An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Friday, October 08, 2004

My Liklik Market

I have mentioned a few times in posts previously the liklik market around the corner from my place on Campus and I thought now was as good a time as any to do a proper homage to it instead of just some half-baked description. The correct name for it is the Sogeri Market, but everyone just seems to use the pidgin word for small or little and it goes by that name.

If you have ever been to a developing nation you will know what this market will look like, as they are homogenous throughout the third world. Women and the occasional man, sitting or squatting down, with their mats of produce in front of them.

Part of the market on a typical afternoon

I like to head off down there after work at about 5-5:30 and get myself some local and highlands grown kumu (greens) that is brought to it by the women from nearby settlements. All the same women usually turn up day in and day out (Sunday excepted), rain or shine and place their mats of seed bags down in front and then unload their produce from their bloated bilums.

Easily the best thing about all the stuff they bring, is that it is mostly local grown and organic. The cost of pesticides would be out of reach for all these growers and why bother when you can just plant anything and it springs up out of the earth, especially in the highlands. Some crops have issues growing down on the coast, but up in the highlands with it’s mostly rich loamy soil, and constant cool (but not frosty) temperatures it is like crop heaven.

Some of the highlands produce make it down to small markets like mine, when certain things are out of season (like pineapples just were), or when they don’t grow to well here, as in kau kau (sweet potato - the staple throughout the highlands).

I am not sure how or who works it out but there is some sort of protocol between the women as to who gets to use what spot. Nearest to the road is obviously the choice in pickings as to seating arrangements, as everyone who comes in has to go past your goods to see all the stuff available. But the same women have the same spots every day, so they must have a hierarchical system worked out that is adhered to.

There is also a sort of loose grouping together of the produce. The meri's near the road seem to just sell vegetables (carrots, beans, chives or spring onions, and spinach like kumu), and as you go further in they change to selling more fruit (banana, coconuts, pineapples and paw paws).

In between these two areas is the sheltered kiosks that have on one side women selling peanuts (lots of peanuts) and on the other manufactured goods like biscuits, chewing gum and cigarettes. Up the back on the fence is reserved for the woman who comes with one of those big 50kg bales of second-hand clothes shipped from Australia that they purchase for 150 Kina. She has them all strung up on the fence for everyone to see, though I have never seen her sell any, probably because they are lot more expensive than in the stores in town.

In terms of cost it is as cheap as chips. When you convert the costs back to what you can expect to pay in Sydney or London it is laughable. Of course in realistic terms this is easy to understand why as there is no huge mark-up costs on the products like you would get in Coles or Tesco, because most of the goods come from around the corner in a nearby garden.

Some products are more expensive than like pineapple that comes from the highlands. Each pineapple can take up to 3 or 4 months to grow and there is only one that grows on a plant at anyone time. So when you consider how long it takes to grow and that they then have to be carted from the highlands down to Lae, it is no wonder that you end up paying 2 or 3 Kina for a good one – mind you this is still only $1 or $1.50.

Usually all the vegetables are grouped into 20 toea groupings bound together by using a plastic thread from a seed bag. The same goes for peanuts. Kau kau is stacked into piles worth 1 kina. Pineapples and paw paws just lie there and you have to ask "hamas" (how much) to find out their worth.

A few of the women who I regularly buy from now have taken a bit of a liking to me. One old duck especially always pops a couple of extras into my bag when I buy from her. I posted earlier that she gave mum a huge hug when she came and yesterday she told me that she will be making her a bilum and that I have to take a photo of her and then post the bilum and photo back to mum.

With David going the other day it has made me think about my eventual leaving from here and one thing I know for certain is that when I eventually do uproot and head home or wherever the first thing I will miss when it comes to cooking my dinner is the convenience of having the market 5 minutes walk away.