Thursday, January 14, 2010

A trip to town.

A trip to town for me happens anywhere from one time a week to several times
a week. As a housewife one of my most important jobs is to keep my family
fed, which means I'm also the food buyer. I usually go alone to town, but
on the rare occasion Drew has accompanied me. It's easy when you have a
live-in babysitter (Mama V). Honestly, going shopping isn't my most
favorite thing to do. It's hot, busy, and you have to watch your belongings
very carefully. It's kinda stressful.

Grocery shopping here isn't convenient like it is at home. We have no
'one-stop-shop'. I'll go to Papindo to buy corn flakes - they have these
big boxes for only 13 Kina. The cheapest in town. Papindo also has the
best selection of peanut butter, a staple at our house. Oh yeah - and they
usually have cheese, another staple! Modilon Supermarket is another stop.
I usually buy our staples here like milk (the boxed stuff), flour, sugar,
eggs, rice. They also have a good selection of Asian foods and pasta sauces.
For meat I go to Madang Butchery. The meat is the best quality and I think
it's pretty clean and sanitary. The Butchery also has a supermarket area
which has the most selection of imported stuff from Australia. I'll often
buy pickles, jam, and canned fruit. The Butchery also has an excellent
bakery....not much selection, but they have sliced whole wheat bread that we
like. I don't bake as much since we moved to Madang because of the heat. My
last stop is usually the market. You don't buy any produce in the stores -
they don't really have any except for overpriced apples and other imported
items that look like they've been sitting there way too long.

Some days I really try and appreciate the shopping ritual that has become so
much apart of my life. Here is how I would describe a typical trip:

I leave the house and make sure I have my water bottle and a market bilum.
If I forget my market bilum then I have to buy a plastic bag at the market
which is just down right silly. We have a fence around our yard, so I look
to see if Simon our yardman notices that I'm going out to the van. If he
does, then he'll kindly unlock the gate for me and then lock it back up
again. If he doesn't see me then I do it myself....which is a lot of
getting in and out of your vehicle. You get used to it - gates and locks
and fences are a part of life here. Sometimes getting onto the main road to
town takes a few minutes. Lots of PMVs bringing villagers in and out of
town. Once I'm on the road it's all good. I drive under some huge mango
trees that are full of flying foxes (bats) that Madang is famous for. They
are extremely noisy...not much different than a crow. The noise is
deafening. On the right is the hospital. Here you'll see people coming and
going out of the gate....pregnant women, people limping, and others carrying
food to bring to their loved ones. As I keep driving, on my left there is
the tobacco factory. If the wind is just right you'll be able to smell the
sweet scent of tobacco. Along the road there are people everywhere...often
I admire all the different bilums you see people carrying. Everyone carries
a bilum in PNG. EVERYONE. They're kinda like snowflakes - no two are alike.
I love seeing the different colors and patterns. Each one is unique, just
like the person carrying it. Once I get to town I usually park the van in a
central parking lot. I get out and double check all the doors and windows
to make sure they are locked up. As I walk from store to store or to the
market I'm often greeted with friendly smiles. Other people stop in their
tracks as if they've never seen a white person in their life. Other people
you pass on the street make you feel really uncomfortable and you clutch
your bag even tighter. While walking around I clutch my bilum with a death
grip. There are 'opportunists' in Madang and you can't be too careful.
Often at the street corner by the market they'll be a man with a megaphone
preaching. The louder the better. Often times there is a 'longlong'
(crazy) man who stands on the sidewalk and sings out of tune for change.
Town is usually crowded unless you go early enough.

When I'm finally finished my shopping I find my way back to the van. I
guzzle down a litre of water, roll down the windows and drive back home. By
the time I get back I'm exhausted and all I want to do is lay down under our
Air Con! The boys are always excited to see me again and I almost always
bring them a little treat. A piece of gum or a hunk of sugarcane are their
favorites. :P

Here is a rare picture of me with my boys buying peanuts at the market with
my beloved red market bilum.


kerry said...

Lisa, this reminds me so much of what my mom went through to shop when we lived in Tanzania. I was young, so I didn't go along super often but I vividly recall the haggling over prices in the vegetable market and how much I hated the fish market. I don't think peanut butter was so accessible though. There was a super expensive western foods store that was far away ... only visited on special occasions. Kind of makes you appreciate your food a bit more though, doesn't it?

corina said...

we are getting a taste of what this might be like in our travels. especially now that we have reached s.e. asia! it's very tiring and i always wondered if people get used to it or if they find it tiring too. if you want fruit you go to one stand, if you want peanuts you go to another and so on. even eating out at the food stalls is a step by step process. I admire your tenacity and strength to do this week after week!