photos from fiji by christopher robbins

2002: April, May June, July, August, September, October, December.
2003: January, March, April, May, June, July, August, September-1, September-2, October, November, December.
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OCTOBER ’03
click any thumbnail to see it bigger

NAURU
10A white Noddy Bird in Nauru (we only caught the black ones)
11Storefront in Nauru (10 years ago their per-capita was comparable to the US; now their bank doesn’t even have money. Seriously. I had to bring in every dollar I would need, as I couldn’t change any there. Hence the decay.
12-13Staff and Students at the University of the South PAcific Nauru Centre
14They’ve got fuel shortages too!
15-16Every morning the Aiwo neighborhood (where I stayed) would be coated in a fine white mist of phosphate as they processed what remains.
17-22Japanese guns from World War Two that I found on one of my jogs. I see where The Empire Strikes Back Imoerial war-hoozies were inspired.
23-26The pinnacles left over in the phosphate mines, from the old, overgrown teeth of ten years ago, to the chalky white 10% still being dug today.
28-29Pretty much all the restaurants are Chinese in Nauru. It was so hot I ended up going to the same one every day. When the electricity was working they served sashimi in coconut milk, which was DE-lish!
30Fire Dance at the Nauru Youth Cultural Competition, 2003
31A Japanese bunker silhouetted against the shore.
32A living example of how Nauru was formed. Originally, it was a bunch of coral underwater. This coral can be seen around the coast nowadays in its pointy pinnacles. By the time the Coral Atoll rose above sea level, it had filled in with lots of phosphate and was coverd in a layer of topsoil, making flat, arable land. Then the humans dug it all back to how it was like a million years ago or something.
33Nauru kids
 
SAMOA
35An Audio conference over USPNet at the University of the South Pacific Campus in Alafua, Samoa
36-39Apia, the capital city of Samoa
40-56Savaii, the Big Island, though the less populated of Samoa's two major islands. I took the ferry over to check out the new sub-centre USP is building there, and stayed in a village with a Peace Corps Volunteer
40Open walled Fale
45-48A hike up to a waterfall with aqua blue water, and then on to a Polynesian ‘Pyramid’
47The ‘Pyramid’ itself. I am probably damned by several Polynesian Gods for taking its photo, and you are as well for looking at it.
48I met batman on the hike up
49Speed Kills, quite graphically
50-51We passed Alyssa’s travel guitar around and each played a lick while waiting for the last bus to Tuifaga to leave. I felt very hippy-traveler like, with just my guitar, a toothbrush and a pair of togs. Alyssa would have liked that moment as the sun went down and we sang together.
52-54The family of the Peace Corps Volunteer I stayed with.
56A lone outrigger on the way back from Savaii to Upolu.
 
THE SOLOMON ISLANDS
57-60Even the sign painting looked African in the Solomon Islands
61-62Sculptures at the USP centre in ther Solomon Islands
64That’s not blood; it’s betel nut. It tastes very bitter, makes your mouth turn orange, and the buzz is like coffee, except cleaner, less static-y
65-66RAMSI notices: ‘RAMSI is in the Solomon Islands because your regional neighbours want to help its friend with the law and order problems, and have answered the request from the Solomon Islands government for support… RAMSI will be in the Solomon Islands for as long as it takes to re-establish a secure environment, long enoughg that all people feel safe in their homes and in the streets. RAMSI will go home when Solomon Islands is once again a beautiful, peaceful land, living in harmony with both its peoples and its region.’
67One Solomon Dollar, featuring Nguzuguzu. I adore that figure, fell in love with it in this textbook, but couldn’t find just the right kind in the Solomons, so instead I bought these two very sad-looking white guys from Malaita Province. I like them alot too.
69Me jogging
72-73Burning Baby
74Students at USP, Solomon Islands
76Taiwan is trying to dump all this ‘organic’ toxic waste in the Solmons: ‘NO TOXIC WASTE TAIWAN SUCK MY MADAFUCKING DECK’
77-78Some cool Aboroginal (Australia) figures I found in a book in the USP Solomon Islands library
79-82Either Kiribati or Marshall Islands from above, on my way to Nauru (oops, we’ve slipped back in time!) That is where I go next.
83-88More rusting stuff in Nauru
 
THE MONTH IN SUMMARY
September 03 was a month of marriage and honeymoon, and October was a hurly-burly race ’round the Pacific as part of this research and development project. With literally one night in Suva between my Honeymoon in Italy and my trip to the phosphate-mined island of Nauru, I caught up bigtime, pulling an allnighter with Luke and Owen. An hour before departing for the airport, I realised that I was about to get on an airplane teeming drunk and have to face the Centre Director, so I wolfed down all of Owen’s chicken. He returned the favor by killing all my plants!

Nauru is the most forsaken place I have seen in my life. Harder than desert towns in Niger, I went to the fruit store and they had eggplant and onions, imported. Years of phosphate mining have left 4/5 of the country an expanse of toothy pinnacles of stone. The people were real nice, and the jogging was fun, uncovering Japanese WWII guns and assorted rusting hulks of rubbish in the tangled bush. And I even went Noddy Bird hunting, where you play recordings of bird song so the birds swoop down, and then you catch them in your net, shake them by the legs until they puke (so you don’t have to eat that stuff), and then, gently, bite down on their skinny little necks until you hear the vertebrae crackle. very musky tasting. I caught one! (my piping plover-studying mum may shudder)

From hot parched Nauru, I had a bizarre night amidst bikini-clad honeymooners in Nadi, and then off to Samoa, a lush paradise. Apia is like Suva should be: no bars on the windows, snorkeling ten minutes from the city center, and nicely situated around a harbor. I met a bunch of Peace Corps Volunteers, and even got to sleep in the Samoan village of one of them. I also hooked up with a local outrigger canoe team.

Then a few days back home before I headed off to the Solomon Islands, which felt alot like Africa. Wide spaces, dusty streets, and black people carrying stuff on their heads. Due to recent unrest, RAMSI was in full effect, a regional police force of Australia, Fiji, and PNG brought in to keep order. This plus the red puddles of betel nut spit made for an unsettling appearance over a very relaxed and pleasant populace. And when they hit on girls it is sure a lot of fun to watch. Persistence and lack of tact make for good people-watching.

I am writing this during my week back in Suva before I head off for Kiribati and the Marshall Islands, to be featured in next month’s installment.

All photos © Christopher Robbins. me if you want to use these for something, as I also have high-res versions, and more.

photos from fiji by christopher robbins