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, May 13, 2005

Campus Life: Part 1 - The Kopi Haus

I have decided to share pieces of my world. The world in which I live. My habitation. Current domain. Residence. Greater abode. The strange world that is a PNG university campus.

This sharing will be dropped piecemeal (or as I can be bothered and besides I should be working not writing this) from the warped view that is my mind. They won't attempt to be slightly askew; they will probably just end up that way.

So for the first stage we will take a step in and focus on an integral piece of my world, the all important ...

Kopi Haus

The Kopi Haus (Coffee House) which serves no coffee, is an important institution on campus. Almost as important an institution as the university itself. It is the glue to hold our bellies together. Without it myself and plenty others would go hungry at lunchtime - or at least have to walk farther to the shops outside the gate - and be non-productive.

It serves all manner of culinary delights which upon initial inspection may look suss and after the first few months of trying may force irregular bowel movements but will eventually become a reliable source of nutrition. Nutritional value is of course debatable.

Taking a look in detail at the selection. At lunchtime it is a close call to go for either the brown sausages or the red sausages, or the appropriately named fish flour (i.e. battered fish), the sausage rolls without sausage mince and the pies that may or may not be cold - don't try and return them though. Sauce for those pie and sauce fans will just have to cope without. These selections are all displayed nicely behind glass, in trays that may or may not have been sitting there since the day before - hence previous bowel movements. Once tried though things can only get better. I'm a big believer in the theory that what doesn't kill you, will only make you stronger.

If the hot cooked delights don't take your fancy then the selection extends to the packet biscuits. And as everyone knows PNG is spoilt for choice in this regard. Navy biscuits. Hard biscuits. Bush biscuits. Chicken Snax crackers (my favourite). Beef Snax crackers. Plain Snax crackers. Highway Hardman. Cream crackers. Em Nau crackers. Paradise crackers. Morobeen crackers. Chocolate cream biscuits. Mint cream biscuits. Plain cream biscuits. Delta biscuits. Chocolate cookies. Coconut cookies. And the list continues ... beyond my memory. If you don't like biscuits, too bad.

Stepping back to appreciate the architecture of the building we notice that it is attempting a faux Sepik style haus tambaran look, which I think has been nicely achieved. Facilities include tables for patrons and a couple of old guys selling newspapers. A walk to the Kopi Haus always includes a look at the front and back page of the dailies.

Opening hours are generous - in fact I have never seen it closed. Weekends, Sabbath days, rain, hail, shine, drought, bush fire, pestilence and I am sure it would still be open. To be honest though I suspect pestilence may be already upon it.

Looking at the operators and they are truly world class. There is John the owner who when I suggested only six months ago that they purchase a coffee machine and serve coffee, took these suggestions to heart and regarding them as worthwhile but has since done nothing about. There is Joe, the chef, who not only wears his heart on his sleeve but most of the cooking. A man of great of portent and girth, which can only come from selective samples from the grub he dishes up. Then there are the serving girls who in true PNG fashion will not be rushed or harried even when there is a queue stretching out of the building at lunchtime.

And so that is the Kopi Haus. A part of the campus fabric which removed would cause the university to unravel. A building not just for service but also part of the local society. An integral piece of campus life and anyone who calls it home.

Now go and buy something.