Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bargain Hunting, PNG Style

(or, “Fun in the Remote Highlands of New Guinea,” Vol. 9)
If you’re a bargain hunter, you have probably experienced your share of second hand clothing stores.  PNG has no shortage of these in most major cities (“major cities” being a relative term, of course), but, of course, you have to be patient and willing to “dig through.”
And if you’re in a coastal town, you have to be willing to sweat. 
I find it especially interesting that most (if not all?) of the clothes are shipped up from other countries just for this purpose.  I, for one, never imagined “used clothing” would appear on an import list.
Some people have found great deals, though, and being  good little missionaries, many people think creatively when standing in front of, say, an XXXL floral tapestry skirt.
Hmmm … 80 cents?  This would make some great throw pillow covers!
Now, I am not much for shopping at these places (though, before we left the US, I basically pre-outfitted my kids for our whole first term at McCart Thrift.  It better still be there when we go back.)

Another source of bargains is the electronic “For Sale” board on our local Intranet.  Here are some deals that have been posted within the last week (all prices converted to US equivalent).  You may or may not consider them deals, but, as in the case of the ice cream, consider that some of these items are impossible, or all but impossible to come by over here.
Pack of 100 Latex Gloves, $4
Pampered Chef Stoneware Bread Pan, $4
Old Navy girls’ capris, brown, size 12, Free
Chicken Manure, $7 per bag
Christmas Gift Wrap, $1 per roll
McDavid lace-up ankle brace, size L, $1.50
Pyrex pie plate, $2
2003 Rand McNally Atlas of US, Canada, & Mexico, free
Package of 5, slightly squooshed Peeps, $1
Super Solar Shower, New!  $4
Kitchen Scale, 80 cents
Tray for making heart-shaped ice cubes, $1
$17.20 worth of Philippino Pesos, $17.20
Mango plant, 80 cents
100g package of poppy seeds, age unknown, make an offer
Homemade Ice Cream, several different varieties, $8 per liter
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, book, free
Vahki Keerakh Metru Nui Bionicle, $2
Set of 16 plastic chop sticks, $2
Pink Fuzzy Socks, 40 cents

Now this one gets me … upon inquiry, this person told me that he purchases this coinage from used clothing stores and their employees:
“100 New Zealand Dollars valued at US$79.43 for sale at only US$70.00.  This is current coinage that is very spendable in New Zealand, not the old stuff only good for collecting.  This money was recovered from the pockets of used clothing imported to PNG.”
Well, I have to admit, that is very resourceful!  And, hey, if I’m going to pay $3000 for a round trip from here to New Zealand, that savings of $9.43 could come in handy.

We have several annual activities where bargain hunters can fulfill their felt need for shopping.  The first is the Christmas Craft Fair, held at the end of November.  This past year, I tried to corner the market on “practical” and sold handmade hanging clothespin bags and grocery bag keepers.  I sold every one that I made, and later made several for people who found out about it after the fact and had to have one or the other.   My most popular item, however, was flannel-covered rice bags … the kind you heat up in the microwave and put on sore muscles, or use to warm up your bed.  That is an item I will be revisiting this next November.
Also for sale at the Christmas Craft Fair were CDs of acoustic guitar recorded by one of our teenagers (an amazing musician), ink pens, cutting boards, and clocks made from various PNG hardwoods, Christmas tree ornaments, handmade greeting cards,  crocheted, knitted, and cross-stitched items, handmade doll clothes, and plenty of PNG handcrafts as well.  Something for everyone!

A couple weeks later, our store holds the Store Christmas Sale.  Over the several preceding weeks, volunteer shoppers travel to Lae (and maybe other cities) and procure items for the sale.  This past year, patrons could purchase anything from several varieties of candy (who would have imagined Toblerone?!), to holiday décor, jewelry, housewares, stationery supplies, water guns, fru-fru scented soaps, craft kits, kitchen gadgets, ceramic mug sets, insulated lunch bags ….. well, just about anything.  The sale only lasts one day, so lines are forever long, but at least you’ve saved a 2-4 hour trip (one way) to a “real” store, right?  The only tricky thing is (considering that the sales floor is, perhaps, 500 square feet) keeping those nosy little people you’re buying for from seeing what’s in your basket.  :)

Each May, throngs of people flock to the “Top of the Hill Sale.”  This is a mass yard sale, held at dozens of homes of people who live, well, at the top of the hill.  We moved to the top of the hill in December, but decided against participating as sellers this year, mostly because I was scheduled to leave town at around noon.  We did, however, walk around and take pictures to share with our vast readership.  :)
Despite having the intention to not shop, we did purchase a set of books for Evan … basically if we can identify something that he is willing to read, we will try to get it for him.  You know what I mean.  At another home, I arrived just in time for the residents to decide that they were done for the day, and as a result, I walked away with 8 free books and a partial package of Christmas gift tags.
The TOTHS also includes many food booths, and even pony rides.  Andie participated with other members of the Pony Club, taking children (and some adults) around the block at 2 Kina per ride.

The Teen Center in our little town holds an annual “Everything Sale.”  The items up for grabs have all been donated by the community (including, I presume, much of what didn’t sell at the “Top of the Hill Sale” the week before.)  All proceeds of the Everything Sale go to fund the Teen Center and related activities for the youth of the community.  There is a 2 Kina entrance fee (about 60 cents), but inside you can find bargains such as a 5 foot Christmas tree for $5, hardback books at 15 cents apiece, and board games for 20 cents.  In general, the prices are much better than those at the TOTHS, making the ES most definitely a bargain hunter’s paradise.

While it’s true that we have no Wal-Mart, and even worse, no Target (gasp!), we survive.  A companion board to the “For Sale” board is the “Wanted” board.  This particular feature of our electronic bulletin board system is the one that best magnifies the absolute amazingness of our community.
Do you need a pair of size 10.5 soccer cleats for your teenage son?  Post on the Wanted board!
Are you completely out of ground cinnamon?  Post on the Wanted board!
Need a small amount of white acrylic paint for a school project?  Post on the Wanted board!
Need to borrow a French beret-style hat for the 8th grade play? ….

You get the picture.  :)
Every time I see a “wanted” post (and those above are real ones), and then an update, often within minutes, that the need has been met, I am amazed again at the graciousness and helpfulness of our community. 
It’s so Acts 2-ish.
And that, I believe, is one of the best bargains in the highlands of New Guinea.

We are missionaries serving God and the task of Bible translation by serving the missionary community in Papua New Guinea through Personnel Administration and MK Education. We thank you for your prayers!

For the Bibleless Peoples of the World ...

(Updated 13 April 2013)