Jul 13, 2011

Out My Window 365-004

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Betelnut Vendor

Betelnut is big business in PNG; well, perhaps I should say it is a typical business as there is not really much money to be made in it. This guy sits across the street from my apartment. It is his corner, and no one else is allowed there. His name is Floyd, I think, and he is one of the constants in my life here. I used to greet him on a daily basis, but now that I drive to work every day, I don't have an opportunity to. Still, I see him every day that I am at home.

Betelnut, also called "buai" (boo-eye), is a habit-forming stimulant that is available throughout the Pacific. However, I understand there are differences in the way it is chewed in different places. Here, the routine for everyone is much the same.

First, you peel off the outer husk of the nut (with your teeth), pop it in your mouth, and begin to chew it, to soften it up. Next, moisten one of the short, green sticks they call mustard, or "daka", and dip it into the communal container of lime powder. Take this and stick it into the chewy mass in your mouth. Bite it off and begin to work the entire concoction as your chew. As you chew, you will have to spit out the bright red residue that is formed. Typically, the locals spit this anywhere and everywhere.

You can also see three packs of cigarettes laying on the table. Most betelnut vendors sell these as well, one by one, for a few toea each. Although I can't see them from my window, I know from my walks/drives along this short street there are a number of betelnut vendors to be found there. Like it or not, betelnut is definitely a big part of PNG culture.

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