Just recently I have come to realise just how important it is to record the stories of some of the adventures we have
had during our time as Bahá’ís. Time is slipping by and those memories, if not recorded,
will be very difficult to work out later on by historians of the future.
MY TRIP TO THE MARSHALL ISLANDS
(52 Radio Programs in a month)
Back in 2004, I was invited to go to the Marshall Islands to record 52 x 15 minute radio programs based entirely on the book The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh. The national Bahá’í governing body (An elected Institution) had compiled the 52 radio scripts, each of which included approx 6 Hidden Words for each programme, and they were topic related. The rest was up to me. What they required was a method to properly record and compile them. Each programme was on a theme. The virtues were chosen. e.g., Justice, Compassion, etc.
The recordings they had tried to make in the Marshall Islands were very difficult to create on a tape recorder. We tend to forget that recording with the old equipment was very difficult for a number of reasons. A person would start to read, make an error, then stop, rewind the tape, and then have to do it all again. Sometimes, by accident, they would overwrite the previous recordings of somebody else. I would imagine that would be very frustrating. At first I suggested that they send someone to New Zealand to live with us to learn how to create the programs so they could take that knowledge back to the islands, but this was not to be the case. Instead, they invited me to come to the Islands and record each person in English and in Marshallese. Not knowing the language would slow me down somewhat, it was a wonderful opportunity to serve the Faith in some small way. I left New Zealand on a cold winter’s day in August 2004.
The Marshall Islands:
To give you some information about where I went, I gathered and edited the following information from Wikipedia, as my memory is not as good as it was back then. There are 29 atolls (each made up of many islets) and 5 islands, which can be divided into two island chains, Ralik Chain and Ratak Chain. Along with other Pacific Islands, the Marshall Islands were then consolidated into the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands governed by the United States. Self-government was achieved in 1979, and full sovereignty in 1986, under a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
This island group consists of over a thousand flat coral islands with white sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons. They are situated between Fiji and Japan.
On My Way:
I traveled firstly to Fiji, where I stayed overnight, the change in temperature was very noticeable. I went from 8°C (46.4°F) to 31°C (87.8°F) in Fiji, and I remember getting on the plane and all of my pores opening up, and boy did I perspire. (Men sweat, ladies perspire eh?) I slept fitfully while I listened to the frogs outside and saw geckos up close and kinda personal in the hallway to my motel room. A very early start the following morning I boarded a plane to my destination, Majuro. All I had seen from the plane on the way to Fiji was vast ocean. I was going to be in for a wonderful surprise after take off. The back 10 seats on either side of the small plane was loaded with boxes piled one on top of the other and tied down in a cargo net. I found out later that these were supplies for one of the outer islands.
Oh the gorgeous views
These, as I was too soon discover, were truly magnificent Islands, beckoning visitors with all the promise of a tropical paradise. My view of many islands from the air after leaving Fiji, proved that. However, I was not there as a tourist but given a missionary status on a temporary 31 day visa. I would have no time at all for sightseeing.
Picnic on the Beach
On my arrival in Majuro, I was taken to a picnic underneath the trees near the National Bahá’í Office on the largest and main Island of The Republic of Marshall Islands. The picnic area was very close to the lagoon and even the shade was hot. The whole time I was there the temperature never changed.
The National Baha’i Office
The building was a two-story building close to the Lagoon. (Plans were in the making for a new building and may have been built by now). It was a very small place and it was situated close to the airport.
I was quite concerned about eating food that I was not accustomed to, having been warned to only eat what I prepared for myself, but at the invitation of the Friends, I ate a spoonful of the raw fish which was in some kind of sauce included with some breadfruit. That turned out to be the worst thing I could have done. I became very ill that evening and for the next 10 days I had a stomach bug and ended up vomiting, along with other associated problems. I had to fight to keep working on the project from day one. Talk about being tested, but like all things hard to do, I remembered the book written by Mr. Faizi about the passing of The Beloved Guardian, and the story of Magellan and the statement, “Carry on, go forward!” paraphrasing as I cannot find the book to quote it.
On my arrival:
I was very tired, and the conditions under which I stayed were made bearable with a cooling unit in the motel room that they put me up in, although the first morning I awoke frozen after having slept with the cold air wafting over me all night. I brought my computer to the islands, along with CDs full of Baha’i songs and music, microphones, cords and empty CDs. The Bahá’ís of Majuro had purchased a brand new computer which I was able to use as well.
Well, the weather was amazing. From clear blue sky to raining many times a day leaving puddles in the street (there was only one street). I was amazed that the puddles would dry up in such a short amount of time. The biggest problem for me, apart from my illness, was the heat and I just did not become acclimatized to it while there.
The National Council had asked me to record all of the Hidden Words during my stay and were expecting me to record everybody, take all the recordings back to New Zealand and make the programs for them. Working with radio since 1999, I had enough experience under my belt to know just how long it takes to make a radio program. The programs that we were making were 2 hours long in New Zealand at that time, so I was quite confident that I could not only record all the programs but complete them while I was there. as long as nothing went wrong. My first job was to put together a sample of how it would go together, which I accomplished in the first week. (Sick as a dog)
On the first night, I went to my motel room and I could hear someone singing along with a guitar. I went out onto the porch and, lo and behold, there was a group of children sitting below my deck singing beautifully. I stood there for a long time listening. At the end of the last song someone said, “Allah’u’Abhá!”. “Oh my goodness me!” I leaned over and saw the children chattering away to themselves in their native language. I couldn’t help myself, I said “Hello how are you!” and asked, “Are you members of the Baha’i Faith?” “Yes!” someone replied in English. I asked if there were many Bahá’ís in the area and they said, “Yes!” that nearly every home in this area was a Bahá’í home and that there were about 500 believers.
I realized that I would have to go in search of Voices to record. At that stage, I didn’t have the programs and did not know the format. The secretary gave me 6 of the projected programmes and I started work. I stayed in my motel room much of the time, and just put my back into it, so to speak. I did have the opportunity to attend a Feast at the home of Irene Taafaki, the wonderful soul who had instigated this project. She and her dear husband lived opposite the motel. The warmth of these Island people was amazing, the joy they bestowed on me was heavenly.
After a total 7 days of no recording, suddenly everything started working. As difficult as it had been to get people to start recording for me, we were now ripping through the Hidden Words. I was excited to be able to attend a cluster meeting and hear all the conversations going on. The women made an amazing crown for my head out of the beautiful flowers they had collected and put it on my head at the end of the cluster meeting. Quite an emotional trip this was turning out to be.
Baha’is were dropping in to start recording all day long. We recorded in both English and Marshallese. These generous souls were giving their time and effort to the Blessed Beauty. Thank God I was almost at the end of my illness. Now it was full on, day by day until all 153 Hidden Words had been recorded. I fell in love with these absolutely beautiful people.
All I had to do was choose the music, and set up and record all of the introductions, in both languages, and finalize the programs and write the CD’s. You can watch a couple of samples of the radio programs on my YouTube channel here.
On the last night of my adventure, they put on a farewell party for me. As far as they were concerned, I had recorded all of the Hidden Words and they were being taken back to New Zealand to be created as radio programs. I finished the CDs and boxed them and tied them up with a ribbon and still had 15 minutes till the party began. You see, as each program was finished, developed, and placed onto a CD and by the time the 31 days were up, the last program was completed. I could hardly wait to see their beautiful faces upon receiving them.
And what a farewell party that was. In addition to the Chairperson and Secretary of The National Spiritual Assembly of The Marshall Islands, a number of other people spoke in Marshallese which I didn’t understand fully. I was given a seat in the middle of the room, and slowly the friends got up and came and pinned their gifts on me. Some necklaces were put around my neck, and other items were pinned to my dress. Some of the most extraordinary artwork from their country including small bouquets of flowers were gifted to me, even Island dresses were given to me by one handmaiden of Bahá. They each hugged me as they said their farewells. I was so overwhelmed with their love.
When it came time for me to present to them what they had achieved, I commented about their hospitality. love and willingness to serve Bahá’u’lláh along with a number of other things that I now cannot remember. I gave a gift from the Hamilton Baha’i community which was a beautiful blue and green glass koru for the National Baha’i office and presented to the Secretary the box of the programs for a year.
I was truly overwhelmed by the love that they showed me and I was so excited about having completed the work that I had set out to do. Tears were shed by me, and by many of the friends that evening.
I was to fly home the next day. One of the gifts that I received from one from the friends was 3 Birds created out of woven flax from the coconut tree I believe. The large bird was to ensure that I was safely returned to my home. The two baby birds were given to me to bring me back to the Marshall Islands in the future.
Oh how I wish I could go back there. I left my heart there amongst the friends in my newly found family.