Kiunga Market Revisited

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Vendors them all, waiting for buyers of their produce; dried sago – their staple food (in plastic bags), root crops (cassava and sweet potatoes), coconuts and bananas

June 2013: I was back in Kiunga, in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea.    There were a series of meetings as usual and a brief visit to a nearby village and, yes, we got a chance to visit the Kiunga Public Market once again.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

It was still early and more produce are still arriving at the market. These girls are carrying huge sacks of root crops to be sold.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

The Kiunga Town Market as seen from its front parking area

When in developing countries, I like visiting village markets because it always gives me a quick idea of the local culture and economy; mainly what ordinary people produce and earn from and what they usually place on their dining tables.  There are grocery stores and smaller shops in Kiunga but these places sell commercial goods, many of them not even produced in the country.  So I only go there to buy stuff such as bottled water but I like the Kiunga market because it is more telling of local people’s lives and livelihoods.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

It seems that June is a harvest season for root crops since the market was filled with sweet potatoes (the red-purple things on display) and cassava.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Two ladies selling freshly butchered wild pig. Unfortunately the cassowary already got sold out by the time I got to this section of the market.

The other thing I always want to catch a glimpse of are local food items that can only be termed in other places as “exotic”.  I remember that I had an exciting time during my previous visit to Kiunga market.  Among the many “exotic” food items I discovered was a live 3-meter snake being sold as a food item.  I thought the serpent was already dead until the vendor, seeing that I was photographing its partially concealed body, took out the whole wriggly creature from the bag and started waving its head in front of my camera.   Despite the brief eye contact with the live snake, I survived it but I was quite sure that it didn’t survive its buyer’s cooking pot later that day.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Being surrounded by water and very close to the mighty Fly River; fresh water fish are abundant

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

At 10 kina (around $5), this poor thing, I was afraid, was going to end up a turtle stew dinner for some family

The cassowary, a huge, flightless bird, is also being hunted as a meat source in Western Province. I have seen some smoke-dried cassowary parts being sold in the market during my previous visits but I always waited for a chance to see fresh cassowary meat on display.  During this visit, I got so engrossed in one section of the market such that, by the time got to the meat section, all the parts of the fresh cassowary on display have been sold out.  At least I found two ladies selling freshly butchered wild pig with its head still in tact.  That was not as exotic as the cassowary but it will do for the meantime.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

It also seems that bananas and peanuts are available all year round

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Aside from sweet potatoes, this lady sells mature coconuts (brown round items). Most locals prefer vegetables and meat being flavored with coconut milk.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Young coconuts, which offer tender meat and the refreshing coconut juice are also being sold at the market

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

This type of onions are not always available as they are not locally grown and have to be imported from somewhere else

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Root crops are a good source of carbohydrates…

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

.. and a perfect replacement for sago, the local staple food

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

On a busy day, these vendors may get their produce all sold out but, at other times, they have to pack up their goodies for the night, only to be displayed again the next day.

Perhaps it’s the child in me who keeps having itchy feet to go to local public markets,  the same child who never ceases to look at people’s lives and livelihood activities with wonderment.  And the same child in me played with these photos so  they would look like the images in his favorite storybook.   And, boy, was it fun!

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