Posts Tagged ‘Port Moresby’

The art of the buai

Tuesday, 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. (more…)