If Only You Knew How We BBQ

Posted in Humor, PNG Culture, Under the Sea on October 28th, 2009 by MadDog
No Gravatar

Today’s video clip is a bit of PNG Culture. Since images shout, while words simply whine, I’ll take you directly to The Essential PNG Barbie Preparation Technique:

The process is conceptually simple. One wants to remove any noxious substances from the barbie without destroying the delicate balance of organochemistry that provides the characteristic flavours.

One must first use a sturdy spatula, of a type that I have only seen in Australia and PNG, to de-crudify the barbie. Incidentally, these heavy spatulas double as a venerable weapon. De-crudifying consists of selectively scraping from the barbie bird poo, leaves, toasted geckos, the occasional huge beetle and any other items not deemed to be contributory to the proper seasoning. The scraping may take a while. It usually requires a couple of assistants to . . . er . . . assist  the decision process. Fights have been known to break out.

Next, having first assured that there is a roaring fire, one must use copious amounts of water (sea water, if you’re lucky enough to be close to the beach) to wash off most of the unwanted substances loosened by the scraping. A thorough washing is in order, along with further scraping to further refine the qualities of the cooking surface. This process involves much steam and hot water often erupting in unanticipated ways. Accidental scaldings are displayed as badges of honour.

Finally, and this is the critical stage, more water is applied while simultaneously brooming it off the barbie with a huge broomy sort of tool made of the spines of coconut leaves. The brooms themselves have a story worth a post. They take a long time to make and seem unnecessarily spindly and ineffective to a foreigner. However, just try to get your cleaning lady to use a fancy factory made broom. She will not touch it. It is an affront to her skill and makes a mockery of her trade. The coconut pangel  broom is clearly superior in her mind.

So, having cleaned the barbie, what shall we eat? Well, I can guarantee you it won’t be any of these:

Vagabond Butterflyfish (Chaetodon vagabundus)

That’s the Vagabond Butterflyfish (Chaetodon vagabundus). Don’t ask me why it’s called a vagabond. Sounds a little overly poetic to me.

Let’s have yet another look at an old friend the Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus):

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)

I seem to be embarking on a new career to get the perfect specimen shot of this critter. I’m not going to stop until we can see its scales, which are very fine. Close, but no turkey.

Here’s another one that is a little less common, the Orange Anemonefish (Amphiprion sandaracinos):

Orange Anemonefish (Amphiprion sandaracinos)

I’d say more about the Orange Anemonefish, but I’d have to make it up. No, wait. I do know that it favours a certain species of anemone called Merten’s Carpet Sea Anemone (Stichodactyla mertensii)  which is what you see in the image above.

Finally, here is a teaser for a post to come in a few days. Our dear old friend (not that  old) Trevor Hattersly is about to succumb to marital bliss with his beautiful bride-to-be Karen Simmons. Tuesday night we had a little stag party (no girls popping out of cakes) at the Madang Club. I was suckered into a game of pool the rules of which were so arcane that I hadn’t figured them out until I’d lost all of my pocket money – about K50, to be exact.

Here’s Trevor lining up for a shot:

Trevor Hattersley lining up for a shot

I know  what he’s thinking. “I’m going to take all  of Messersmith’s money!”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Preview – The New Kid in Town

Posted in Business Announcements, Mixed Nuts, PNG Culture on November 4th, 2008 by MadDog
No Gravatar

I’ll have news tomorrow about the ceremony that I attended yesterday in Moresby. I’m too knackered today to write much, so I’ll show you some photos from my trip.

I had to leave on Sunday morning at 7:00 and did not get back until today, Tuesday at about 8:30 AM. All this for a two hour meeting. By the way, it’s only a one hour flight. Not all of this will mean much to folk in foreign lands, but here in Madang, it’s a contentious issue.

To whet the local appetite for tomorrow’s post let me give you a preview of the New Kid in Town. Well, the kid’s not actually in town yet. However, many of us are hoping against hope that she’ll be moving here soon:

The New Kid in Town

Of interest to those abroad might be a few shots of the cultural festivities and some snaps through my grimy airplane window of the local scenery on the way from Port Moresby to Madang.

There were several cultural dance groups performing at the celebration. These fellows were pulling out all the stops:

Dance-crazy guys

This group was a little more restrained, but only slightly:

Beat those drums, stamp those feet!

It was blazing hot next to the tarmac. The reaction of the crowd demonstrated that everyone appreciated these excellent displays of our local performance art of singsing.

In the Domestic Departure Terminal, there are a series of lovely paintings of local costumes, musical instruments, and cultural dances. Here is one of them:

One of the beautiful depictions of local culture at the Port Moresby Domestic Departure Terminal

I’m sorry that I do not have the artist’s name. I would certainly like to give credit where credit is due. If anybody knows, please inform me.

Leaving Moresby, I snapped this shot of the early morning sun’s rays glorifying the mountain slopes near the capital:

Morning sun graces the area near Port Moresby

Have you ever noticed the rainbow effect that you can sometimes see on the cloud deck? If the sun is on the opposite side of plane from you and about half-way up in the sky, you may see a circular rainbow:

A circular rainbow

It is usually most visible if you are close to the clouds and the upper cloud surface is fairly smooth.

Approaching over Astrolabe Bay, we see sleepy Madang in the morning sun:

Approaching Madang over Astrolabe Bay

Nearly at the end of the runway, I snapped this shot of our house:

Our house (click to enlarge)

Where, you might ask?

Click on the thumbnail to enlarge it. Look for the large orange-brown pile of wood chips in the middle of the frame. Look to the left a bit and down. You will see a silvery-roofed house. You might also make our Faded Glory sitting at the dock in front of the house and our red Nissan truck in the yard.

Casa MadDog welcomes you any time.

Tags: , , , , ,

CWA – Madang

Posted in CWA, PNG Culture on October 12th, 2008 by MadDog
No Gravatar

This Sunday morning, I’d like to present an article that I asked Maureen Hill to write for Madang – Ples Bilong Mi. People in these parts are familiar with CWA, but I’d like for readers in other places to know something about this energetic and vital community organization.

So, settle in for an interesting read. Here’s a photo of the CWA Cottage in Madang:

The CWA Cottage in Madang




The CWA, as the Country Women’s Association is better known, was assisted in its establishment by the Australian administration at the time they were dividing PNG up into provinces and appointing District Commissioners to the provinces.

CWA was an organization known in Australia for the help it gave to families who lived in the out back of Australia. The kind of help given was to provide places for women to come and stay while they waited for their babies to arrive, to come to town for other health reasons or shopping purposes. Men were also welcome.

At that time there were Australian families being sent to outstations in PNG who were going to require the same services as was given by CWA in Australia.

While seeking land to build the District Commissioners house land was also sought to establish a CWA close at hand.

The Madang CWA was opened in 1952. It was a small building at that time on a choice block of land with lots of room for expansion.

As PNG has changed so has CWA over the years.

Madang CWA still has a guest house that profits from go to support the organization’s projects.


CWA provides women in Madang a meeting place to find friends, learn new skills and find ways to raise money to help women and children in the community.

All CWA projects are to help women and children (families) in the Madang province.

Apart from the staff (7), who manage the guest house side of the organization all members are volunteers giving freely of their time to raise funds and run the programs.

Programs Include:

Kindergaden Long Ples (KLP):
A village based kindergarten program that operates in villages in the Gogol, inland Madang and up the North Coast. Village parents organize the kindergartens while CWA provides office space, transport, training and monitoring of the teachers and supplying of materials. It has been operating since 1982.

Early Childhood Health Care Program (ECHP):
This is a program that CWA started operating in 1996 to help improve the health of children in the villages where the KLP kindergartens are established. A CWA appointed nurse (HEO) goes to the villages to give health education to parents and children. She also does health evaluations on the children. If there are health problems, she advises the parents on ways to help the child or, if necessary, she advises the parents to seek further medical help.

Village Health Volunteers (VHV):
This program works in conjunction with the Madang health Dept to train village women to become health volunteers in their respective village. This training provides training in birth attending and general health work. This course is accredited by the Madang Health Dept and when the volunteers have finished their two year course they receive a Health Dept Certificate.

Adult Tok Pisin Literacy Classes (TPL):
These classes started in 2006 are designed to teach women who have no reading or writing skills. There is a great need for this.

CWA hopes at a later stage to have teacher training workshops to train women to go to their villages and hold literacy classes there.

Children’s Ward Modilon Hospital:
CWA has been a major sponsor of the Children’s ward at Modilon hospital ever since the hospital was built. Currently CWA pays much of the maintenance for the ward and weekly supplies vegetables, eggs and milk for the children.

Village Birthing Houses:
CWA has helped fund houses in villages for mothers to give birth in privacy and traditionally.

Over the years CWA has helped many students with school fees and supplied much in the way of books stationary and sports equipment to various schools.

Play Group:
A play group meets on a regular basis at the cottage it is operated by willing volunteers and funded by CWA.


Membership to CWA costs K10.00 a year.

The Branch and Guest House are managed by a volunteer committee elected on an annual basis.

Most of the mentioned programs are funded by money raised by the volunteer members.

All of this is only possible by the tremendous community support given to CWA when fund raising events are held.

My thanks go to Maureen for that interesting report.

Here’s a shot of Maureen from a previous post about Project Handclasp and the visit of the USS Peleliu to Madang:

Maureen and kids

Cheers to all the ladies (and gentlemen) of CWA! (Yes, they do allow male members. I joined several years ago.)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Home Town Snaps

Posted in Mixed Nuts, PNG Culture on September 15th, 2008 by MadDog
No Gravatar

A couple of weeks ago I spent half a day wandering around Madang looking for images that speak to me about my home town. I was writing an article for Ourway, the new in-flight magazine for Airlines PNG. I haven’t received word yet if the article will be published.

I’ll share a few photos that I did not submit with the article.

Here is the view of Madang from Nob Nob, a small mountain north of Madang. That’s Astrolabe Bay in the background:

Madang from Nob Nob Mountain

This is Machinegun Point on Coronation Drive. You are looking in the same direction as in the photo above. This is a very popular swimming hole:

Machinegun Point

Here is the fish market at the inlet close to the Madang Resort Hotel. You have to be lucky to find a good fish, but it is a popular hang-about spot:

The Fish Market

This is the lily pond on Modilon Road. It features one of the best Frangipani trees in town:

The Lily Pond

This is one of the old grave markers in the cemetery next to the main market:

A tombstone in the old cemetery

And, here is another:

Another grave marker

This shows some of the many artefacts for sale at the shop at the Madang Resort Hotel:


Finally, here’s one that was painful to get. I spent an hour on Faded Glory being tossed around by heavy, confused seas to get this shot of the Coastwatchers Monument. This is one out of about 300 shots:

The Coastwatchers Monument in Madang

I sometimes enjoy walking around Madang looking for the odd angle or fresh perspective. If you have not yet seen my “Going to the Market” post, you might have a look.

Major Party Alert! – 60th Anniversary of The Madang Club

Posted in Invitations, Madang Happenings, Parties, PNG Culture, Things to do, Upcomming Events on August 9th, 2008 by MadDog
No Gravatar

It is a splendid treat in Madang to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of a colourful, beloved, and enduring social institution – The Madang Club.

Eunice and I have been privileged to be either members or moochers (mostly moochers, I admit) since we came to Madang in 1981.

James Sinclair, in his book Madang (DWU Press, 2006) briefly marks the birth of the iconic watering hole.

In late 1947, the first moves to establish a Madang Social Club were made. This evolved into the Madang Social and Recreation Club, the Madang Recreation Club, and finally the Madang Club, which exists to the present day.

Now we all have the opportunity to participate in this joyful celebration. Here is the invitation (click to enlarge). 

This FROM: Shane McCarthy:

Madang Club 60th Anniversary Party

It sounds like a major party to me. Fancy dress prizes . . . hmmm . It seems a great photo-op.

One of the things that I have appreciated about The Madang Club over the years is that, when nearly everything else seems to be crumbling and rotting around us, The Madang Club has been constantly improving. If decay is getting you down, keep your eyes fixed on The Madang Club – you’ll feel better.

This is not a recent phenomenon. Witness Sinclair’s comment on the subject in a more recent epoch:

In 1970 tenders were called for the renovations, with a dining room, kitchen facilities and a new bar area, at a cost of $35.000. The manager at this time was Mervyn Livermore. Town and country membership now exceeded 300. The population of Madang town at this time was 15,751, expatriate and national.

I’m not in the record tending business – leave that to Guinness. However, I’d guess that if you were keeping track of Madang social life since the war, The Madang Club would probably hold records for beers downed, business done, lies told, friends comforted, sweethearts wooed, wages gambled away, fistfights erupting (notably fewer these days), depression relieved, fears calmed, tasteless jokes heartily laughed at . . .

All said, it’s a perfect fit.


PNG Coinage – a Menagerie

Posted in Mixed Nuts, PNG Culture on August 7th, 2008 by MadDog
No Gravatar

I know beans about coins. I have hundreds and hundreds in a big jar from all over the world, but I don’t get serious about them. They are just for bragging rights.

Since I have already showed you the folding money we use here, I’ll add the coins also.

Here is the amount side (I can’t remember what it’s called – what’s heads and tails if there’s no head on the coin). In both photos, the scale on the bottom is in centimetres (for the metrically challenged it is about 2.5 cm to the inch).

 PNG Coins 1

The first two from the left end are both one Kina (written as K 1.00) coins. The bigger one is the old style (possibly soon to be withdrawn) and the smaller one is the newer, cheaper, lighter, cheesier replacement.

I liked the heft of the old K1 coin. It was really heavy. When we first came here, you could buy a can of Coke with it and have a handful of smaller coins left over. In case you cannot see the detail well (clicking to enlarge will help), both K1 coins have twin crocodiles on them.

By he way, the hole in the K1 coin is meant to symbolize the hole in the traditional shell money, which was also called kina. The money, in turn, was named after the shell, which was also called kina.

The next one is the half Kina or Fifty Toea coin. These are getting pretty scarce. The one I’m showing is a bit distressed – I couldn’t find a nice one. Notice the odd seven-sided shape. The K .50 coin bears one of the stylized bird of paradise images.

The K.20 or Twenty Toea coin following sports an image of a cassowary. The cassowary is a very large flightless bird. It is not to be trifled with. Its claws can rip you to pieces and it is generally bad tempered.

The K .10 or Ten Toea coin shows a furry little cuscus, a kind of cute woolly possum. Many people keep them as pets.

Next is the final coin that remains in circulation – the K. 05 or Five Toea coin. It bears an image of a sea turtle – from the shape, I’d say it’s probably a loggerhead turtle.

The Two and One Toea coins have been withdrawn from circulation as the government found production of them to be more costly than their currency value – or so goes the local legend. The Two Toea coins shows a lionfish and the One Toea coin has a butterfly – probably a Papilio ulysses.

Here are the opposite sides. As you can see, they all bear the national emblem – a bird of paradise:

 PNG Coins 2

Here is a better example of the national emblem:

 The PNG Natinoal Emblem

I’ve always wondered why there is no pig on any PNG coins. It’s easily the most highly valued animal in the culture. The wild boar (a truly nasty character) does appear on the K 20 banknote.

I think the next PNG cultural lesson might be a trip to a used clothing store.

Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?

Posted in Mixed Nuts, PNG Culture on August 3rd, 2008 by MadDog
No Gravatar

A very common question that I hear when abroad concerns PNG money. This probably won’t be of much interest to local folk, but I’ll toss it out anyway for those readers in faraway places.

Here’s a photo of the folding currency now in circulation (I think there’s a new K5 note, but I didn’t have one handy):

 PNG folding currency

Let’s start with the K2 green note on the lower right. To put things in perspective, we’ll use the universal currency comparator – a standard size can of Coke. A two Kina note will (almost) buy you one.

The pinkish five Kina note above it will nearly buy you a beer or a loaf of bread.

If you go to one of the many ‘izi kai’ (quick food) places around town, the ten Kina note will buy you a filling lunch. Taste and quality are not considerations, so what you’re looking for is a place that doesn’t usually make you sick and gives you the largest amount of food for your money.

We’ll skip the K20 note. You can extrapolate.

The K50 note will get you a cheeseburger, some chips (French fries for Yanks) and a beer or two at one of the hotel restaurants.

With fuel hovering around K4.25 a litre, if your tank holds sixty litres, it’s going to take two K100 notes and a K50 just to fill up.

The average rent for a house in Madang that a foreigner would be willing to live in would run between about K2,000 for a one-room efficiency to K4,000 and up (mostly UP) per month for a two or three bedroom house. (Prices in Port Moresby, our capital city, could run that much A WEEK!)

A new car (twin-cab pickup trucks and SUVs are favourites here for practical reasons) will set you back anywhere from K90,000 to “you can’t afford it if you have to ask”.

At the current exchange rate it takes about US$ 0.40 to buy one Kina. The Australian Dollar is running roughly the same.

All this doesn’t make sense unless we look at how much the average Joe gets paid.

Starting at the bottom, rural agricultural workers, security guards, casual labourers, and so forth generally earn less than ONE KINA per hour. So Charlie, the nice young fellow who guards our house at night gets from his company, let’s say K50 per week, including overtime – that’s if they actually pay him. No car for Charlie . . . not EVER! A can of Coke is a treat that Charlie has to consider if he can afford. He’ll have to work two or three hours to pay for it.

Working our way up, a professional worker, say a bookkeeper, might do well to bring home K200 a week. If both parents are working, they might have enough to live decently, but forget about school for the kids unless they are willing to sacrifice heavily. There’s no free school here. It is very expensive to send children to school.

Up in the stratosphere, where the business managers (many of them expatriates) reside, money is not a problem. This is one of those places where the difference between the bottom and the top is staggering. I know little of this land of plenty, but I’m guessing that salaries in this category run in the range of K100,000 per year and up (way up!). In most cases, housing is provided in addition, as is a car, and travel allowances. However, the tax rate at this level is horrendous.

Out there on the moon, where the country’s “leaders” have a game of their own, we’re talking fancy foreign educations for the kids and condos on the Gold Coast. It’s not considered safe conversation to compare salaries to assets.

So, where do we fit in this? Let’s say we fit somewhere between the professional class and the business managers. We have a much more satisfying life-style here than we could enjoy on the same amount of money in the USA. However, the quality of this life-style has more to do with the general living conditions and atmosphere in Madang than it has to do with money.

Madang is a poor man’s heaven.