Saturday, July 12, 2008

Babylon Tower Systems

And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech

Let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

Come we chant down babylon one more time - Robert Nesta Marley

And it came to pass i found myself in Fiji building cell phone towers for a chinese company lookin to give vodaphone a run for it's money in the pacific.

Fiji is a strange place. Geograhically it is pretty much in a direct line north from NZ so it keeps the same timezone. But temporally its like a land time forgot. A curious colonial experiment of indentured foreign labour force meets primitive savage society in a land to reap profit from benefit of extraordinary climate conditions.

The place itself is a collection of over 300 islands clustered around a couple of big ones, Vanua Levu and Viti Levu. The islands themselves being little more than the tops of huge mountain peaks thrusting out of the ocean. It is a place where rapid tectonic shifts and catastrophism can easily be justified as causes of creation. And fuck is it lush !!!

Some places are paradise on earth. Others are hell. Suva, the capital was a bit hellish with all the charm of a cheap hooker. The worst excesses of western consumerism is in your face constantly. Over priced malls, cheap backstreet bootleg sweatshop rip off brands and hot of the press dvds barely in the cinemas are sold on the footpath and never has it been easier to get weed by being a foreign visitor with dreads. Within 5 minutes of hitting the streets I got sold a crappy pair of carved wooden fijian knives and a tinny for 50 bucks. Man...did they see me coming or what ? But what the hell, they probably needed it more than me, to keep up the semblance of western identity or maybe just to get by cos there aint much money trickling down to the common folk these days and if it werent for the indian business owners who have stuck it out for 3 coups in the last 20 yrs the place could easily be a Zimbabwe of the pacific.

In the bush it's even worse if you measure by western standards. If however in classic island time you see things as always having been, settled into the tides of life as dictated by the sea and air and rain, then all is as it should be. And all things shall come to pass before starting over again.

As a pasifikan. I felt proud and honoured to be working in and for my Fijian brothers. I liked the idea of hooking those niggasup cos Vodaphone with its monopoly was charging whatever they liked for user fees so Digicel, a chinese rival was builidng networks to compete in the cell phone market all over the pacific, having previously established networks in Papua/New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga. They are still looking to create networks in the Solomons, Vanuatu and Timor.

That means constructing 30, 45 and 60 metre towers around the islands and mounting antennae and aerials with which to bounce signals about. Cue a ragtag bunch of riggers and climbers led by Martyn, the livewire pommy bulldog type to get erecting steel lattice towers so that once again we may all speak the same language. Dave the diminutive but knowledgable Coromandelite and Mike the vego treehugger from Christchurch completed our team along with Callum the aging climbing rockstar running the ground crew for us.

Originally servicing a 3 month contract, which if completed would have gotten me into trim shape and turned me the golden honey roast chicken tan i tend to go after long exposure to the sun:),I was, with extreme trepidation, excitedly looking forward to it, but sadly our time got cut short. Love of money being the root of all evil eventually getting the better of our bosses in NZ and our Digicel masters in Fiji meant coming home early after only 4 weeks.

But oh what 4 weeks. I got sunburnt, pissed, stoned, sick, sore, tired, hurt, amused, and angered pretty much every other day, but ulitmately was disappointed we had to leave in the end. Hopefully we'll be back or off for another mission in the future. Timor sounds interesting but scary as fuck.

It was hard being away from home and family but it seemed like a journey of rediscovery for me. I actually felt connected to Fiji, through the pe'a from which it made its way forth to Samoa and through the little known Lapita culture that sprang forth the polynesian mystics to the later cannibals who ravaged and reigned as the last wave of settlers in the sth pacifics.

I should probably go on more about the tatau legend and the mysterious Lapita people and especially the later cannibal history all of which is fascinating or even some of the awesome people i met and worked with in Fiji but...meh maybe later

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