Telling my Pacific story

The 16 participants in the Pacific Media Institute-sponsored workshop, Telling Your Pacific Story, after the June 24 wrap up of the two-week program. With them are PMI directors Giff Johnson, standing left, and Daniel Kramer, standing right. The workshop was supported by Australia’s PACMAS program, CMI, USP, the US Embassy and the ROC?Taiwan Embassy. Photo: Chewy Lin.

A group of 16 — a combination of people working in non-government media and students — participated in a two-week media training in Majuro called “Telling Your Pacific Story.”

It featured the involvement of experienced media professionals — Floyd Takeuchi and Dr. Ann Auman — from Hawaii — and Corinne Podger — from Australia who appeared through the Zoom platform, working with the group that met at the College of the Marshall Islands.

The workshop covered big picture issues for journalists: Core values of journalism —accuracy and truth, independence, impartiality, humanity and accountability; ethics and conflicts of interest; understanding fake news and sources; and having a conversation with your audience.

From the big picture, the workshop zeroed in on writing skills, teaching participants how to write a four-paragraph story and haiku. This was a precursor to each of the participants writing their Pacific story in 300 words. Stories ranged from the experience of a young Marshallese moving to Majuro after being born and raised in the US and a grandmother’s personal experience with the Bravo hydrogen bomb to an intriguing mother-daughter relationship and a real-life experience with climate change. These are just some of the creative and compelling stories that came out of the workshop.

In addition to writing the stories, the participants recorded their stories.
At the June 24 conclusion to the workshop, a selection of the voice recordings were played so everyone could hear the different Pacific stories.

The training, which was organized and sponsored by the Pacific Media Institute, was supported by Australia’s Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS), the College of the Marshall Islands, the University of the South Pacific, the US Embassy and the ROC/Taiwan Embassy.

The Journal is publishing a selection of the Pacific stories from the workshop this week and in future editions.

JEREMY MYAZOE

I’m Jeremy Myazoe, and this is my Pacific Story.
Born and raised in the US, my family decided to moved back to the RMI back in ’93. My emotions were running high. My first ever trip to the Marshalls was the previous summer. My only focus was meeting up with cousins to whom I was introduced to during my first visit. I wasn’t sure I could adapt to island life.

The first week on Majuro was spent visiting relatives. I kept asking my cousins what schools they attended. I wanted to know if I would have familiar faces around me when I started school.

I enrolled the following week. Of course, it was a school that almost all of my cousins did not attend. But I had heard that it was one of the schools to go to.

The first day was nerve-wrecking. I knew only one person. He was a cousin. We met the year before when he came to the states for a vacation.

During recess, all the boys in my class gathered around to get to know the “new kid.”
One of them asked, “What are your parents’ names?” After telling him their names he replied, “I know them. You and I are cousins.”

One of the other boys replied, “Those are my relatives, I’m also your cousin.”
Then another, “We’re cousins too!”
That’s when I knew I was home.

I’m Jeremy Myazoe, and that’s my Pacific Story.

LITA FLOOD

I’m Lita Flood, and this is my Pacific Story.
The Marshallese people are known for holding the most lavish birthday parties or kemem for one-year-olds. Immediate families, other relatives, friends, co-workers, and anyone who is acquainted with the family will be invited to partake in the celebration. It is a well-known tradition and a sense of pride for the Marshallese when a child reaches the age of one.

I saw this tradition in action when I traveled to Wotje for a week. The first day on my arrival, I was invited to a kemem that was to be held on a Tuesday evening. Prior to the evening of the kemem, the whole community was involved, lending a hand in preparation for the upcoming celebration. Tuesday evening came. As I arrived at the party venue, I was in awe of the large fiesta that was meant to feed everyone in the community. Names of each family in the village were marked on their “share” of the food.

During the Kemem, songs from the live band filled the large hut. Groups of performers took turns dancing, entertaining the guests. The grandmother and mother of the birthday child adorned the performers with gifts. Laughter from the crowd echoed through the room. In the very front was the little one-year-old, with a newly sewn blue aloha print outfit that matches his parents. Everyone is here to celebrate his life.

It was a happy occasion. It was created by the hands of many to celebrate one child. To experience it, you feel the love, joy, and the generosity of the people. You can’t help but smile as you walk home with plates and trays of take outs, and stories to retell years after.

I’m Lita Flood, and that’s my Pacific Story.

WILMER JOEL

I’m Wilmer Joel, and this is my Pacific Story.

My grandparents told me Marshallese legends that would always involve the importance of the ocean. The legends told of the origin of fishing, the first canoe sail, underwater creatures assisting the hero on their quests, and how islands were pulled from the sea. The ocean was always there for our ancestors when they were hungry and wanted to venture to different islands. The ocean did not hurt our people.

So I grew up believing the ocean was my friend. As a little boy I loved to look out to the ocean watching my uncle and my cousins go fishing.

This was in the 2010s where no seawall was erected or built for our village in Jenrok. It’s also called Demon town because our village was next to a graveyard. Our family still lives in a double deck house with a boulder seawall facing the backroad.

I was sleeping safe and sound one night until mother woke me up with six words that will haunt my life till to this day: “Son our house has been flooded!” Water crashed into our home. It went right over the seawall.
That night we evacuated to one of the rooms at College of the Marshall Islands nearby satellite campus. We stayed there until the ocean waves diminished.

It was at that moment that I asked myself why the ocean after being a friend to the Marshallese people for millennia chose now to turn its back on us.

It was only when I learned about Climate Change did it I understand that mankind destroyed the friendship it had with the ocean by poisoning the planet with unnecessary human activities.
I’m Wilmer Joel, and that’s my Pacific Story.

SAMUEL BARTON

I’m Samuel J. Barton, and this is my Pacific Story.

Growing up, I was bullied by my peers as well as other people. As a result, I had no confidence whatsoever. The reason why I was mistreated was due to my weight, which exceeded my ideal weight range. When I became an adult, I decided to change myself for the better.

In the summer of 2020, I began exercising at the gym and eating healthy meals on a daily basis. These included chicken, brown rice, and vegetables. In addition, I ate just three light meals a day. I began seeing myself differently in the mirror. The feeling was new as if I was a whole different person. As the months passed, I was quickly losing a significant amount of weight whilst gaining confidence in the process.

However, despite all the hard work, I overheard others conversing about how I used drugs to lose weight, specifically crystal meth. They believed that because of how fast I lost all the weight. The rumor, spreading faster than the NTA’s internet connection, just fueled my determination to lose body fat while gaining muscle mass and confidence in the process.

After losing all the weight, my life began to change. Not only do I look good, but I feel good. I no longer have to worry about what to wear. Furthermore, I eat less and exercise more. One thing I do not regret doing is giving up because my friends would let me down. Moral of the story is that no one in this world can change you because change starts with you.

I am Samuel Barton – and this is my Pacific Story.

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