Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Good Morning, Micronesia!

Mike here, with another report from The Island.

A common thread in most fictional, stranded-on-an-island stories is the need to keep your morale up by staying active and occupied. Whether it’s the Robinson Family building their elaborate tree houses and racing ostriches, Tom Hanks conversing with Volleyball Wilson, or Hurley and the ‘Lost’ gang playing rounds of golf in between visits from the smoke monster, they all need to be doing something fun while waiting for their eventual rescue. While there is no rescue for us here on Yap (and little chance of constructing a homemade raft to float away on), I’ve found that having a few extra-curricular activities really does help pass the time.

To that end, about two months ago, I decided to volunteer as a news reader at the biggest, most popular (read: the only) radio station on island: KUTE 88.1 FM (and it’s corresponding AM channel, V6AI). 

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I got the idea one day while listening to the daily news report, and noticed how the local anchors would say the word “fiscal”  as “physical”, for a somewhat different meaning. After hearing about the “physical year” one too many times, I thought, “This can’t be too hard. Why don’t I give it a try?” As it turned out, I was in the right place at the right time. Since my job required me to have regular contact with the government agency that manages the radio station, I learned that there was vacant position. A couple of phone calls later I was the new news reader.

So now, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5:00 p.m., I’m the voice of all the news that’s fit to be heard on Yap. It goes a little like this: About an hour before the broadcast, I’ll receive a news bulletin from the Media Division, featuring local news from around the island, as well as reports from across the FSM and the Pacific region. Since most of the articles are either from government press releases or newspaper articles, I usually skim through it a few times, and make grammatical changes and other edits to improve readability. I try to proof-read the reports as best I can, but considering that I’m just a volunteer, sometimes the finished product can still read a little awkwardly. Of course, I can use the excuse that I only read the news, DSCN1137I don’t write it. After work, I head over to the radio station.  It’s convenient, considering the station is a two minute walk from home. The recording booth itself is about the size of a large closet, and is crammed with recording equipment, a computer, and a microphone. That’s about it. Here’s a picture of one of the Media Division employees, queuing up songs for the playlist in the studio.  For days when I’m reading the news, the first broadcast goes out live, but it’s also recorded (with any of my verbal stumbling edited out) and replayed several times throughout the day.

I’ve learned that reading the news is more difficult than it sounds. This came as a surprise, since it’s just speaking the words written on a page. Easy, right? Problem #1: Yapese and Pacific Island names generally are very hard to pronounce. Having heard every possible variation of an easily mispronounced name like my own, I try my best to not butcher the Yapese names too badly. That, and these are the people I live with after all! I’m certain I don’t always succeed, but at least I make the effort. Problem #2: The names of cities and countries in and around the Pacific can be a nightmare. One example, is the little island nation of the Republic of Kiribati, which is actually pronounced “key-ree-bass”. Who knew? Another example, while I’m sure it’s a nice place to live (in fact, it’s one of 2010’s top twenty Most Livable Cities), I nevertheless have a hard time saying the name of Japan’s most populous city on Kyushu Island with a straight face. I mean, really, who wouldn’t chuckle just a little bit when the report includes at least a dozen mentions of “Fukuoaka, Japan”? Say it slowly, or say it fast, it still sounds like an expletive to me.

On particularly rough days, some news bulletins coincidentally consist of little more than compounding Problem #1 with Problem #2 by having whole paragraphs full of people’s names and the places they’re from. I look at those pages, and laugh, thinking someone in the Media Division must be playing a joke on me. To say the least, it can be tongue-twisting at times!

Nevertheless, while I have neither the aptitude for nor interest in a career in broadcasting, it’s still pretty fun. Occasionally, I’ll even be asked by random people I meet around town whether I’m “that guy from the radio”. It’s a nice bit of recognition, so long as it’s not someone telling me I mispronounced their name! At least I could report that everyone should get a physical exam every fiscal year.

If anyone in the States’ is interested in listening to my melodious voice rambling on about Pacific Island issues, feel free to tune in. The radio station broadcasts a live Internet feed at the following location: mms://yap-radio.telecom.fm/v6ai

So, as I sign off all my news bulletins, have a safe… and happy day!

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