Saturday, 26 January 2013

Creepy Crawlies (part deux)

The Husbang is an Ophidiophobic. He has a pathological fear of snakes. Many years ago we took the kids to a snake farm. They got to pet Imelda, the 10ft long diamond python. I got to supervise the activity while The Husbang sat foetally in the farthest corner, rocking back and fro.

So meet our new pet. 

His name is Kevin.

Kev is a 4ft long green tree python.

Now, if Kev had just mosey'd on in one day and set up residence in the bathroom, I'd be a bit taken back. Not freaked out, but taken aback. 

However, Kev did NOT just wander in, The Husbang purchased him. Bought him off some street kids who had caught him and were going to eat him. 

If that's wasn't enough to make my head explode, The Husbang purchased Kev, put him in the car, drove him home and then physically placed him in the bathroom. 

My Ophidiophobic Husbang handled a snake. 

That's like me going out and buying a bird eating spider and wearing it as a hat, my friend.

So far removed from anything that's likely to happen, as to be absurd.

But no, Kev has now been relocated from the bathroom, to his own special tank in the loungeroom, where The Husbang talks to him and croons and cuddles him. 

I've searched high and low for the alien probe entry site, but haven't found it yet.  

Meet The Husbang and his python.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Creepy Crawlies.

Let's start outright by promising you there will be no spider pics, ok? In fact, one of the few genus of creepy crawlies I've rarely seen up here are spiders. I get the odd web in corners of the room, and I've seen, maybe, 3 tiny wee jumping spiders in my years in Lae, but never anything bigger.

Which is good, because the rest of the creepies they grow up here are HUGE.

Creepies are a fact of life up here. If you don't like them, get over it or don't move here.

Let's start small and move up from there, shall we?

Sugar ants. They're probably actually some other kind of ant, but that's what they're called up here. They're tiny. See-through pinkish and about the size of a speck of dust. And they get into EVERYTHING. Sugar bowls with tight-fitting lids, flour in Tupperware containers, they even get into the laundry where they will feast on.. umm.. err... the "exudate" on dirty knickers and socks. They appear, en masse, as soon as you leave anything on the bench.

You cannot get rid of them. Learn to live with them and sift your sugar/flour carefully.

Weevils. Weevils love four and pasta. They're bigger and more solid in colour than sugar ants, so they're easier to spot and sift. In our house, they particularly love lasagna sheets. When you open a new packet of pasta, smell it. If it smells strongly of dust mould, it's weevil infested. You can be all noobie about it and throw it out, or you can sift and search. Lasagna sheets infected by weevils looks like it has black/brown spots in the sheets. Throw them out.

Cockroaches. They're big, and crawlie and scuttly and nasty ands you can't get rid of them. You can spray with a surface spray every couple of weeks, and have the delightful experience of finding up to 20 of them dead or dying on your kitchen floor every morning, or you can ignore it and live in cockroach denial. We choose the former. If you leave ANYTHING with food on it out overnight, you can be sure that it will be covered in cockroach poo the next morning. They also love the warm moisture of the dishwasher, so run it when you can empty it straight away, or if you leave it too long after it's finished, you'll open it to a nasty scuttly sound and find roach poo all over your clean dishes.

They also love airconditioning units, and it's not uncommon to turn on your aircon and have a couple fly out. It's disgusting.  You can buy and place roach traps, and that helps, but they also kill the geckos.

Geckos are cute and gorgeous. They have different calls for mating and fighting and scaring away other crawlies. They eat lots of other creepies. Unfortunately there are not enough geckos in PNG to keep any house free of cockroaches ands the like. They've got attitude and can be 'trained', in that they will overcome their fear of you and eat out of your hand.

This is Gary Coleman, the smallest of our house geckos, back in 2009.

They also poo everywhere. You can tell gecko poo from mouse poo because they're the same size, but gecko poo has a white spot on one tip. Geckos love muesli. And take my word for it, it's awful hard to sort mouse-sized, white-tipped poo out of a container of organic muesli. Either store it in an airtight container (and ignore the sugar ants) or don't think too hard about it. Let me tell you that pouring your morning muesli into a bowl and having a terrified gecko LEAP out of the box and land between your boobs is NOT a good way to start your day.

Mouses and Ratses. Are everywhere. Get traps and harden up. 

Centipedes. We get two particular types up here. Yellow and black striped ones, and red and black striped ones. Both types are disgusting. If the dogs pick them up in their mouths, they exude a acid-like substance that will blister the dogs tongue and skin. It will even remove the fur on either side of their mouths, leaving them in pain and looking like Foo Man Choo. I had a friend up here, whose young son put one in his mouth and it blistered the skin like a burn. 

Did you notice that "either side of their mouths"? Yup, these HUGE bastards are big enough to hang over either side of the snout of a German Shepherd. I've seen them up to 8 inches in length. 

Those tyres are from our Patrol 4WD. Those pavers are about 4x8 inches. When you squish these millipedes, they exude a smell like rotting meat. They live anywhere there is grass, and like to come into the house after rain. They also like dog food, so make sure you empty your dogs bowls of any leftovers. They also like to curl up in plug holes of sinks and baths.

We also have the most wondrous, amazing butterflies and moths. In any hue  you can imagine. Electric blue, vivid yellow with sliver spots, green so bright it hurts your eyes. However, as beautiful as these things are you will still scream like a girl and do the fuka-fuka getthatdamnthingawayfromme dance when they fly into your face in the middle of the night, or as you come down the stairs. I've been trying to photograph one to share, but the little buggers are too quick. Here's one I found on the television the other week, at 5am in the morning.

That's a 24inch flatscreen.

So, in answer to all of the emails I get about creepy crawlies in Lae, there you are. They grow 'em big in these here parts.

Sunday, 13 January 2013


 The Husbang and I doing some light gardening.

Lae, in fact Papua New Guinea in general is often described as "90 90".

90% humidity, 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

December and January in Lae are particularly hideous. There's not a lot of differential in temperatures up here. Days and nights might vary by only a few degrees. It might be 34 degrees Celsius during the day, and drop to 30 at night.

Lae is the opposite from POM, or from Northern Australia in that the dry season is October to May and wet from June to September.

Not that you'd know up here. The only difference is that the wet season has SLIGHTLY less humidity and slightly more rain.

December through January is a nightmare for anyone unlucky enough not to get out or "Go South" as it's referred to.

It's a particular nightmare if you have curly hair. I currently look like the ageing love child of Phil Spector and Don King.

Spookily, this is a pic taken off Wiki and looks disturbingly like me. Right down to the double chin and glasses. As an adoptee, it gives me pause for thought...

Think Florida in August and then add some. Think those one or two January days in Melbourne every year and then live them for two months. 

And Dec/Jan is right in the middle of the Dry, so it only rains every few days.

Think words like Torpid, Sapping, Vile, Damp, Moist, Muggy, Clammy, Sticky, Steamy, Soggy, Sultry, Wet, (This, of course, leads to your garden being able to be described as Lush, Verdant, Flourishing,
Dense, Prolific, Rank, Teeming)

Think trying to live and work in a Sauna.

Most roads in Lae are unpaved, so the dust is thick and tangible in the air, and covers every surface, not matter how hard or quickly you clean.

Many people think living 8 degrees south of the Equator means a tropical paradise, replete with sandy white beaches and swaying palms.


Lae is mostly overcast. Thick grey clouds hang in the valleys and across the city most days. Today, as I type this, it's pretty typical. Not a breath of wind stirs the leaves of the galip tress across the road.

The sky in the above photo is pretty typical of an average Lae day. So are the smiles and radiant happiness of our mates, BTW.

We're lucky enough to live close to the water, and MOST days, but not all, we get a breeze about 4pm in the afternoon, but the rest of the day and night we rely on ceiling fans and air conditioners.

You know you live somewhere hot when you set your aircon to 27 degrees Celsius  (80.6F) and it feels frosty.

The other side of living in constant humidity is the toll it takes on your belongings. Things rot. Leather shoes and bags, unless cleaned with vinegar regularly, get a green powder mould on them. The Husbang's suits which are almost never worn, become coated in white fuzz if not aired regularly. Photographs, some irreplaceable, must be properly framed or a destructive mould grows on their surface.

Cockroaches are a fact of life. Along with sugar ants and rats, but that's another post. 

It takes a year to acclimatize up here. You need to have lived through twelve months of Lae's weather before you start reaching for a long-sleeved T shirt in June, because it's a chilly 84F, but EVERYONE struggles with Dec/Jan no matter how long they've been here.

Once again, it's not for the faint-hearted.

Saturday, 5 January 2013


One of the most common topics of conversation up here, is about house staff. Haus Maris, Flowa Bois, Ziggies.

Compound Guards are called "ziggies" as in "securities". It's an accent thing.

We are blessed to have Betti The Wonder Mari as our haus mari. She's totes amazeballs. And I am the envy of plenty of expat wives out there. Some families I know, go through a haus mari a month, or more. Usually sacked for stealing, BTW. Although I DO know of one haus mari that was sacked because the family came home to find her having sex with the day guard in the laundry.

We're also very lucky with our flowa boi, Kutsubi, who looks 75 and only ever smiles when his grand kids come and visit him.

With our ziggies, not so much about the luck.

We've finally found a night ziggy who doesn't fall asleep on the job, or use the pool to wash his socks in, and actually knows how to use his radio in the event of a crisis, but our day ziggies have been utter crap.

From then one who tried to hit on Rhee when the kids were up. Or the one that we caught playing poker with Vop.. with nudie women cards. Or the one that washed himself and his uniform by waiting until he thought we were out and jumping, fully clothed, into the pool.

My favourite ziggie story was the one where a couple of Two Kina Maris (prostitutes) were having a full on bitch fight in our driveway, and when I called him to break it up and move them on, he fully flicked me the hand, like a 15 year old girl, and lit up a smoke as he watched them go at it.

Seriously, all it needed was a fucking jelly-filled pool, and his fantasy would have been complete.

Most ziggies are ex street kids, or street monkeys, as they're called up here. The really smart ones MIGHT have a Year 8 education. Most of them are illiterate and working for a guarding company is quite a prestige job. They, well, most of them, get a feed as lunch time, and have access to a working toilet.

However, in the ziggy stakes, The Husbang and I are CLEARLY paying for the kharma of having Betti The Wonder Mari.

Having a ziggy is a weird thing. I would prefer a rapid response unit, to come if I needed them, but as anyone who's ever lived in PNG knows, "rapid response" is not a term that has any sort of meaning up here. PNG is the home of "Melanesian Time".

So having a ziggy means that most of their day is spent doing nothing. NOTHING. Because I live in a compound and don't work, our ziggies might have to open the gate for me, or a visitor, once a day. In a compound where everyone works, you might have nothing to do between letting the people out in the morning and then back in at 5.30. And while crime is rampant up here, not every house gets burglaries every day, so apart from keeping an ear out for broken glass, there's not much to do. Some read, some listen to a radio, and I don't really care what they do as long as they don't wash in my pool and are available when shit goes down.

The current ziggy has only been on site for 3 hours. because yesterday we sacked yet another day ziggy.

Three times in two weeks, I've called him to open the gate for visitors to find him nowhere in the compound.

The first of those times, I called him for a good 20 minutes, before he appeared, gormless look firmly plastered on his face, from the OUTSIDE of the compound. I suspect he'd been visiting the Two Kina Maris across the road for a bit of afternoon delight.

This has happened twice since, the final time being yesterday when The Husbang came home for lunch and found said ziggy three compounds down the street, sitting under a galip nut tree, hanging out with his posse...

Of Street Monkeys.

Yep, the same street monkeys that we lock our doors against, who try and sell you everything from stolen mobiles to carvings.. the street monkeys responsible for the drunken antics of the two kina maris at 4am on a Sunday morning.

The street monkeys that he's paid to guard us from.

The street monkeys, one of which turned up at our gate just before Crimbo and was drunk as a lord. He then proceeded to shake and rattle the gate, demanding entry to try and sell me some "simuk" (home made cigarettes). He tried to kick my dogs through the bars, and my vigilant ziggy, who was stretched out, lounging on the BBQ, refused to deal with it. I told him in no uncertain terms to go and 'rouse' the drunken idiot from the gate, and he simply refused to do so!

The street monkeys who pimp their wives and girlfriend and daughters in the banana plantation across the road, and then get them so drunk on Liwa Lower (the local home brew, which roughly translates as "Heart Lover", but is pronounced Liver Lava, much to my delight), they passout IN the street or on my driveway. One was hit by a car last week and killed.

THOSE street monkeys.

And when The Husbang asked, in no uncertain terms "what the fuck do you think you're doing?", he simply turned and walked away.

So THAT ziggy is gone, and our new one is proudly carrying a night stick and making sure I can see him patrolling the pool area.

Unfortunately I also saw him squeal like a girl and lock himself behind the pool gate, when the dogs came to investigate him.

I wonder how long he'll last?