Continuing your tour around Ukarumpa, this is the store. It may not look like much from the outside but it provides everyone who lives in Ukarumpa with a wide variety of food, household items and toiletries. This selection varies widely and can sometimes be sparse if we are between container shipments from the US and Australia. However, there is always something on the shelves and it is much more convenient (and the choices much more bountiful) than going into Kainantu. Between the store and the morning market, I am well fed here.
I would compare the Ukarumpa store to a grocery store in small-town American minus the produce section (our produce section is called the market- expect for the occasional treat of Australian granny smith apples, oranges and grapes which sometimes can be found in the refrigerator section with the cheese). There are two main differences- first of all selection in any store in America is probably more regular and less varied than here. And in America we take for granted the convenience of being able to shop anytime day or night. In Ukarumpa the store is only open on the weekdays and even then only until 4. But that’s ok because if you forget something or if the store is out, the entire community is your neighbor and will help you out. For example: the store was out of canned corn on Friday. I asked Saturday morning on the wanted board, 20 minutes later I had a couple offers to choose from. This community is good at lending a hand and sharing because chances are someday you will be the one who needs something.
Back to the store amenities. This is the Kai Bar. The names comes from Kaikai which means food in tok pisin. There are Kai Bars in most cities in PNG. They usually have an assortment of warm food with kaukau (sweet potatoes), dough balls and chicken. The Ukarumpa Kai bar sells whole half or quarter rotisserie chickens, chips (french fries), meatpies, sausage rolls, hambugers, hotdogs, sodas and icecream. All of these of course are subject to availability. But on a normal day at least you can get chicken, chips and icecream. This is the only place in Ukarumpa to buy premade food on a daily basis.
Once inside the store the variety of PNG, Australian and American products all mixed together is quite amazing. Black and Gold products come from Australia, Diamond Nuts come from the US and most of the great variety of meat-in-a-can products are made right here in PNG. I especially like buying Sunny Select products that get shipped from California because it makes me feel right at home. However, this mixing of products does cause some confusion when you by Australian tomato sauce and get ketchup or when you are looking for cornstarch and all you can find is cornflour- not to be confused of course with cornmeal which is another thing entirely.
Of course if something is shipped from the US or Australia it usually comes with a price-tag to match the distance travelled. Not all of the products are tempting, but I do enjoy seeing familiar things on the shelves and being able to buy treats like marshmallows to make rice crispy treats or instant oatmeal.
One thing you can almost always count on is a wide selection of crackers and biscuits. These are a staple in PNG and come in a large variety to suit all tastes. There are really plain tough biscuits, different varieties of sweet and savory biscuits and all sorts of beef and chicken flavored ones that are very salty.
The meat counter. A wide variety of meat products are available here- you can by beef or pork mince. You can buy chicken or steaks and various kinds of sausage. The only difference is that most of the meat is killed on site (see Cows on the Loose post) and it is widely subject to availability. Most of the meat is quite normal and tasty but unfortunately the German influence in the northern part of PNG didn’t extend to the sausage makers. Therefore most of the sausages are quite disappointing.
In addition to the meat counter there is a large selection of frozen meats. Among the frozen chicken breasts and the steaks, you can usually find cubed crocodile meat (pukpuk). This is quite tasty and can be used in most of the same dishes you would use chicken: pukpuk potpie, pukpuk nuggets, pukpuk stirfry. The possibilities are endless. But today there was no pukpuk just a $20 pork head.
Onto snacks: there is a wide variety of snacks from the US, Australia and PNG. It is fun to sample the different flavors available here and sometimes notice that from the packaging you were expecting something completely different.
Cream buns are a favorite PNG snack. A sweet bread with sweet cream filling, fresh from the Kainantu bakery. They also sell ‘torpedos’ which are like cream buns but they are long and skinny. Both varieties are very delicious. Whoever came up with the idea to fill a bun with cream is a genius- these are popular in both PNG and the Solomon Islands.
There is also an interesting supply of bubbly drinks and soda. Notice the soursop soda above the mountain dew next to the generic brand. I’m not a soda drinker but for those who are the store try to keep things well stocked.
And finally the candy shop in front of store is in constant flux. They try to keep a large supply of Cadbury chocolate in supply but there is also usually an assortment of American candies from starburst to kitkats. And every once in awhile they buy too much of something and then you get reduced prices for mounds of a certain product- currently massive amounts of sugar babies.
Once you have checked out- side note: you can pay cash at the store but like with most things in Ukarumpa it is easier to just charge it to your account. You just give the store clerk your name, you get a receipt and sign for your groceries. This is especially handy if you want to buy something for someone else- no money needs to exchange hands, just charge their account.
So after you check out you can either carry your groceries home or put them in a store box, label it with your lot number, put it on the store box shelf and the store truck will deliver it to your door. This is super handy if you don’t have a car or if you buy the super large bag of flour or if it’s raining or if you are just too tired (or lazy) to carry your own groceries up the hill to your house.
And that concludes your tour of the Ukarumpa store.