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.
at 3:16 PM