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The queen of lime sticks & lime pots

 PNG lime pots and lime sticks  Auckland museum
Papua New Guinean lime pots and lime sticks in the Auckland Museum

| Duresi’s Odyssey

AUCKLAND - A few weeks ago, during the school holidays, my daughter and I visited the Auckland Museum, spending a great deal of time in the Pacific section.

A couple of the artefacts brought back childhood memories – including the gourds for putting lime in and the special lime sticks (spatulas) for dipping into the lime to add to the crushed betel nut and mustard.

The acidic lime, combined with the betel nut and mustard, and the continuous chewing action, results in the mixture turning red.

My paternal grandma was the queen of betel nut chewing and she owned some ‘cool’ lime pots and lime sticks.

I would sit next to her, watching fascinated as she chewed the betel nut.

Seeing us watching her she would become showy. She’d tap her lime stick with exaggerated hand gestures and continuously poke her tongue out to see if the betel nut mixture was the right consistency.

Then she’d crack up, laughing at our little faces peering with curiosity.

Lime pots and lime sticks from Papua New Guinea at the Auckland museumEach person had their own lime sticks and lime pots. I don’t remember seeing people at home sharing lime sticks or lime, unlike today when most people don’t use lime sticks and lime pots, especially in the urban areas of Papua New Guinea, preferring  a communal lime bottle.

Come to think of it, dipping mustard into one shared lime bottle by different people, especially at roadside markets, is a likely way of transmitting diseases like tuberculosis through saliva droplets in the end of the mustard into the lime. That’s my theory anyway.

My grandmother and her generation knew how and when to chew betel nut. They cared for the environment (no disgusting spittle everywhere) and owning their chewing gear limited exposure to potential diseases from shared paraphernalia.

In the Museum I had to take photos, all the while recounting my childhood memories to my child and explaining how the lime pots and lime sticks were used.

This made me miss my grandma and felt a little homesick. Wherever she is in the stars, I hope she taps that lime stick and lime pot with style, smiling that big smile while poking her tongue out to check the consistency of her buai (PNG Tok Pisin for betel nut).

Remembering Joyce Vera Angoro Snr – Queen of lime pots and lime sticks. Miss you much!


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