Walking back into Lae Airport a guy approaches asks if I am Paiawara Man, I reply yes, he asks for a photo and before you know it everyone is getting involved. One of the receivers of the photo proclaims that I am known by “everyone in Papua New Guinea”. This of course raises a few questions, namely how did I become Paiawara Man and indeed WTF is Paiawara Man?
Paiawara = firewater
Papua New Guinea speak a language known as Tok Pisin, which was formerly a creole/pidgin language used for people in the Pacific Islands to talk to each other. Over time it slowly took over as not only the lingua franca of PNG, but also as the language of the people.
Nowadays it is the most widely understood and indeed spoken tongue in PNG, which makes it now a league rather than a pidgin. Most of the words come from English origin (with some outliers) and it can be understood by English speakers if you listen really hard.
It also has its own writing system and indeed music, the later of which we will cover later. In Tok Pisin Paia is fire and wara is water, so paia wara means firewater. Following so far?
My involvement with Paia Wara
I like to get moonshine wherever I go, but it tends to be inlaces where booze is hard to get, such as Iran, or Sudan for example. Booze is not at all hard to come by in Papua New Guinea, with there being a lot of good PNG drinks, such as SP beer. The problem though is that the beer, much like everything else here is really expensive. People here are also largely farmers, so they got fruit.
The inventive duly came up with home-brew Papua New Guinea firewater that was not only a fraction of the price, but also string as hell.
I first discovered this back in 2022 when I was attending the Mount Hagen Festival. Beer had been banned due to the election of the time and I your humble narrator also need liquor rather than beer. The idea was thrown to me to try Paiawara, which was 10 Kina ($3) for a 25ml bottle, rather than the same price for a beer (if you could get it).
WE all got drunk on it at the village, as well as singing and dancing to the song called “paiya wara” (another spelling variant. Being new to TikTok at the time I did not share any videos other than on YouTube
This though was not to be the last time In Papua New Guinea, nor at the Paia Wara Village….
Becoming Paia Wara Man
So, on my return to PNG in August of 2023 I had a rather thirsty bunch traveling with me and on our return to the village some Papua New Guineas firewater was purchased. We drank it and I made a TikTok video with Tata the village chief and proud owner of 17 wives.
This went somewhat viral and we were to continue drinking and taking videos throughout our trip around PNG, which included going to Bougainville. During this time more and more people not only started to recognize me, but also comment and reach out about me and our groups. Apparently very few “white man”, a generic term for all foreigners had embraced the country and its experiences as much as me. Initially a compliment…..
Come the end of said trip I was to be mugged at knife point, but I remained positive and did video saying essentially it was what it was. This got me more kudos and the views continued even as I was at home in Cambodia.
Paiawara man returns
September would involve me returning for the Goroka festival, although very much with a different group, one where I was drinking far less. Despite this though I managed to score some of the local firewater and make videos.
By the end of the trip I was literally being recognized everywhere I went and being stopped for photos, something I was happy to “indulge” my fans with.
This has made me not big headed, but simply appreciative of the good people of PNG and how they have welcomed me into their country. Mots comments I get are positive, although some do point out out that it is illegal and that I might get arrested.
My answer to this is two fold, firstly the videos show me drinking what looks exactly like water and secondly I am still waiting for the police to see me since I was robbed at knife point, so simply getting to see them when I am here would be ace……..
So, that is what got me here today proudly wearing the hats of both The Street Food Guy and Paiawara Man!
You can see my about page here (link to TSFG), as well as my TikTok here.