New Ireland Day Festival
 Kavieng, Papua New Guinea

The waters off of Kavieng are renowned for pristine reefs, pelagics, and WW2 wreckage. Despite my stolen wallet, I splurged on the chance to scuba dive. Wowed by the alien world of colourful coral, strange creatures, clouds of fish, Nemos (clownfish) hiding in anemones; large creatures like tuna, Spanish mackerel, sharks, and rays; and getting a thrill out of swimming through tight caves and crevasses, I opted for a second day. The shaky videos and photos in variable water clarity don’t do the experience justice: I can’t tell a blurry reef shark from a WWII torpedo.

I’m joined by a middle-aged Australian man who didn’t show up the previous day because he was too hungover to dive. Owing to his many visits in the past to dive sites nearer to town, we’ve headed an hour out west, weaving through shallow turquoise waters. He hangs up the phone after talking to either a business associate or secretary.

“Just booked three flights home for about A$3500 in case any of them don’t work out. The airlines are so unreliable here. Gotta make sure I can get back to work.”
— “What do you do?”
“I’m a geologist out in Milne Bay. Been living out here for over 20 years, after the divorce.”
— “Do you think you’ll be here for good?”
“I’ve moved all around the world for work opportunities – Asia, Africa, Europe – but I decided to come back to PNG. I’ll never move back to Australia. I tried once. It’s too… regulated. Too safe. Too many handrails. And Aussies are insufferable.”
— “As opposed to this country where things like scheduled flights don’t run? You haven’t had many good things to say.”
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