Posts Tagged 'markets'

A Waste of a Day.

It was a waste of a day. Aside from running into Peter the moustachio’d Sepik man and wondering when the rubbish would be collected (it’s been a week) there wasn’t much to it. Stayed inside away from the heat. Close to zero output, even though there’s a bit to do and heaps on my mind. Started a letter – for the third time. That was it.

At about three our guest from Melbourne came home and we went to the market for dinner supplies. I only went to clear my head and also to fulfil the vague kind of responsibility one has to one’s friends, ie watch their back. A pumpkin, some carrots and some greens later we’re ready to go. There is a commotion. A guy is greeting us at close proximity, with about eight or ten other young guys behind him watching with keen amused interest. He introduces himself as Jason No Violence, he wanted to know where we were – I wasn’t sure if he was being cryptic or if his English was messed up. The question is repeated. Where are you people. I’m doing volunteer work, I offered, and my friend is working for a university in Melbourne. The usual outwardly confident, inwardly shitscared mode of behaviour kicks in. University? he exclaims. I have attended the University of PNG for twenty years! I notice the older women waving us on, urging us to disengage from this guy’s insistent conversation. He’s not wearing a shirt but wears pristine clean white tracksuit pants and a hat of the same colour. I smoke MARIJUANA, Pee-En-Gee WEED he says proudly. It’s busy at the market, kids and dogs are everywhere, and our exchange is still the object of intense curiosity. Time to go. Of course Mister No Violence wants my phone number. Conveniently I have left my phone at home and I don’t remember the number itself – mainly so I don’t have to lie to people’s faces in situations such as these. He’s only slightly fazed. You know they say sharing is caring, he says, so have you got some coins for me for a drink? This time I’m pleased to lie. No, my missus keeps all my money. He persists, insisting he asks my companion. We leave. You ask the lady! Mr No Violence shouts after us. No was the best I could come up with. People seemed to laugh, at what I wasn’t sure. I didn’t care. Mister No Violence didn’t follow us. That’s what I cared about.

Our bemusement kicked in once we were up the street a bit and we reflected how funny it was that even the most eventless day can be turned on its head just by a random encounter. PNG! Land of the unexpected. All those cliches. We were happy enough to be crossing Waigani Drive, finally out of reach of the eyes of the young guys at the market. We were stepping onto the dusty median strip when two packs of school kids started to riot directly in front of us. Sticks and a few rocks were flying and the women selling the buai started scurrying. I had seen the kids fighting from the balcony at about the same time the day before – surprisingly (or in hindsight, predictably?), they were at it again. Yesterday the cops had broken the mob of kids up after a few minutes – for some reason the youngsters chose the PMV stop just outside the Waigani police station to rumble at. Although the finer points of the event were not evident the day before thanks to a couple of trees the general narrative wasn’t hard to discern – the kids fight, the cops come, the kids run away. Where are the cops? I wondered as we stood amidst four lanes of slowing traffic and a scattered crowd of stick-wielding youngsters in school uniforms.

Dumb question. They were right behind us. A siren. We spun around. A big fella in blue had emerged from his four wheel drive with a shotgun, a few metres away. Bang-bang, in the air, and the collective taste for violence dissipated rapidly with the crowd. I recalled a story a friend told me when he was at the footy and had heard gunfire. He’d suggested aloud that it was rubber bullets but a guy next to him had corrected him quickly: make no mistake, the guy had said to my friend, we do not have rubber bullets in PNG. This anecdote seemed prescient as we crossed the road, now unhindered by the pugnacious kids that had stalled us only twenty seconds or so before.