House Hunters in Majuro

September 9, 2014

  I adore watching HGTV.  It's pretty much the only channel I watch when we're in the US. I love all the shows on it and it took me a little while to figure out why I enjoyed something so formulaic, where every show was practically the same.  It came to me recently that those reasons, it's sameness and lack of surprises, were some of the reason I enjoyed it.  I also like that they always end happy.  Someone gets a new house, or a remodeled house, and their life feels remade new because of it. It's a new start.
  But I digress.  Did you see the episode that aired recently for House Hunters Internationals in Majuro (an "idyllic island home!" )?  We watched it with our Roi friends Josh and Stephanie and it was wild to see my two worlds mesh: the TV show that I adore (that encapsulates so many modern American values) in a place that I know so well.  I was wary before we watched it, and suspicious from the time I heard the title.  If you've been to Majuro, you know it's not that idyllic.  It's a long, skinny island that houses most of the country's population.  It's very crowded and there's a housing shortage.  Yes, some of it could be called idyllic but not where most people live.  The places that qualify for the appellation of "idyllic" are out past the airport, away from the population centers of Rita, Uliga, and Delap, where there are few jobs and schools (which is why so few people live out there).  And the house that are out past the airport are all occupied, and probably over occupied by most western standard, because of the tendency towards large families in the Marshalls. 
  So I was critical from the start, and while I enjoyed the show, it raised a lot of questions for me, mostly about the man who was featured in it.  He did find his "idyllic" home, in a small bungalow that he shared with another person.  It was 30 minutes from town on a scooter.  Why would a someone whose job it is to study and record the culture choose to live so far from the people he's supposed to study (and for those of you who haven't been to Majuro, 30 minutes by scooter is very far from where everyone else lives).  By living so far out, he removed himself from the culture he was supposed to be learning about.  You could argue back that maybe he would want a break from the foreignness that he was immersed in every day and that would be a valid rebuttal, but it doesn't negate the point.
  The show raised a few other questions for me:
 -how did this man know so little about Majuro that he expected to be able to find someplace "idyllic" there on the beach to live?  Did no one from his future job brief him on what to expect?  If so, I feel sorry for him because he must have been pretty disillusioned.  On the other hand, why would he do so little research himself to not know what to expect there?
 -at the end of the show, they filmed him interviewing a weaver making a traditional mat.  The Marshallese are amazing weavers and there's been a resurgence of this art in the last decade.  Their weaving skills have been studied since the missionaries arrived 200 years ago.  You can google "marshallese weaving" and learn more than he probably did from his interview.  Why was he hired in the first place, to redo something that has already been done?
 
  Did you see the show?  If you didn't and would like to, I believe it will be shown again on October 25th.  If you did see it, what did you think?  Have you been to Majuro?  I would love to hear others thoughts on this.

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