My first trip was sponsored by the federal government through the United States Peace Corps, but my latest excursion to the bush as the rain forest is known in PNG was self-sponsored.
As I flew and flew and flew to reach PNG, I told myself that I needed lots of $50 moments, $100 afternoons, and $200 days to pay for my 30-day trip.
Iıd like to share a few highlights.
Best Airport Layover: Jacksons International Airport, Port Moresby, where two former students came and met my plane in order to see me for an hour and a half before I caught my next flight.
Best Bus Stand Greeting: At my next stop in Madang, where another current university student met me at the town market and stayed with me for ten minutes as I waited to change buses.
Most Enthusiastic Greeting: A toss-up. Leading contenders are a hug from behind while outside a bank in Wewak, a full-on sprint at the airport in Aitape, and the yipping and hooting of Clement at St. Ignatius Secondary School.
Best Group Hug: By a two-dozen strong mob of girls after arriving at my old high school in Lumi. As a shout went up, they peered out from their dormitory and then rushed down the road to embrace and envelop me.
Saddest Hello: Gilbert and I both cried upon seeing each other, and soon everyone else had tears in their eyes, too.
Longest Walk: To Moule, who dropped out of school two years ago. He walked two days from his village to come and see me. We had less than two hours together because he had to start for home again the next morning.
Best Flight: The plane skirting the tree tops and the clouds hovering on the mountain peaks makes the bush flights to and from Lumi breathtakingly beautiful.
Best View: Seeing Lumi airstrip and high school from a mountain village above it reveals them as solitary outposts in the vast lush green jungle of Papua New Guinea.
Best Laugh: Never underestimate the unfettered joy Niuginians can derive from a simple game. This happens in places where a deck of playing cards is a much-sought-after luxury.
Lasting Memories: Another toss-up, between the uncontrollable sobbing at Lumi, the frantic waving in Vanimo, and the friendship and gratitude that met me at every stop.
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