Monday, 31 December 2012

The post I have to write.

Ok, I'm throwing this in in here today, in the hope that no one actually reads it. Yeah, pretty weird for a blogger, I know. But the idea is to post it now, in the hope that 2013, I can be all like "oh, you missed that news? I totes posted about it last year"

Cowardice, I admit it.

Vop's name is Rosena. Rosi for short, or Rosi Posi Puddin and Pie, or Rosi Posi Japanosey. Or Cup Cake, or Petal.

The last pic is of her with her three favourite things. Her bear, Puddin, her plastic stethoscope (because she wants to be a Doctor) and her dog, Bubbles.

Rosi no longer lives with The Husbang and I. She's gone. Back to the village. It's been 4 weeks today. The adoption will not proceed.

There was a third party involved, working maliciously behind the scenes, to upset the process. A person we had taken into our hearts and home and into our confidence. Someone who underneath our very roof was manipulating us and Rosi, to achieve this very outcome. Someone, I now suspect may have been her natural mother.

A decision was made and we didn't have the legal standing to counter it. The village came and took her four weeks ago today.

Rosi was happy to return. When I told her the bus was here to take her back to the village, she smiled.

And my heart shattered into a thousand tiny fragments that still lie in my belly poking sharp little holes in my soul.

And so she skipped, as is her want, to the bus, and was driven away.

And we haven't heard a word from her, or the village since.

Everywhere I look, there is a Rosi-shaped hole. In my heart, on the couch. I've closed and locked her bedroom door, so I don't have to look in there. And so I police myself from lying on her bed, holding Puddin and crying until I am raw inside and out.

The Husbang is bereft. And deals with it by working more and talking less. He's as far from me as is Rosi. We circle around each other, repelling and attracting at the same time. I see that English stiff upper lip quiver every time we pan past Sesame Street as we channel surf. But when I ask him to talk about it, he finds something more pressing to do. And my need to constantly go over and over and over and over what the third party did, wears him thin. My tears rasp on him, like sandpaper, leaving Rosi-shaped grazes.

One of the last things Rosi did before everything tilted in its axis, was to put up the Crimbo tree. I can't bear to touch it, or turn on the lights, or take it down. It sits there, mocking me. Reminding me that once, only a few weeks ago, I was the mother of a healthy, happy nearly 5 year old. That I let some take. That I should have been aware of the Benedict Arnold sleeping in the spare room. The Crimbo tree watched, as my daughter smiled and skipped, happily, away from me.

There was no warning of my world being torn in two. None at all. And I can't see how I didn't know it. I can't understand why a MOTHER wouldn't have.. or couldn't have, known.

One minute we were playing racing games on the outer bank of the Yoti and within an hour, I was told my child didn't want to live with me any more.

Because white people have 'too many rules".

We pleaded, and cajoled and used Benedict Arnold as a spokesperson, to speak with Rosi in her own language, only to later find that this person had spent the past three weeks manipulating us, and Rosi. And while we were trying to find out what our legal options were, this person came to our house, with the village bus, and took her away.

So I am left here, with a blog I began to chart my journey with her and a pair of Disco Sandals under the couch I deliberately vacuum around.

And I don't know what to do with either.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

So?

How was your Crimbo?

Mine was hideous.

The electricity went off on Crimbo Eve, and the genset kicked in, which is all normal for Lae, except that it never went off again. The owners of the compound, those ones who can't get a workman out to fix our alarm system for almost 18 months, had an electrician here, on Xmas Day.

Like wowza.

Who told us there was no electricity coming from the pole, to the house, and turned the genset off. Because it costs so much in diesel to run.

So, no electricity on Crimbo.

Meaning no panini press. No oven for cooking. No electricity to charge computers for Skype-age with kids and friends.

No charged phones, so no phone calls,

No air conditioning, my friend.

No lights, no television.

We made a sneak raid on the 'fridge, to get out the ham, but we had to be careful not to let too much cold out, to keep the food from turning. Who knew when it would be back on again.

So we had ham for Crimbo.

And 4 boiled eggs (gas stove, lit with matches)

Can't get much more deconfuckingstructed that that, can you?

We thought about cooking the chicken, in the gas stove, but it was 98 degreesF here on Xmas day, and with no airconditioning, that was just asking for a heat-stroke.

And, yes, at the risk of sounding like a petulant douche-canoe, we argued.

For more reasons than I dare confess to, I am hating this place right now.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Open Leter to the Westboro Baptist Church,

Dear Westboro Baptist Church, aka Batshit Crazy Hatemongers,

Here's my **snerk** vision for you. You see, I live in Papua New Guinea, where we worship Pikkiwoki. (Google him, he's real). Anyway, I was preying to Him the other day, via an involved ritual that required me to carry a pig and as many coconuts as I could (in preparation for the ORSUM afterlife Imma going to have with Him [Mud Be Upon
His Name]) and I had a Vision for you. At first I thought it might be the malaria kicking back in, but Pikkiwoki ASSURES me it's real.

Anyway, here's what Pikkiwoki says your future holds. You're all actually queer (not that there's anything wrong with that) and Santa is going to come to you in **insert gender of choice** and dress in his most enticing best (Imma betting sequins and Birkenstock's) and you're going to be overcome with teh mad gay passion and get all jiggy with Gay Santa. And one of Gay Santa's minions (probs me, cos I am TOTES his Handmaiden) is going to video it and put it up on The Tubes of You and people ALLLL over the world are going to laugh their fucking arses **pardon the pun** off, when Pikkiwokki reveals that your homophobic rantings are really the pathetic cries of repressed, evil little douche-canoes who use a Bronze Age book written by goat herders to justify their hatred.

But wait, there's more!

As you squirm around the various forms of media, like so many of your hate-filled ilk have done before you when their represses sexuality is finally discovered and their previous hate-filled sermons turn out to be a repressed loathing of themselves, as you snuffle and tap-dance across Twitter or FB or Faux News, trying to justify your "outing", Pikkiwoki and his totes BFF, Satan (oops, sorry, dyslexic slip), are going to be sitting up there on Mount Wilhelm PISSING their pants with laughter. Cos PRIOR to your furtive couplings, Santa has filled his various gay-friendly orifices with the harshest of FUNDIE BULLSHIT ARTIST HATING AMOEBAS, which will have found their way into your bloodstream and have given you all the most AMAZING case of Galloping Knob/Pussy rot. It's like a gift from Pikkiwoki, you know? FBAHA is Pikkiwokki's gift to True Scotsmen everywhere.
  Your various organs will gradually and painfully begin to look like you've contracted some nasty hemorrhagic virus, like Ebola. And you will die in the most excruciating way imaginable and at the very last second you will realize that YOUR god is long dead, and Pikkiwoki is DA ONE, and his face will be turned from you (Cos he's eating pigs and coconuts up there on Mount Wilhelm) and you will die screaming his name, unshriven.

And when you get to whichever dark recess of hell that is reserved especially for slime like you, you'll meet Mr Huckabee and John McTernan and Pat Robinson and Ken Ham, and your special Pikkiwoki punishment will be that your eyelids never close and you have to spend eternity looking up at teh gays and teh feminists and teh godless liberals, to whom Pikkiwoki will grant eternal life and you'll see the transformation of our society without bottom-dwelling fucktards like yourselves, and it will be good. And gay. And queer and straight and asexual and transgender. And fair. And equal. And rational and informed.  And what's between your legs won't define whether you can legally bind to someone. It won't be words like homo. Or hetero. There will just be love.

And you'll hate it. And you'll decry our lovely new civilisation with your puny hatred-filled voices, even from the pit of Hell.

And we'll make the unicorns poop on you.

Sincerely,

Vacuous O'Possum, R.N, Santa's Handmaiden (Duties largely ceremonial).

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Cancelling Crimbo

Now, before the hoards "You godless heathens shouldn't celebrate Christmas" descend on the comments page, let me tell you. I've always celebrated at this time of year, whether as a christian, a pagan and now as an atheist. I believe that there is something quite lovely about taking a single day out of our immensely busy year to celebrate relationships with whomever we define as important. Whether that be family or friends or any other definition.

The fact that we're actually celebrating the axial tilt is another post.

So last year we hosted an Orphan's Crimbo, for anyone in Lae whose family was away, and had nowhere else to go. And it was ace. We had prawns and fish and ham and chicken and pretty much all the trimmings.

Some of the said trimmings had to be adjusted slightly. It's 35 degrees Celcius up here, with 90% humidity. I am not making a goddamn plum pudding.

But I make a mean plum pudding icecream.

So this year's Crimbo-ing began with me having a full on bat shit crazy meltdown because I couldn't get the ingredients for said plum pudding icecream.

And ramped up from there.

I'd previously seen all the ingredients but had chosen that fateful decision that proves I'm still a noob up here: I'll buy it next week.

IF you see something you want or need up here BUY IT WHEN YOU SEE IT. Because it may never come back.

Apparently the ingredients I needed were in Lae, in a shipping container that was going to be unloaded in the New Year

I'm up at Food Mart being all like WHAT THE FUCK I NEED CURRANTS AND SUET NOW, BITCHES!

This is a supposed christian country and you don't have glace ginger??? WTF?? It was one of the gifts bought to Baby Cheezles by The Wise Men!!

WHAT SORT OF PAGAN HELL DEMONS ARE RUNNING THIS SUPERMARKET???

But that's Lae. No currants prior to Crimbo but there will be shelves of the little fuckers sometime next April.

So after the Great Suet Rage, The Husbang gently suggested that maybe.. just maybe.. this year I didn't HAVE to host Crimbo, and if I did, it would be okay NOT to have a version of a pud.

Now that's just some bat shit crazy right there, my friend.

No pud on the Crimbo table? No hand made shortbread, or rum balls or apricot slice? No Grandma's Punch (secret ingredient: cold tea), no stickjaw taffy?

Once, many years ago, The Husbang bought me a ZILLION DOLLAR full-on full-size Italian profession chef oven,

And I tried to rotisserie 6 chickens in it, because.. well.. because I could.

And it didn't work, and I got more and more frustrated and more and more insane and I was all up in that damn ovens' grill (Hah! Punster Iz Me!) screaming "WHY DO YOU HATE ME?", and The Husband gebtly took my sobbing, wracked face in his hands and said to me gently::

"You  Are Not Your Food"

We slept in different suburbs that night.

I'm a wog, ok? That movie :My Big Fat Greek Wedding"? That's my family. NOT my family of origin, but the family I have created around me. You come to my house and the first question I ask you is "Are you hungry? Would you like something to eat?"

To me, I hear "I love you", when I say those words.

I don't have blood in my veins, I have gravy. And salsa and mole and coulis and balsamic reduction.

So the thought of not spending hours in the kitchen preparing for Crimbo is an anathema to me.

Doesn't not cooking up a Crimbo feast mean I am a bad person?

Surely?

So The Husbang pointed out, that under the circumstances maybe this year we could just go all simple. (Although he used the word 'deconstructed" and made an analogy to food which helped my mind make the switch. "You'll be like Heston, getting back to a more deconstructed lunch").

And we got talking, and he gently eased my into the idea that I can still be a good person without scaring the bakery staff at Food Mart because they had spelt flour last months, and I didn't buy it.

So he sent the email for me. Cos I am not yet at a point where I can actually take responsibility for  clearly being a bad person who hates my friends canceling Crimbo. And he cc's me in on it and you know what?

When I read it, this most enormous sense of relief flooded over me.

I will still get a Crimbo, but it's just us this year. And we're still planning Crimbo shenanigans, but instead of a turkey with 2 different stuffings (chestnut and bacon for the neck, orange and sage for the cavity), we're going to buy a ham.

You can buy hams!  Pre-hammed!

Who knew?

And we're going to buy cheese and mustard and his concession is that I can roast a chicken and stuff it, but I am not allowed to bone it and use anything that requires goose fat or larks vomit and the words confit and de-glaze have been banned.

And we're going to sit on the couch and watch "Love, Actually" and get out the panini press and have ham and cheese and mustard toasties and then eat icecream out of the tub.

And you know what?

It feels okay. Better than okay, actually. It feels nice.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Context.

I live here on the basis of a 'dependant" visa, attatched to The Husbang's work permit.

This fact irks me no end.

I've been musing muchly over what it means to define myself as a feminist lately.

Now, before we start, let's get a few things clear. I realise by virtue of the fact I am white, educated and was raised in a First World country, the very fact I can 'choose' that label or proscribe to it, means I am in a position of privilege. I get that.

But I caught myself thinking about my personal feminism the other day, while my maid (haus mari) was ironing my clothes.

And rather than feel shame, it made me realise that any 'ism' is about context.

I don't work for money up here. So basically, I'm a trophy wife. I have a maid and a garden boy and guards and I don't have a car, so I rely on The Husbang to come and get me to take me shopping. The highlight of most days is thinking of something nice to cook for dinner.

In a first world country, I sound, on paper, like all the women I despised as Stepford Wives.

But here's where, more and more, I realise that being a feminist is a) a western construct and b) relative only in context.

My haus mari learns to speak better English by being employed by me. That makes her more employable. It empowers her up here. And maybe she'll teach her daughters, or sisters, thus empowering them. And maybe, rather than grow up to be haus maris, they'll feel empowered enough to do something else. Their English will open doors similar to having a Uni degree back home. They could work in a shop, or a business!

And she teaches me Tok, which empowers me to be able to communicate better with local women.

Yeah, ok, I don't have to have a maid to teach local women English, I get that. And yes, I have volunteered to teach English to local women via the local Lioness Club.

Employing Betty also means that she's paid. And paid very well. Which means she can afford to educate her son and sister in PNG where education isn't free (well, not yet anyway). She has saved enough money from being a mari to buy land. On which she is building a house. So that women and girls in her remote village in The Highlands, can come to a more urban locale and live a little safer.

Just a side note on pay scales up here. The average wage here is about K2.30, or about $1.15US an hour. Education for a child in primary school is about K500 per child per year. We pay our mari K30 a day. Not much by home standards, but an enormous wage up here. Why don't we pay her more? Wouldn't that be more 'feminist"? Let me tell you a story about Don.

Don was the brother of one of our original guards. Don worked as a private guard for a CEO up here. He got paid ten times as much as an average guard. The equivalent of $10USD an hour. One day, a new guard turned up at the CEO's house and said "Don doesn't work here anymore. I'm his replacement".

The new guard had murdered Don. Hacked him to death with a machete, all to take the job.

You walk a LOT of fine lines up here, and it's all about the context.

Being a feminist up here means there are no Reclaim The Night marches to participate in- although I am doing some work behind the scenes to maybe organise one. The safety issues of which would be ENORMOUS, btw.- there is no Wymyn's groups to attend or collectives to work in (not that they solely define feminist).

It means sitting under a mango tree in remote villages and holding pikininis while talking to women about their lives. And sometimes, very rarely, being honoured with stories of how men took their power. And rather than jumping up and suggesting a mass bra burning, you delicately ask IF-  not WHY, but if, the women want it back?

"Do you want it back?", I say. And watch as the seed gets planted.

Feminism up here is about our choice to adopt a girl from a village right in the heart of Misogyny Central and walk the fine line with her between Western empowerment and her cultural roots.

Feminism up here is about calling out white men, some of which might be CEO's, when they "STTTTT"  for a female waitress down the Yoti (it's a very specific sound, somewhere between a hiss and a whstle, ending in a plosive T, and it's how men, both white and brown get a woman's attention)

It's about calling them out on that fag/bitch/whore joke they think is so fucking funny.

It's often about being ridiculed and having rumours of being a lesbian circulated about you. But that's not specific to PNG, as we all know!

Feminism up here is about joining anti-Violence groups, yet needing a guard on your compound gate 24/7. It's about not being able to go to a meeting for the Mari Seif Haus (women's shelter) because there are riots in the street.

It's about joining something as anachronistic as the Lioness Club, and fund-raising to provide training for women in prison, or hustling for donations to print pamphlets on Breast Cancer awareness.

It's not about designing a huge YES, YOU CAN! banner for a mass rally, it's about gently telling a young girl who wants to be caddy at the Golf Club; "yes, you can", and then making sure you take responsibility for planting that seed by ensuring she doesn't get raped or beaten for wanting to do something so culturally inappropriate.

It's about access to resources and empowerment and opening eyes and ears and doors EXACTLY the same as it is in the West. The context is just to very different.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Post Connecticut shooting musings

See, the thing is, I believe (and it's simply MINE), that America HAS to have an enemy. Whether it's the Russian about to nuke them, or the North Koreans or the Cubans or the Iranians or the Muslims. On an individual level, it's the 'whackjobs in my city" or "the black gangs" or some other "OTHER" that is out to get you. Look at the development of James Bond movies (yes, I KNOW he's British!). When the Cold War ended, it was the Koreans. Or the Colombians. It's JB's 'thing" to save the Superpowers (i.e Britain and the US ) from "them", whoever they are perceived to be at any one given historical moment. SMERSH, or drug cartels, or whomever.So maybe it's like that for the citizens of America? Maybe they've grown up on an insidious diet of "They're coming to get us", from earliest colonization, thru the Wild West days, via 9/11. Maybe they've been sold the lie that they actually do NEED all this weaponry? It's the reds under the beds mentality, perpetrated by whom? I don't know. Maybe the governments? Maybe the media?

And that's what I am struggling with, and is the root of my questions, which clearly appear un-informed and US-phobic to some. Australia had the same mentality during WWII when the Japanese really were coming to get us, but since then, we've had no fear of some imminent bomb to descend on us, fired by some distant enemy. Hell yes, we got involved in George Dubba Ya's fights, but even post 9/11 there was no imminent sense that we all had to arm ourselves against some possible invasion by "the enemy". I'm sure we have doomsday preppers in OZ, but we sure as shit don't have a 'reality' show about it.

Of course we worry about home invasions and our houses being broken into and our kids being raped in their beds. That shit goes down every day in Aus. What we don't have is the social/communal mentality that we must keep a gun in the house "just in case". Some of us might keep a baseball bat by the bed, or an hickory axe handle by the door, but there is no pervasive "They're coming to kill our women and take our precious metals" mentality.

The Australian government talks a lot, at the moment about illegal refugees and "our borders being overrun", and yet, there is no sense that we all have to race out and buy a gun, to protect ourselves from these faceless hoards.

300 million guns in America? Honestly, when I was growing up I didn't know ONE SINGLE FAMILY THAT HAD A WEAPON FOR PERSONAL PROTECTION. Not one. Maybe some did and I didn't know about it. Maybe some Dads had rifles in the cupboard for hunting. The point I'm making is that before the gun laws changed in 96, I didn't know ANYONE who had a gun, hand gun or otherwise simply to protect "me and mine".

How many Americans of my age can say that?
When I was in Chicago earlier this year, I was approached by a scary guy on the street. He rode past me on a bike and said "Hey baby, what's your name". I gave him a kinda "Pfft, whatever" look and the next thing I know he'd got off the bike and was coming towards me saying "What? You're not going to tell me your name".
It never ONCE dawned on me that he might be armed. It never once dawned on me that I should have bought a handgun to have in my purse. All I could think of to do was to get back into the restaurant, with my friends and "arm" myself with the safety of numbers.
I told him to "Fuck off" as I side-stepped him and went back into the restaurant, never even considering he'd shoot me. Attack me with his bare hands? Yes. Call for his mates and drag me somewhere? Yes.
 Follow me into the restaurant and shoot the place up?
 Never. 
It's simply NOT how Australians think. Guns, even when we're standing on our own, in a street in downtown Chicago,  are not what we reach for- physically and intellectually- as a first resort.
So all this personal safety thing? Imma not smack talking America about it. I simply don't understand it. Really? It seems that most of you live in a perpetual state of fear that "someone" is coming to get you and you better be armed, just in case.

Who did that to you?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The US gun control debate.

So, I am trying to openly and honestly debate gun control in the US, with a couple of people on FB. The utter insanity of the tragedy is another thing altogether, but I keep hearing this "I own a gun for personal safety" or "for home protection" Seriously people? You live in AMERICA, most of you in downtown Averageville. How likely is is that you EVER actually going to need a gun?
Even if you lived in BubbaFuckah West, peopled with "Deliverance" rejects, you REALLY think it's ok to have a gun 'just in case"?
 I live in LAE, PAPUA NEW GUINEA, described by The Lonely Planet as "the most dangerous city in the world outside a war zone" I have riots and murders in my city, if not in my fucking street, on a daily basis. I live in a city where we are all regularly updated as to where we can and can not go. My friend's children saw a man shot dead in front of them, last Sunday.
Being "hands upped" is a daily factor, yet I drive and shop and eat and play and visit with friends and sleep and conduct my daily life quite well and normally.

And I don't own a gun.

You're worried about home invasion? Do the fuck what I do. Live behind 9ft steel fences and razor wire, with (unarmed but baton-ed) guards on the gate 24/7 and have your bedroom zone locked away behind a rape gate. Get a couple of guard dogs.

A gun should NEVER be your first option for "home protection". Get some steel bars on your fucking windows, man.

Friday, 14 December 2012

The language of Lae.

PNG is the most linguistically diverse place on earth. Most people up here, despite many of them having little or no education are bilingual,even trilingual. Most locals speak their regional language (As Ples** or Tok Ples) and either Tok or Mutu, the two official languages. These are not dialects, they are different and distinct languages. And most locals up here speak English. Which means your humble gardener, or flowa boi, probably speaks a couple more languages than you do.

**(As, as in "Arse" Place.. as in where you sit down, your home village)

Not bad for a country where the locals are often frowned upon by some expats as stupid and lazy.

The most used language up here is  Tok Pisin, or simply "tok" as it's known . Although it was originally a pidgin, Tok Pisin is now considered a distinct language in its own right, because it is a first language for some people and not merely a lingua franca to facilitate communication with speakers of other languages.

Tok is an awesome language, derived from English picked up in the cane fields of Queensland during the very dark Blackbirding years, a huge smattering of Australian English brought in by soldiers during WWII, with some German and Dutch.

All letters only have one possible pronunciation. There is no "F" in Tok, although given that most people also speak English, it has kinda crept into Tok via the back door. But a tru tok speaker would never use it.

A is always pronounced as the a in "father", E as in "example", I as in "issue", O as in "code" and U as in "clue"

Vowels aren't followed by the "R" sound, so "work" is "wok",, pronounced just like the Asian cooking implement.

Some of my favourite phrases are "gras bilong het" (grass bilong head) or hair. Usually just shortened to "gras". Not to be confused with "maus gras" or a beard/moustache. "Skru bilon han" is elbow.

A "wantok" (one talk) is a dear friend, someone who literally speaks the same as you, linguistically and emotionally.

Tok can sound kinda rude to the non speaker.  "as ples bilon mi, em bikpela bagarap" which sound a little like "arse plaice  bill on me em bickpela bugger up" It means "My home village is badly damaged".

One of the words that causes Newbies to do a double take up here is "pinis". It means "finish" or "end", so it's perfectly acceptable up here to say ' Yu em pinis?"

You're  not being asked if you're a dick, you're being asked if you've finished..

The first time I was invited to a "Go Pinis" party, I was pretty sure I was being asked to put my car keys in a bowl, and get on with (hitherto un-explored) my wife-swapping self.

Newp, it's a party thrown for people who are leaving. You have a go pinis party when you leave a job. Or te country.

"pis" in Tok Pisin could mean in English: "beads", "fish", "peach", "feast" or "peace".
"sip" in Tok Pisin could mean in English: "ship", "jib", "jeep", "sieve" or "chief"

Far be it from me, an avowed atheist to  promote the idiocy of religion, but the lord's prayer is a great way to learn Tok, because almost everyone knows the words. Sound the words out, using the vowel rules as I've described, and you can hear the meaning:

Papa bilong mipela
Yu stap long heven.
Nem bilong yu i mas i stap holi.
Kingdom bilong yu i mas i kam.
Strongim mipela long bihainim laik bilong yu long graun,
olsem ol i bihainim long heven.
Givim mipela kaikai inap long tude.
Pogivim rong bilong mipela,
olsem mipela i pogivim ol arapela i mekim rong long mipela.
Sambai long mipela long taim bilong traim.
Na rausim olgeta samting nogut long mipela.
Kingdom na strong na glori, em i bilong yu tasol oltaim oltaim.
Tru.

And my personal favourite, a road sign in the Ramu Valley:

Ol man an mari, yu save.  Draiv isi isi. Yu noken lukatim ol bullamacau on rot. Yu bagarap im ca.

(Everyone take note, Drive slowly and watch out for Cattle crossing the road. Or you will have a car accident)

 Got it? And Tok creeps into your everyday conversations with native English speakers. With a large smattering of colloquial Australian English thrown in. I might greet a couple I know with "G'day tupla!  (Hello, you two). I couldn't 'phone you earlier because my Digi (cell) was bagarap (broken) Yu olrite? (are you well?). You going to the barbie for Jane's go pinis ? (farewell barbeque) I'm isi isi on the piss down the Yoti tonight." (I'm going easy on the alcohol at the Yacht Club tonight)..

What it sounds like to the English-attuned ear is

Giidae Tooplar , I coodn phone you earlier bcz meh didgee was buggered rap. Yoo orait. Yoo goin to the Barbie for Jane's Penis? I'm easy easy nda piss down the Yoddy tnite.

And it's said REALLY fast, so all the words kinda run into each other and leaves you wondering why Tupac is performing digital buggery on a Barbie Doll with Jane's penis while Izzy is urinating on Yoda.

It's a language not for the faint hearted. Then there's learning what a "chook raffle" is, or "footy" (pronounced "fuudie), or knowing your 'mates' are "ARSOL's" and why on Tuesday's The Yoti (pronounced 'Yoddy') draws a meat tray.

Welcome to PNG, the land of the unexpected.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Shopping in Lae.

It's doable. Hard but doable. Imma talking 'stuff' shopping here, not food. I knew  a family that left most of their belongings behind in Australia, because they were told you can't buy cleaning products up here. So rather than fill their container with pictures and knick-knacks that ease the transition and remind you of home, they filled their container with bleach and mops and sponges and floor polish and shampoo.

Imagine their suprise when they found shelves filled with these exotic items, at all three supermarkets in Lae.

When I first arrived in Lae, there had been no honey in stock, in any supermarket for months. Then, overnight, a shipment came in and BANG! There were aisles and aisles, filled from top to bottom, with tubs of honey. All the same brand, all the same size. Imagine and entire aisle of Costco's filled with exactly the same product.

In Lae, we don't have any clothing shops, per se. You can get shoes and t-shirts and the like at SVS, but there's no store that just sells women's clothes.

There are no malls in Lae.

That was not a typo. There are no shopping malls in my city.

We shop at the various second-hand outlets in town. And noone is ashamed of it.

Cos the alternative is going naked, or never having new clothes.

Naked is not an alternative you want me to consider, trust me.

You can pick up some awesome bargains. I just bought a Calvin Klein top, brand new, still with the tags on for K4. About $2.

You can buy bikes for kids and Barbie dolls and hula hoops and basketballs and slides and beds-in-the-shape-of-cars... all new, BTW.

You just have to know where to look. And you have to steel yourself for the inevitable drive to 17 different parts of town, and how some of them might be no-go zones because of street works or rioting and when you do find that perfect gift for Junior for Crimbo, you have to wait for 90 minutes while some gormless shop assistant gets you a price on said item. Then, having decided on said purchase, you have the delightful experience of waiting in line for another hour while the 6 people in front of you hassle and yell because their EFTPOS card has been rejected or, even better, the entire electronic banking system is down and you didn't bring enough cash.

Look, not all stores are like that, but MOST are.

So, it's Crimbo time and a Lae expat woman's mind turns to presents. The first year you're up here you send home Madang pottery and Goroka coffee.

The next year you send home hand woven baskets and bilums.

The third year you send home carvings, knowing that most people back home have a) no idea what a Sepik River Yenichenmangua hewei mari is and b) PNG carvings don't exactly go with the decor in most Western houses.







Now, I have a house filled with wondrous items like this, but I live here. This isn't exactly the sort of thing you send home to Mom in her minimalist loft-style Bauhaus apartment, is it?(well, maybe it is, cos that's kinda how I roll **evilleer**)

I have a wall clustered with penis gourds, so what would I know?



Also, shipping from PNG is a monkey bucket of money. It's prohibitively expensive, which is why you all got coffee last year.

I sent home a baby's outfit recently. Cost me $1. Weighed 250g. Cost me $60USD to ship it to the States.

There's also lots of silly little laws in other countries regarding sending products made of wood over their borders. They require fumigation and certificates and other bothersome things THAT ADD TO THE COST.

Yes, there's ebay and we use it beaucoup up here, EXCEPT the interweb is so unreliable that you often miss out on auctions or, as recently happened to me, the payment doesn't go through because electronic banking up here is a FUCKING NIGHMARE. The payment was flagged as 'suspicious' by the bank in Moresby and reversed. This happens ALL the time.

Now, let me precede the next part of this post by saying this. I used to run a food blog and my inbox became clogged with companies offering me free 'stuff' if I'd review it. I did it once, for a juice company. The sent me something I will call "Orange Marvelous"

My blog post was called "Orange Meh"

And I never did it again.

However, this little blog is about sharing information that makes living in Lae easier. And I freely admit the owners of this business are friends of mine.

Here's what I did this Crimbo.

I went here:

Eclecticity - Chicago's Snazziest Store

You give Siri a brief description of the recipient and she snerfles through all the awesome stuff in the shop and ships it to the intended giftie. I particularly love their pillboxes and trivets. She CANNOT be stumped. Here's a sample of the directive I gave her this year.

"He's, like 20, and amazeballs handsome. But geeky. He's into vintage steampunk hats and  krakens. He reads voraciously, so no books, because he's prolly read it. He's 6ft5 and also into cooking and acid and begonias and racing cars"**

She found this person the perfect git!


These beautiful women are made of exactly 3.14159 different and distinct types of orsum. Live in Papua New Guinea and need your Crimbo pressies shipped to OZ/UK/Zambia? Hell, why not use a store in Chicago?! Seriously. Use them. They like it. And they're goddamn rockstars muthafarkin beyond fabulous! And they'll forgive you when your international transfer doesn't go through ;)
 
** SOME of that is a complete lie!

The previous post.

I'm going to be an ostrich and whack my head in a bucket of sand. I can't blog about it yet. I will, one day, soon. Because it speaks to the heart of this blog. But not now.

We will be returning you to your regularly scheduled dose of profanity, hilarity and frustration soon.

MM.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

blogging about blogging

Despite the fact that this little corner of teh interwebz has only 2 dozen or so posts, I am not a noob at this. I blogged for 5 year under another name, on another topic, in another country. Part of the reason I started THIS blog is that I wanted wider scope to discuss things like politics and religion and gender-issues and basically give my bad-ass, loud, opinionated bitch a platform from where I could rant maniacally about, well, anything.

It's pretty hard to voice your utter, deep, pathological disgust at batshit crazy white men Republican policies, or rave about the blame culture of rape, on a food blog.

So, when I started MM, I decided I wanted it to be warts and all, balls to the wall about stuff I find interesting. Interspersed with the occasional recipe and an update on Vop. I wanted it be be exactly what it says up there in the header. Part Mommy blog, part travelogue. Part femiNazi ranting, part resource.

And here's the thing. I've been brutally true to that over the past year.

But now?

You see, something's come up. Something big. Something that changes my world. Something that's left me battered and bruised and lying bleeding in the gutter.

And I don't have the guts to blog about It.

If you've seen "Julie and Julia", you may remember the scene where she and her husband have an argument, and he begins to blog about it, and then deletes it. Because a) her marital woes aren't relevant to a food blog and b) as bloggers we often share too much. Open ourselves up to ridicule. And some of us choose to only share the good and the funny.

But when I started MM, I didn't want to BE that sort of blogger. I wanted to talk about the good and the bad and the utterly soul-numbing HARDNESS of living in Lae/adopting Vop/being a woman up here.

And I thought I was doing it. And doing it well.

Until the past 10 days.

It's partly the hoary old chestnut of "If I say It out loud, it becomes real", but it's much more than that. I speaks to the very heart of what this blog is about. It speaks to the heart of who I thought I was up here.

I truly don't give a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut if It marginalizes me within the Mommy/expat/PNG blogging community. I've never proscribed to assign myself any of those labels. It's not that which holds me back.

I'm not too sure what it is, but every time I've pressed that "new post" button to write about It, my soul has fled through my eyes, and left me bereft.

I have lost my edges. I can't remember where my 'me' ends and the rest of the world begins. My margins are as blurred as my tear-wrecked vision. Words that used to flow from my fingers in bright, sharp streams simply won't come when I try to write about It.

It even has a capital letter when I think about It.

No, the Husbang hasn't had an affair. That would be a would down a primrose-fucking-path compared to It.

So, if I can't write about It, how can I write/blog about ANYTHING? This isn't a food blog, wherein it's not important to mention extraneous "stuff".

This is a blog about Vop and Lae and expatting and adoption and fighting misogyny up here and. well, read the goddamn header, or a post or two, and you'll see.

This blog is simply about me.

And It has taken the me I thought I was and broken it into a thousand sharp shards which, instead of glittering with hope and promise, lie dull and bereft.

And I have no energy to gather them up to myself and put them back together.

Monday, 10 December 2012

And the winner is.....

Yep, this little corner of teh interwebz just won The Silver Medal for Best Expat Blog in PNG.

**sniff**

I'd like to thank The Academy, my parents for not practicing contraception, Cthulu and the doods over at Expats Blog, who help a whole lot us us displaced expats connect with each other and stay sane. Thanks, too, to all that voted. This blog is mostly about keeping me sane and out of mischief, and also to provide a resource for prospective expatters to Lae, but getting kudos from your peers is a lovely, unexpected validation.


Expat Blogs

Sunday, 2 December 2012

OCD-induced anxiety

If you suffer from the slightest degree of OCD, I recommend you don't move to PNG. It will make you head 'splode.

I freely admit to suffering OCD about MANY things. I have known to become anxious because my couch is 8 degrees out of true straight alignment with the floorboards. I clean my house starting at the same point every time and finishing the same. If I don't do it like this, it doesn't feel clean.

Oh, so sue me, I'm a freak.

But a NEAT freak, with a Type-A personality and a fucking clean house, my friend.

Lae suffers from hundreds of small tremors every year, which means I spend a lot of time straightening pictures and knick-knacks that have moved mere millimeters out of line.

It's kinda what I do, you know, instead of having a job or anything important like that.

In fact, the step-monsters only disclosed to me on their recent trip up, that when they wanted to piss me off, they would get into my pantry and move the spices around.

That's pretty much a declaration of war, right there.

So, yesterday The Husbang finally got around to hanging some of the pictures that came up from our last house in Australia.

In particular, there is a beautiful Monet print that my father bought me on one of his trips to Europe. Purchased at Giverny I believed, and then hand-finished by hm, and framed.

It's one of my few pride and joys, made all the more important because Dad's been dead nearly 6 years.

This picture has hung in various houses across the world, either above the mantlepiece or in the bedroom.

So The Husbang and I are measuring up the bedroom wall to hang said pic.

Husbang is as bad as I am in the OCD department. It's one of the reasons we've stayed married all these years. He's as nit-picking and neurotic about pictures and couches and storing spice jars by size and alphabetizing them and things being in the right place as I am.

So here's where PNG, and in particular PNG workmen/builders get their evil revenge on us.

There is not one single wall in our house that is straight or level in any plane.

The wall on which I want to hang this picture has a 5 inch differentiation from one corner to the other. Which means that no matter how you hang the picture, it doesn't ever look straight.

But there's more. On said wall there is an airconditioning unit.

Not in the centre of the wall.

On either side, and just below the AC unit, there are 2 wall lights.

They are not evenly spaced in relation to the AC unit.

The airconditioning unit isn't level. It falls to the left by an inch.

The switches for these lights are not evenly spaces in relation to the lights. One switch is underneath a light fitting, and the other is bangfuckingsmack in the middle of the wall.

Now, our bed is centred in relation to the light fittings, which means the AC unit is all squiffy in relation to the bed.

When we have sex, we have to turn around and face the foot of the bed, because if either of us look up and see this abortion of angles and relative-spacing anarchy, we faint.

So, The Husbang is standing on the bed, I am holding my Dad's beloved picture and we're both getting angrier and angrier. The Husbang, tha man who once re-tiled an entire bathroom because the tiles against the bath were 3mm out of true, starts saying things like "Do they do this on purpose?" and " Maybe we should move to Sweden?".

The alternative was to put the painting in storage, but really? Why allow the evil machinations of CLEARLY a demonic group of plasterers and  electricians who are planning to overthrow the expat community of Lae by making their brains explode via OCD-induced anxiety win?

This is war, people. Haiti had its L'Ouverture, Rome had Sparticus, MANY nations have thrown out their usurpers but none as craftily as the way the sneaky machinations of Lae Builders have manifested.

In a show of defiance, we've hung the picture!! Oh yes, take THAT Builders Navvies of Evil!! You shall not win, you Demonic Decorators of Dissent. I can't actually SLEEP in the bed, nor LOOK at the picture without trembling with anxiety, but it's a small price to pay to triumph over these Type B Terrorists.



   However, we both needed a Valium and a lie down afterwards. In the spare room. Whose light fittings don't match.



I'm buying us sleeping-eye-patches-thingies for Crimbo,

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Labels.

No, not the kind I tag these posts with.

The ones that we all give each other.

In case you haven't worked it our yet, I am ever so slightly opinionated.

Q'uelle suprise!!

I am pretty out about my politics/atheism/feminism/humanism and any other isms I find interesting.

But here's the thing. I've realised that being 'out' means that people who don't agree with you simply often dismiss you.

Oh, she WOULD say that, she's an **insert ism of your choice**.

Thereby rendering the message null.

Up Here, anti-intellectualism and reverse snobbery seems to be endemic. Faux News is taken as gospel. If it was on MSN, then it MUST be tru, ya? By inviting debate, I seem to only invite ridicule.

It fascinates me that people who have the balls to leave their country of origin, and live in a place which teh interwebz describes as 'the most dangerous place on the planet outside a warzone', cling to their racial and gender stereotypes so firmly.

I have, whilst having Vop sitting on my lap, been told that "you can't train locals", that ALL Nationals are 'lazy", that women up here 'deserve' the violence because they drink/cheat/fight back.

And, trust me, I don't auto-launch into femiNazi mode (well, I did when a WWW* man refered to PNG Nationals as "lazy fuckin' kanakas" within Vop's hearing), I do try, I really do, to counter arguments like the above with calm and facts and logic.

I might say "Really? On what do you base that?" or "Can you prove that?"

At which point, you can often see the internal dialogue mirrored in their eyes.

"Oh, she's SUCH an atheist/feminist/foodie/kanak-loving hippy."

 And from that point on, any rational discussion is moot.

I am guilty of it myself sometimes, I admit it. I've been in awesome discussion with someone up here to find "Dear Goat, I bet (s)he's a religious nutter/Bob Katter fan/Birther Conspiracy lunatic with opinions like that", but I TRY to be aware of that internal filter and still allow positive discourse to flow.

However, interesting discourses/potential friendships I have been involved with have ended thus when my politics/feminism/atheism has come up:

You worship Satan because you used to be Pagan. (In a discussion about why I have a pentagram on an incense holder.)
Easter has nothing to do with Estrogen, Jesus named it. (in a discussion on the etymology of words)
You only post stuff about abused children because you're an atheist and you hate religion.
You're only interested in Domestic Violence up here because you're bored with no job.

and my personal fave:

Why are you adopting Vop? You're an atheist. You don't care. Not like a Christian does.

They haven't always ended friendships, but they HAVE ALWAYS ended discussions.

At home, friendships were forged over gallons of wine  years of commonality. People change, grow and sometimes the friendships don't last. But in my late 40's I have a circle of people who might not share ALL my beliefs, but there is a core of like-mindedness that cements the relationship.

Up here, the gene pool of potential friends is small, and because we are all human, we yearn to bond. To mingle. To have friends.


Being dismissed for having opinions is one thing, and certainly nothing I haven't experienced in MANY other countries, but Up Here it comes at a cost.

You get that most 1950's of damning labels.

You get

A. REPUTATION.


WWW = PNG expat slang for White With Wallet.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

You can't make this shit up

Recently, I sent my weekly "What's on in Lae" email home to friends and family. It's my weeklyish report home. I include Vop's milestones, what we've been up to and various stories from up here in Lae.

I was mentioning to a friend up here, a long-termer, that I often get emails back accusing me of exaggerating stories in Lae (like the time I ran through the main market, in my pajamas, wielding a bush knife)

She said, and I will never forget this:

"You don't EVER need to exaggerate about life up here, it's bizarre enough without it. But people who've never been here will not ever be able to understand it"

I will blog about the above market incident one day, and the time I ended up driving in a car in the middle of the 4 Mile settlement, lost, but for now let me present you with a pictorial story that needs no words. NONE of the following are photoshopped in any way.






Welcome to Lae. You can't make this shit up.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Fresh Meat!

All roads lead to Rome. Well, in Lae, all roads eventually lead to the Yacht Club. The Yoti, as it's known. Sooner or later, all noobies up here end up at the Yoti. Sometimes they end up there of their own volition, and you can tell them by the stunned, glazed look in their eyes. That's when people like me walk up to them and introduce myself, and invite them to sit with us. I don't know whether it's the smell of the legal alcohol that stuns them, or the sight of so many white people in a single mass, but they're usually looking pretty gormless.

Sometimes they get taken there by a kindly 'old timer', to be introduced to life in Lae.

Either way, all fresh meat usually ends up at the LYC.

And like all cultures, those of us who live here are eager and willing to share our experience, to give the noobies a hand.

When I first went to the Yoti, I was told MANY things about Lae. I will never forget an older expat woman telling me "Whatever you do, don't over-feed your house staff, you'll only spoil them'

I am still not entirely sure what that means.

I was also told that it;s impossible to buy shoes in Lae (untrue), or women's underwear ((partially true) and that household items such as mops et all are impossible to buy up here (completely false).

The very delicious Dr Wendy, writes about it over at her blog,  and was told that feminine hygiene products were unavailable in Lae. As such, she turned up with a container-load of tampons. And ended up giving them away as gifts when she left several years later.

So The Husbang and I have developed our "Noob Speech:, which we impart to all Fresh Meat with suitable gravitas.

Basically it's this:

Lots of people will tell you lots of things about Lae. Don't listen to them. Discover it for yourselves. You're here, which means that you have an open mind and haven't been lulled into the BS that is spouted about Lae on the Web. Lots of people will want you to see THEIR view of Lae. Keep an open mind. Lots of people will tell you about lots of OTHER people in Lae. Remember, this place is like a small DEEP SOUTH town in about 1974. Everyone knows everyone else, and plenty are quick to judge and gossip. Discover people for yourself and make up your own mind.

But the most important advice we can give noobies is this:

"DON'T DRINK THE TRADEWINDS"

This pearl of wisdom, this Nugget of Truth, if you will, is always delivered in the same sonorous, sing-song tones that one would use to say:

"DON'T DRINK THE KOOL-AID"

And the comparison is apt. Trade Winds will kill you. Very dead. A lot. And unlike the Kool-Aid, it will be painful and horrible and nasty.

Trade Winds is our local brand of spirits.It's made locally, of godknows what ubiquitous ingredients. It's not the local home-brew, it's the locally made commercial liquor. They manufacture brandy and vodka and bourbon and godknows what other hellish concoctions in their meth lab of death distillery.

I am pretty sure Macbeth's witches, with their "bubble, bubble, toil and trouble" were brewing up an early batch of Trade Winds Vodka.

It's cheap. VERY cheap, compared to imported spirits. And its bottles seductively grace the shelves of the Yoti, batting their fetching eyes like so many Sirens and try to lull you into tasting their wily charms.

""Lae's under alcohol ban", they coo.

"How long has it been since you felt the sweet, sweet burn of Scotch?" they susurrate.

Now I am pretty sure telling women there are no tampons in Lae is part of some hazing ritual that the old timers designed to have a laugh at the noobies expense, but listen to me  people, this thing with the Trade Winds is FOR ROOLZ.

IF you want spirits at the Yoti, or anywhere else in Lae, you MUST ask for it by name, as in "I'll have a Johnny Walker Red with coke, please" or "Can I have a VSOP and ginger ale in a long glass?"

Otherwise, you'll get Trade Winds.

Infact, when The Husbang orders his bourbon, it goes something like this:

"wanpla Jim Beam, No Cock, jus Jim Bim, an ice. NO TRADE WINDS, ya? Tenk yu tru" and we will often follow a new waitress to the bar to ensure we get the Right Stuff.

Because Trade Winds will Fuck. You. Up.

Once, early in our tenure up here, there was an open bar at the Yoti. Some night that some local company had sponsored, and for one hour, EVERYTHING across the bar was free. I'd had a single glass of wine with dinner, and I took the opportunity of getting shit-faced for free supporting local industry. I had three brandy and drys.

Three.

The Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster was invented by Zaphod Beeblebrox, in  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The effect of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon, wrapped 'round a large gold brick. It has also been described as the alcoholic equivalent to a mugging; expensive and bad for the head.

Trade Winds spirits are Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters with  pissy attitudes. Trade Winds Spirits are the just-wormed pit bull older more streetwise cousins of the PGGB.

Three Trade Winds Brandies and Dry caused a spontaneous purging from every orifice in my body. With no warning.

There is a very specific headache that goes with a Trade Winds hangover (And you WILL get an hangover, even after only one glass), Waking up the next morning is akin to being reborn. Not in a New Age Pixie-Freak kinda "Past Lives" way, but in a "My mother was a crack whore meth head and I am being delivered using forceps by Dr Nick" way.

And this will last for HOURS. Hours and hours of photophobia and unquenchable thirst and that headache that goes on and on and on.

And this, prospective noobies, was after THREE SINGLE SHOTS.

So when you get here, prospective new residents, take with a LARGE grain of salt, any 'advice' you're given about shopping or crime or tampons or the fact that I worship Satan in bloodthirsty rituals in my basement some of the people up here, But any expat who knows their shit will tell you about Trade Winds.

It's possibly the most important advice about Lae you'll get.


Thursday, 22 November 2012

The good, the bad and the ugly

I guess sometimes I get caught up in the 'bad' of Lae. There's plenty of it. The crime, the dust, the boredom. Much of Lae is, currently, without water. No-one seems to know why. Last time this happened, in 2009, it was because PNG Water hadn't paid their bill to PNG Power and so 'someone' turned off the water, at the source. Then there was the time that a rumor went around town that the Lae water supply had been poisoned, so 'someone' turned it off at the source.

We, however, still have water. We're at the bottom of the hill, almost at sea level, so even after they turn off the water, we still get some residual flow and pressure from the pipes.

We also get all the manque that has collected in the pipes.

Typhoid, anyone?

So my kitchen is currently full of various containers, all filled with filtered and boiled water, from which we will bath, drink and prep food until the water comes back on.

We COULD probably shower, even with the pissy water pressure, but I can't be assured that 50 years of someone elses' skin cells wouldn't be the major ingredient in what was flowing aponst ma body.

Doesn't really bear thinking about, does it?

So, yes, it's bad.

It's also amazingly good.

Coming from much more temperate climes, I am constantly amazed by the fruit up here.Back home I once, much to The Husbang's chagrin, bought an organic pineapple. $USD for a tiny wee thing that, once peeled, yielded about a teaspoon of fruit.

But, OH!! What fruit it was!

Here, I can get 'organic' pineapples, for about $1USD. And they're only organic because the villages in which they are grown can't afford pesticides. And they're HUGE! Big mutha pineapple-on-steroid kinda huge.

They taste like sunshine.

And the watermelons up here? Not for us the pale, chalky melions of home. Up here they are called sugar melons, cost about $4USD for a whole one, and are electro pink. They are melons like you can only dream of back home.

Apparently SOME people **shifty sideways glance and nervous foot shuffle** cut a tiny hole/plug in them and empty a whole bottle of vodka into them, refrigerate overnight, and then consume in a lustful mouthgasmic Bacchanalian tribute to Tastevarna (to mix a few dogmas)

Bananas are bananier. mangoes are mangoier, Tomatoes give The Husbang gout, they're so tomatoey.

Fruit that you would pay el prino prices for in some snooty specialty "purveyor of rare victuals"
 back home are available for a few cents here. Mangosteens cost me about $.25c each. I can pick up a bunch of rambutan maybe 8-10 fruit in a bunch for less than 0.50c.

I can do my fruit and veg shop up here for about $25USD a week.

Of course, this is at the local main market, NOT at the supermarkets, where much of the fruit and veg is imported from Australia and is ridiculously expensive.

I'll blog about The Ugly later. ((yes, freaky ugly white man, with nasal hair and warts that was perving on my boobs at the Yachy Club last Friday, I AM talking about you!! Wearing your cap backwards does NOT make you Gangsta. You're 60 and fat, it makes you creepy. However, your **cough cough** manly strut as you attempted to get my attention, along with your cap, DID earn you a rapper name "Fat Crust Pizza" sung to the tune of "Ice, Ice, Baby")

Believe me, that Ugly is worth a WHOLE post of its own

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Schadenfreudeliciousness

Well two of  the step-monsters have just spent the past fortnight with us. It's been.. interesting. Vop fell in love with both of them immediately, which is awesome as she can be quite reserved with strangers. Thanks to the miracle of Skype and FB, she's seen pix of them before, so I suppose that helped.

They also fell in love with her, and she totally rocked on with her "These are my white brother and white sister" self.

Here in PNG, it's not big deal to see a white man with a National wife, and kids all shades in between. Plenty of people, like The Husbang and I, are on their second marriages, so older white kids with younger mixed-race sibs are perfectly normal up here.

And talking about skin colour is not taboo, as it is in the West.

It's pretty damn evident that Vop is brown and her step-sibs aren't. But rather than glossing over the fact of skin colour, we've chosen to glorify it. There's no point ignoring the obvious.

And it was never more obvious than during the step-monsters' visit.

The step-daughter and I have a chequered history. We love each other, but our relationship is as complex as that of any natural mother/daughter. We've clashed heads MANY times, mostly over clothes.

She's in her early 20's now, so I figure she can pretty much make her own decisions- and I have openly supported them when others didn't (like the time she announced she wanted to work as a stripper to finance her course in child care).

However, up here, the cultural mores regarding women and clothing are very VERY different.

In PNG, breasts are no biggie. Most tribal costumes involve elaborate headdresses  and exposed breasts for women.

It's the thighs that are considered taboo.

Apart from the fact that people would run, screaming "Mein EYES!" into the night, I could probably go to the supermarket topless and not cause a scene. I mean, really, I'd bend down to get a can of beans of the bottom shelf at Food Mart, and my breasts would look like a pair of oranges in the toes of a set of pantyhose.

However, if I were to wear short shorts, or leggings where my thighs were not covered by a long t-shirt, I would be the object of much scrutiny.

It's why we dress up to go to the Yacht Club, one of the few places in town we can wear a short dress, or tight pants. Not that I do, cos me in leggings looks pretty much like two puppies fighting under a blanket, but you get the idea.

Rhee, the step-daughter, was actually pretty good about it. I had sent her an email detailing the above issue and also explained that rape and violence towards women is endemic up here.

Which is where cultural appropriateness butts up against my feminist principles. (but that's a whole 'nother post).

So, we're off to Salamaua for the day, last weekend, and Rhee decides to wear a teeny weeny see-throughey WHITE bikini. Which I have no issue with, as long as she wears a lap-lap (sarong) over her thighs.

So, we get on the boat and I ask her "Have you put on sun block?"

Now Rhee is as pasty a white person as you will ever meet. She is simply breathtakingly beautiful, but man, is she PALE.

She is also, I was told, a physiological miracle.

She "doesn't burn".

I explained, patiently, realizing I was wasting valuable Vodka-consuming time, that Lae is 8degrees south of the equator and the sun is much stronger up here, and we're closer to the sun because of the curvature of the Earth.... and.. and....

But she DOESN'T burn.

And, apparently, IF she uses sun block, she burns faster.

Who knew?

Neither would she wear the lap lap. Apparently it's "their" problem, and if she wants to wear a tiny g-stringy bikini bottom that becomes see-through when wet, then the problem lies with "them" She is, after all, a "fenemist" (sic).

Again, I tried to expand on issues of cultural appropriateness ("if someone turned up at your work wearing a penis gourd and  bone through their nose, wouldn't you say something?  That's what it's like for Nationals over here, you dressed like that. Shocking and inappropriate") But to no avail.

Well, by the time we returned from the island, she was classically lobster-red. The heat coming off her legs was insane. She spent the next two days bathing in milk and rubbing unguents of all types into her skin to ease the pain. The blisters appeared within 24 hours.

All of which fascinated Vop. She couldn't stop holding out her arm and comparing her skin colour to Rhee's. She's never burned and, I guess, never seen anyone who has.

The questions were endless. Why was Rhee that colour? Where did her white go? Will she stay that colour? Would the sun make Vop pink? Why is Rhee's skin falling off? Why did all those men at Salamaua keep staring at Rhee? Why don't bikini manufactures line white bikini bottoms?

(Ok, I made that last one up but Mommy had a few questions of her own. Like "Do you know what Schadenfreude means, darling?")

I explained, as best I could without using the words "melanin" and "Actinic Keratosis" and "Western arrogance" that it's just what happens when white people go out in the sun.

And I was met with possibly the most beautiful thing I've ever heard:

"Mummi, me no go pink and lose em skin. Me brown ALL over! Brown, em MUCH better."

Yes, it is, darling.  As a skin colour, but also as the colour of your bikini bottoms.

 

Monday, 29 October 2012

Hysterical excitement!

Vop's taking her first plane trip today. To Port Moresby. To meet up with two of our kids, to bring them up to Lae for a holiday.

I know there are plenty of first-world kids who've never flown. Our oldest didn't fly until she was 11, but the other kids seem to have absorbed the idea of flight and geography easier than Vop has. She has no idea about nationality and border issues. She's pissed that she can't fly all the way to Australia to get the kids.

The best I could come up with was "The Government need to give you papers to fly to another country, and we don't have yours yet"

She's still pissed.

So, thanks to the power of the Interwebz, we called up Google Earth and tried to explain the trip to her.

She no gat.

She thought she was going in Mommy's computer and wanted to know how that was going to happen.

I guess our first world kids were exposed, from birth, to the idea of planes and flight and travel.

Flight, to Vop, is something that Timmy Turner's Fairy Godparents do on that mind-numbingly asinine show I let her watch sometimes.

She also wanted to know if she'd see Jesus when she flew in the sky.

I do believe that I heard The Husbang mutter "Only if the pilot fucks up, darling", under his breath.

I don't know how or why our other kids grasped the idea of birds-eye views of maps, or seemed to understand the concept of airplane flight. I can't remember ever sitting down with them and having the type of conversations I've had this week with Vop

She truly didn't understand why she didn't need to pack her fairy wings to fly.

We've taken her out to the airport and she's seen planes come and land, and take off. She's seen passengers disembark. But she has no cultural reference of flight and plane travel. Unlike the other kids, whose Grandparents and other significant people in their lives spent a goodly part of their lives engaged in regular air travel, to Vop, traveling anywhere is a foreign concept.

So, while I sit at home and fret, The Husbang (Goat bless his staunch, calm, stiff-upper-lippiness) will be escorting an hysterically excited, tired, overwrought Vop on a 7 hour round trip to Moresby.

I'lllet y'all know how that works out.

Friday, 26 October 2012

"I hate Lae" days

They're pretty frequent up here. After a while, the dirt and dust and humidity and... well.. everything just start getting to you. The long-termers up here will tell you that the way to survive Lae is to get out often.

Well, I've been back 3 months now, and I haven't left Lae for that long. No Salamaua, no trips up the Ramu, nada.

So, my "I-hate-Lae-day" has been brewing for a while. The weather is getting hotter and steamier and sleep is becoming more difficult. It's the Morobe Show this weekend, and that means one thing.

More crime.

People flood to Lae from all over the Province and far beyond for The Show. And MANY of them come down for the rich pickings of lots of cars carrying 'rich' white people and their goods. Companies are transporting 'stuff' to the Showgrounds, and guards and police alike are caught up with security for the myriad of things going on.

Which means carjackings and kidnaps increase.

This is probably only one week out of two that I get nervous in Lae. The other time being Independence Day. I don't wear jewelry when I leave the house, I don't go to the main Market, I lock my doors (both car and house) and I keep my wits firmly about me.

But the one place I usually feel safe, even at this time of year, is my compound. 9 ft high steel fences topped with razor wire, 2 guard dogs and a guard will pretty much do that for you.

I KNOW it sounds like a prison, but it's not. It certainly doesn't feel like one. Beautiful tropical plants soften the fences, we have a huge yard, with a pool and a BBQ area, and we have the most spectacular view. It's a gilded cage for sure.

And a cage I occupy alone most days.

We have 3 units in the compound and I am the only wife and mother. After Vop and the Husbang  leave, along with the 2 single guys in units one and two, I'm here alone.

Which has never been a problem until this morning.

I get up, open the house for the day and hear the dulcet tones of a couple of 'two kina maris' (Tok for street prostitutes) screaming at each other.

In my driveway.

They're obviously drunk and trying to beat each other up. These women will fuck you up. They carry bush knives and home-made guns, and they pimps hide in the banana plantation across the road and with shoot at you or throw rocks if you try to disturb them.

 And my guard? He's hanging off the gate WATCHING THIS SHIT GO DOWN.

Now women ,as I have blogged about before, are 2nd class citizens in PNG. This doesn't just encompass local women, or poorer rural village women, I mean ALL women. If I ring up a service provider, say Telikom, I get respectful listening noises, but no action. I could ring them 35 times and be told "we're working on it/sending a tech out". But nothing, and I mean NOTHING will be done until my husband rings them and makes noise.

After all, I am 'just' a woman.

So, as I rub the sleep from my bleary eyes and stumble over supine dogs, I hear the commotion outside, and call for the guard. It's his job to 'rouse' this, to make it go away.

And. He. Ignores. Me.

I get a quick, dismissive glance over his shoulder. He confirms it's 'jut' me, and goes back to watching the fight. It wasn't until The Husbang came downstairs, with a nightstick and threatened to set the dog on him, that he tore his attention away from the fight.

I called him FOUR times, to be ignored every single one of them.

So, today, I am sitting here, locked in my gilded cage, waiting for the Police to show and move the hookers on, and for the Guard Agency to come by with a replacement guard. I have no alcohol, it's 90 fucking degrees out, with 90% humidity, the gen set is screaming in the background and I fucking hate Lae.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

International Day of the Girl Child.

I'd much rather be blogging about shenanigans. Or food. Or anything, really. But today is International Day of the Girl Child.

Part of me is deeply concerned that we need the UN to designate a day like this. Really? In 2012?

And then I read this. A 14 year old girl shot in the head for wanting access to education.

Or the pornographization of a rape victim's account, here in PNG.

And I know a woman here who is about to be involved in a case conference for the HUNDREDS of children in PNG who are both incontinent of faeces and urine due to repeated sexual abuse.

The theme of this first IDOTGC is "Forced Marriage", and the UN site is filled with informationa and horror stories of forced marriage in India, Pakistan and other Muslim countries.

Here are some stats on PNG.

The Government of Papua New Guinea does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Despite overall low awareness of trafficking among many government officials, the government acknowledged that human trafficking was a problem in the country and expressed its commitment to increasing law enforcement's capacity to address it. It did not, however, enact legislation to criminalize all forms of trafficking, investigate or prosecute suspected trafficking offenders under existing laws, or identify or assist any trafficking victims during the year.

 There is also anecdotal evidence that the production of "snuff" child porn movies are made in PNG. Clearly I'm not going to google for links to that.

So, while my daughters are safely a) at school showing off her new Dora the Explorer skirt and b) preparing to start their Doctorate of Jurisprudence, while the biggest threat they face is a) not getting enough of a nap before going to the Yoti tonight and b) how to juggle a further 5 years of Uni with an ever-increasing social life, they are clearly in the minority.

Much has been made lately of misogyny and sexism, from the outpouring on social media at the rape and murder of Jill Meagher to the inherent filth that spills from the mouth of that toad, Alan Jones and his crony Tony Abbott, aka The Mad Monk.

But if the worst my daughters have to endure is having their vaginas compared to a "briny creature". then they've got out of it quite well. The misogny my Australian-Citizened daughter will face over her life is no easier to cope with that what Vop may have, and (I am sure) WILL face as a female citizen of PNG. The fact that we've adopted her may "save" her from the violence she absolutely would have faces in her childhood, but it won't shield her from being deemed a second-class citizen simply because she is a women anywhere else in the world.

So while today highlights to disempowerment of young women all over the globe, whether it be #firstworld rape and murder of a young woman on her way home or #thirdworld forced marriage of nine year old girls, let's not get too tied into that hoary old chestnut of victim blaming. For every International Day of the Girl, let's have an online forum that, rather than teach women to be safe, teaches men NOT TO RAPE. For every "Take Back The Night"march, let's petition the government of PNG to enact ACTUAL change in the way rapists are charged and jailed.

Until the inherent power imbalance that faces women in crisis is addressed, and the role that MEN play in this power imbalance is given greater voice, then all the IDOTGC's in the world aren't worth squat.


Saturday, 6 October 2012

What goes around comes around.

ALL of my children will tell you I'm a bit of a Nazi. I have been described by various fruits-of-mine-loins as The Manners Nazi, The Grammar Nazi, The Food Nazi.. indeed the second youngest once described me as The Everything Nazi.

I am perfectly ok with all of that, but it's my reputation as The Food Nazi I want to focus on.

I eat some weird shit. Chicken's feet, duck tongue, jelly fish, my mother's chicken casserole. I have a global approach to food. I've eaten snake, bull's penis, deep fried pigs ears, just to name a few things I have willingly put in my mouth.

Which is not to say I serve this sort of stuff to my family. I don't, but I will order all the above when out to dinner.

And the rule in my house is that you don't have to like something, but you DO have to try it. Simply looking at something and declaring "I don't like that" is a surefire way to get me riled.  I have argued with my kids over everything from whole roast chickens to Cos lettuce.

And I always win.

So Vop is being treated the same. I cook dinner and she eats it. If she doesn't like what I have served, she will be offered an alternative, but ONLY after she's actually tasted it. It's been a gas to watch her tentatively approach everything from sausages to jelly cups and watch her eyes widen with pleasure as she realizes that just because something looks different to what she's used to, it doesn't mean it doesn't taste good.

She truly doesn't like cooked mushrooms, eggplant and a few other things, but by and large she'll try pretty much anything.

So, while The Husbang is up in Hagen, I invited a friend around to keep Vop and I company. Roslyn is a local woman, who knows Vop well, Indeed she's from the same village and was instrumental in helping us get Vop in the first place.

So Roz turns up the other day toting a plastic bag. In which, she declares, she has a present for Vop.  And she does. A lovely big plastic bag of boiled chicken heads.

Would you like a few moments to re-read that and compose yourself? You just urped, didn't you?

Roz has cooked these delights up at home, poured the entire disgusting mass into a plastic shopping bag and walked for at least half an hour in 90 degree heat to our door,

And Vop fell on these culinary horrors like she was starving.

These fuckers still had beaks, people! And freaky little boiled eyelids.

And Vop grabs one of these things and starts sucking on it like a popsicle.

Mein Goat, it was atrocious.

Not as atrocious as what happened next, however, Vop, with juicy boiled chicken brain goodness dribbling down her chin, grabs one of these Zombie Pops and offers it to me, muttering "Here, Mumma, you eat this one, it's good. Very tasty"

Can I get a resounding FUCK, NO? There is no way on Goat's Green Earth that I am putting a whole boiled chicken freaky all-day sucker in my gob. I swear, it's mouth was freaking OPEN, and that little zombie fucker was smiling at me.

Yes, I've eaten some weird shit. Feet and tongues. I WAS MARRIED TO MR. CHARISMA BY-PASS, PEOPLE, I'VE HAD FREAKY SHIT IN MY MOUTH BEFORE! But I have NEVER eaten the entire head of any other creature, especially not one that has been steeped in a soup├žon of salmonella with a side order of staph.

So, I realize that I'm backing away from this horror, with my hands outstretched and clearly a look of pure disgust on my face.

Which, by the way, was a perfectly reasonable response, I feel.

And Vop says to me, over the sound of her crunching through skull (breaking the number one Food Commandment of never talking with your mouth full) "You MUST try it, Mumma. You don't have to like it, but you have to try it"

Fuck me backwards with a spoon. Hoisted on mine own petard.

So, I pulled one out of my other kids book and declared that I wasn't hungry right NOW, but I'd LOVE to have one for my dinner later.

There's a goddamn plate of the  freaky boiled bastards in the 'fridge right now, people. I can hear then laughing at me, and waiting for me to go to sleep before they summon their Zombie energy and march on their sauteed neck stumps, up the stairs, to peck me to death in my sleep.

Monday, 24 September 2012

WTF?

Vop was watching Sesame Street this morning. She loves it. She sings and dances and grooves with Elmo, and we try and use Word of the Day in context for the rest of the morning, and all that sort of good parenting stuff.

So, this morning, as The Husbang was getting ready for work, and Vop was watching the TV, The Count came on.

Now, it's more than 17 years since my last child loved Sesame Street, and I didn't realise that in the interim, The Count got married, or at least has a live in, and, yes, she's called The Countess.

So The Count and his squeeze are negotiating their fave thing, to count, yes?

What the Countess said:

"Count, mein schnitzel, until I scream stop!"

What the Husbang heard"

"Pound my schnitzel until I scream stop"

Coffee came out his nose.

SS may have changed since our older kids loved it, but not THAT much.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Einstein's theory of stab-ativity

Lae is known as the city of potholes. You THINK you know potholes until you come up here. Our potholes are on 'roids. Big, deep and breast-shatteringly, kidney-damaging craters. Husbang and I did a bit of off-road 4WDing in our day, but with no word of a lie, EVERYONE up here drives a big all-terrain diesel monster because a sedan simple wouldn't make it to the shops. Think of a fairly extreme off-road tour, and that's my daily drive.

In 2009, there was a pothole so freaking deep on Coronation Drive that a PMV (local public transport, usually a minivan, held together with Blu Tak and dick cheese) got stuck in it and abandoned.

And then looted. And set on fire.

The local council's solution to this pothole was to fill it with 44 gallons drums. That's plural. DrumS. Which were then promptly stolen on a nightly basis by the local louts.

So, you think you're tough enough to expat in Lae? You've "Pffft"-ed at the descriptions online that it's the most dangerous city in the world outside a war zone, You've laughed (somewhat maniacally) at your friend/family's concern over typhus and malaria, and you've learned to say Hello and Thank you in Tok.

Bullshit. You aint ready, Freddy.

You are not ready to expat in Lae until you've had a bespoke bra made, Mine is called "The Spandex Monster" It's glamorous in a Russian Female Weight-Lifter kinda way. But baby, it holds the puppies in place on the drive to the market!

Forget Ah-Bras, unless you want the "ah" to represent "Ah just gave maself a black eye with ma own tittie"

And here's where Einstein's theory comes in.

I have Double E breasts. I cheerfully refer to them as Annapurna One and Annapurna Two.

So, add EE x 2, divide by menopause to the power of having your period and you get stabby.

Really. Fucking. Stabby.

It's like driving the Baja Rally with 2 large plastic bags of boiling water strapped to your upper chest. Some dude that The Husbang bangs on about did the Baja in record time, WITH A BROKEN FINGER.

I am all like whoopty-fucking-dooh, Basil. Try driving to Foodmart, with your period when the Spandex Monster's in for a wash.

One day I'll blog about the joys of being perimenopausal since 32, but when every bounce in the road moves your torso about 7 inches in every plane, while your breasts are pumped up on hormones, and every kidney-slapping jar makes your uterus try and expel itself from your body in a scene reminiscent of John Hurt's death scene in Alien, THEN I'll give you some props. And I do this every.fucking.day.

Broken finger? SERIOUSLY?

So some douche-canoe better not cut me off, or pull out on me, or step in from of my car or look at me the wrong way when I head up to pick up Vop later on, because I am one bleeding, sore-breasted angry hormone-driven mutha right now, and someone's going to get stabbed.

Fucking broken finger, my ass.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

How Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief helped me understand issues of inter-country adoption

So, The Husbang is away in Hagen, and Vop and I are left alone for 2 weeks. I thought I'd have a nice, quiet Saturday night, alone with Vop, just she and I, and watch some TV. You know, a mother-daughter bonding sess, complete with popcorn and juice ("No, you can't taste Mommy's special juice. It's got Vodka in it. Can you say "Mommy's little helper"?)

And, as it happened, there was a family movie on the telly. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. So, Imma thinking it will be a good chance for Vop to get a handle on this whole acting thing. She's been struggling with seeing DVD's with an actor playing one character, and then seeing that same actor in another role. She doesn't yet understand the concept of acting and playing a role. And as her current fave movie is Mama Mia, which has Pierce Brosnan in it, and so does PJATLT, I thought it would help.

Oh, and it also made a good opp to talk about gods and demons and fairy tales in general.I was waiting for her horrified expression when she saw Sam dressed as a centaur, and I had my whole speech prepared about dress-ups and make-believe ready to go.

So, we're snuggled down on the couch, slamming fistfuls of 'corn pop' in our gobs, and having a very nice family moment. when we get to the Medusa scene.

SO, I'd forgotten about this bit, when Percy cuts Medusa's head off and holds it up. It's not too graphic for kids a little older than VOP, or kids who have an understanding about make-believe and movies and the like, but for a kid who's only being viewing TV for a couple of months, and thinks all that shit is REAL, it could be pretty scary. I mean, not as scary as Yo Gabba Gabba, but close. That Yo Gabba Gabba shit will fuck you up, man. I mean has some kids TV producer got a zoned out Gen Y geek on crack designing that shit? WHAT IS WITH THAT HAIR, Man?? I swear I saw  the dudes from My Chemical Romance on there, the other day, singing with some gay-icon/unicorn-loving/bubble farting puppet.

SO, no more vodka on the weetabix for Mommy.

But I digress.

Back to PJ.

SO, Medusa's severed head is lying on the floor. And it's kinda graphic, so I look across at Vop, thinking she may be upset. But no, she's happily downing more corn pop and looking chuffed.

SO I ask her "You do know that's just make-believe, don't you? That lady's not really dead?"

And she replies "Oh, yes she is Mamma. When the bad raskols come to my village, they have knives and they cut man's neck like this and him REALLY dead."

And draws her finger across her neck.

So, thankfully, I am only on Voddie #two, but even so, I was WTF???

I admit my gob, she was smacked. I didn't have the faintest idea how to deal with that statement. Should I have turned off the TV and had a big heart-to-heart with her? I confess, I didn't. She was happy and stuffing her face and didn't seem in the least traumatized. So I let it slide.

She's nearly 5. Surely there will be plenty of time to deal with things like this... later?

But it made me realize that I have not just taken on a 4 year old with health issues, I've taken on a child whose entire cultural reference is so far from mine I can't begin to understand it. When my kids were four, their greatest horror was my risotto, NOT seeing people murdered by having their throats cut.

It's all well and good to read about violence in the Highlands of PNG, and feel all warm and fuzzy about adopting Vop, but this? THIS is the reality of it. My four year old daughter has seen thing that horrify me, And what's worse, is that she doesn't seem the least bit upset about it.

WTF do I do about THAT?