SQUIZ THE WORLD (1400 × 700px)

Squiz the World goes to … Marshall Islands


Navigation stick charts: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/pacific-apah/micronesia-apah/v/navigation-chart-marshall-islands
A day in the life of Arno Atoll: https://www.abc.net.au/ra/pacific/people/arno.htm
Marshallese chukuchuk riceballs: https://www.internationalcuisine.com/marshallese-chukuchuk/

Each week, we give the world globe a spin, and see where we land. Then we take the kids of Australia on an audio excursion to visit that country and its people.

I’m Amanda Bower, and today on Squiz the World we’re visiting the Marshall Islands, a country of only 58,000 people.

That’s about the population of Wagga Wagga, in New South Wales! The Marshall Islands are also one of the least-visited countries in the world… but that’s about to change, with direct flights from Australia having just started!

So strap yourselves into the Squiz Kids Super Fast Supersonic Jetliner as we take off and take a squiz at the Marshall Islands.

The Marshall Islands are near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, between Australia and Hawaii. The country is made up of 1,156 individual islands and islets—a word for a very little island. Of all the territory that makes up the Republic of the Marshall Islands, 98% is water! That’s a higher proportion than any other country in the world.

Because of all that water and all those different islands, Marshallese people are some of the best sailors and navigators in the world. For thousands of years, they have made navigational charts, or maps, out of sticks, coconut fronds, fibre, and cowrie shells. The charts don’t just show sailors where the islands are, but also what kind of ocean swells and currents flow around them.

Map-making methods were passed down from father to son, and the Marshallese only stopped using these methods of navigating after World War II, when electronic navigation devices were introduced. Still, if the GPS fails, they have something to fall back on! Check your episode notes for some cool links to the stick charts.

The Marshall Islands also contain the world’s biggest shark sanctuary—meaning that shark fishing is banned over 2 million square km of ocean. There are also about 300 species of fish, and four different kinds of turtles. If you like scuba diving, the Marshall Islands are a great place to visit!

Whenever you travel, it’s important to learn a few words in that country’s language. It’s a great way to show respect. So, let’s….

In the Marshall Islands there are two official languages: Marshallese and English. English, because the islands were under American control after World War II, and the American dollar is still legal currency in the islands.

Now, we tried hard to find a Squiz Kid who speaks Marshallese, but so far, no luck. If you do, let us know and we’ll edit this podcast to include you! In the meantime, though, you’ll have to make do with me trying to teach you a few things.

Here’s how you say hello: Iokwe, which means “love.” Isn’t that a beautiful way to greet someone, with love? Give it a try. Iokwe.

And here’s how you say thank you: Kommool. Your turn: Kommool.

Now that we can communicate a teensy bit, it’s….

More than half the population lives on the island of Majuro, which also contains the capital. But in the outer islands, many people live on about $1 a day. The Arno Atoll community, for example, shares a couple of phones and cars, and they have no electricity or hot water. But they sure have amazing beaches! Check your episode notes for a “”day in the life”” of Arno Atoll, from ABC Radio Australia.

In those outer islands, school looks very different to what we’re used to. Most students have no text books, and there are frequent power outages or no power at all. Many of the outer island schools hold classes outside, and teach kids through song. School is compulsory and free until year 8; then, students take an exam to get into high school. If they pass, high school is free. If they don’t, it costs… and many kids can’t afford to go.

There are three high schools in Majuro, but if you live on the outer islands, you’ll need to go to one of two public boarding schools, and live separately from your family during term time… just like some Aussie kids do if their family lives in a remote part of the country.

Now I’m going to bet that EVERY kid in the Marshall Islands learns about one specific event in their country’s history. And it’s all about bikinis. What? Bikinis? Stay with me, I’ll explain…

There’s a group of islands called the Bikini Atoll—the name comes from the Marshallese name for them, Pikinni. Back when the islands were under United States control, the US conducted 23 nuclear tests there after the second world war. As in, America exploded 23 nuclear bombs in the Marshall islands, AFTER they had dropped the two nuclear bombs on Japan to end the war with them. The testing lasted until 1958.

What about the Marshallese people who were living on the islands, you ask? Well, they moved away before the tests were done, but in 1970, about 100 people moved back to their home islands, after being told it was safe to do so. Ten years later, scientists found dangerously high levels of radioactivity – which comes from nuclear bombs, among other things – in those people’s bodies and water supply, and everyone was re-evacuated. They are still fighting for compensation from the American government.

So what does nuclear testing on the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands have to do with swimwear? Well, the French designer who invented the skimpy two-piece swimsuit first released it in July 1946, only four days after the first bomb was tested. He said he hoped the revealing new cossie would create an “explosive commercial and cultural reaction”, so he called it … the bikini.

And he got what he wished for… When the swimsuit arrived in the United States, some states banned it for being too revealing and provocative. So there you have it.

Would you look at the time… we’d better wash our hands and get ready for…

Perhaps not surprisingly for a country made up mostly of water, the Marshallese eat a lot of fish! Okay, “a lot” is not very precise… let me be more specific. The Marshallese eat 100kg of fish per person each year on average. Fishing is a common activity on the islands, and there are 50 various phrases and words in the Marshallese language devoted to fishing techniques.

The national dish is barramundi cod, wrapped and steamed in banana leaves, and it’s often served with something called chukuchuk. Chukuchuk are coconut rice balls. You need only two ingredients for them – I’ll leave that up to you to figure out… they’re coconut rice balls, it’s not that hard – and there’s a recipe for them in your episode notes. Tuck in!

This is the part of the podcast where you get to test how well you’ve been listening.

Question 1. The Marshall Islands has the world’s largest sanctuary for what marine animal?
Question 2. We said that residents of Arno Atoll shared two pieces of modern technology between them. What were they?
Question 3. For thousands of years, Marshallese sailors have made objects out of sticks, shells and coconuts to do what?