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!

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