Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sometimes, good fortune comes with inconvenience

A Friend of Tembari Children

FOR EVERY good fortune, there would sometimes be a counterpart inconvenience. And for such inconvenience, would there be a way out of it?

When Fabian Chow, manager of Lae Biscuits branch at Gerehu, informed me that his company will be donating flour to the Tembari children, I was just thinking of a few bags, which could tide The Center over during days when our children’s food stock would be running low.

But no. Mr Chow said on the phone the Tembari Children Care Center (TCC) will be getting two pallets of flour in 25kg bags – for a total of 40 bags, equivalent to one ton.

And Lae Biscuits won’t deliver. I have to pick the goodies myself, within seven days. Or else, I forfeit the donation.

What to do? I cannot load them in my 20-year-old 323 Mazda station wagon and transport the whole batch to The Center some 30 minutes away.

My new-found friend in the person of Trevor Lyall, a Kiwi working at a building project of the Holiday Inn in Port Moresby, offered to pick the flour up and haul it off to The Center at ATS Oro Settlement, at 7-Mile on the other side of the Jackson international airport.

At Lae Biscuit’s Gerehu warehouse, the Filipino warehouse assistant showed me the flour donation – in two pallets.

“That’s two tons … 80 bags in all (of 25k),” he told me.

“Two tons…? I thought it was only one ton ….?”

No, he said. “Two tons in all …”

“Do you have somebody to help you load them up into your truck?” he asked.

“What do you mean …? You mean we can’t take the flour in their pallets?”

I asked him that because if we were to take the goods in their pallets, loading them into Trevor’s mini-truck would be easy. And the warehouse forklift could easily lift and ease them into our mini-truck in matter of a few minutes.

But this was not to happen.

The warehouse man said we could not take the pallet with us because they are also needed at the warehouse for other packed goods.

Well, for those not familiar with pallets, they are a flat transport structure that supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by a forklift, pallet jack, front loader or other jacking device.

So, for almost an hour, I, Trevor and the Papua New Guinean who works as his assistant at the hotel project, and who also doubled as our bodyguard, sweated it out transferring the flour from the forklift into the truck’s open bed.

Arriving at The Center some 30 minutes later, I had another problem: Where to store the 80 bags of flour.

The truth is that The Center is actually made up of two classrooms fashioned out from two junk container vans. Called the community learning centers, or CLCs, they were donated to The Center by Digicel Foundation for use by our 45 preschoolers, who are orphans, neglected and abandoned children.

However, one of the CLCs actually was converted into “office” and storage room for some of our properties and foodstuff donations.

Wagi, the volunteer-caretaker, said the entire flour stock could be accommodated inside the CLC, to sit side by side with other stuffs.

Soon after half of the flour was moved inside the CLC, almost half of the space had already been occupied, leaving just a small room to serve as passage way in getting in and out of the container.

Then, while the goods were being worked, guess who arrived at The Center?

No-one but Marina van der Vlies, chief executive of Digicel Foundation, who was pleasantly surprised to see me (we last saw each other last December at a Digicel Foundation Christmas party for the city’s unfortunate children).

Surprised to see Trevor’s mini-truck parked right in front of the CLC, Marina asked what was going on.

I immediately tried to beat her into it. I said: “Well, I hope you won’t be upset to see these bags of flour inside the CLC … they are messing up the whole place …”

“Yeah … I know … you got no other place to store this stuff … and it’s messing up the classroom …”

And I could only utter “yeah …”

Then, she said: “I think I should send you another container to serve as your storage for your food supplies and other things.”

Marina, by the way, dropped by to see the progress of a daylong workshop on livelihood skill training program being held at the Tembari Center for certain parents at the settlement. To be held one day at a time in 14 other CLCs in settlement areas around Port Moresby, the training program is being sponsored by Digicel Foundation.

Then, I have another “inconvenience” arising from a windfall of this flour donation: how to make use of this huge raw material.

I knew how poor Papua New Guinean families use flour for their daily meals – they make a soft mass of it by mixing it with water and little salt. Then they fry it in deep oil. That’s all. No fun-fare like what I used to do with flour at home.

I knew this because long time ago, I used to supply a poor Papua New Guinean family friend with a 10kg bag of flour every 10 days.

And the mother of the family would just mix the flour with water and little salt until she produced a soft mass. Then, she would fry it in deep, hot oil. Her family consumed it with a tea at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Now, with two tons of flour material at their disposals, I really don’t know how our seven volunteer-mothers would handle this food resource.

May be they would be frying it everyday like my friend-family did with the flour that I gave them, and serve it for the children’s noontime snacks with cordial?

I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t work with the kids, who could go tired eating the same thing day in day out.

So I have a plan: I will teach our volunteer mothers with at least four flour recipes that I used to do on weekends when I was just a new migrant here in Port Moresby. I did this to beat my boredom of living alone.

I could teach them how to do pancakes (or hotcakes), steamed flour cake Filipino style (“puto”), Filipino-style doughnut and simple bread baked with yeast (pandesal).

Well, introducing these new recipes to them has also a counterpart “inconvenience”. But I won’t tell you about it, lest you think I am a cry baby.

What I would have to do is plan it very well. For all you know, I would be cooking flour recipes for 97 children and this is no joke!

For instance: How long would it take you to cook pancakes for all the 97 children – one pancake at a time?

Answer: Cooking a piece for three minutes each, it could take you more than four hours.

Inconvenient? Perhaps.

The 80 bags of whole meal flour are being unloaded and moved into the CLC for storage. Kiwi guy Trevor Lyall is shown on the right as he gets off his mini-truck.

Bags of flour (25kg) are being arranged inside the container.

Marina van der Vlies, Digicel Foundation chief executive and Trevor Lyall, planning supervisor at New Zealand-based construction firm Canam Construction pose for a picture.

Trevor Lyall with the Tembari kids.

Blogger APH (left) with Marina, Trevor and a local guy pose for a picture in front of the CLCs.

Children waving goodbye to Trevor and company who are driving out of The Center’s premises to go back to the city.

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