JEFFREY MANE FEBI
An entry in The Rivers Prize
Good refreshing drinks these: orange, pineapple and mango flavours being popular with consumers.
It is served at barbecues, picnics, feasts and mumus, oh yes, and at meal times. Kids love it. It’s also student’s favourite lunchtime drink, and buai sellers and chewers prefer it as a mouth rinse.
Playful children, through gaps in their front teeth, spit projectiles of this juice and are scolded by their mothers, who threaten to pour the remainder on their heads.
And little girls take things a step further, using it as lipstick to paint their lips - and enjoy doing it. Sometimes women, for the fun of it, also paint their lips, perhaps to remove layers of buai or nicotine stain.
When a determined mother or father, hustling their way to a game of cards, screams at the children to stop nagging them and then buy something, usually the juice is implied.
And when a mother is losing at cards, she persists in playing and opts to feed her child this juice as she barks orders to elder daughter to cook something quickly.
This nectar is a heavenly seep for when she has lost all and ends up with a throat feeling like a desert that missed the rain for a thousand years.
Meanwhile, in the vicinity of a game of cards, usually several games in one location, Steam Bodies lurk.
The main objective of these people drinking Steam (alcohol produced from illegal backyard brewing) is to milk coins from irritated winners through flattery (praising a winner’s intuition to play the cards right), outright begging or a veiled threat driven from their desperation.
If enough money is collected, then a 500ml bottle of Coke is purchased to dilute the Steam. Otherwise the juice is used.
Then noise-making, albeit without aid of any musical instrument, ensues for the duration of their drunken stupor. These noise-making skills, primitive and intolerably disturbing, are unrivalled.
Often the drunks use this juice as a matter of convenience, to sprinkle over their heads.
This act of drunken baptism, an attempt to ease the tight embrace of Steam and its chill, often works.
However a sweet and sticky residue remains which attracts honey bees to their faces after all else has dried.
Picture a Steam Body in drunken stupor fighting off honey bees.
No matter how beaten and disregarding pain this Body continues to drink the precious fluid, perhaps with a swollen lip.
Meanwhile on the business side of things, owners of roadside markets, with their neatly lined and colourful coolers, make money from thirsty pedestrians.
Many of these have been loitering in and around shopping centres or government offices and are on their way home in the afternoons with their last kina in their pockets.
Away from the streets and into Port Moresby’s squatter settlements, poor families, sometimes each day, have this juice with baked beans before laying their heads to rest.
The unfortunate ones fight hunger throughout the night, and often for days on end. How tomorrow feeds them is just another saga in their wretchedness.
Imported from Asia, a packet is going for fifty toea – it is cheap, and makes juicy and refreshing drinks for the whole family. It is called Tang juice.
This product has become the beverage of choice for the masses living around the fringes of Port Moresby city.
It is and will be a favourite as long as it can be obtained cheaply.
It is part of us now – it is a way of life.
Come to think of it, why is there not a factory in PNG producing Tang or its equivalent? Isn’t there a business opportunity when demand is huge?
Well, this is for the money man and the government to think about. However, until these bastards start behaving selflessly, importation of this fine product will continue.
For now I shall pour myself a glass - orange flavour - and slowly seep my thoughts to slumber.