Thursday, March 10, 2011

Just Go With the Flow

Everyone knows that overseas missionaries are destined to subsist on a diet of roasted insects and fried monkey brains.  It just comes with the territory.
Well, if I’m going to be honest, I have to admit that the most exotic thing we have eaten here in Papua New Guinea is alligator, and we prepared that.  For sure, there are some nationals who eat items less appealing to our Western appetites.  For example, there is a common joke (or is it a joke?) around here that if you’re invited to a mumu (celebratory feast), the main course may very well be cat.
But, no.  Our wildest culinary encounters have not been cooked over an open fire.
They’ve come in packages.
Take crackers for instance.  If you were to walk through any PNG grocery store, you might led to believe that the diet of all PNGians consists solely of tinned meat and crackers.  No kidding.  Crackers make up an amazing percentage of the stock of every store I’ve ever been in.
You’d think that crackers would be harmless enough, right?  Well, check out the ingredients in the picture above: “Edible vegetable oil, Edible salt, Edible ammonium bicarbonate, Edible flavouring …”
As if the Commonwealth spelling wasn’t disconcerting enough, you also have to contend with several other uncertainties.  I mean, the list definitely begs the question: if these four components are edible, what about the other eleven?  Am I taking my life in my hands by ingesting Cream flavoured “1+1 Soda Sandwich” crackers?
And what is this Ghee oil thing?  I looked up the word “ghee” and found that it actually has a definition:  “Clarified butter used in Indian cookery.”  Even though these crackers were not manufactured in India, they do come from the same continent.  And I am very glad to know that this butter is clarified.  Edible or not, I certainly wouldn’t want to eat vague butter, that’s for sure. 
Sixteen months ago we were living in a village setting, complete with river bathing, water-hauling, and a grass and bamboo hut.  Interestingly enough, one of the most popular PNG-manufactured snacks is actually very reminiscent of a treat from back home.  The Twisties, cheese flavoured variety, rivals crunchy Cheetos in nearly every respect.  It seems strange, but I actually met someone who claimed she had to take a goodly number of Twisties bags home with them on furlough to satisfy their PNG-raised children.  Cheetos were, of course, inadequate.
Anyway, drinking the water we were drinking, and bathing in the water we were bathing in, we weren’t surprised that most of our, er, bowel movements were, shall we say, less than firm.  The problem actually plagued us for most of the time we were in the village, but near the end of our time there, we made a startling discovery. 
Twisties snacks come in several varieties, including Chicken flavor, Cheese and Onion, and Barbeque.  Those are okay, but the Pizza flavor had become a favorite.   Then we read the back of the bag.
The ingredients list contains enticing components such as “cheese powder, … natural & nature identical flavours, … and parsley granules food acid (330).”  (I do wonder if they’re missing a comma in last ingredient.)  The final item on the list, however, was at the same time somewhat frightening and surprisingly enlightening.
You ready for this?
“Free flow agent (551).”
I kid you not.  I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. 
Yessiree, like the slogan says, “Life is fun with Twisties!”
Investigating the rest of the bag sheds no light on this odd discovery.  Instead it reveals even more quandaries … such as, “Why would a product made and marketed exclusively in Papua New Guinea be labeled in English and French?   (For those who are interested, the component in question is translated, “agent fluidifiant (551).”)
Fortunately, discoveries like this are not restricted to ingestible products.  Nor are they always frightening.  Occasionally we find one that provides hours of entertainment.
Take, for example, the shampoo bottle in our shower.  The one Paul is using.  (Me?  I lucked out and found some Indonesian-manufactured Pantene PRO-V, but considering the price and limited availability, have forbidden him to touch it.)
I can’t tell you where this product was made.  No, really, I can’t.  That information, if it is there at all, is in a language I do not recognize.  What I can tell you, thanks to the company’s fine interpreters, is that this particular bottle is of the following variety:  “Ocean Element Beauty fair.”   Where my Pantene bottle says “Smooth & Silky,” this bottle of mystery goo goes on to say, “Nourishment Moisture, Twinkling of Hair.”
Now, I ask you, who wouldn’t want Twinkling of Hair?  These people have secured a corner in a very competitive market.
Paul chuckled and was satisfied with this, and knowing that it couldn’t be all bad to have hair that shimmered like stars in the night sky, didn’t bother to read any further.  But had he turned the powder-blue container over, he would have discovered a great treasure trove of Engrish on the back.  And I quote …
“Contain the bright hair vegetable, vitamin of meek essence original b5, etc., can be overall the depth nursing hair at the time of go to a scraps, make the show deliver the meek and bright.”
Oooooooh … that’s good.
But, wait!  There’s more!
“All new negative ion essence, …”
(This is a relief, because I’ve heard that second-hand negative ion essence isn’t nearly as effective at containing the bright hair vegetable.)
“ … keep show hair from be subjected to the static electricity interference, be easy to comb, full of flexibility.”
Scraps-destined, nursing hair that delivers meek and bright.  Easy to comb, flexible, and not subjected to static electricity interference.  You know, I don’t even know what to say to that. 
How can one possibly improve on perfection?


  1. Forget the Twisties. You should bring some of that shampoo when you come home. :) At least it doesn't have Ghee in it.

  2. Wow, I never would have guessed that Twisties were so "fun"! Lol. I don't think I want to eat any more of those. Ever. Ha ha.


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