An Afternoon Stroll On New Year’s Day

Seagulls on the beach…

I did something different on New Year’s Day – 1st January, 2012. I walked the length of the Esplanade in Cairns, Australia where my family resides.

My first walk of the year you might say. Quite exhilarating.

‘A penny for your thoughts…’ – in a reflective mood.

It was a lovely sunny afternoon and dusk was approaching fast when I took the long walk past the marina, lovely lush green trees and lawns, people fishing and jogging and others just enjoying the peace of the 1st day of 2012.

A drink in the cool of the afternoon.

I took photos along the way which I always do wherever I go because you never know what your camera can capture.  The light is the big thing with taking photos – anytime, anywhere. So this walk was no exception.

Part of the marina…

I took in the sights and sounds of the seafront as I strolled along the cemented walkway.  I guess my photos will remind me of those captive personal moments. It was a spur of the moment decision and I was glad I did make the decision to walk. Don’t do that in Port Moresby – a pity really but nevermind.

Looking out at the boats moored at the marina.

A walk is a great way to reflect and this being the first day of the new year, 2012, I thought about possible resolutions that I can adopt. I wanted to be as realistic about these resolutions and that is difficult to fathom sometimes because each day is different. Besides implementing the resolutions is something else. One has to be committed and really be honest about what is real and what is perceived in terms of setting the resolutions in the first place. Well, a reflective walk in my humble opinion is an excellent start.

Fishing on New Year’s Day – that’s a first for me. Didn’t see anyone haul in catch.

I thought of the year that has just passed, 2011, and realised how fortunate I am to be able to fly to Cairns and spend time with my family and also to get some much needed relaxation.

Wish I could do this at Ela Beach.

That’s not to say that my corner of Port Moresby isn’t up to the task of being a relaxing place but sometimes a change of scene – to get away physically and go to another place is just the tonic one needs to recharge one’s batteries. Also looking back I acknowledge how much life has changed or is it I that has changed much?  I think both but under different circumstances throughout the  year 2011. One thing I was sure of and that was the 2012 is going to be a really great year on many fronts – I could feel it in my spirit.

Reminded me of the Catalina planes that used to land on the sea near Samarai Island in the 1960s to pick up and drop off passengers. We called them ‘sea planes’.

We don’t realise that our lives, and we only have one, are so tied up in what we call work or our ‘day jobs’ that often times we forget that parts of us die a natural death everyday because we neglect those parts. We need to air them out every now and then starting with our minds.

I was fortunate to capture this. I was hoping I’d be able to take an interesting shot and sure enough here it is – the seagull on take off…

What are these parts of us? These parts are the more spiritual aspects of our lives or us such as company, laughter, pleasure from walking, views of places we think we know but we don’t and so on. It is only when we stop to take in the views, the features that we miss that familiar things take on a totally different meaning – it’s like we are seeing them for the first time.

The sea was not too choppy for these guys in this dinghy, I think.  Took my mind back to life in the islands of Milne Bay.

Take time to think about the people we live with, interact with, work with etc and what happens is that we suddenly see them in a different light – we suddenly find the parts of their lives we can connect with. This is that opportunity for realisation that no man/woman is an island. I promised myself to do this – to see each person I meet as a blessing and likewise.

Diehard fisherman in the setting sun over Cairns, Australia.

I began to think about my family and the things I need to do to connect with them this year. Of course, as you and I know, somethings are easier said than done.

But without falling into a cliched existence one must make the effort to make things happen such as finding the parts of our lives that have fallen through the cracks, fish them out and dust them and give them a brand new lease on life so that we can focus on the progressive and add value to our own and others’ lives.

The rays of the sunset behind the tall buildings creating a silhouette – some call these kind of rays ‘the fingers of God’.

On my way back to the poolside and the families who were gathered there to celebrate the first day of 2012, I stopped by a sweets and icecream shop and shamelessly indulged my sweet tooth with some creamy delectable morsels.

Irrestible meringue with vanilla icecream and cream…it disappeared so fast I actually contemplated a second one – devil!

There were others who stopped by this icecream oasis to indulge their sweet tooth too. 

It was so peaceful and private to just sit there and enjoy something without gawking eyes,  flies and dust.  

I had tea and thought about growing up on my beautiful island home in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. We used to have to clear the breakfast plates so fast on New Year’s day in the 1960s because we need to identify  places in and outside the house to hide in as it would be ‘dui’ time when it’s high tide and the men would run into all the houses looking for women and girls and carry them kicking and screaming down to the gelegele (beach) then throw them into the swimming pool. This is a natural sea water pool near the jetty.

This was absolutely delish, I practically inhaled it! It was that goooood…

We also used to have all the cake, scones, buns and fresh bread we wanted on New Year’s day as we would have been baking on New Year’s Eve ensuring that we had everything baked before midnight.

At midnight, 12 sharp, the noise levels would be defeaning as people beat saucepans, drums and anything that could make the loudest noise to herald in the new year.

We would run down to the beach to light the ‘osiri’ (dried coconut leaves). Against the dark skyline, the lit and flaming osiri on the beaches of neighbouring islands and the mainland was a sight to behold. Am not sure if the lighting of the osiri is still practiced on New Year’s Eve annually now.

Beautiful tree lined walk…

I had never had the misfortune (fortune) to be carried out kicking and screaming to be thrown into the pool. There were loads of laughter and fun when this happened and everyone always embellished their own experiences.

Looking back on those days, what a journey I’ve made – this is the 21st Century and I am in a foreign land and the place is very quiet. Almost forgotten ‘dui’ time.

Peaceful…

I find so  much pleasure in taking photos of the things I come across on my walks or trips to various place within and outside PNG. It helps me to remember the memorable moments in my life then later to sit and re-live the experiences when I feel like I need a pick me up. This is why I carry my camera everywhere I go even if I was just going somewhere close. I don’t want to miss a thing.

The ‘Lagoon’ in the heart of the city of Cairns, Australia. A haven for water lovers of all ages. The fish sculptures are amazing.

My pictures tell a story about one special moment or moments that make up that unique experience for me.

Children of all ages in the pool. They were there when I left and still there when I returned. Could have been a good place to initiate ‘dui’ time, not!

The children were still in the pool when I returned from my walk. I also ran into two people were looked really familiar – one of them was a school mate whom I have not seen since we left high school in Milne Bay – now that would be over 30 years! 

I felt so blessed and free.

Birthday Breakfast At Milano’s

A full cooked breakfast on my birthday. 2 poached eggs, sausages, hashbrowns, grilled mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, bacon and a sprig of fresh parsley to complete the delicious ensemble. One word from me - yumsko!

No, I did not eat everything on the plate incase you are wondering. I really didn’t plan to have a full cooked breakfast but the idea was there. It was a lovely sunny day, not hot or muggy so a cooked breakfast at Milano’s on Queen Street, Brisbane City seemed like a natural choice that morning. 

As you can see, I was going to have a King’s breakfast. I did wait a little while for the breakfast to arrive at my table but realised that there were more people here than perhaps on a weekday. When the plate was infront of me, it was, let’s say, a breakfast worth waiting for.

The 'silver ware' and the nice fresh clean surroundings...waiting for my green tea to arrive.

 The only bit of excitement or rather the interruption of my thoughts, was when a couple sitting next to me, obviously, very much fascinated with eachother, asked me to take their photo. I quickly obliged. I tried to capture their moment so I made sure I framed the photo properly and did not disappoint them.

After a few minutes of trying to figure out the best angle, voila! click went the camera, photo taken and handed back their camera. They were quite pleased with the result and complimented me for my photographic skills obviously they may have noticed my Nikon D90 parked next to me.  Well, that is neither here nor there. The important thing for me was that their special moment was well-captured and I got a compliment for a photo well-taken. It was not bad for someone who could not remember their own birthday even if it were staring them in the face.

Green tea finally arrived to a very warm welcome from my stomach...

I tried to think of all the birthdays I’ve celebrated, well, the ones that I can remember but not chronologically, are you kidding?

I couldn’t even remember how I celebrated my birthday last year. In fact come to think of it, I celebrated it in Alotau – a quiet affair but then a few days later I was singing with my ex-Salima members – it was a great bung as we sang some of our memorable numbers for the relatives and friends who gathered to celebrate another birthday in Alotau on 19th March, 2010.

After my King’s breakfast, I took my time walking around the Mall and shopping arcades and taking  in the sights and sounds of the city and thinking about the afternoon at JKL’s place at Bellbowrie.

The Party After – Beyond Pacific Art Gallery Opening

Mumu-ed pumpkin. It was delicious, tasty and went down very well with lovely red red and white Aussie wines and of course the sparkling ones too...

After the formal opening of the Beyond Pacific Art Gallery we were treated to entertainment and a mumu feast.

A mumu is a method of cooking food underground not necessarily in an oven but in a hole in the ground on hot stones. This method of cooking is found throughout the Pacific. 

In PNG, mumu (Tok Pisin) food is usually found at big feasts and singsings. It is convenient to cater for large groups of people this way without having to use hundreds of saucepans!

The two aluminium garbage bins, brand new, used to cook the mumu in. The rain did not discourage JKL and family from producing great mumu dishes for the celebration of the Gallery opening. Reminded me of cooking mumu food in my gas oven in London 3 years ago. As Papua New Guineans, if we wanted mumu food we'll make mumu food wherever we are.

The mumu was cooked in a make-shift ovens comprising of two aluminium garbage bins. Talk about PNG or Pacific Island ingenuity! Joycelin said they searched high and low for something to cook the mumu in because of the rain as they were not sure if the grounds were going to be dry enough for the cooking process which usually takes several hours . 

These bins provided the waterproof oven for the mumu. This was truly innovative, the food absolutely delicious. I believe that wherever we are in this world we would be able to obtain ‘PNG or Pacific Island food’ that is sweet potato, pumpkin and bak choi plus other delicious additions.

A wonderful solo performance of three bird dances from Kiribati. I'm always fascinated by the dances of the Pacific Islands which tend to mimic animal and bird movements even flora and nature.

 In any PNG or Pacific Island gathering there is always food (lots of food), dancing and singing. We were treated to Kiribati dancing which I think is gaining popularity around the world like other Pacific Island dances, albeit slowly. Usually these Kiribati bird dances are performed by a group but our young friend gave us a beautiful and graceful solo performance. Some of the most fascinating dances are those that imitate birds and other animals. 

SP beer to go with our yummy mumu...

 This meal was wonderfully,  accompanied by PNG’s famous beer – SP (from PNG’s only South Pacific Brewery in Port Moresby) and some good Aussie wines.

Oh yes a little dancing but most just sitting, standing around, drinking, eating….

Although it was raining that evening we chatted, sang, joked and just had a wonderful time. I reckon it was one of the best birthdays I’ve celebrated anywhere. 

We had to leave at a reasonable time to be able to wake up the next day and head out to the airport at 7.00am to catch the PX flight back to Port Moresby.

Party afterwards...in the cool of the evening. Just right!

A great time was had by all. And yes, all good things come to an end but in a nice way and we look forward to visiting the Gallery again sometime soon.

All’s well that ends well.

Eating Spirally Curly-licious Things

An action shot! spaghetti bolognese (bolognaise) in mid-flight to the mouth.

I had dinner with a colleague last week at the Crowne Plaza Cafe in Port Moresby when we feasted on spaghetti bolognese. For me this was the Cafe’s top offer of the evening! But obviously am biased because I enjoyed the dish so much. The spaghetti was cooked to perfection and the bolognese sauce was beautifully seasoned. I’ve never enjoyed the dish as much as I did then.

I first tasted spaghetti bolognese, Italy’s great culinary gift to the world – actually cooked and ate it at Cameron High School many many many moons ago when the high school had it’s first ever open day. Parents, guardians and the whole new township of Alotau was invited to the event. I couldn’t remember anything else on that day except for loads of people and our cooking group trying to get the spaghetti cooked right and the sauce well-seasoned under the hawke-eyed supervision of our Aussie-Italian teacher who shall be called Mr A.

That was the first time any of us girls had ever heard of the beige coloured long brittle sticks like spikes on a stonefish only longer and slightly thicker and the meaty sauce that went with it plus on top of that a near impossibility trying to pronounce the name of the dish! Mostly we giggled when asked what it was which  meant that the onus was on Mr A to pronounce the name of the dish. Am sure he must have been mighty ticked off by that but he never showed it only glad that we cooked it according to his liking and, sold out in no time.

We were amazed at how pliable these ‘spikes’ became when dipped into hot salted boiling water and after about 10 or so minutes in the pot they came out looking wobbly and spirally which meant they were cooked. On their own, the spaghetti tasted like nothing we’d ever tasted before. Come to think of it now, the spaghetti tasted like wet flour – almost tasteless. The meaty sauce made a world of difference to the taste of the the complete dish. At that time, to a Milne Bay lass,  anything cooked without coconut cream must taste gross.

The sauce was made up of pounds of well-seasoned mince meat ala Mr A.  As I remembered the dish was a hit with everyone and soon we ran out of it. This was a great reward. Running out of this foreign -sounding dish with a foreign sounding name was amazing.

Am sure we sold out because people must have gone for this funny looking funny sounding dish for the novelty of it or perhaps because they were simply hungry. In any case we sold out which was everyone’s goal for the open day especially for those students involved in cooking and selling cooked food.  Maybe we sold out because all the teachers and some of the expat workers from Alotau town  ordered our spaghetti bolognese. There was a big expat community in Alotau and our teachers were mostly Australian.

I think one of the weirdest things I remembered about the dish at high school was that we couldn’t eat the spaghetti bolognese with a spoon! None of us at that age (13 and 14 year olds) had mastered the delicate art of eating with a fork. So who got the last laugh – I bet it was Mr A – our cooking supervisor! And oh, he wasn’t the Home Economics teacher just an Italian with a passion for spaghetti bolognese that underpinned his passion for teaching and hence we benefited from his spaghetti bolognese-making expertise. I am eternally grateful for this bit of non-curricula lesson.

Delizioso!

That high school open day cooking experience had awakened the unstoppable inner culinary adventurer inside of me and now I look forward to tasting new dishes and cuisine wherever I found myself in a new country  or a new place even here in PNG.

Thank you Mr A for adding to my list of the weird, wonderful and strange sounding strange tasting dishes, the awesome spaghetti bolognese.

Yum Cha In Port Moresby

Yum Cha at Dynasty Restaurant, Vision CIty.

I was pleasantly surprised when I wondered into the Dynasty Restaurant at Vision City one Saturday late morning a couple of months ago to check it out.

Vision City is popularly called ‘kalakala siti’ by some of my friends because of the bright coloured lights at night along the rooftop. Vision City is PNG’s first ‘mega’ mall situated along Sir John Guise Drive, Waigani, NCD.

In fact that morning I went with a colleague to Vision City check out a new art gallery – a recently acquired shop space at the mall. It was their first day of business. I heard about the gallery from another colleague and decided it was time to take a peek myself. When we got there the gallery wasn’t open but we noticed that the neighbouring Dynasty Restaurant was, so we decided to check it out then go back to the gallery when/if it opened.

We entered the restaurant and were shown to a table (for two). We sat down and checked out the menu. Once inside I realized I might as well have been in Hong Kong or Singapore. I just drank in the surroundings and excitedly chatted with my colleague. It is a huge place!

No sooner had we sat down than the waiter pushing the trolley with the rice porridge (congee) rolled up alongside our table and asked if we would like to try some congee. After a few encouraging words to my colleague (who had never seen congee or tasted one in his life), we ordered one bowl to share. I tell you, as soon as I tasted my first mouthful of congee I was transported back to breakfast in downtown Kowloon many, many moons ago. The congee was served with ‘century eggs’.

I’ve never really acquired a taste for century eggs but for what it’s worth it was an okay addition. I bowed out anyway – politely refused. Even up to now I really have not acquired the taste for century eggs. My colleague at first was unsure too of the ‘century eggs’ but gradually succumbed to the delish morsel.  The novelty of it, maybe, like I once did.

Yummy yum cha...

The next trolley that rolled up was full of the steaming bowls – all piping hot. It was unmistakable to me but I wanted to be sure what these steaming bowls represented. I knew there was something familiar about this presentation like a smorgasbord on wheels ala Chinois(e).

I sort of slowly got the question out, haltingly like, ‘is this yum cha’? The waiter said yes it was and would we like to try some of the dishes. I just smiled stupidly, 101 things running through my mind simultaneously – partly memories and partly the discovery of yum cha in Port Moresby. Why did it take so long to find this culinary delight or was it just me discovering yum cha  here in Port Moresby for the first time. Wadex (whatever)!

This was indeed the yum cha! This is one definition of yum cha I found on the net (Wikipedia source).

Yum cha service

Well I was again transported back, my mind that was, to another Chinese restaurant in Chinatown in London – one Sunday about 6 years ago when I joined some friends and colleagues for yum cha in Chinatown near Soho and Haymarket.  Another time after church at All Souls Langham Place in London when a Singporean friend took us  to another famous yum cha place in Chinatown. Far back in my memory I also dug out another occasion – a Sunday morning yum cha in Adelaide, South Australia. Happy memories of many a yum cha meal in bygone days.

What a find! Yum cha here in Port Moresby. I never thought I’d find yum cha here but the city is changing ever so fast so yum cha in Port Moresby was only a matter of time. Am not sure whether yum cha is served in other places in the city.

I probably could call my pet puppy or kitty “Yumcha”… sounds kind of cute.

Some of the Dynasty's delish ala carte offerings.

Fast forward to 2011…despite my happy memories of yum cha I decided not to partake of it this time. Instead, we ordered ala carte. Well, what do you know, the offerings were so so sumptuous and so so tasty that my mouth was shocked with such luxury.

Our food (ordered from the ala carte menu) finally arrived. I was clearly impressed with the food and ambiance, let alone the service. However, I was slightly thrown off by some of the dishes that were unfamiliar when they arrived at our table.  Dishes I thought I knew – what I mean is that the names of the dishes don’t always turn out to be what one expected. I enjoyed what we ordered though but asked lots of questions as to why it was like this and not like that, sort of thing. I was holding us up with these questions. Eventually we ate!

My barrage of questions always received a polite response such as ‘that’s the way it is served here’ or ‘that is barbeque pork ribs ma’am’. I realized to my utter embarrassment that Chinese cuisine is far from homogenous. The method of cooking varies from province to province in China. I found myself on a learning curve – and was humbled by it.  I guess it depends on the types of Chinese restaurants one patronizes around the city or provinces and in other cities in the world for that matter.

In London, I go to the Hees (Mill Hill Broadway)  or in Chinatown, central London when at the Four Seasons or The London Grill some of the dishes are cooked differently although having the same name. The dish that doesn’t seem to change much between the various Chinese restaurants I’ve had the pleasure to dine in all over the world is the ‘steamed fish’.  It seems to be the same whichever Chinese restaurant one chooses to dine in.

An often obscure but significant feature we all tend to forget when eating out in Port Moresby is the PNG waiters and waitresses. Well, on this day they rose to the challenge and service just flowed. Now that is refreshing. They were ever so polite and attentive and they looked absolutely becoming in their uniforms. What a lovely change that was. A must-return place, the Dynasty.

I could easily have been in Hong Kong or Singapore!

Fish and Chips Never Tasted So Good

Best fish and chips plate I've ever laid eyes on...for sure!

Eating at the Hogs Breath Cafe at Vision City yesterday was an impromptu decision.

The last visit was a collective experience far from pleasant so a second visit was not on the cards. We took a big gamble.

A piece of heaven on a fork.

But yesterday I was blown away with the most amazing fish and chips dish, mayo with capers and awesome service.

Many of us have eaten at restaurants or eateries where we vowed never to return because the food was lousy, service was non-existent or slower than watching paint dry and the pictures on the menu did not match the order that gradually arrived at your table.

The curly chips and smooth mayo with capers...yum!

But sometimes convenience can lead one to renege on one’s decisions such as ours yesterday. The batter was nice and thin and crispy. The fish melted in the mouth, literally. This was fish and chips worthy of a long morning of errands and grocery shopping.

Nothing left...not even half a bite.

Fish and chips never tasted so good. The empty plates were evidence enough.

What a delicious end to a Saturday morning Vision City wokabaut.

Icecream Anyone? Creamy Magic Or Melted Disaster…

Tempting but not the real thing...sori tumas

This was an advert in a shop selling kitchenware in Cairns, Australia. I was captivated with the idea and the presentation. Simple yet alluring and soooooo tempting! I remembered a joke about a passenger on a PX flight who drank the coffee and ate the cup as well! If that person were to see this, nevermind…

Port Moresby may be known to be somewhat not representative of the rest of Papua New Guinea for many reasons, some of which are not the intention of this post. Nonetheless the city does have a quirky character of its own when it comes to food. Mind you, it is not a candidate for great cuisine at world standards or a gourmet’s paradise by any stretch of the imagination but it has somethings which surprise me. Like the fact that it doesn’t matter where you have a meal there is bound to be icecreamvanilla icecream!

Some eateries serve icecream like its an afterthought and usually one can tell if this is the case. The person serving you could be saying stop wasting my time, why don’t you order something exciting from the limited range of cakes. Limited being the operative word of course. But there are places where presentation alone keeps your tongue hanging out (discretely of course). One is almost afraid to bulldoze the beautiful and delicate creamy structure under one’s nose. 

Here are a couple of beauties I captured on my kai haus wokabaut in POM city. No not in one night! On several occasions at different places around this city by the sea…

Vanilla with a choc topping...

I think every place in Port Moresby has plain vanilla icecream always in stock.

Plain icecream...I think almost anyone's favourite any day

Served with tropical fruits is too delicious for words. A friend had this for dessert the other evening. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this wonderful pot pourri of icecream and cream perched on a bed of tropical fruits. Almost too pretty to eat!

Hmmm...heaven on a plate!

Another creamy creation too delicious to put a spoon through…but I dug in with much delight last Thursday evening. It complemented and completed my dinner. Well, after that I couldn’t eat anymore! We just have to forget the waistline sometimes. Well, I do melt infront of such delicious-ness, like this bowl of icecream.

Lychees with scoops of vanilla icecream...

This next one has to be the  pièce de résistance…without a doubt!

The scoops of icecream piled on top of a glass boat of tropical fruit was a sight to behold…icecream-wise. A colleague had this last Thursday evening. True to myself I took a photo of this beautiful creamy creation.

A 'boat' of happiness...yeaaaaaaaah

I couldn’t help muttering to myself as I write this post, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for icecream” – don’t know who coined that but it seems so apt for this post and I could not resist quoting it here. I went searching around the net and guess what I found this video on Youtube: a song about icecream. Harim and see  what you think of it. I think it is fun to have a jazz band playing such a simple but lovely melody about icecream.

You can read about the history of icecream here – how icecream was ‘discovered’ and developed over the years. There’s more information on icecream on this website.