We’re glad we decided to come to Madang and spend some time on building materials purchasing. Our plan was to do it just before we started building, as a last thing to do before we build sort of thing. The helicopter being delayed caused us to pull it to the front of our schedule as it’s a task we can do with no chopper. Now we’ve spent almost 2 weeks on; and we’re really glad we didn’t leave it till the last minute!
Buying building materials takes AGES! Part of that is our own inexperience. None of us have managed a construction project before; or thought about an entire house’s plumbing needs; or anything else for that matter. We’ve managed to cobble together a list but is it all we need? Is the thing I just got a quote for something that was on my list? I need something to join PVC pipes together is that a join, coupling, union or collar; or something else? What do we call it in Britain, what do Americans call it and what’s it called here in PNG?
So we spent a few days getting quotes and familiarising ourselves with what we needed. The rest of the time though has been dealing with hardware stores here; and we can only sigh deeply when we think about it.

“You need 15mm plywood? We have that- it’s all in stock right here!”
“Why does our order say 3/4 of it is interior and 1/4 is economy plywood? Why are the prices different?”
“It’s the same, it’s the same! You want 79 sheets of 15mm plywood- we can deliver it first thing tomorrow morning.”

Like a big baker’s rack full of drying plywood sheets

And at little the next day a truck turns up and delivers plywood… but we send back 1/3 of it because it’s cracked, delaminating and truly beaten up. Plus they don’t give us an invoice (which we need because we’re paying with mission purchase orders). So the next day it’s back to the store to talk to them. “Can we have an invoice?” “Sure! Let me go do that.” and an hour later they let us know – sorry no invoices today… someone’s sick, or something’s broken or a list of other excuses, but it’s definitely not their fault!

Every sheet gets some TLC

We ordered 15mm plywood and varnish as a priority as we were going to be preparing the sheets to become floors in our tribal house. Each sheet needs 2 coats of varnish both sides and we’ve spent all week varnishing plywood for 2 houses. In the meantime we’re waiting for the hardware store to deliver the rest of our order and so far half of one order has arrived; no word on the rest and some won’t be coming anytime soon as it needs to come from another town. It’s taking much longer than expected! We try to balance our drive to get things done and achieve goals with the reality that putting in an order at a PNG hardware store is a full day’s work, and then taking delivery of that order may prove to be a few weeks work.
We have had a big order delivered consisting of roofing iron, sinks, a solar hot water heater, plumbing fittings, light switches and other bits come in though. It’s been satisfying to weigh and inventory everything before putting it away in our storage container. Do you know how much your kitchen sink weighs? If you’re building a house in the bush and a helicopter has to drop it off that’s required knowledge, so all the weights are going into a spreadsheet and we’re going to work on a plan of what comes when. If the chopper can take 450kg at a time, and only has a certain internal volume and we need to figure out what order builders want things to arrive in and where we can store it – it becomes a fun logistical puzzle to work on.

5 days of this so far…

At least with the plywood we’re able to work to our own schedule now it’s here. We’re now at the end of day 5 of varnishing, one more day to go! I’m looking forward to a break 🙂 It’s been a fun team effort though involving building a giant baker’s rack to hold the sheets as we paint them in batches and they dry. Once they’re dry it’s hard to resist the urge to walk all over them to ‘test’ our new floor. Now the sheets are ready to get slung under a helicopter, dropped in the tribe and nailed to floor joists – instant floor.
Speaking of helicopters NTM’s just got fixed, yay! But no flights for us as they clear their backlog; and it will still go down for it’s scheduled maintainance in July. No Kovol flights until August is the conclusion.
We’re a litte dissapointed, but it does give us time to finish gathering our building supplies – and with the speed it’s going I think we’ll need the extra time!

For the first time in our married life we own a house 🙂
Well we at least own the floor and water tank of a house right now!


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