Peanut Butter Joy

medications times;”>By Brynne Betz


At the Market in New Guinea

link times;”>It was a resupply visit. To Tari. We were Peace Corps Volunteers. And hungry for familiar foods in one of the most remote areas of the world. Women sat cross-legged on the ground with small squares of cloth in front of them displaying their freshly unearthed peanuts, their passion fruit and avocado, their bananas and tobacco leaves. Other women stood beside large vats of grease stirring their dough balls until just right, piping hot, dripping with old fashioned delicious fat. Mouths muttered speech I couldn’t understand, flat bed diesel trucks grumbled noisily by, and native high-pitched laughter found its way into almost every gap. It wasn’t a bright, sparkling place. Nor was it particularly beautiful. But it was unlike anything I had ever known and gave my mind reason after reason to race with fascinated curiosity.

“I can’t wait for the peanut butter,” I said to a fellow ex-pat, my mouth already watering.
“Check before you buy!” she chuckled out at me.
“Check what?” I called after her. She turned and smiled. “The peanut butter. They swipe.”
I tucked her words away with a bit of wonder, and walked on…

The store I walked toward had a tin roof, fancy for these parts and always filled with the fanciest foods. Boxed cheese, tinned meats, canned margarine, things you couldn’t even buy in the US but were considered delicacies here. I could hardly wait. But the peanut butter? They swipe it?

I placed a few boxes of cheese in my basket because they were near the door and headed down the aisle toward the peanut butter. A Huli Wigman lingered a few steps ahead, his back to me, standing right where I wanted to be. In front of the peanut butter. I breathed in his scent. Whoa. Nothing like it. The Wigmen rub their bodies with pig fat to make them shine…and that was only the beginning. Pungent but not rancid, intense in a way so rare I had no choice but to grow a sly smile. He turned toward me with his own sly smile. And just like that, he walked his bare feet away.

I looked up at the shelf. At the peanut butter. They all looked the same. Crunchy or creamy with red or blue lids. I reached for the red lid and when I did, I noticed it was a little loose. Check before you buy! So I did. I opened it. And when I did, I realized what that sly smiling Huli Wigman was doing with my beloved peanut butter. He was swiping!

* * *

going-green-peanut-butter-ssThere are an infinite number of ways to let a peanut butter swiping Huli Wigman affect you. Two are most obvious to me. The first is anger and disgust that anyone dare do such a thing without first paying and that’s not even addressing the finger cleanliness thing. Gulp. If I would’ve taken that route I think it’s fair to say my day would have been ruined. How many times had I overlooked finger swipes? What exactly lived in my past jars of peanut butter, and how much of the ugly bits now lived in my dear belly? Gag. But you must know me well enough by now, oh don’t you dear reader? I don’t like ruined days and I certainly don’t like ugly thoughts so I chose a different interpretation of the aforementioned peanut butter swiping.

It made me laugh.

I chose to interpret the Wigman’s action as innocent and daring and I imagined that one swipe making his belly happier than it had been all week.

But still, I bought a different jar.

* * *

Choose joy. If a peanut butter swiping Huli Wigman can bring laughter to a hungry-for-home American girl in the middle of the rainforest in Papua New Guinea, perhaps joy can be found in every situation in any place in the world.

Maybe we just have to be conscious enough to choose it.

Brynne Betz

Brynne Betz


Brynne Betz is a lover of the sea, of soft eyes, gentle hearts and the wonder in life that escapes even the best of us. She is trained as a transpersonal psychologist and would love to hear from you. Please visit her website at or send her an email at [email protected]

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