A few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised by what the internet critters dragged across the pages of my Facebook page. It made me smile and filled my heart with pride.
The FB entry was that of a two-man Chuukese local news team that broadcasts online — in the Chuukese language — from Salem, Ore.
The anchor, Salem local resident Jimris Handrew, is a vibrant entrepreneurial young man. He reports Salem news to his fellow Micronesians, who do not fully understand English.
This young man’s beautiful efforts made me smile even more. He obviously did not have a training in professional broadcasting but he saw an obvious information gap and thus made it his mission to fill it. He saw the problem and brought the solution. That’s the Chuukese way.
As I scrolled down to look at posts and listen to the local news in Chuukese in Salem, I couldn’t help but think about how people from my nation, the Federated States of Micronesia, have come a long way fighting discrimination.
I realized we have slowly risen from huge piles of negativity thrown at us over the years. But we continue to move forward and even thrive as we assimilate into the surroundings and learn languages around us.
I recalled fondly a story about a Chuukese lady at a Pay-Less Supermarkets outlet on Guam. She assured me this was not a joke, but a true story representing the resilience of Micronesians, wherever they may be.
She needed to buy a chicken for her family. Before she left her home, she asked one of her school-age kids: Ifa iten chuko non Merika [What is the name of chicken in English]?
She continued repeating “chicken” as she drove to the store. But when she entered the store, she got distracted and quickly forgot the name of the item she was there to buy. A store attendant later found her in the dairy section aisle, looking dazed as she was trying to remember the word.
“May I help you?” he asked her.
Looking over the pile of cartons of eggs, she pointed to the eggs and asked the store attendant, “Where, the mother?”
The attendant smiled and nodded. “Chicken!”
Some may come up with other methods to communicate their messages across barriers. But one thing is clear: we, Micronesians, have assimilated into our host communities. We’ve become more and more confident in our own skins to show what we can do and what we can offer, like this young man in Oregon, who is carving out a niche for himself as an online journalist in his community. This makes me even more proud to be a Chuukese and an FSM citizen.
We have been hated, discriminated against and marginalized in our “new” communities across the nation (still are today, perhaps), including Guam and Hawaii, both of which take pride in their “hospitality.”
So, let me just leave things at that.
Micronesians are a very resilient people. Continue to watch. You will see it in our people. You will see it in our islands. You will also see it in our actions.
More importantly, you will see it in our young people today. Handrew, the self-made newsman, is just one of these young people.
There are many others in our local communities that I have listened to and am proud of, such as Patrick Pedrus (Pohnpei), who hosts the Micronesian Podcast Within; Victorious Falan (Yap), who hosts KUAM’s One Micronesia podcast; and a few young people out of Hawaii, including Russel Thoulag (Yap) and Otis “Sammy” Aisek (Chuuk), who are co-founders of The Fourth Branch Micronesia media.
Just a few years ago, we were learning many things in our newfound communities. Today, we are finally standing up. And working alongside members of our own respective communities making them just a tad better places than when we found them.
Besides, we have always – all of us— been Oceanians, seafaring people with incredible resilience and fortitude to bounce back over and over and over.
We have to be!
Alex J. Rhowuniong is a longtime journalist on Guam. He writes for various publications. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, visit his website: www.rhowuniong.com.