Imagine that…

Archive for April, 2005

A Walk on the Wild Side.

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Imagine…a walk on the wild side.

No, I’m not talking about the Majuro New Year’s Block Party, how to walk the reef at low tide, nor any other island adventure! In fact, this blog isn’t about the Marshalls at all.

I took a break this weekend from the Yokwe Online website and headed to the great outdoors. A word for all the Marshallese who live in or come to visit Southern California. Forget about Disneyland unless you want to stand in line for an hour or more per ride. Instead, enjoy some close-up encounters with God’s creatures at Wild Animal Park, near San Diego. Join me now on the following photographic safari as I take a Walk on the Wild Side!

See my new PhotoBlog

Imagine that!

Written by Aenet Rowa

April 25th, 2005 at 2:30 am

Posted in General

Marshalls’ Very Own Travel Gate

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Imagine… Two weeks ago, the Marshall Islands’ Secretary of Finance was abruptly asked to step down. Secretary Saeko Shoniber had worked faithfully at the Ministry in a variety of capacities since 1987 and was Deputy Secretary at the time of her appointment to Secretary in 2001.

What was even more startling was that Secretary Saeko Shoniber was considered part of the “Majuro Miracle” — the revitalization of the “dysfunctional” Finance Office to a high level of accountability and production.

Just last August in President Note’s address to the Nitijela opening session, the first accomplishment mentioned was the success of “RMI’s initiative to reform its financial system.” and the best audits in Micronesia.

Since no reason for Secretary Shoniber removal has been given, many have spectulated it has to do with her ability to say “NO.

Could it be that this time it was because Secretary Shoniber said “YES” ?— Yes, to releasing the information to the Press under the transparency policy.

Imagine…The Miracle at Majuro becoming Marshall Islands’ Travel Gate. Back in January, Yokwe Online published an editorial, “The Road to Disaster”, which suggested that trips abroad by President Note have accumulated far too much air miles while there was disaster on the domestic front. The Marshall Islands Journal also printed the editorial and the issue gained wide notoriety.

Imagine…thousands of travel dollars revealed. One month later, for the first time in RMI history, the Finance Office released the names, agencies, destinations, dates, and amounts for travel expenses for December through January. The Marshall Islands Journal, published the finance data as a full page display, in its February 18 and March 4 editions. The Journal headlined it with “Who Went Where and Why?” and noted that the information’s release was “in line with the administration’s policy of transparency in government.”

It was in these lists, the extreme expenditures of some public officials and family members for accompanying travel, came to light.

Imagine…transparency on-hold. To follow up on the travel issue and to provide the information for our off-island citizens, Yokwe Online requested copies of the SAME DATA published in the Journal from the Finance Office. We were informed that the Secretary had stopped sending the travel information for the “time being.”

The information was already available and I had asked as a matter of courtesy, but it appeared that it was limited to ONLY some.

So on 3/20, thinking that perhaps the directive came from higher-ups, I contacted the President’s Office, but received no answer. On April 5, another email was sent. I finally received a response, but was informed that I had asked incorrectly for the information by asking if the President’s policy on transparency was “on-hold.”

Imagine…too much transparency. After putting together all the information, here is my conclusion.

Secretary Shoniber, released the information in line with the President’s transparency, but this was not what the Administration wanted. It was too much “transparency” for the Administration to handle.

Could it be that the Majuro Miracle has become the Marshalls’ Travel Gate?

Imagine that!

Although I never did receive the travel finance docs from the Government, here they are:
December Travel Finances
January Travel Finances

Written by Aenet Rowa

April 22nd, 2005 at 6:45 am

Posted in General

What would Jesus eat?

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Imagine… Marshallese are considered very religious and are known to have a very set ideas about the do’s and don’ts of a Godly person. To be in “good” with most of the Church society, DON’Ts include: smoking, drinking and fooling around, as these habits do not edify the body which is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Now, there is a new DO in Church circles. Do eat alot! When you have parties, don’t just have “cow and bao,” but lobster, shimp, sashimi, pork, etc. Also, don’t forget the potato salad, the cold-slaw salad, the fruit salad, along with traditional pumpkin, all piled on top of a heap of rice, with lukkor on the side.

We tend to be excessive when it comes to serving food at special occasions. It’s not just in church circles, but also in all areas of community life. Visitors at these occasions often report that
“they have never seen so much food!”

Anthropologists say this can traced back to the times of feast and famine in our ancestors atoll life. They learned to preserve foods and be without, and then in seasons of plenty, to eat well.

We once ate breadfruit, Pandanus, swamp taro, and arrowroot, which was called the famine food, but imported foods are the mainstay today.

Special occasions in the village life would call for celebration, and everyone would bring a basket and go home with a basket.

Unfortunately, now everyone goes home and eats just rice and something canned (jelele) for the rest of the month. Our children suffer the most from this rice obsession. While our bellies fill out with all the starch, our children’s bellies bloat with malnutrition.

Imagine…life without rice.

Even in the States, where healthier foods are available, the daily diet still centers around rice to the detriment of our health and future.

The dependence on rice which is pure carbohydrates, turning to gluclose (sugar), has cause much diabetes, heart disease, and death among our people. Why so much diabetes? Our lives are less active, we eat the wrong foods, and we our overweight.

According a nutritional study, 50% of Marshallese men over 18 y in the sample were overweight (29%) or obese (21%). We found similar rates of overweight in women (29%), and even higher rates of obesity (31%).

This is how bad it is. Today, if there is no rice, people will go hungry. Even if there was fruit on the trees, plenty of fish in the water, and store shelves are stocked with other foods, when there is no rice, people will consider it a famine.

So, I’d like to add one more DON’T to the list for Godly and Healthy Marshallese. The Church should add rice to its list of sinful things! Why not? Just like smoking and excessive drinking, eating a ton of rice is bad for you.

Along with Godly living, our pastors should preach healthy living for the body.

Save Yourself – Don’t Eat Rice!

Imagine that!

Written by Aenet Rowa

April 20th, 2005 at 7:46 am

Posted in General

It’s All in the Spam!

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Imagine…many years ago, a young Ebeye boy looked forward to Liberation Day Celebration. In those days, Ebeye Marshallese crossed the three miles of water to attend the celebration at the Kwajalein base with the Americans. While making the ferry crossing, the boy would crane his neck looking for the Kwaj water tower. As soon as it came into view, great excitement would fill his heart. Soon he would be riding the carnival attractions, viewing the historical photos of the invasion of Kwajalein, and cheering the American heroes!

Ebeye workers still ferry across to Kwajalein today, but much has changed. Those carnivals on Kwaj are gone, the visitor programs have been all but nullified, and even Marshallese employed on Kwaj sometimes feel unwelcome.

One thing that has not changed since I made those journeys long ago: Marshallese still welcome Americans with grace and liberality.

From the time of the WWII liberation, and the US occupation which inoculated the Marshalls with canned SPAM and westernized thinking, Marshallese have valued their relationship with the US and looked up to the Americans.

This is spite of the fact that America misused its oversight responsibility under the UN Trusteeship, to make the islands its nuclear testing ground and in doing so, made the Marshallese its guinea pigs. Hundreds of people were displaced and sent to strange islands, and thousands of their descendents still have not returned to their homelands.

Today, the US brags to the world about its premier missile base at Kwaj, while the local people live on nearby Ebeye, which some call the ghetto of the Pacific.

Imagine…any other country and its people allowing these things to occur in their homeland, and not fighting back against it.

Imagine…any other people not holding great bitterness and objections toward the presence of a foreign power who did this.

But that hasn’t occurred. Instead…

We signed the Compact of Free Association with the United States and its recent reauthorization, even when:
1) the agreement endeavors to seal-off any future compensation for the years of suffering and displacement due to nuclear testing.

2) the US encouraged the RMI to sign off for the US military operating rights (MOURA) to Kwaj, without negotiating with the landowners for a lease first.

3) the RMI must be scrutinized and threatened with monetary withdrawal of funding which are given, not in charity, but in exchange for use of land and for strategic and defense purposes.

At every turn, we support the United States in the international arena 100%. The Marshalls staunchly stood with the US at the United Nations time after time — sometimes the only one.

There are no radical environmentalists, nor anti-military movements, clashing daily with the US presence on Kwajalein or elsewhere in the Marshalls. On the whole, there is a peaceful and honorable relationship between the two countries.

Our particular relationship with America is not limited to the political field. Over the last twenty years, Marshallese, trusting that Americans are good, have relinquished hundreds, maybe thousands of babies into their care. No other country has had such a high percentage of out-adoptions.

This is why recent remarks made by a visiting US congressional staffer grabbed my attention as absurd.

“The US doesn’t want to be where it’s not wanted.”

(What is even more ironic is that Al Stayman made this statement following a visit to Rongelap, the island saturated by US nuclear testing fallout and still not resettled after 50 years.)

Imagine…saying that after all the Marshall Islands has put up with for the last fifty years under the American hand.

Why have Marshallese for several generations accepted Americans with open-arms and forgiving spirits?

It must be in that delicious, canned SPAM.

Imagine that.

Written by Aenet Rowa

April 17th, 2005 at 4:53 pm

Posted in General

You may say I’m a dreamer

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Listen (turn speakers on)

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No Hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for Today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too.
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.

Imagine no possessions,
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood/sisterhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as ONE.

by John Lenon

Imagine that.

Written by Aenet Rowa

April 14th, 2005 at 7:46 am

Posted in General

Help is on the way?

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In my previous sermon (hmm, I mean blog), I mentioned that I wished there had been other online Ebeye Fire coverage. The next day after the fire, YOKWE ONLINE broke the news with first-hand reporting and photos from readers’ on Ebeye. Since then, there has been no other online coverage — if the story was sent out to wire services from Majuro, no news agency carried it.

Imagine.. One of the most densely populated places in the world. Over 12,000 people on an islet 1 mile long and roughly 750 feet wide, of less than 80 acres. That’s one tenth of a square mile. Houses, wall to wall, many of just plywood construction. No fire truck. Rusted-out fire hydrants. Imagine what could have happened!

Finally today, Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat carried the audio report, “Houses burn for want of a hose,” — only 15 days after the event! Well, better late than never!

Pacific Beat interviewed Johnny Lemari, mayor of Ebeye. Although much of what was said is covered in our original report, there was some startling news. Lemari said there had been a meeting with the RMI Government’s First Secretary and Minister for Public Works.

“They understand the problem but we’ve been asking them to provide a fire truck for the island, because even though we seldom do have fire, when it’s struck it’s a big disaster, it’s a big problem,” he said. (Well, I guess so!)

“So they acknowledged that and in our meeting they say they’re going to bring in a fire truck as soon as possible and I expect it THIS WEEK and if not then NEXT WEEK. (I’ll believe that when I see it!)

My question is, if they can get it that quick, how come they couldn’t have had it before.” By the grace of God, that fire did not keep moving…right on down the line from Rock Town to Dump Town…and by the way…that’s the entire island.

Imagine that.

Written by Aenet Rowa

April 13th, 2005 at 3:54 am

Posted in General

The Power of Knowledge

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“For over 2,500 years the Marshallese people accrued an immense body of knowledge that allowed them to survive in an environment containing few natural resources. In the past, when Marshallese people and culture were more isolated, those who controlled this information kept it concealed because knowledge represented power.”(Changing Views, Cultural Survival)

While the previous article addresses traditional knowledge preservation, it also explains the difficulties with fair distribution of information in the Marshalls today.

A declaration by a Senator at last year’s Nitijela session does not then seem incongruous by Marshallese reasoning and culture. He complained, “Some people access government information and distort the truth to mislead people…something needs to be done to safeguard information so that not just anyone can access it.”

His comments would not seem far-fetched to a Marshallese traditionalist.

It explains why some so strongly object to the healthy, open discussion about government activities in our Yokwe Online Forums and to public questioning of actions and policies.

Marshalls is no longer isolated and separated by miles of Pacific Ocean from the rest of the world. We might be on the other side of the digital divide, but what happens in the Marshalls today can be on tonight’s news, or as in our case, on the front page of Yokwe Online in a matter of hours. (Of course that’s if the Marshalls Internet NTA connection isn’t down like it was for about 48 hours this past weekend.)

“The current position taken by government on dispensing information in understandable, particularly in view of traditional Pacific attitudes on information, but is counter-productive in a modern government. Other nations and the educated populace of the Micronesian nations themselves expect more.” (MICSEM)


In a weird turn of events, the releasing of information about a Marshallese soldier, injured in Iraq, has brought out questions of a different kind of “safety.” Some Yokwe Online readers were surprised that the soldier’s story was picked up and carried by — the premier Arab newspaper.

Yokwe Online news is “picked-up” by Google News, Pacific Islands Report, and other wire services/news agencies. Our original work is carried, without compensation I might add, via the Pacific News Service (PACNEWS) which circulates articles worldwide in its paid subscription service (which I might add, we do not receive); thus, the appearance of Yokwe Online articles in Radio Australia, Radio New Zealand, etc. Our material is often also reprinted, again without compensation, in the Marshall Islands Journal; and yes, I pay for my yearly MIJ subscription like everyone else.

The distribution of the injured soldier story needs to be clarified. It made its way to the world news arena via the international Agence France-Presse (AFP) wire. The story quoted the Yokwe Online news and filled it out, which the above-mentioned newspaper, as well as the Turkish Press, ABC’s Tok Pisin Service, and others, including Washington, D.C. DOI news, carried.

Not only did the news reach our intended audience of Marshallese families and friends, but a world-wide audience. This illustrates “power-holding” today. What happens locally, on-island or off, plays far and wide. In these times, knowledge cannot be held by just a few. The “power of the press” needs to be understood, not ignored, nor resisted.


Last but not least, it is sometimes annoying just what kind of Marshalls news does make its way out to the “big world.” For instance, I really didn’t need to know that “spokesman for the Marshall Islands President’s Office …laughed” at the idea of President Chen and his enourage camping out during his visit to the Marshalls and two other small island nations. (RNZI)

“He said President Chen will be staying at the 150-room Marshall Islands Resort during his two nights in Majuro from April 30th to May 2nd.”

You better believe it. The Marshall Islands Resort website made that clear to its “valued customers” in this release:

“Reservations will be closed due to a sell out situation from April 30 thru May 3rd, 2005. 100% of the hotel has been reserved during these dates. We will accept reservations again beginning May 4th. We thank our customers for their prior business, but we cannot make any exceptions for accommodations during this period.”

What the article didn’t say, was that Chen just might have to find some kind of special accommodations in Tuvalu and Kiribati since neither has hotels which have more than 20 rooms.

Back to news coverage of the Marshalls — Ebeye. What would have been more newsworthy was some more online coverage of the EBEYE FIRE — how 60-some people are now homeless and how a small island, crowded with 10,000 Marshallese, situated less than three miles from a multi-billion dollar US space facility, faced a wind-whipped fire with only a bucket brigade and back-hoe.

Imagine that.

Written by Aenet Rowa

April 11th, 2005 at 8:01 pm

Posted in General

Imagine that…

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Imagine …starting a website for Marshallese, and not knowing if you had enough material to post for a few weeks, let alone seven years…

Imagine…Marshallese, living outside of the Marshall Islands, being limited on contacting those back home. That’s how it was back then.

Imagine…knowing of only four or five Marshallese with access to the internet and trying to start a virtual community. That’s how it was back then.

Imagine…within several months, passed by word of mouth only, and with great desire to communicate, Marshallese from Guam to the US East Coast finding the website, and gathering nightly to chat and post messages for loved ones.

Imagine…searching the internet and finding hardly any news coming out from the Marshall Islands and very little information. That’s how it was back then.

Imagine…Marshall Islanders and friends having no place online to freely express their opinions and suggestions. That’s how it was back then.

Imagine…life without Yokwe Online. No, folks, this isn’t the end of that website or its purpose. But…

Imagine…something new in 2005. A Yokwe blog. My personal blog.

Imagine…all that I’ve been wanting to say, and more…

Imagine that!

Written by Aenet Rowa

April 10th, 2005 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Special