Thursday, December 18, 2008

$6.40 for a gallon of milk

(Disclaimer: This is the part of the blog where I (Susan) display my complete ignorance on the current state of affairs in my home country. I’ve been way out of touch for about 4 months, but when I left home, everyone was concerned with the rising cost of food items like milk. You were lucky to find milk for $3.50 per gallon back in August. I don’t really know the current price of milk in the U.S. I have heard that gas prices have decreased dramatically in my absence, so maybe milk is flowing freely now too.)

I guess one of the harder things for me to adjust to in Papua New Guinea is the fact that I’m living in a third-world country, and yet the cost of living is not as cheap as you would think. When I was in Indonesia in 2003, the exchange rate was about 9,000 rupiah to one U.S. dollar. This meant that I could take a public bus to anywhere in the city for about 9 cents. I paid the same price for an ice cream cone at MacDonald’s.

But here in Papua New Guinea, anything that is imported (which in this country is a LOT of things) is priced to reflect that. I was shocked to see that staples such as flour, sugar and oatmeal are significantly more expensive here than they are in the U.S. Yesterday, as Brian and I were eating our (imported) corn flakes and enjoying our (imported) boxed, UHT (ultra-heat-treated), long-life milk, I began to wonder how much it was costing us to have a typical American breakfast.

We buy milk in liters here, and I had to convert from kina to dollars, but I double checked my math and I came up with a price of $6.40 for a gallon of milk. Using powdered milk is about the same price as using boxed. Makes you think twice about making that Jell-O instant pudding, doesn’t it?

To be fair, other costs of living are a lot lower here. We pay less on rent, and since we don’t own a car (though Brian is trying to convince me that needs to change) we save on insurance and gasoline. There is also a wonderful market three mornings a week where the locals bring fresh produce to sell. You can buy beautiful tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, potatoes and even strawberries. Not to mention the fact that you can get things here for cheap that would be very pricey in the States (avocados, pineapples, papaya and passion fruit). The previous occupants of the house we are renting left a garden with pineapples, lettuce, pumpkin, bananas and some herbs. There’s even a lemon tree in the front yard! So really we’re quite fortunate. Our yard man cut a bunch of bananas off of one of our trees last week, and when I say “bunch” I mean a whole stalk with about 100 bananas on it. They all decided to ripen today at the same time, so now I am desperately trying to use them or give them away. Maybe Brian will have to have bananas tomorrow for breakfast instead of corn flakes and milk.


dahliaqueen said...

Glad to see the blog. We can get milk here on sale for 2 gallons for $5. Brian could always get you a cow or goat and then milk it every morning before he goes to work:-) mom

Dale and Kathy said...

We are happy you are blogging. Milk is about the same here as it is in Oregon. We could send you some but they frown on liquids in the mail. Powdered Milk is out too - something about white powder in the mail makes people nervous. Go figure! I like the idea of a goat, then you could make cheese and sell along with your extra bananas! Mom B

Brian and Susan said...

Actually, we learned that a family on center keeps cows, and so we've started having 2 liters of fresh whole milk delivered each week. It's cheaper and better. (And we don't have to milk the cow!)

Kyle said...

Do you guys eat cereal most days for breakfast or are you changing those eating habits too? I guess in addition to that cow or goat you could get a chicken and have some eggs too!

Shannon said...

Hi! I don't know how much your Corn Flakes are costing, but your story reminded me that I have a recipe for a great (relatively simple) granola recipe a woman I lived with in Africa made for her breakfasts. Sweet and hearty. She adjusted it to use local items and it was pretty tasty. And healthy! If you want to give it a try, let me know.

Brian and Susan said...

We did make granola to eat while we were living in the village. However by the time you buy all the ingredients here, it ends up being as expensive as buying boxed cereal. But we like granola. Send us the recipe and we'll try it!