it magically splits open. I have a feeling if i was doing it, things wouldn't go so seamlessly.

Then you sit sideways on the stool and holding the coconut firmly you scrape the inside flesh over the metal scraper.

It is actually much harder than it sounds, as you know coconut is quite tough so it takes a bit of elbow grease. I clearly wasn't cut out for it so handed the task over....

The flesh was so good, sweet, crunchy, sensational! The girls couldn't get enough. So much better than the dried up old crappy coconuts you can occasionally get in Victoria.

I asked Janet to show me a traditional PNG dish. I bought some cooking bananas, these are not sweet, more like a root vegetable in taste really, but these ones look like lady finger bananas. The bananas were not quite ripe, quite firm, perfect for cooking apparently. I peeled them and cut then into segments and then boiled them in water for about 20 minutes.

While that was cooking i made the coconut cream. After adding a little water to the coconut i squeezed the flesh with my hands for about 5 minutes. Then drained the liquid using a strainer.
The result was lovely thick coconut milk......

and left over flesh............

The flesh tasted like wood chips, no flavor left, so that gets thrown. We drained the bananas and added the coconut cream, some onion, ibeka (a green, something like spinach but totally different) and a little curry powder. Cooked it for about 30 minutes.

It was delicious! I must admit i was a little surprised.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Foxy Roxy has landed

After 6 months of dealing with a useless dog shipping company, Roxy finally landed in PNG yesterday. The kids were VERY excited to see her. Although i suspect the feelings weren't returned with as much enthusiasm. Roxy the super dog was burned in a bushfire last year, so now she wears her super coat everyday.

LMS hasn't spent too much time around dogs and was very excited by it all. First she thought a bit of paw holding was called for....

She couldn't get enough............
Although i suspect Roxy could........... this high pitched squeal sent her over the edge i think.

Tomorrow, being Anzac day, we are heading up the road, (as in 200m) for a dawn service at 5.30am, followed by a rum BBQ breaky and a cricket match. Aussies v's the rest of the world. I've never dragged my sorry arse out of bed for a dawn service before, claiming i had to look after the kids, wax my bikini line or perhaps SLEEP! Tarzan has been on his own a few times, so given it was in our backyard i thought we'd all go. So i'm off to bed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What to blog when you can't blog...

Well i was going to Blog, but it is absolutely bucketing down outside and the internet connection keeps dropping out so i can't upload any pics. So i'll just tell you about my day instead..... lucky you. :p

Had a good day, a group of local ladies from a woman's group came to our house to help in the garden. They are raising money to go to some conference up in the highlands in September. I didn't ask too many questions, something to do with their church. I try my hardest not get involved with any church activities anywhere in the world, but particularly here, everyone is so passionate about their religion. There are 17 churches just in this community. Plenty of passion, competition, and rivalry. In a country where there isn't a lot, church is everything, it gives these people some hope and something to look forward to every week. I am not meaning to get into a religious discussion here. Anyone who knows me, knows i am not in the slightest bit religious, but i don't have issues with people that are. :D Anyway, i digress.
For $25 kina about 15 ladies will come to your house and clean your garden, weed, sweep, whatever you like. It is the church my house meri Janet belongs to and i wanted to support her, so i got the ladies in. Although security would only allow 6, not the 15 they wanted to offer!

We 'lost' our gardener this week. Poor old Nicholas kept not turning up to work and causing dramas with the pay office and HR, so he got sacked. He has gone back to his home to be looked after by his 'wontoks' or family. I feel sad for him, but he is old and getting a bit senile and will probably benefit from being with his family. So the ladies came and raked the grass and pulled out the weeds nicholas missed because he is mostly blind!

I made them a huge pot of soup, fresh bread, pikelets with jam and some ice cold water for lunch. They insisted they had come to work and didn't want food, but i insisted more that i wanted to feed them! I don't back down easily, as you mostly know. So we all sat around under the house enjoying 'kai-kai' and 'talktalk'. I am surprised at how quickly i am picking up pidgin, i can't speak that well, but enough to get by and i can understand about 70% if people talk 'isi isi' (easy easy = slowly). Every day Rita and Janet teach and correct my pidgin.
The ladies were very wary of me to begin with. But after a few laughs and me getting my hooters out to feed LMS, we were all good friends. ;)

They told me no white meri had ever cooked for them like that before, which made me sad, but on the other hand happy to have made their day and filled their bellies. Like all developing nations there is a massive contrast between the rich and the poor here. The poor are often treated as second class, particularly by the wealthy nationals, but unfortunately by many expats as well. All of the ladies i have met here would happily feed and help people, but within the community it is not widely done. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of fundraising and donations and most people feed and cloth and help their house staff but not a lot of sitting down in a group with local people offering them food and having a chat iykwim. (for all you old people, and mum.....iykwim is an acronym for "if you know what i mean") I guess there are so many people to help?! I dunno, i figure helping some is better than helping none. Maybe i'll start a new trend........ The ladies picked up 3 more days work today, so that's something.

In other amazing news, Rita's boy had his first hearing on Monday and has been granted bail, set at $500kina, so, thanks to all you lovely people who have bought or ordered 'Bilums'(bags) from Rita, it certainly helped her and her husband raise enough money to post bail. Rita and her husband caught a bus to Madang tonight and they will return with their son tomorrow.
I think we are having 1m of our 3 year rainfall, and someone told me the dry season was starting?! I have bored you all to sleep by now, so............ going to climb up my vine to the treehouse. aaaaaaaaaaaaaarrgrgrgrgrgaaahhhhhhhhhh. *best Tarzan yodel i could muster*

Sunday, April 18, 2010

It nearly killed me.......... but i made it.

Second time lucky. Made it to the top of K1. Very challenging. Am absolutely shattered tonight. The last bit of the hike is so steep, you are almost rock climbing up. To get down, you ski on one foot under your bum, trying to control your speed by grabbing onto the grass.

The view from the top was amazing.

Just to prove i did it. :p

A few other random pics. It was hard to capture pictures of the ridge. It really is a ridge, and drops away very dramatically either side. Not a place to hike if you are afraid of heights that's for sure.

This is the tiny stream that turned into the raging torrent last week.

This is the flattened grass from the swollen river.

Body aching, mainly from running down as sunset was fast approaching.

Beer, bed.

Yes, nothing better than a cold beer after that achievement.


Monday, April 12, 2010

The postman wasn't lost after all, perhaps just resting under a tree.

I know, two posts in one day, my fingers may just fall off, but i was very excited to receive our first piece of mail today! Mail is not very reliable here. A friend received a parcel 9 months after it was posted and many go missing. So i was stoked to get this pressie from Em for little sassy.
It is an absolutely divine reversible skirt. Beautifully made and gorgeous colors, having to put up with me whining on many occasions, Emma is well tuned into the fact that i don't really like pink. Well, that's not exactly true, i like a little pink, i like vibrant pink, but i don't like my babies to look like someone vomited that sickly, pale, girly pink all over them. So thank you so much little miss emma! xxxxx Ya'll can checkout some other funky things she has made on her blog or website. Very cool minky blankets. ;)

LL wants a piece of the action, LMS not having a bar of it.......... Then she succumbs and finds plenty of joy in the wrapping paper.

Conquering Everest

Out the back of the compound, through about a kilometer of sugar cane lies a small mountain range. The first goal is K1, then K2 and finally the furthest peak locally referred to as Everest.
It can be seen below in the background.

Yesterday arvo i set out with two friends to concur my first hike, K1. It is generally a two hour return hike which is a bit of a rock climb at the end, revealing an amazing view of all the surrounding jungle.
We trekked through the cane with ease, hopped across the creek, past a little village and headed up the ridge. About 20 minutes into the hike there was an almighty lightening strike and a clap of thunder that shook my bones and caused me to quickly duck down to check that my shoelaces were tied. ;) They of course were, so we continued on. Then the rain started, nothing much, a bit of a spit. We had the discussion of trekking on or turning back. Being my first hike and feeling like i had something to prove, i voted to go on, as a little rain wasn't going to stop me reaching the top. A lightening strike might, but not the rain! So we continued on and the rain got a little heavier. Another strike and an almighty crash again sent me to me knees. Walking up an exposed ridge was not really the most sensible thing to be doing in a lightening storm, so we sensibly decided after the next strike we'd run for the first shoulder, down the other side and shelter for a minute or two?!
P, the mountain goat tour guide set off first, easily bounding up the steep slippery track. I went next, slipping and sliding and fumbling my way up until, C, who was behind me yelled "snake". I packed my dacks, realising i just stepped over it, and leaped ahead a few bounds leaving C to deal with the slithery creature on her own. By this stage P was over the shoulder and sheltering the grass. The snake was not so keen to move on, but eventually did and we too headed for shelter. This was shelter.......

The side of this ridge drops VERY steeply down into the valley. So whilst hiding behind a blade of grass, being pelted by the now very heavy rain, we stupidly discussed how dangerous our predicament was. Landslide, earthquake, lightening strike, flash floods, snake bites. None of which were out of the realm of possibility. P was very surprised at the snake, in his 20 years of hiking these ridges he has never seen one. Lucky me, my first trip i nearly stood on one.

Given our predicament, we decided that it was a good time to head back.

(Just to prove i was there! :p)
So we headed down the track, which was now a small creek. We slipped and slid our way down, as we approached the small village at the bottom of the hill, i became apparent that the small creek was now a torrent of water and certainly could not cross where we had skipped across only an hour before.

As we approached the river a lady came running from her house, very concerned we were going to try and cross the river. "No can cross" she kept yelling.

Her husband came down from tending to his sweet potato and offered to show us the only route across the river now. We gladly followed him, through his field, across his yard to where the river splits into 3, making it more easily passable. Kids came running from everywhere to see and laugh at the white people stuck on this side of the creek. The water was raging, and yet children about 10 years old were rolling and playing in the rapids. The kids and adults alike all wanted to help us. They showed us where to cross, held our hand and ensured we weren't washed away. The first crossing was ankle deep but running fast, you had to watch your footing.

The second one was knee deep and required a little assistance. As long as you walked with the current a little it wasn't too bad.

The third one wasn't wide but was waist deep and we really needed a bit of help to get across this one.
Here are our rescue crew this side of the third crossing. They are standing on the edge of what was a peanut crop only moments earlier.
So we crossed the creeks and finally returned home, right on dark. We were drenched, tired but also pleased with the adventure we had. I only made it half way up to the top, so i am hoping to tackle this again in the next few weeks. P1 is not going to beat me! I have to conquer K1, K2 and Everest before i am allowed to tag along on a shaggy ridge hike, a famous war site, home of many world war two battles located just down the road.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It's time to talk about the elephant in the room- PALM OIL

With easter about and the awareness of Palm Oil production issues being promoted on Aussie TV, it is time to talk about our employment. Although Tarzan is managing a cattle operation, his employer is New Britain Palm Oil.
Palm oil production in other parts of the world is having devastating effects on forest and Orangutang populations, more info here . It is disgraceful and should be stopped before the Orangutans are wiped out entirely.

When i first heard that the job was for a palm oil company i was a little concerned. Seeing the publicity and hearing about the Orangutans i was very hesitant to work for a Palm Oil company. I was pleasantly surprised that not all Palm Oil companies are managed in the same manner. NBPOL has been independently assessed and certified to be farming in a sustainable manner. The company has been certified by the ISO 4001, and the RSPO- Round table on Sustainable Palm Oil. The RSPO is supported by over 380 members including the WWF and Oxfam.

The RSPO define how palm oil should be grown and verified in a sustainable manner, as well as demanding traceability of the product throughout the entire supply chain. The RSPO criteria requires compliance with not only environmental factors, but strict social and economic criteria as well.

NBPOL and all its operations are the first Palm Oil producer to achieve the certifications. After discovering all these facts, i was much more comfortable working for NBPOL. There are many things about living and working in a developing nation that do bother me, but the companies production ethics are not amongst them.

So like all produce, i believe the origin of the product should clearly be displayed. So consumers are able to make informed choices. I also hope that more companies join the RSPO and put a stop to their devastating farming practices.

More info and references;

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Well easter was going to be a surf trip north of Madang, but we gave Rita and her husband a lift up to Madang on Friday and as a result couldn't fit our gear in the land cruiser. Rita and her husband were going to visit their 14 year old son in jail in Madang. He has been in jail for 3 months awaiting trial. A heartbreaking story that Rita allowed me to share on my blog. Her son and his friend were wagging school and playing down by the market. A drunk man (20-ish) came by and started picking on the two boys. They got into a scuffle and trying to push the man away her son's friend stabbed the drunk man with a small knife. He died as a result of the wound. The two boys were arrested and are now waiting in a prison in Madang. In PNG, there is a fairly serious 'eye for and eye' system in place. The families were asked to pay $100,00 kina as reimbursement for the boys death. There is no way that would be possible. If you can't pay the requested amount then it is usual that one of your family members will be murdered. As the boys were arrested the police went and spoke to the victims family, telling them things were now in the hands of the police and they were forbidden to carry out any revenge attacks.
If we didn't drive them, the other option was for to catch a PMV(private motor vehicle- small coaster type bus), which would be $50 kina each return, about as comfortable as Fred Flinstone's floor-less car, with a high probability of having to get out and push it when it got stuck on the less then fantastic road to Madang. They have engaged a lawyer which will cost them every cent they have and some they don't, (anyone interested in buying the bags Rita makes, i have pics on face book. )

So we packed them in with us and dropped them in Madang with their few belonging and a chocolate cake tucked under their arm. (your prize winning recipe Karen. Thanks. :D)

The trip there was not as bad as expected. 120kms, 3.5hrs. The road crosses the finistares ranges, winding up and down, with many river crossings. The road is pretty badly damaged from too much rain, too many trucks and no upkeep. In many places there is little more than mud holding the road together. The road is the only one joining Madang to the country south of it.
A comforting sign to pass............

This is a 'good' section of road, but the bridge got washed away, it is currently being repaired but for now the river has been diverted the road detours through the river bed.

There is about 25kms that looks mostly like this. Washed out, big potholes, i have no idea how the little buses even make it through.

This is two PMV's meeting on a hill. Luckily it was still dry at this stage. The bigger PMV started spinning it's wheels a little further up and had to reverse down and give it another crack. Don't ask me how they guy on the roof managed to hold on for the 3 hours journey?!

This was taken after only about 5 minutes of rain, you can imagine how bad it is after a big rain. Some weeks it is impassable, other times it takes 5+ hours. It used to take an hour and 45 minutes!

We approached one very precarious section of road that had slid away. The local villagers had fixed the road with stones and mud, once again making it passable. They created a blockade to stop the vehicles and ask for a fee to reimburse them for fixing the road. I was a little terrified initially, we came around a bend and were confronted with about 50 men wielding serious faces, a few stones and a couple of shovels. We were told they wanted reimbursement of $20kina per vehicle. We handed over the cash and were waved on. I was quite happy to pay them for their trouble, if it wasn't for them there certainly wouldn't be anyway of passing through that section of road.

There is a Nickel mine half way along and the company have recently put in a huge pipe line from the mine to the ocean where they are going to dump millions of liters of their waste in the ocean?! Not only have they seriously contributed to the degradation of the road, the story goes that they made some dodgy deal with the government that did not include them fixing the road up. Apparently the pipe has been stopped, for now. But i'm sure it wont be long before the big company pays the government enough to finish the pipe and the pollution of the lovely seaside town of Medang begins. Read more about it here.

We stayed at the Madang Resort , which was lovely. The balcony of the room hung out over the ocean. It was nice to be by the sea again.

We look pretty happy about it..... wouldn't you say???
It is the first place i have ever stayed where they had sleeping instructions.............

Lucky they told us. Who knows where we might have slept.

The resort has a little market selling local crafts. LL took her change purse and bought a necklace, the lady took a liking to her and gave her another necklace as a gift. So LL gave her a little easter egg. Each lady selling things then came and gave LL or LMS a free necklace or anklet hoping for an easter egg!!! Fortunately we had enough for one each. ;)

We took a trip up the coast on Saturday to a small village with a great little snorkeling spot. The villagers ask for $10 kina / per vehicle to help them maintain the area. It is a great little sheltered cove with a natural rock wall providing a sheltered area for swimming and snorkeling. Lots of fish, friendly folk, warm tropical water meant a great day was had by all.

You never know where you're going to find spiderman.

The only problem with this place was dragging LL out of the water when it was time to go home......