Watercress economics & the nostalgia of home | By Nickson Piakal

There are big sacrifices that we make, which we most often feel the pinch of the experience that comes with it.

Pictures by Nickson Piakal

The other day I picked up a bunch of watercress from the local grocery supermarket. It was going for $3 AUD, Sydney price. The single bunch could fit neatly into the palm of my hand.

It drew a chuckle from me. Where I come from I would be trampling on these measly bunch. I would never count them worthy of my plate even.

There is this entire river that springs out from the side of the mountain. Icy cold it is. An entire farm of watercress lives on this water. Perennial and all organic. Pu’up Keres, we call it.

If I wanted watercress on my plate, I would get a bigger bunch of thick and succulent watercress for FREE!

However, for the sake of discussion, I’d say $3 (or PNG K10) could give me roughly three square metres of an entire watercress patch to harvest.

On such days, nostalgia kicks in.

A part of me momentarily wanders to those cool climes. The carefree life of dirt, gardens and calloused hands. Where the smell of smoke from wood fire signals rest, warmth, conversations over the fireplace, and a delicious serving of earthen baked sweet potato. With the receding light of day, the cicadas reach a crescendo as they pick up the chorus of dusk.  To usher in even colder nights. Crisp quite except for the night sounds. Then every so often the very faint sound of radio music wafts in with the breeze from the neighbour’s shortwave transistor radio from across the creek, crackling and hissing, battling with static. No TV. No worries.

So what is the moral behind this story so far?

Everything in life comes with a certain worth associated with it. We place values on them, and that value – or our perception of it, is most often the key determinant for all the decisions that we make in our life. Thus follows the reasoning that our lives are the total sum of all our choices.

What about the choices that we passed up? How would they have benefited us? Would we have progressed? Or would we have regressed? True economists would refer to this as the opportunity cost.

This then begs the question of  how exactly does one truly measure and quantify the opportunity cost of quality of life?

To better understand this in laymen’s perspective, I will use a term more easily understood. Sacrifice. There are big sacrifices that we make, which we most often feel the pinch of the experience that comes with it. Often it is endured for the greater glory or comfort that awaits us in the foreseeable future. We actually label these as indeed, ‘sacrifices’.

Then there are those little sacrifices that we make, almost unconsciously when we are following the progression of life’s journeys. Go to school, take up a trade, get a job, find a wife or husband, make a home, have some kids, settle down, and the story goes on.

At the time when you took up that choice, you would have never dreamt that one day you would see the benefits of that alternative choice as a ‘sacrifice’. It was the negative alternative that you, by every means had to avoid. Or so we thought. Dropping out of school to farm the land, for instance. No way!


Years later down the road, something as insignificant as a bunch of watercress can show you that there is value in every choice that you make. Even the option deemed as the ‘negative alternative’ ultimately has value.

Indeed life is the total sum of all your choices.

Whether you are living in happiness or in misery is also a matter of choice. You choose.

If you choose happiness today, then when nostalgia next bumps into you in the shopping aisle, or wherever it may be for you, chances are you will be left smiling.

You can go to Nickson’s blog here. 

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