Rites of Passage Weekend (Markham Ball and Salamua)

Had a huge weekend with another one coming.

Saturday night was the 50th Markham Ball. Quite a story here. The Morobe Agricultural Show (next weekend) used to have a Spring Ball as its gala night until about twelve years ago when it all got a bit much and the organizing committee decided to make things easier by not organizing another one. Job done.

This year, new blood in town (i.e. our friend Caroline Pelgen) has decided to get it happening again, to give the town a lift. This time it was very sensibly held on Saturday night the week before the show, so the massive hangover and the heat of the show did not coincide.

We bought tickets (150 dollars a pop) and got to sit on Caroline’s table which was one of the best of the night. I hope we didn’t gain a reputation as party poopers because we left early, at 11, and everyone was set to go to 4.

Every table of 15 had:  a bottle of Johnnie Red, a litre of Gin, three bottles of rum and a bottle of vodka, as well as twelve bottles of wine and lots of canned beer. There was also tap beer at the bar as well as complimentary champagne on arrival.

Anyway the brass band was out of tune, and the dance music was terrible (60/40 by a band with an overconfident and under talented vocalist, and the cheesiest keyboard sounds in the world). It was very hot in the disguised tin shed, the fans didn’t work, everyone got hopelessly drunk and staggered around taking endless blurry photographs of themselves in their finery, which had mostly been purchased in a mad rush on the second hand stores in the week prior. My suit cost about six dollars. The tie has the Commonwealth Bank logo on it.

Our official ball photographs have not arrived yet (!) but I’ll put up a few sometime, maybe…

Anyway it was weird, and fun, and gave us a good insight into this town, all its family businesses, its short but rather lively history. There were speeches by guys called Bill and Quinny and a budgie-like character named Blondie, about what it was like back in the seventies, the eighties, when this place was basically like part of Queensland with less tax and fewer laws. You sensed that tonight, the 50th, was supposed to be about a continuation of all, a handover of the traditions of Lae to the new guard. Problem was, a lot of the younger people didn’t get it, and talked all the way through the speeches, didn’t know the dances. Awkward and surreal.

Like I said, we left at 11. We had a big day the following day…

Salamua is an idyllic peninsula, part-way down the Huon Gulf across the water from Lae, about an hour. Lots of the long-term expats own holiday houses here, and also, boats to get there. Anyone who is anyone in the Yacht Club set has been to Salamua. Some of the kids in Erin’s class talk about it like they practically live there. It was made pretty clear to us when we arrived that if we hung round and played our cards right, we’d get an invite, a day on the water, out of Lae. Salamua fast became a rite of passage, socially. Could we get in with the old-timers, without being seem to be trying too hard?

We got one, after three months. Wynand and Krista are Afrikaaners, they live in our compound. He works for Coca Cola, she stays Mum.  They’ve been here eight years. Coca Cola own a boat and a house on Salamua. He asked us to join them and their crew for the day. We accepted, and made a mental note not to discuss politics. Luckily, Australia were playing South Africa in the Rugby that same day so we had a lot to talk about there, and can also talk diving, and security, a good fall back position of other conversation runs dry. They’re all right.We won the Rugby too.

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Notes: I did not catch any fish but two yellow-fin were caught. Maybe next time for us. Wynand looks dark as the winning penalty goal goes over the bars. Erin is good at posing for photos but if you want a good shot of Cody you have to catch him unawares.

So, three months on, we’re feeling like were in, not just settled but actually in with some people. Don’t know how we did this, other than by being quiet and minding our own business, but that seems to play pretty well over here. No-one’s threatened we’re going to take their business, that’s for sure…


2 thoughts on “Rites of Passage Weekend (Markham Ball and Salamua)

  1. claire kleinig says:

    People keep asking if you’re settled. Sounds as if you are. I thought the photo of Erin could have been Lou. We have a similar one of her up a tree!

    verysad to hear about the plane crash. Our sympathies with all involved and you as you meet these folk.


  2. yes we’re settled in pretty well. ongoing stuff like car maintenance, etc is cropping up but the actual settling in phase is done.

    the plane crash victims were all png nationals. Louise thought one of her office staff was involved but it turns out not to be.

    I’ll post again after the weekend. It’s the show. Great fun apparently but also raskol activity increases, so we will take it very easy…

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