The art of the buai

July 21st, 2009

Betelnut is the passion of the Papua New Guinean people. The telltale crimson stained teeth separate the man and woman in the street from those with pretensions of Europeanisation.

For a white man to chew the buai, as it’s called in Tok Pisin, is to break down a cultural barrier and be seen as showing respect for the New Guinean way.

A buai chew consists of three parts: firstly the betelnut itself, a generally moist, under-ripe kernel found inside a palm nut. Think of a coconut about the size of a ping pong ball with a half-dried lychee inside. You rip it open with your teeth and prise out the buai.

Once you’ve chewed that up into paste it’s time for a bite of mustard stick (dacca) – an inch long section of a fresh and crisp vine, a little like apple without the sweetness. You dip your dacca in lime (kambang) made from crushed up coral.

P1000392Go easy on the lime, remember this is the stuff people use to mark out running tracks and destroy dead bodies they don’t want recognised; too much of it does the lining of your mouth no favours. A few bites of limed up mustard and your saliva is turning bright red from the chemical reaction.

The physical and mental sensation grows slowly, even imperceptibly. Your first awareness of it may be that you are sweating profusely, even for hot and humid PNG.

The stone itself, and describing it as such exaggerates the potency, is a mild feeling of comfort and contentment. The more you chew and the less you spit, the stronger the sensation. At most it’s a numbing pleasantness, but generally it resembles the contentment of finishing your first beer after work on a Friday. Read the rest of this entry »

A different religion on a Sunday

July 6th, 2009

Sydney based teams in Australia’s National Rugby League often complain about the heat they encounter when playing night games in Townsville in winter because temperatures reach the mid 20s.
In Madang, Papua New Guinea games run all day Sunday and the midwinter temperatures consistently hit the 30s. The crushing humidity means the lightest shirt is soaked through with sweat in minutes.
A one kina entry fee (around 50 cents Australian) gets you five or six games of rugby league – “The Greatest Game of All” as the half painted mural on the clubhouse wall declares.
The plank bleachers have corrugated iron roofing that shelters the punters from the sun and provides something to whack when celebrating a try or big play.

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Best view in the house

The first of three A grade games starts at 2pm with Madang North Raiders taking on Brothers. Every Christian denomination you can think of is doing business for souls, minds and bodies in New Guinea but has a religion ever achieved ubiquity like the Catholics with Brothers footy clubs?
The hot, wet climate ensures a soft ground and grass that grows in front of your eyes. When the ball is kicked into the ingoal it disappears in long grass – the dead ball line seems to operate on an honour system.

P1000303 Read the rest of this entry »

Origin night Madang style

June 25th, 2009

In Madang, Papua New Guinea at origin time there is only one topic that carries any weight in conversation. Telephone calls finish with a “happy origin day” salutation and every available garment of a colour approaching maroon or blue is deployed.

The heavy cloth jerseys, beanies and scarfs are dutifully worn despite temperatures above 30 and humidity that builds to a crushing crescendo around an hour before kick off.

The public mini buses have flags hanging from their aerials indicating which team the driver supports. Supermarket promotions all offer blues or Maroons merchandise to the lucky winner and electrical goods ads promise origin on a bigger or better screen if you come into the store and buy today.

Everyone's staunch for origin in PNG

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Origin build up in Madang

June 23rd, 2009

Origin in Madang is all about slow building humidity that peaks a couple of hours before kickoff and the storms that often knock the power out before and during the game.

In Papua New Guinea these are the biggest nights of the year and the excitement builds as steadily as the moisture in the air. Read the rest of this entry »

Origin one preview

June 2nd, 2009

For NSW to win the first origin Kite and Bailey will have to dominate the early exchanges, their young forwards will need to play with unflagging enthusiasm and their halves will have to consistently find the ground with long kicks.. A realistic comparison and assessment of the teams strongly favours Queensland, but origin makes fools of pundits year after year. Read the rest of this entry »

Wherefore the new, blue Alfie?

June 2nd, 2009

There are plenty of reasons why Queensland should win the opening origin tomorrow night then go on to take the fourth consecutive series win. The only real case presented for a Maroon failure is that NSW’s youthful, enthusiastic team was picked on form, ready to turn up on the night while Queensland’s aging warhorses generally take a while to build momentum.
Comparisons with the Queensland squad that contested the 2001 series are being bandied around; the Maroon team for the first game of that classic series included ten debutants compared to the seven presented by the blues this time around. Read the rest of this entry »

ANZAC “spirit”

May 8th, 2009

The Death of ANZAC Day

A week ago my nieces were taught at school that ANZAC Day remembers, “when the Turkeys attacked us and we won”.

My mother was teaching a class the same day, assisted by a teacher’s aide wearing shoes painted with Australian flags.

Between the southern cross tattoos and the stickers stuck to every second motor vehicle we’re being sunk with hollow ocker patriotism. Read the rest of this entry »

Sikh Games

May 8th, 2009
There is nothing on earth as dignified as a Sikh gentleman

There is nothing on earth as dignified as a Sikh gentleman

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Spending Easter Among Sikhs

May 8th, 2009

Spending Easter among Sikhs

Over Easter weekend the Woolgoolga-Coffs Harbour Sikh Sports Club hosted the 22nd annual Australian Sikh Games, attracting around 5000 Punjabi Australians and Kiwis to the optimistically named Coffs Harbour International Stadium.

This part of the NSW north coast is Sikh country. The majority of residents in the town of Woolgoolga, 20 minutes up the road from Coffs, are Sikhs. They’ve been working on or owning the banana farms around here for more than a hundred years – since a group of Punjabi bounders and adventurers who left India bound for Fiji in the late 19th century declined to take the final leg of the journey. Read the rest of this entry »

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March 26th, 2009